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Author Predicts Future!

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?

3 Comments on Author Predicts Future!

  1. Didn’t we di a meme-guest-post-thingy on this subject?

    SF doesn’t predict “the” future. It doesn’t even necessarily “predict” the future. It sets up certain situations and tells a tale about that situation.

    Flying cars? That ain’t the fault of SF. It’s the fault of those darn engineers who don’t have enough imagination!


  2. I seem to recall seeing really old stuff every now and then (some of it was silly stuff like the Jetsons, but there were one or two legitimate stories that referenced it) that predicted full meals big enough to feed the entire family condensed down into a single pill. Sure, there are meal-replacement drinks and the like now, but we’ve yet to see a product where a single drop of water splashed onto a pill would cause a hot, full turkey dinner complete with all the trimmings to appear on your table.

  3. You say that men have not been replaced by robots in the workforce — but I think this one is definitely in our near future. I think the key advance to watch for are self-driving cars. I don’t mean cars that follow special tracks in the road, but vehicles that optically process data, read road signs, distinguish kids from dogs, etc. (I watch the DARPA challenges every year because of this)

    Once that happens, it should be possible to automate nearly any task that doesn’t require high level thought or creativity. Since about 90% of the population will not be employable once this happens, everyone will wind up getting a basic living allowance and will be able to do whatever they like to occupy their time (well, that’s the optimistic view).

    DARPA researchers predict self-driving cars in the 2020 timeframe. Of course, 90% of all software is delivered late.

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