[PW] Saying: It is easy to predict the automobile but difficult to predict the traffic jam (or changes in courting and mating habits)

Ivan Van Laningham ivanlan9 at gmail.com
Thu Oct 24 07:49:20 PDT 2019

I have the Heinlein book in question. I will dig it out later today & let
you know.


On Thu, Oct 24, 2019 at 8:12 AM ADSGarson O'Toole <adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com>

> I received a request to explore sayings that circulate in the science
> fiction community. The general import of the sayings is: It is easy to
> predict the primary effects of an invention but difficult to predict
> the secondary effects.
> I found a pertinent quotation from Isaac Asimov in a 1977 collection
> called "Turning Points: Essays on the Art of Science Fiction".
> Asimov's essay apparently appeared first in 1953. There are some
> knowledgeable SF enthusiast on this list. Perhaps one of them has
> access to the following book and can verify this citation in 1953:
> Year: 1953
> Book: Modern Science Fiction: Its Meaning and Its Future
> Editor: Reginald Bretnor
> Publisher: Coward-McCann, New York
> Essay: Social Science Fiction
> Essay Author: Isaac Asimov
> Start Page 157, Quote Page 172
> (This metadata may be inaccurate)
> [Begin excerpt]
> It is easy to predict an automobile in 1880; it is very hard to
> predict a traffic problem. The former is really only an extrapolation
> of the railroad. The latter is something completely novel and
> unexpected.
> [End excerpt]
> The 1977 collection also contains an essay by pertinent essay by
> Robert Heinlein which apparently appeared in 1966. Maybe someone can
> help me to verify this citation and determine the precise metadata:
> Year: 1966
> Book: The Worlds of Robert A. Heinlein
> Author: Robert A. Heinlein
> Essay: Pandora’s Box
> Quote Page: Unknown
> Publisher: Ace Books, New York
> (This metadata may be inaccurate)
> [Begin excerpt]
> Many people correctly anticipated the coming of the horseless
> carriage; some were bold enough to predict that everyone would use
> them and the horse would virtually disappear. But I know of no writer,
> fiction or non-fiction, who saw ahead of time the vast change in the
> courting and mating habits of Americans which would result primarily
> from the automobile—a change which the diaphragm and the oral
> contraceptive merely confirmed. So far as I know, no one even dreamed
> of the change in sex habits the automobile would set off.
> [End excerpt]
> Heinlein's 1966 essay was a revision of a piece from 1952, but I do
> not think that the original essay contained the excerpt above.
> The QI website now has an article on this topic, but the citations
> given are from the 1977 book, and it would be helpful to improve them.
> https://quoteinvestigator.com/2019/10/23/traffic/
> Thanks for any help you can provide
> Garson O'Toole
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Ivan Van Laningham
God N Locomotive Works
Army Signal Corps:  Cu Chi, Class of '70
Author:  Teach Yourself Python in 24 Hours

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