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Science fiction anticipates the real world - Input Junkie
March 3rd, 2010
08:47 am

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Science fiction anticipates the real world
mama_hogswatch described Baby Think It Over, a course which requires 14 year olds to take care of a baby simulator, which is apparently set to a realistic level of difficulty, but which offers none of the rewards of an actual baby. The poster expresses concern that this might discourage parenthood too much.

As it happens, there was a science fiction story called "The Education of Tigress McCardle" by Kornbluth from 1957. Since he was a satirist, the difficulties programmed into the robot baby were extreme (iirc, it was atomic-powered, but had a gasoline motor which keep breaking down and had to be repaired, in addition to requiring routine child care and being set up to start wailing when the potential parents tried to start sex-- the robot baby had remote human operators).

In any case, the reason potential parents had to take care of the robot baby for a week was a Communist Chinese plot! Decades later, the teeming hordes conquer a depopulated and aging US.

I'm going to add China's one-child policy as another reason why we seem to be living in fairly low-probability science fiction..

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From:nancylebov
Date:March 3rd, 2010 02:10 pm (UTC)
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Thank you.

It might be helpful, or at least give people a better idea of the details.

Edited at 2010-03-03 02:10 pm (UTC)
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From:fengi
Date:March 3rd, 2010 02:20 pm (UTC)
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The one child policy shows Kornbluth's ending was absurd. The terrifying potential conquerers are driven to extremes to prevent from depleting their own resources, while we don't even need depopulation to defeat ourseves, just unregulated capitalism.
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From:nancylebov
Date:March 3rd, 2010 02:29 pm (UTC)
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Care to list your predictions for the next few decades?

For what it's worth, the ending felt wrong to me back in the 60s, but I'm still not sure why. It just didn't seem to fit with the rest of the story.

There are still people who worry about "the population explosion", as though people don't make choices about how many children they have. Let's just draw an exponential curve as though people aren't conscious at all.

And I don't think anyone (except the Victorians!) thought that education for women would lower the birth rate, and of course, the Victorians thought it was a bad thing.
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From:agrumer
Date:March 3rd, 2010 08:06 pm (UTC)
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There's also a degree of fretting on the American right that white people in wealthier nations (especially Europe) aren't having enough kids, and are going to get overrun by fast-breeding scary brown people.
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From:womzilla
Date:March 4th, 2010 03:27 am (UTC)
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At the beginning of the twentieth century, the population growth rate in France was the lowest in Europe; I don't know the degree to which it was understood at the time that this was because of improved nutrition, sanitation, and education.
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From:supergee
Date:March 3rd, 2010 02:36 pm (UTC)
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I'm in favor of it if it's done realistically. One common reaction to the sudden discovery of what parenthood entails is to abuse the child.

Edited at 2010-03-03 02:38 pm (UTC)
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From:crystalpyramid
Date:March 3rd, 2010 04:11 pm (UTC)
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One of my high-school friends had to do the whole baby-simulator thing. I think it was a Rochester public school thing. In the private schools, we got eggs, which don't cry and don't wake you up at night.

And when I taught high school in the Bronx, there really were some kids who wanted babies soon. Like, fourteen-year-old girls in pigtails and braces, telling me their mothers were supportive of the idea. And the pregnant girls didn't seem to think it was the catastrophe I would have at that age. I could see how encounters with kids like this could make one sure that baby simulators were the answer.

I was also very surprised when my friends started having babies, how insane the associated workload is. Thanks for linking!
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From:heron61
Date:March 3rd, 2010 07:47 pm (UTC)
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Interesting and nifty. It will be interesting to learn if such programs both affect teen pregnancy and the birthrate in general. Given that the US is only of the only first world nations with a population that is still growing, I'm definitely hoping that programs will this will help get us to a declining population and well as convincing more teens to wait to have kids.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:March 4th, 2010 12:24 am (UTC)

Emmanual Todd's 3-step

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Makes sense to me:
1) Mass literacy
2)Then, revolution
3) Then, declining birth rates

Bruce
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