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CNet: 10 Ways Science Fiction Influenced Real-Life Science

“Science fiction has transformed modern culture on multiple occasions. Exploration and innovation are often driven by pop-cultural imagination.” – Ben Cerveny, original Flickr team member.

CNet has an interesting article that looks at the effect of science fiction on technology. Each named source is cited as the inspiration for some real-world science.

  1. Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson – a fully realized 3D virtual world.
  2. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick – an early look at intelligent androids and the way they would interact with humans; large-scale projects in the virtual world, Second Life; generating endless mesmerizing fractals.
  3. “Minority Report” by Philip K. Dick – highly functional touch screens and sensor screens.
  4. Neuromancer by William Gibson – the concept of cyberpunk and of cyberspace; also touched on virtual reality, artificial intelligence, genetic engineering and ubiquitous technology.
  5. Distraction by Bruce Sterling – profile sniffers, software devices that scour the Internet for personality type patterns; relying heavily on “the nets” to compile psychological profiles of individuals who may be prone to violence before they actually commit a crime; ubiquitous computing.
  6. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein – the concept known as TANSTAAFL, or “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch”.
  7. A 1945 letter to the editors of Wireless World magazine written by Arthur C. Clarke – geostationary satellite communications.
  8. I, Robot by Isaac Asimov – interaction between humans and robot; robot code of ethics.
  9. Star Trek – the flip phone.
  10. R.U.R. by Karel Capek – introduced the term “robot”.
About John DeNardo (13012 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.

5 Comments on CNet: 10 Ways Science Fiction Influenced Real-Life Science

  1. Hey, I thought that William Gibson wrote Neuromancer, not “Willian Gibson”

  2. Dude, that’s Fred’s job. :-S

  3. I have to sleep sometime!


  4. PapayaSF // July 7, 2007 at 3:47 pm //

    Sorry, I think this is a pretty uneven list. So Snow Crash (1992) was the first to have fully realized 3D virtual worlds? How about True Names by Vernor Vinge in 1981? Heinlein popularized but did not invent the idea of TANSTAAFL. Neuromancer was influential as science fiction but had little impact on the real world (as far as I can tell). And Asimov’s robot code of ethics, while a fine idea, has had no real-world impact so far: robots can still barely walk around, much less make ethical distinctions.

    They also missed some good ones: didn’t Heinlein invent the waldo and the waterbed? And Fritz Lang invented the countdown just for dramatic effect for the rarely-seen film Die Frau im Mond (1929), and it was later adopted by real rocket people. I’m sure there are other examples.

  5. Neuromancer was a direct inspiration for the omni-directional treadmill, a real-life device that permits walking around cyberspace.

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