The Better Angels

[WARNING:  In-jokes for telecoms people!]
Prediction, particularly of the future, is difficult, as we know.  We notice a good example of the difficulties reading Charles McCarry’s riveting political/spy thriller, The Better Angels.  Published in 1979 but set during the final US Presidential election campaign of the 20th Century (2000? 1996?), McCarry gets some of the big predictions spot on: suicide bombers, Islamic terrorism, oil-company malfeasance, an extreme right-wing US President, computer voting machines, a Greek-American in charge of the US foreign intelligence agency, uncollected garbage and wild animals in Manhattan’s streets, and, of course, the manned space mission to Jupiter’s moon, Ganymede, for instance.  But he makes a real howler with the telephone system:  a brief mention (p. 154) of “the Bell System” indicates he had no anticipation of the 1982 Modified Final Judgement of Judge Harold H Greene.  How could he have failed to see that coming, when AT&T’s managers were preparing for decades for the competition which would follow, evident in the masterful way these managers and their companies have prospered since?!  A future with a unified Bell system was so weird, I was barely able to concentrate on the other events in the novel after this.
Charles McCarry [1979]: The Better Angels. London, UK:  Arrow Books.

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