We still don’t have flying cars. Both teleportation and time travel are still a dream. However, a number of science fiction predictions have materialized.
These futuristic ideas and technologies started as fiction and have become part of the real world. They were inventions that only existed in sci-fi novels and films because they seemed unattainable. But today, they are the talk of our societies.
They have moved into the realm of reality and have been facilitated by technologists, researchers, and scientists. We could say that science fiction, both on screen and in books, has done a remarkable role in predicting and establishing the underpinnings for some of the greatest inventions humanity boasts of today.
Talk of self-driving cars, anti-depressants, 3D printers, automatic doors, CCTV, hoverboards, and automatic doors. These are outstanding inventions that shape our everyday life. It is hard to believe that each one of them began as fiction before they were made a reality by modern technology.
Imagine what people would have thought of robots and iPads two centuries ago. They would only be far-fetched fantasies. What about ubiquitous technology like the internet? It is entirely intangible yet revolutionary, but no one would have thought about it 300 years ago. It would have been mind-blowing.
And who knows? Much of what we consider today to be science fiction (meal capsules, deep space exploration, prosthetic eyes, prolonged lives, and lightsabers) may as well become a reality long after we are gone; because today seem unimaginable.
Science has particularly been at the forefront of these mind-blowing breakthroughs. The portable hoverboard, used by Marty McFly in Back to the Future, and dreamed by millions around the world is no longer restricted to the fictional world. It is slowly turning into a reality.
What should we expect? An internet implant on our brains as envisioned by Iain M. Banks? Or should we expect John Wyndham’s pill that will increase our life on earth? It seems the possibilities are endless.
We still have a number of other inventions that were proposed but have not yet materialized. So, no one’s sure what is coming our way.
100 years before the moon landing, Jules Verne had already written about it. In a way, Verne, and plenty of other sci-fi thinkers have made science fiction a reality.
20. MOBILE PHONES
The mobile phone has been mentioned in several sci-fi works, including Star Trek.
The modern mobile phone is a powerful device that is capable of performing several functions: video, audio, data storage, camera, torch, data transmission, location id, voice recognition, and night vision among other functions. When Star Trek first came out (around the 60s), no one had ever imagined that the phone would evolve into what it is in the present-day.
In the 60s Star Trek, the communication devices resemble the modern cellphone. However, they are being used to communicate with starships and not with fellow humans, as is the case today.
Through the wireless communicator, Star Trek has been able to entertain its audiences across the globe as Captain Kirk is always seen trying to figure out why the communicator is not functional.
Star Trek imagined this early form of communication device. The gadget, used mostly by Kirk, inspired Martin Cooper to design portable cell phones in the early 70s. He is responsible for the first mobile phone, which came out in 1973. Over the years, his design has been refined to what we have currently.
19. AUTONOMOUS CARS
Back in 2013, Nevada was the first state in the US to allow self-driving cars on its roads. So far, self-driving cars have clocked thousands of hours and have been involved in fewer accidents compared to traditional vehicles.
These cars have been featured in a number of sci-fi works. On Zanzibar, by John Brunner, talks of a future America that is similar to what we see today. In this fictional novel, considered as one of the most prophetic, Brunner talks about cars that are powered by rechargeable electric fuels.
Another thinker, Isaac Asimov, penned a beautiful fictional story about a future where the only cars that would be allowed on the roads would be self-driving.
In Logan’s Run, a 1976 film, citizens use driverless ‘pods.’ These are not the only works where driverless cars have been talked about. Other mentions are in Minority Report, Total Recall, and Judge Dredd.
Today, companies like Ford and Audi have already manufactured a number autonomous cars. Elon Musk has made the Tesla a reality and has already sold thousands of cars. The question is just how soon before these autonomous cars take over the world.
18. AUTOMATIC DOORS
Star Trek features a number of automatic doors and can be given credit for this remarkable invention.
More than 50 years before automatic doors became a reality, they appeared in HG Wells’ novel When the Sleeper Wakes. In the 1899 story, Wells talks of doors that slide upwards into the ceiling. He talks about two men not using the archway but walking towards a dead wall before a section of this wall opens and closes.
The first automatic doors were invented by Lew Hewitt and Dee Horton, in 1954, who had been co-founders of Horton Automatics. Apparently, the doors were supposed to circumvent the problem of strong winds and made use of a mat actuator. The doors were first installed in 1960.
It is also believed that Heron of Alexandria may be the one behind automatic doors some 2000 years ago.
Nevertheless, today we have automatic doors in malls, banks, shops, and in our homes. It is a great invention that that adds beauty to most establishments and enhances security compared to traditional doors.
17. 3D PRINTERS
They are some of the biggest inventions of the recent past because they can create full houses. A 3D printer has the ability to print an entire house in a single session.
