Can Literature Foresee Crisis?

Literature

The future has always fascinated people. In the past, soothsayers tried to predict events ahead of us; and today we use artificial intelligence to recognize patterns in the stock market and predict developments of other kinds. For example, weather forecasts have long employed mathematical models to predict changes. But in the end, all this fails repeatedly due to the available data.

In physics, there is a principle that could solve the problem. But for this to work, one would have to know every position of every single particle in the universe and only then we could try predicting the future. But Jürgen Wertheimer doesn’t want to go that direction and his Cassandra project rather uses literature to guess future developments.

His approach is fascinating because he assumes that literature can indeed foresee the future. He is already investigating this in cooperation with the Ministry of Defense in Germany. The project ran from 2017 to 2020. However, global events brought the research to a standstill. The professor emeritus from the University of Tübingen made the Cassandra project his life’s work. At first glance, the idea seems downright crazy, but if you dig a little deeper into the topic, you quickly notice something behind it.

Numerous Successful Examples

Artists are the most sensitive and perceptive people. They recognize and take up social trends faster than others. In their works, they think one step further and so often unintentionally develop prophetic abilities. There are enough examples of this in world literature, for example, the author H. G. Wells wrote about atomic bombs 30 years before scientists had even created them. The future that the science fiction author Philip K. Dick sketched in his numerous novels has now become a reality in many ways as well. Not to mention, Morgan Robertson wrote about a liner called “The Titan” long before the Titanic even set out on her journey. Scarily, in the book, it collides with an iceberg and sinks too. The French literary star Michel Houellebecq is also considered a prophet. His novel “Submission” outlined numerous political developments in Europe even before they happened. In “Serotonin,” he described riots just before they became a reality.

Wertheimer assumes that we can read the moods in some areas of the world from their literature. We could use that to predict the outbreak of conflicts or wars. In his opinion, this works for up to seven years in the future. The German Ministry of Defense secretly financed his research for several years, but even after the official end, the scientist tries to keep the project alive.

The project is crucial, because the 21st century saw significant crises like 9/11, the financial crisis and the events of the last two years. Much of it would have been predictable, but the precaution failed at every turn. Germany currently uses a data-driven platform. This artificial intelligence will cost up to three billion Euros over the next four years, but scientists hope that it will prevent international crises.

The approach of specifically examining literature to identify social tension in time is new, but quite realistic since literary authors act like seismographs. According to Wertheimer, they absorb the influences of their environment and describe them. That could help to understand the continuation of many political and social developments better. The namesake of the project demonstrated prophetic abilities too. In 1983 Christa Wolfe published a book with the name “Cassandra” and it had preached the fall of the GDR six years in advance.

The future has always fascinated people. In the past, soothsayers tried to predict events ahead of us; and today we use artificial intelligence to recognize patterns in the stock market and predict developments of other kinds. For example, weather forecasts have long employed mathematical models to predict changes. But in the end, all this fails repeatedly due to the available data.

In physics, there is a principle that could solve the problem. But for this to work, one would have to know every position of every single particle in the universe and only then we could try predicting the future. But Jürgen Wertheimer doesn’t want to go that direction and his Cassandra project rather uses literature to guess future developments.

His approach is fascinating because he assumes that literature can indeed foresee the future. He is already investigating this in cooperation with the Ministry of Defense in Germany. The project ran from 2017 to 2020. However, global events brought the research to a standstill. The professor emeritus from the University of Tübingen made the Cassandra project his life’s work. At first glance, the idea seems downright crazy, but if you dig a little deeper into the topic, you quickly notice something behind it.

Numerous Successful Examples

Artists are the most sensitive and perceptive people. They recognize and take up social trends faster than others. In their works, they think one step further and so often unintentionally develop prophetic abilities. There are enough examples of this in world literature, for example, the author H. G. Wells wrote about atomic bombs 30 years before scientists had even created them. The future that the science fiction author Philip K. Dick sketched in his numerous novels has now become a reality in many ways as well. Not to mention, Morgan Robertson wrote about a liner called “The Titan” long before the Titanic even set out on her journey. Scarily, in the book, it collides with an iceberg and sinks too. The French literary star Michel Houellebecq is also considered a prophet. His novel “Submission” outlined numerous political developments in Europe even before they happened. In “Serotonin,” he described riots just before they became a reality.

Wertheimer assumes that we can read the moods in some areas of the world from their literature. We could use that to predict the outbreak of conflicts or wars. In his opinion, this works for up to seven years in the future. The German Ministry of Defense secretly financed his research for several years, but even after the official end, the scientist tries to keep the project alive.

The project is crucial, because the 21st century saw significant crises like 9/11, the financial crisis and the events of the last two years. Much of it would have been predictable, but the precaution failed at every turn. Germany currently uses a data-driven platform. This artificial intelligence will cost up to three billion Euros over the next four years, but scientists hope that it will prevent international crises.

The approach of specifically examining literature to identify social tension in time is new, but quite realistic since literary authors act like seismographs. According to Wertheimer, they absorb the influences of their environment and describe them. That could help to understand the continuation of many political and social developments better. The namesake of the project demonstrated prophetic abilities too. In 1983 Christa Wolfe published a book with the name “Cassandra” and it had preached the fall of the GDR six years in advance.