The title of the this post, without the ?, was the title of a book written in 1974 by the science fiction writer Isaac Asimov. I have mentioned Isaac and this book in previous posts but it seems worth a reprise in view of the publication of Dan Brown’s latest novel ‘Inferno’. Dan is clearly a Malthusian thinker and like Malthus the passage of time, I believe, will prove his thoughts to be equally in error.
Page 56 of Asimov’s tome shows a fearsome graph predicting world population at 7.5 billion by the millennium. Not a bad estimate for 25 years into the future as it turned out. But he then loses the run of himself and starts speculating about 20 billion souls by 2060, while the UN and most other organisations involved in this field are predicting the world population to peak at around 9 billion in 2050, just 2 billion more than the current figure. Where Asimov’s book was supposed to be fact, he lapsed into old habits of writing science fiction, quote “Know natural gas reserves will last only 13 years…Experts see rationing by 1976”. These were his predictions for key mineral depletions – Zinc gone by 1990, Lead gone by 1995, Tin and Oil gone by 2000, Copper and Uranium by 2005 and Iron ore by 2320 – well the jury is still out on that one.
The only difference between these two books is that Asimov wrote a factual book, which as it turned out was based on fiction while Brown has written a fictional book based on, well, fiction. So that’s OK then. I am sure that ‘Inferno’ will, like Brown’s other novels, be a jolly good read, but my problem with this sort of writing is that it pretends to be fact based and the vast majority of those reading it will be taken in by its alarmist nonsense. The film ‘The Day After Tomorrow’ had people similarly believing that Global Warming would cause global freezing – another load of alarmist rubbish.
I’m all in favour of a good exciting novel, but please, let’s leave Inferno and its ilk firmly in the fiction section where it belongs.