While it only requires sand and an inorganic binding compound, it produces amazing results that it has left many wondering what the future holds. Currently, 3D printers are being used to print the most complex objects, including a fully-functional handgun.
Star Trek gave a hint of 3D printers, but it was in the form of a food replicator.
These printers are also mentioned in Philip K. Dick’s Nick And The Glimmung, a children’s book that mostly talks about clones and cats. In the book, Dick also speaks of a large plastic-like ‘alien’ who is capable of printing almost anything presented to it. Back in the day, reading the book was child’s play, but reading the book today is baffling.
Today, 3D printing has democratized manufacturing. The technology has made it possible to have exciting custom-made and functional products. 3D is in line with Etsy and Kickstarter and allows inventors to delve into product development without the need for sizeable investments or storefronts.
3D printing has given inventors the license to realize their wildest dreams and is expected to continue inspiring creativity and innovation. Already, the technology has made major breakthroughs in the field of medicine.
16. VIRTUAL REALITY HEADSET
For the longest time, virtual reality was considered unachievable. But it is becoming a thing with the introduction of devices like the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift that make it possible to explore a virtual space.
This means that in the near future, people should be able to visit an ideal location without having to leave the house. It is highly unlikely that anyone will turn down a trip to an island at a fraction of the cost.
Virtual reality may be the next digital frontier.
While the simulated world can now be realized, it is not an entirely new idea. Authors started toying with the concept around the early 1950’s. In Ray Bradbury’s story, The Veldt, there is a mention of a virtual nursery.
The Tunnel Under the World, by Frederik Pohl, also talks about a man who discovers he is trapped in a marketing simulation.
Virtual reality made it possible for authors to explore interesting themes. This was because technology had paved way for the possibility of multiple realities and authors had begun to question reality itself.
Other works that reveal the possibility of virtual reality include The Girl Who Was Plugged In, by James Tiptree Jr; Neuromancer, by William Gibson; Ready Player One, by Ernie Cline; and Tomorrow and Tomorrow, by Thomas Sweterlitsch.
15. MOON LANDING
It is believed to be one of the greatest achievements in the history of humanity.
But it had been predicted by Jules Verne when he published From the Earth in 1865. In the book, Verne talks about three Americans fired into space with the use of a special gun (what he referred to as an aluminum capsule). A Hundred years later, his prediction became a reality when the U.S sent three men to the moon in a special module at the cost of around $16 billion. That was in 1969.
Around the 1800s, Verne had been one of the most inventive and prolific sci-fi writers. He had arrived at almost accurate calculations as to the amount of force that would be required to propel a rocket into space. His predictions had slight differences (mainly in the cost and weight) with the reality, but most of it was accurate.
The first spaceship to be launched was made mostly of aluminum and weighed 19,250 pounds. The spacecraft (named Apollo 11) was launched from a base in Florida, and it successfully landed on the moon. After the mission, the vessel dropped into the Pacific Ocean and was retrieved by a U.S Navy Seal. The happenings had a high resemblance with what Verne had predicted, and this led people to believe that he was some space-wizard.
The Ebook is being offered by several platforms on the web. One of them is Amazon’s Kindle.
Over the years, storage spaces have increased while the prices have gotten more affordable. This has led to more subscriptions as people find EBooks easier to manage and readily accessible.
The EBook was predicted in Douglas Adam’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Adam talks about a strange device that looks like a giant electronic calculator. The device has several buttons and a screen that is about four inches square. The device could be used to access any of the several pages that the reader wanted. It was like a repository of all wisdom and knowledge.
In Stanislaw Lem’s novel, Return from the Stars, Lem also talks about how it became impossible to carry heavy books in one’s hands or browse through the shelves. This is because of the introduction of an “electronic laboratory” where most of the information could be accessed.
13. PERSONAL DIGITAL ASSISTANT
Good examples are Siri, Cortana, and Alexa. Samsung and Microsoft also have their digital assistants.
Personal assistants made their debut in Star Trek; when Worf ordered a computer to play him a Klingon opera. During the time, there were no devices that were intelligent enough or had enough capacity to store even a full MP3 song. But voice commands are a reality today. They exist in our computers, phones, and other portable devices.
On April 28, 2010, iPhone users were introduced to a networked personal assistant that was able to recognize speech, her name was Siri.
Personal assistants are also mentioned in The Age of The Pussyfoot, by Frederick Pohl. In the 1966 book, Pohl discusses a software that can translate normal accent, voice, and idiom. It is called a “joymaker, ” and you can communicate with it as long as it is within reception range. He predicts that it is not going to take long before the software is realized. He prophesizes that the period may not go beyond five centuries or even five decades.
12. VIDEO CALLS
The first experiment of what looked like a video call was performed at the 1964 World Fair in New York. The mind behind the experiment was AT&T with their “picturephone.” When AT&T introduced its Picturephone, it invited the public to call a special exhibit at Disneyland.
