Dennis Gabor FRS (June 5, 1900, Budapest – February 9, 1979, London) was a Hungarian-born British physicist and inventor at Imperial College London (1958–1967), most notable for inventing holography in 1949, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1971.
- Incomplete knowledge of the future, and also of the past of the transmitter from which the future might be constructed, is at the very basis of the concept of information. On the other hand, complete ignorance also precludes communication; a common language is required, that is to say an agreement between the transmitter and the receiver regarding the elements used in the communication process...
[The information of a message can] be defined as the 'minimum number of binary decisions which enable the receiver to construct the message, on the basis of the data already available to him.' These data comprise both the convention regarding the symbols and the language used, and the knowledge available at the moment when the message started.
- Gabor (1952) "Optical transmission," in: Information Theory: Papers Read at a Symposium on Information Theory. as cited in: James Grier Miller (1978) Living Systems. p.12
Inventing the Future (1963)
- I do not know of anything in modern poetry as violently hostile to contemporary life as was the poetry of T. S. Eliot, which so perfectly fitted the mood of the young people between the two wars. I also find much more benevolence towards humanity in younger historians than there was in Spengler or in Toynbee. Still, it is not difficult to sense the disgust of the intellectuals at the new prosperous working class, 'with their eyes glued to the television screen,' who have become indifferent to radical ideas.
- Pelican Books, 1964, p. 18
- It would be pleasant to believe that the age of pessimism is now coming to a close, and that its end is marked by the same author who marked its beginning: Aldous Huxley. After thirty years of trying to find salvation in mysticism, and assimilating the Wisdom of the East, Huxley published in 1962 a new constructive utopia, The Island. In this beautiful book he created a grand synthesis between the science of the West and the Wisdom of the East, with the same exceptional intellectual power which he displayed in his Brave New World. (His gaminerie is also unimpaired; his close union of eschatology and scatology will not be to everybody's tastes.) But though his Utopia is constructive, it is not optimistic; in the end his island Utopia is destroyed by the sort of adolescent gangster nationalism which he knows so well, and describes only too convincingly.
This, in a nutshell, is the history of thought about the future since Victorian days. To sum up the situation, the sceptics and the pessimists have taken man into account as a whole; the optimists only as a producer and consumer of goods. The means of destruction have developed pari passu with the technology of production, while creative imagination has not kept pace with either.
The creative imagination I am talking of works on two levels. The first is the level of social engineering, the second is the level of vision. In my view both have lagged behind technology, especially in the highly advanced Western countries, and both constitute dangers.
- Pelican Books, 1964, p. 18-19
- The future cannot be predicted, but futures can be invented. It was man's ability to invent which has made human society what it is.
- Pelican Books, 1964, p. 161
- Ever since 1958, I have spent much time on a new interest; the future of our industrial civilization. I became more and more convinced that a serious mismatch has developed between technology and our social institutions, and that inventive minds ought to consider social inventions as their first priority. This conviction has found expression in three books, Inventing the Future, 1963, Innovations, 1970, and The Mature Society, 1972. Though I still have much unfinished technological work on my hands, I consider this as my first priority in my remaining years.
- It is impossible to predict the future, the best we can do is to invent it.
- The best way to predict the future is to invent it.
- Allegedly and far more famously, this passage is said by Alan Kay, too. A sort of peaceful co-existence exists between the two camps who bother little whose original idea and wording it is. Most likely is Gabor's idea and Kay's rewording. So rewording is so rewarding!