Science fiction has always taken a step to look into the future, usually with a less that realistic eye. Just looking at what the people of the 50′s thought about the year 2000, with robot butlers and flying cars and food in capsules, shows that things don’t always move at the super fast pace that we wish it did. More often, the differences in time are much harder to predict, and the world changes in ways that we never could have imagined without first seeing the development of technology that came before it.
But that doesn’t mean that science fiction writers never got it right. In fact, there were some truly stunning predictions that were made in famous books through history that hit the nail right on the head. These five are among the most impressive.
The source: 1984 by George Orwell
This 1949 novel became one of the most anti-Communistic pieces of literature in history. A fictional story that veiled a message about Stalin and his regime, Orwell managed to create a terrifying dystopian world modeled on how things might have been had WWII continued and torn the globe apart, leading to the formation of a few joint regions still at war. In it, Big Brother watches everything, from your movement on the streets to those in your own home. The character, through use of a tiny corner out of view of the large two-way television screen in his living room, rights a novel about his life and his craving for freedom as he rebels against the ideals of his masters.
While we may not be to such a point, his was the first novel to explore the idea of video surveillance generations before its creation. Cameras are everywhere, from inside businesses and schools to on the streets on cities. London is one example of an extreme, where there is a camera every few feet. Google has taken it a step further with their street view technology. Will it go further, still?
The source: 2001; A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clark
Clark’s novel, written along with Stanley Kubrick’s film and based on a series of short stories that made him one of the most prolific science fiction writers of the age, explored a number of concepts. The most famous from the novel (though there are many instances of innovative ideas) was that the early man was given the push needed to develop intelligence thanks to the presences of a monolith, or alien ship, they encountered three million years ago.
One fascinating prediction that came from this novel is one that I wouldn’t have known when I read it so long ago. It is of the tablet computer, which in the book is called a “newspad”. It works by allowing information to be scanned, transferred and downloaded from back on Earth, thanks to a touchscreen. It makes you wonder if perhaps Steve Jobs was paying attention when he read it in high school.
The source: From the ‘London Times’ of 1904 by Mark Twain
You might not have known that Mark Twain was a science fiction writer, but he dabbled in it from time to time. One such story from the late 1890′s described a ”telectroscope”. It was a connected network of the worlds telephone lines, which made it possible to speak to and see anyone in the world from “any number of leagues”. It was instrumental in the clearing of an innocent man of a murder, after someone he knew saw the alleged victim over a live streaming event.
It stopped the execution, but more interesting, it accurately predicted the creation of streaming live video feed more than 100 years before such technology existed.
The source: Inherit The Stars by James P. Hogan
This is the first novel in the Giants series, exploring the origins of humans. In the novel, human life begins in the Sol System, on the planet of Minerva. A civil war breaks out and millions die, with the planet being stripped of resources and eventually destroyed. With nowhere to go, a small number of survivors flee into space and eventually settle on Earth, where they colonize it for the first time. But their ancestors forget, and technology lost forever and the current time line of history evolving instead.
Computers existed in the time of this book, as it was written in 1977. But they were large, bulky things with few functions and no real uses for personal use by most families. In Inherit The Stars, Hogan writes about powerful personal computers that can be taken anywhere in small cases, and sit unfolded on the user’s lap. It was the first ever mention of a laptop computer, decades before their creation.
These are only a few examples of how technology has been predicted in science fiction. What are some of your favorite sci-fi book ideas?