Science fiction has always shown a utopian world where everything is easily accessible, from food to over-the-top technology that makes transportation seem like a dream.
I personally thought as a kid that I’d be flying a car when I grew up after watching “The Jetsons.” I also imagined that a whole meal would appear in the microwave after heating up a pill when I watched “Spy kids,” but as we know, none of these is the norm in today’s era.
Did Science Fiction writers really figure out what was going to happen in the future? Or were they a bit too optimistic?
Science fiction isn’t limited to technological developments, but it also makes an assumption about what might occur in the future.
There are certain assumptions that robotics and machinery may remove inequality in the workplace, but there is also a concern that it might take over and people be left jobless.
The internet does provide information and the ability to communicate, but it does, in fact, have surveillance on us. Furthermore, it manipulates the data gathered to be sold to influential companies.
We have difficulty predicting how technology will develop and impact the future, but it’s not because our imaginations are lacking. On the contrary, the fact that technology is so difficult to predict can be traced back to our greatest imaginations.
Science fiction and where it all started?
“Science Fiction and the Future” is an article that quotes Arthur C. Clarke, “A critical . . . reading of science fiction is essential training for anyone wishing to look more than ten years ahead.”
Also, in “Does science fiction — yes, science fiction — suggest futures for news?” Loren Ghiglione quotes, “We have to think of them so that if the worst does come, we’ll already know how to live in that universe.”
Hugo Gernsback, an early sci-fi historian, wrote in Science Fiction Studies, “Edgar Allan Poe may well be called the father of “scientifiction.” It was he who really originated the romance, cleverly weaving into and around the story, a scientific thread. Jules Verne, with his amazing romances, also cleverly interwoven with a scientific thread, came next.”
This quotation of Gernsback states that Science fiction has been a genre that has been explored for centuries. Edger Allen Poe is the father of science fiction, states that writers have woven a futuristic world into their minds for years.
It was Wells who started a tradition of predicting the future through his literary work. Stephen J. DeCanio notes in “The Future through Yesterday” that “Wells’s vision of future technology is rich. Wells imagined technological developments that altered the physical landscape”. He also notes that “Wells also anticipated television, VCRs, and powered commercial and combat aircraft.”
Sci-fi books have shown great imagination but less reality?
Wells was able to predict the future through his work, but how much of it was accurate? Did he predict it correctly, or were his predictions far from the truth?
Wells also believed that in 2100 people would live in a city with massive walls around it. However, he wrote that those walls wouldn’t be to protect the people inside, but they would work as a weather-controlling mechanism.
“Wells’s vision fell short of future realities,” DeCanio states, “Fundamentally, the technologies he imagined were all merely extensions of the machinery of the late Victorian era.”
DeCanio states that in that era, there were already some technologies available that would have hinted at what would have happened in the future. Wells is not a genius who predicted the future; DeCanio believed that “Any intelligent person could master them…How this contrasts with what has actually happened!”.
This means that anyone capable of the correct understanding related to the technologies of that era could have figured out what the future held.
According to DeCanio, “The most powerful physical technologies of the twentieth century are based on manipulation of the invisible worlds of subatomic particles and the electromagnetic spectrum.”
Bellamy’s 1888 novel Looking Backward imagined a technology-enabled reorganization of gendered labor in the year 2000.
In “The Kitchen of Futures Past,” Nicholas Buchanan states that the novel “captures the era’s enthusiasm for the capacity of technology to bring about utopia.”
The novel states that “Housework has been fully incorporated into the nationalized, public, paid economy, and women no longer spend their time and energies on cleaning and cooking. Instead, families eat at neighborhood cafeterias”.
Buchanan states that Bellamy’s failure to understand the relationship between technology, economics, and social arrangements limited his ability to envision a world where women had a more meaningful sense of equality.
“[B]y today’s standards, Bellamy was a person with hopelessly outdated attitudes towards the question of gender equality,” Buchanan further elaborates, “unable to imagine his way out of his contemporary prejudices.”
“George Orwell’s 1984” suffers a similar shortcoming in its technological predictions.
In “1984 and the Power of Technology,” Heinz C. Luegenbiehl states that “The major technologies dealt with are the telescreen, helicopters, the Floating Fortresses, the construction of the ministry buildings, the rocket bomb, atomic weapons, instruments of interrogation, speakwrites, novel writing machines, versificators, pneumatic tubes, and artificial insemination”
He also states that “Each of these developments contributes to the basic picture which is drawn in the book”.
“George Orwell’s 1984” also states that technological development would necessarily bring about the end of totalitarianism. Technological development would lead to growth and, therefore, the end of totalitarianism. According to Lugenbiehl, this assumption was an overly narrow view of technology.
As Luegenbiehl states that “the technological developments discussed in the book are positively primitive.” Today we can point to developments in each of the areas discussed which put Orwell’s supposed technological ‘vision’ to shame.”
It shows that all the writers before 2010 seem to have any inaccurate or overly optimistic predictions about the future.
So even though the predictions seem close to some of the technologies that exist today, it is safe to say that they are not exactly how the writers had thought of or had predicted.
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