Since then, the technology has undergone a major transformation into what we see today: Skype (founded in 2003), FaceTime, and WhatsApp Video call.
The first sci-fi discussions about video phones can be traced to Hugo Gernsback’s Ralph 124c 41+. The work, which was printed in Modern Electrics magazine in 1911, introduces a device called the “telephot,” which allows people to see each other even when they are speaking across long distances.
CCTV’S are everywhere: shops, houses, schools, government buildings, hotels, and even public parks.
While George Orwell, in his novel 1984, had predicted that there would be cameras in everyone’s television, it is unlikely that he anticipated just how much information people would be willing to make available.
Orwell wrote the book in 1949. During the time, it seemed absurd that a state would be monitored by several security cameras that were interconnected.
But look at our lives today, video surveillance is a thing that we have had to be accustomed to as cameras are installed in both private and public spaces. Tracking has further been enhanced by the use of GPS tracking and NSA surveillance. Sadly, some of these ‘monitoring’ is unwarranted.
The world that Orwell talked about is real in the present-day. Thanks to Edward Snowden who made it known to the public the extent of government surveillance by the NSA. Our emails, calls, and our web history are being monitored without our knowledge. The fictional “Big Brother” in 1984 has come to pass. Maybe the only difference is that we are knowledgeable that we are being watched.
10. ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE
Artificial Intelligence (AI) used to be a wild imagination among sci-fi writers, but it is taking center stage in most of our activities today. AI is already in use in some fields and has been incorporated into voice recognition such as Apple’s Siri. Other places where the technology has been helpful include email spam filtering, weather forecasts, and internet search predictions.
AI employs machine-learning algorithms that enable it to respond to our needs in real time.
British mathematician, Alan Turing, is credited with being the brain behind this idea back in 1950. His ideas were not taken seriously, but they set the wheels in motion and gave birth to the term “Artificial Intelligence.” After his demise, American scientist, Marvin Minsky took over to continue with Alan’s work. Minsky co-founded an AI laboratory in 1959 and was at the forefront of AI around the 60s and 70s.
Minsky also played a role as an advisor on Stanley Kubrick’s movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. In the film, AI manifested itself in the form of HAL 9000. From then on, AI has been a widely-discussed topic because of its potential to change the world. Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk are some of the high-profile individuals who continue to discuss the potential of this 21-century technology.
Former Apple CEO Steve Jobs was praised for being the genius behind the tablet computer when he launched the iPad back in 2010. However, a very similar design had been talked about in 2001: A Space Odyssey. In the film, two astronauts watch a footage on a rectangular screen that highly resembles an iPad.
Arthur C. Clarke wrote a novel concurrently with the screenplay and described the devices as ‘newspads.’
Clarke talks about plugging in a foolscap-sized newspad into the information circuit to receive the latest reports and electronic newspapers. Clarke adds that the device had the capability of allowing one to search the headlines while holding the front page. He talks about a user hitting the screen to ‘expand’ postage-stamp-sized rectangles. Once done, a user would go back to the first page and look for another subject that needed examination.
8. PERSONALIZED ADVERTISING
In Philip K. Dick’s collection of short stories, The Minority Report, he predicted personalized advertising that was able to recognize individuals by their thoughts and their face.
By 2010, personalized advertising had become a reality as brands could be able to reach people through their social media or email. Google even launched virtual reality glasses, in 2012, that would help consumers make a decision about their purchases. They were called Google Glass.
In the film, PreCrime, Tom Cruise, acting as John Anderton, is recognized by special sensors before he enters a building. The sensors then personalize ads for him. These ads scream for his attention. He is presented with ads of Guinness and Lexus because he has shown an interest in those items
The scene raises some thoughts about the future of media, advertising, and product placement. The whole idea is that the sensors should recognize not only your face but also your state of mind. First forward to 2017, and you will notice we are living in an era where marketing and sales efforts are more personalized.
In fact, Amazon and Google have previously been accused of carefully monitoring our internet searches and recommending products based on those searches. That kind of personalized shopping has been applied in streaming sites like YouTube and Netflix.
7. EAR BUDS
Earbuds are first described in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 as shells that fit into the human ear.
Bradbury published his Fahrenheit 451 in 1953. During the time, portable audio had been realized, but people had to contend with large headphones that were bulky. That is why he describes these buds as little seashells that make it possible to listen to high quality sound, and also made it possible to talk.
He is referring to earbuds, which only became popular around 2000. Apple’s earbuds became the favorite headphone design when they were released together with the first-generation iPod. That was back in 2001.
6. THE INTERNET
Touted as one of the biggest inventions of the last century, the internet has transformed people, organizations, and life in general.
