Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Future Is Here...It's 1980!

People and fans always talk about extrapolation and predictions in science fiction.  You don't have to go far  to find a Trekkie (I'm one myself)  and they'll tell you about how Star Trek predicted the flat screen TV or flip cell phones or computers and so forth.  I'm still waiting on the food replicator and the transporter, myself.  However, I believe I read somewhere that  science fiction originally started out as flights of fancy, an escapism, and nothing more, and that's fine by me.  Hugo Gernsback claimed his magazine, Amazing Stories (and others) was to paint an accurate picture of the future, demanding a scientific plausibility.   Although few of the stories he published from what I've read, lived up to that claim.   On one SF forum that I sometimes read one poster proclaimed that Star Wars was not science fiction, in his opinion, SF has to have some sort of science within the story--no science, no science fiction.  To me that's more hard science fiction, and splitting hairs, but I digress...

That's not to say that SF doesn't get it right on occasion.  As already stated, Star Trek got a few things right, and H. G. Wells predicted the use of the tank in The Land Ironclads in 1903, and the use of atom bombs. SF writers like Cleve Cartmill, Robert Heinlein, and Lester Del Rey wrote about atomic weapons and such before Hiroshima.  Heinlein also predicted the water bed and remote control.  Isaac Asimov wrote about robots and gave us the three laws of robotics.  Arthur C. Clarke wrote about communication satellites, and Jules Verne wrote about submarines, rockets, and moon shots.  Even so, there are plenty of wrong predictions, and a lot of SF fans still joke about waiting on the flying car.  That may still be a long way off, but we are just now getting the electric car up and running, progress is measured in baby steps.  We are still in our infancy as far as space travel is concerned, so who knows, some of us still might be able to take a vacation aboard a space habitat.

I saw a show on PBS not long ago, called McCuistion, a weekly show, which airs Sundays here.  It had, Dan Burrus, a statistician on it, who had written Techotrends, and had just finished a new book, Flash Foresight.  On the program he told how he went about predicting future trends. Many of the ones he had predicted not long ago have come true.

At any rate, that is one of the reason I enjoy SF--to be able to dream about the future, to peer and fantasize into the what if?  What will occur in the future as far as medicine, leisure, cloning, artificial intelligence, virtual realities, space travel, nanotechnology, and so forth. 

Not long ago while surfing the web I ran into this 1930's film about what New York City would be in the future of 1980.  It's pretty fun to predict. 


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