A lot of papers have talked about the idea of science fiction becoming science fact. This is particularly pervasive in the Star Trek universe. We now have our smart phones (communicators), tricorders, and we’re teleporting particles at a quantum level. Remember the hyposprays that McCoy would use on Kirk or Spock every other episode? In 2012 MIT updated a design that’s been around since the 1960s that injects drugs into a person at the speed of sound. Sounds more like a weapon.
Fantasy becoming reality is true for Star Wars as well, we potentially have a reactionless drive (the EM Drive) and hyperspace travel (the Alcubierre Drive). An Australian university has created a tractor beam using ultrasound. It only works in an atmosphere, unlike Star Wars, but it works. On super tiny objects.
Similar to Larry Niven’s Ringworld, we potentially have aliens building megastructures at Tabby’s Star.
The debit card was predicted in 1888 in a novel called Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy.
Jules Verne wrote From Earth to the Moon in 1865, over a hundred years before the moon landings. He wrote Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea in 1870, predicting the modern submarine with great accuracy. The subs of the time were death traps, specifically the submarines of the Civil War. The CSS Hunley, the CSS David, the USS Alligator being a few examples.
The fact is that science fiction has become science fact with great regularity. As a sci-fi author, I have written things that I thought were many years off, only to find them being deployed in our military or produced by our society. The railgun is the perfect example, the US Navy is building them right now, and preparing for sea trials.
DARPA is developing power armor that would make any Stark Enterprise engineer happy. We’ll probably see that on the battlefield within the next few decades.
What should we make of all this?
It’s probably a good idea to treat Science Fiction something like a think tank. There are a lot of amazing things in sci-fi, from the biological to the mechanical. Immortality. Cyborg body replacement. Mind enhancing chips. Personal spacecraft. Colonization of other worlds.
But there are a lot of bad things too. George Orwell predicted the surveillance state which seems to be coming to fruition. Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World predicted the use of mind altering drugs to keep humanity sane. We have predictions of weapons worse than nukes, plagues that wipe out mankind or knock down our civilization. Wars with aliens.
We have no idea which of those predictions will come true. Not that the authors saw them as predictions, they saw them as cool additions to a story. But the fact is that if a sci-fi author can think something up, someone out there is going to think of the same idea as a potential reality and look into developing it.
So when we read or watch science fiction, let’s keep that in our minds. The possibility that replicants might one day be a reality. Or our grandkids might live on Ceres. Or we may be invaded by hostile aliens. Think about those things and how they’d change your life, the good and the bad. Because science fiction opens that door for us, almost like a television set that shows the viewer potential futures that might come to be.