Many times throughout my life I have heard fans of science fiction promote the genre by stating how many times its authors have predicted the future. Look at the works of Jules Verne, Isaac Asimov, Frederick Pohl, Arthur C Clarke, and others and you’ll find many examples of things that they predicted that came true. From submarines to waldos to geostationary satellites science fiction has either influenced science or science has eventually caught up to the ideas of science fiction. Certainly we can continue to be smug in the belief that our genre is an accurate look into the future.

It’s not true of course. But how wrong have authors been? Well…

Predicting the future is hard, and it’s easier to see things that weren’t predicted than every prediction that didn’t come true. But it is also fun to point out how some science fiction authors thought the future would be and how they were wrong.

Sure, we don’t have time travel, but more interestingly we also don’t have flying cars. I for one am rather glad of this at the moment – given how easily people crash terrestrial vehicles now I’m not sure airborne teens/distracted mothers/blackberry users/the elderly is a good idea. We do nearly all have cell phones and I suppose you could assume that was what some predicted for the various communicators out there, but hardly anybody predicted we would see small children with cell phones (see Firefly Mobile for the latest in this trend.)

I see no life on the moon or Mars and I honestly doubt we’ll see it on any other planet in our solar system and certainly no invasions are due. Men haven’t largely been replaced my machines even in factories with vast numbers of industrial robots – there are just too many things they are challenged to do. Voice recognition is largely a pipe dream (I recently heard somebody refer to it being ‘just 5 years away’ for the last 30 years) but might come to pass eventually – or maybe not if some other technology renders that concept obsolete. Luckily I don’t live in a dystopia envisioned by many authors – although you have my sympathy if you do.

And worst of all – commercial space travel isn’t viable yet. That’s too bad because I’d love to do it (as I’m sure many would) but the cost has to move into something approaching reality. Paying the Russian government $10M to go up into space is beyond my rather more modest means.

OK – now it is your turn – what predictions did you see get made that didn’t come to pass?

Filed under: Books

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