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  • It's the 21st century, why don't we have world peace?

  • It's 2013, where's my flying car?

Is there a name for this kind of bad argument?

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    There's some implicit assumptions about linearity of technological or spiritual development; but for what it's worth, the global community is much calmer than it has been at many times in human history; and we're well on our way towards new modes of transportation (whether we mean private spaceflight or personal aerocraft -- but note our cities are still built for cars and that's going to take a while to change.) I don't know if there's really an argument here, so much as an expression of disappointment that the future hasn't been quite as utopian as it might have been forecasted to be. Commented Apr 21, 2013 at 20:18
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    @JosephWeissman: I like your optimism! Besides, our cities were built for carts and horses, so a car or a flyer is equally appropriate... Commented Apr 21, 2013 at 21:06
  • These are only two sentimental idealistic expressions plus an Arthur C Clarke kind of optimism about progress of technology and science in the near future! Commented Apr 21, 2013 at 22:29
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    @BraddSzonye: See english.stackexchange.com/questions/tagged/single-word-requests.
    – ruakh
    Commented Apr 22, 2013 at 1:26
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    Quit complaining. At least you got your video phone – and you can carry it your pocket to boot! ;^) (In all honesty, though, I read your sentences more as sarcasm or skepticism, not as logical fallicies. Unless the speaker is serious?)
    – J.R.
    Commented Apr 22, 2013 at 3:02

4 Answers 4

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Both are classical non sequiturs, if you ask me, masquerading as rhetorical questions.

Non sequitur (Latin for "it does not follow"), in formal logic, is an argument in which its conclusion does not follow from its premises. In a non sequitur, the conclusion could be either true or false, but the argument is fallacious because there is a disconnection between the premise and the conclusion. All invalid arguments are special cases of non sequitur.

Just because it's 2013, doesn't mean there should be world peace or flying cars. There is no connection whatsoever. It's just a completely random number, as good as any other.

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    Is this an actual non sequitur, though? Or is it just a rhetorical device meaning, “Isn't this overdue?” in the first case, and “Futurists can't be trusted” in the latter? Commented Apr 22, 2013 at 3:32
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    Really have to disagree, Reg. I'd say they're rhetorical questions masquerading as... hmm... rhetorical questions. Why do you think it's valid to label them as something else? I think you have overextended the reach of what should be taken as non sequitur, and applied it unnecessarily, and without justification, to these statements. I think Bradd's comment in much closer to the mark. These statements are well known ironic comments on the disappointing outcome of optimistic predictions. And I take the speaker as being well aware that those results were not ever really guaranteed. Commented Apr 22, 2013 at 7:40
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    To be fair, though, you WERE responding to the questioner's misguided interpretation of these statements as being fallacies. I simply think he should have been informed that they aren't intended as valid logical arguments. Commented Apr 22, 2013 at 7:43
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What you have there is called a comma-splice error because you are attempting to join two independent clauses together with a comma that does not have a coördinating conjunction following it instead of using a semicolon or colon.

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    "coördinating"? Have you been reading the New Yorker lately? :-)
    – Pitarou
    Commented Apr 22, 2013 at 0:32
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    T. are you answering the question? I'm surprised to see this as an "answer" rather than a comment. It's correct in what it says, of course, so I suppose that's why it's been upvoted, even though it doesn't address the question. I'm just saying....... :) Commented Apr 22, 2013 at 7:45
  • I'd flag this as not an answer, but it's too funny to be deleted
    – Luke_0
    Commented Apr 26, 2013 at 0:18
  • Not only is this not answering the actual question, I think it's technically wrong as well. Sure, it's a comma-splice. But a comma-splice is not always an error. The example sentences are exactly the sort of contexts where a comma-splice is appropriate.
    – Ben Lee
    Commented Apr 28, 2013 at 23:36
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    @BenLee I called your mother, why aren’t you ready yet?
    – tchrist
    Commented Apr 29, 2013 at 14:31
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The example sentences you posted are not examples of "bad arguments" as you presume. To call them "bad arguments" is to miss the point. They are not meant to be logical arguments, or even arguments at all.

Rather, they are poetical ways of poking fun at overly-optimistic cultural myths about what the the future holds. This could probably best be described as a form of irony; it is an incongruity between past cultural expectations about the present state of progress and the actual present state of progress.

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  • While it's impossible to know for certain the writer's intent, it's common to hear those phrases said with sarcasm. Therefore I agree with this answer: the sentences are most likely ironic.
    – ghoppe
    Commented May 21, 2013 at 18:16
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The appropriate fallacy is false cause:

You presumed that a real or perceived relationship between things means that one is the cause of the other.

Many people confuse correlation (things happening together or in sequence) for causation (that one thing actually causes the other to happen). Sometimes correlation is coincidental, or it may be attributable to a common cause.

There is no causal link between 2013 and the existence of flying cars.

This is distinct from non sequitur in the sense that "all invalid arguments are special cases of non sequitur."


It should be noted, however, that most people who say things like this are not doing so sincerely. Those that do are most likely futurists who guessed wrong.

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