Science Fiction or Future Predictions?

Posted: April 23, 2013 in Uncategorized
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By Blake Whitmore, RMU Student.

Growing up you could throw out my Barbie dolls for space ships and aliens any day. From the Han Solo decal on my bathroom door to the Keep Calm and Allons-y poster in my bedroom I think it is pretty apparent I am an avid science fiction fan. Star Wars, Doctor Who, Fahrenheit 451, 1984, and A Brave New World are some of my favorite amazing tales of adventures through outer space or dystopian futures, but after watching one of my favorite Doctor Who episodes titled “Blink” I started thinking about science fiction and the number of astounding predictions in books that came true.

In the episode “Blink” we are introduced to a terrifying new villain, the Weeping Angels. The Weeping Angels are aliens who appear to be statues that cannot move when you look at them.  When you look away though, they are quick and if they touch you they will zap you back in time. So, my theory is that famous science fiction authors are great at writing about futuristic technology and events because they were actually sent back in time by the Weeping Angels. Alright, I know that isn’t possible, and my inner Whovian is showing by Imageeven considering that the Weeping Angels exist, but this did get me thinking about all these wildly outlandish predictions in science fiction that ended up becoming reality.

  In 1950, Ray Bradbury wrote one of my favorite science fiction novels of all time, Fahrenheit 451. In the book Bradbury writes, “And in her ears the little seashells, the thimble radios tamped tight, and an electronic ocean of sound, of music and talk and music and talk coming in, coming in on the shore of her unsleeping mind.” To me it sounds like Bradbury is describing earbud headphones, which did not become popular until 2001 when they were released with the first-generation iPod. In addition to earbuds, Bradbury writes about the obsession that people have with their “parlor walls.” The walls were described like giant interactive flat screen televisions, not too far off from today’s technology. It is also said that people could talk with friends or family through the digital wall and today we write on each other’s walls on Facebook. Ray Bradbury actually warns in his short story “The Pedestrian” about the loneliness that can come from constantly paying attention to the millions of screens around us when protagonist Leonard Mead is actually arrested for the crimes of taking a walk and not owning a television. Maybe more people should take the hint.

Image Bradbury was not the only visionary in the science fiction world. Arthur C. Clarke wrote 2001: A Space Odyssey in 1968 where he describes a “newspad” which sounds eerily similar to an iPad which was introduced on January 27, 2010. Clarke also writes about virtual reality games in his book The City and the Stars in 1956, long before the first virtual reality game. In 1909, author E.M. Forster wrote The Machine Stops were he describes hexagonal workspaces that sound an awful lot like cubicles, which did not enter offices until the 1960s. The most astonishing of all the predictions was Hugo Gernsback’s ability to describe radar in 1911, 22 years before its first use.

 All of these predictions are pretty amazing and it is fun to think that sci-fi writers are actually time travelers, but in reality there is something even more exciting happening here. It is more likely that sci-fi writers are paving the way for the future. Do you know how many posts on Facebook I have seen about people asking about wanting their hover skateboard from Back to the Future Part II? A lot! It turns out that the imagination of sci-fi writers creates technologies and images that readers want. Sci-fi authors are among the most important writers, because their dreams, their warnings, and their amazing stories push society to make them a reality.

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Comments
  1. Joachim Boaz says:

    I don’t understand why science fiction needs to predict to be amazing? I mean, they are speculating, constructing amazing (often dystopic future)… The things don’t need to “come true” to be good… I mean, they are writers not social scientists….

    • It doesn’t have to predict to be amazing. The predictions don’t have to come true either, but it is interesting how often they do. And like I conclude, science fiction writers are not really predicting so much as creating the ideas and leading people to make them reality.

      • Joachim Boaz says:

        But, that’s pure coincidence that they do… Often, little to do with the ability of the writer — yes Clarke might predict satellites but two thousand of his other predictions are wrong… Science Fiction might inspire thinkers but in such a vague indirect sense…

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