In some of Isaac Asimov stories, he used to refer to a machine that had information about everything. People had different workstations, but those workstations were linked to this machine, and you could use this device to look up anything you wanted. You only needed to type whatever you were looking for, from your workstation, and you would get your answer in a few seconds.
He was essentially talking about the internet, except it was on a single machine.
The internet can be ascribed to a number of sci-fi authors, one of them being John Brunner. In his 1975 novel The Shockwave Rider, Brunner recounts a huge computer system and hints the possibilities of PC infections and hacking; all those are taking place today. Brunner even adds that they would have a serious influence in advance fighting.
Another author who believed about the internet is Mark Twain. In his short story from the London Times of 1904, he envisioned a global communication network where people would communicate with ease and named it ‘Telelectroscope.’ That was back in 1898 when telephones were very rare. He subtly mentions social networking.
5. CREDIT CARDS
The money system that we have presently is completely differs from what used to be there a century ago. Modern technology has enabled users to access electronic balances and access their funds from almost anywhere on Earth.
But this change had been predicted by Edward Bellamy in his novel Looking Backward. The 1888 novel was a great piece because of its great insights, but will mostly be remembered because it introduced the concept of a “universal credit.” Bellamy talks about citizens of his future utopia carrying a card that would allow them to spend credit from the central bank. The credit would be used to make purchases on goods and services without the need for paper money.
Today, the credit card has become an integral part of our lives. The slip of plastic that millions carry in their wallets is close to Bellamy’s description and can be used to purchase whatever one requires at whatever time.
Around 1990, the web had not gained momentum, and Mark Zuckerberg was barely out of kindergarten, but today, he is the CEO of one of the biggest social networking platforms.
In Ray Bradbury’s sci-fi Fahrenheit 451, he mentioned that in future people would communicate digitally through “the wall.” More than a century later, Facebook adopted his idea when they were coming up with the social networking site that would enable people to post and see messages.
Who would have known, considering Fahrenheit 451 was published some 50 years ago? The book was published during the time of the McCarthy “witch hunts,” and it is this culture of censorship and suppression that inspired Bradbury to write the book.
Greek Mythology had mentioned earlier the possibility of mechanical servants, but the term robot was first coined in 1920 by Karel Capek. The Czech writer aired a play that was performed in 1921 at the National Theatre in Prague. Its title was R.U.R (Rossum’s Universal Robots). The play was about synthetic people, and it astounded the audience as they had never thought of a human-made product that could impersonate a human.
The play was a success and accorded its author international acclaim. He had introduced the word “robot” to the English language.
Since then, science fiction, for the longest time, continued to play with the idea of a robot that thinks and acts on its own. And in most cases, it is made to resemble a human. These robots are believed to eventually lead to human imprisonment as they rise against human oppressors and end up overpowering the people. iRobot is an excellent example of a sci-fi movie where this imprisonment is highlighted.
Antidepressants are first mentioned by Aldous Huxley in Brave New World. In the novel, Huxley talks about antidepressants and genetic engineering. He mentions how Londoners were able to access a drug he calls “soma” that they could use to self-medicate themselves to change their moods depending on how the day had been.
The mood-altering drug made people forget about their troubles, and most of them ended up forgetting about their real lives. The author paints a negative picture about the drug because it is not able to provide a solution to people’s problems. Instead, it appeases them temporarily.
Recent studies indicate that humans are headed in that direction as more and more people continue to use antidepressants. Just like Huxley had predicted, the drugs are being used to treat unhappiness and not clinical depression for which they were made. Our societal reliance on antidepressants is wanting, and will certainly take us down the drain.
It excites the 21st-century human because it looks so trendy.
These skateboards – that hover above the ground – came into the picture in 1989 after the release of Back to the Future: Part II, but they had also been mentioned in other sci-fi around the mid-20 century.
Hoverboards have also been seen in several other works.
For example, in Transformers, Daniel Witwicky is seen riding a jet-powered hoverboard over the ground. Though it does not resemble the one Marty McFly’s rides in Back to the Future, the two have a close resemblance.
At the start of Back to the Future, Part II, Marty McFly, and Doc Brown move through time to the year 2015, a future date that was still 26 years ahead. Once there, Marty learns of so many changes including gravity-defying board called a hoverboard.
Since then, there have been numerous attempts to make something that resembles Marty McFly’s ‘flying skateboard.’
Hoverboards became a sensation around October 2015 after several celebrities were spotted with the device. Today, you can easily find them in several households as they have become a sensation. The farthest flight by a hoverboard was recorded by Franky Zapata on April 30, 2016, off the cost of Sausset-les-Pins in France.
It is possible that by 2025, the hoverboards and robotic exoskeletons could be used by any person.
Now, the mind-boggling question: do these inventions exist because we read about them, or they would have been discovered anyway?
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