Dr. Charles F. Urbanowicz / Professor of Anthropology
Department of Anthropology / California State University, Chico
Chico, California 95929-0400
(530-898-6220; 530-898-6192; FAX: 530-898-6824)

8 March 1990 [1]

[This page printed from]

© [Copyright: All Rights Reserved] This was a "handout" (accompanied by numerous slides) for the Anthropology Forum at California State University, Chico, March 8, 1990.

I. INTRODUCTION: The Lure of the Heavens

Franz Boas (1858-1942), an American anthropologist, once made a statement about "anthropology" and one could easily substitute the words "science fiction" and his statement still makes sense.

"Anthropology [or science fiction] is often considered a collection of curious facts, telling about the peculiar appearance of exotic people and describing their strange customs and beliefs. It is looked upon as an entertaining diversion, apparently without any bearing upon the conduct of life of civilized communities. This opinion [about anthropology and science fiction] is mistaken. More than that, I hope to demonstrate that a clear understanding of the principles of anthropology [and science fiction] illuminates the social processes of our own time and may show us, if we are ready to listen to its teachings, what to do and what to avoid." (Franz Boas, 1928, Anthropology And Modern Life, page 11).


A. No "future shock" but there is ignorance of the present.
B. Technology drives the "engine" of the science fiction author.
C. The author of science fiction/science fact is a product of the times.


In 1967, at an annual meeting of the American Astronautical Society held in Dallas, Texas, the overall theme of the meeting was the "Commercialization of Space" and the President of the Hilton Hotels Corporation discussed the possibility of an orbiting or lunar hotel. "The present thinking [in the 1967 paper] in the Hilton organization on the possibility of an orbiting hotel is described, followed by an outline of how a Lunar Hilton might be designed. A primary rule of the hotel industry [wrote Hilton] is that a hotel, whether on earth, in space, or on the moon, should not be built unless there is a proven need for it. No hotel should ever be built that will cost more than it can earn. When a space hotel becomes a practical reality, it will simultaneously become a practical financial reality [stress added]."


A. Rocketry

After Sputnik was launched in 1957, for the 25 year period of 1957-1982, more than 4,000 human-made satellites were placed into orbit by mankind, working out to approximately 148 a year or almost 3 a week (148/52 = 2.84): one new satellite every 2.46 days (365/148 = 2.46).

B. Telecommunications

In 1987 the Gross National Product for the United States was approximately $4.5 trillion dollars (that's 4.5 with 11 zero's after it). Almost half of all U.S. economic activity is a result of the collection, organization, analysis, and dissemination of information and information-related services, and communication lines via microwave or satellites.

C. Colonization


The premise of this brief paper was that the facts of science, or "science facts" are much greater than the facts of "science fiction." By stating that they are greater I simply mean that "rea;" science facts, when understood, are more real, more inspirational, and more satisfying than the best of all science fiction works. Please keep in mind that I state this with the perspective of one who has been reading science fiction for more than 30 years and from the perspective of one who has utlized science fiction on various occasions. Science fiction is not factual but it is inspirational; science fact, on the other hand, is factual and it can be inspirational.

URBANOWICZ References available in the Meriam Library (or on the WWW as indicated):

1991 Information Technology for the Pacific Basin. (For the Meeting of the 17th Pacific Science Congress, Honolulu, Hawai'i, May 27-June 2.)

1989 Satellites: The Global Village and Tele-Education. Space 30: A Thirty Year Overview of Space Applications and Exploration. Edited by Joseph Pelton et al. [editors] (Alexandria, Virginia), pages 90-105.

1988 The Potential of the Pacific: Some Suggestions from California State University, Chico. (For the 1988 Annual Meeting of The Pacific Telecommunications Council, Honolulu, Hawai'i, February 15-19.)

1984 The Role of "Good" Science Fiction and Space Applications and The Future. Space And Society: Challenges And Choices. Edited by Paul Anaejionu et al., (San Diego: American Astronautical Society), Vol. 59, pages 409-329.

1981a [See] Summary of Presentations: Social Science Roundtable. Space Manufacturing 4: Proceedings of the Fifth Princeton/AIAA Conference (New York: American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics), pages 287-289.

1981b Anthropologists in Space: Science Fiction? Science Fact? Discussion Paper 81-6 (in the Discussion Paper Series, College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, California State University, Chico).

1979 Why Science Fiction and Anthropology? Why Yes! Discussion Paper 79-4 (in the Discussion Paper Series, College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, California State University, Chico).

1978 Cultural Implications of Extraterrestrial Contact and the Colonization of Space. The Industrialization of Space: Advances in the Astronautical Sciences, edited by Van Patten et al. (San Diego: American Astronautical Society), Vol. 36, Part 2, pages 785-797.

1977 The Philosophical Implications of Science Fiction for the Teaching of Anthropology. The University Journal, Volume 9, pages 16-20 (CSU, Chico).] [1976 Anthropology Forum Presentation]

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[1] © [Copyright: All Rights Reserved] This was a "handout" (accompanied by numerous slides) for the Anthropology Forum at California State University, Chico, March 8, 1990. No changes have been made, save for the addition of the WWW links. To return to the beginning of this paper, please click here.

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