Great Sci-Fi, Wrong Future – WIF Bookshelf

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These Science Fiction

Novels Got the Science

Very, Very Wrong

Science fiction author Ray Bradbury said, “Science fiction is the most important literature in the history of the world, because it’s the history of ideas[.]” He may have been biased, but he wasn’t incorrect. There are two genres of science fiction. Hard science fiction is usually scientifically rigorous, while soft science fiction uses elements of sociology, anthropology, and psychology. World building in science fiction is often creative, but  it doesn’t always reveal humankind’s future. Here are 10 inaccuracies found in science fiction.

10. Time for the Stars by Robert A. Heinlein

Concept: Relativity

Albert Einstein’s theory of special relativity says time is relative, and one’s perception of time varies based on how quickly one is moving. Since general relativity and special relativity are theories, their applications are less concrete than the uses for technology in some science fiction on this list. We use special relativity to explain why astronauts living in space are moving more quickly — and aging more slowly — than people on Earth. Special relativity is important to the plot of Robert A. Heinlein’s 1956 novel Time for the Stars. Heinlein also uses the Twin Paradox as a plot device.

The Twin Paradox is a thought experiment that is only made possible because of the theory of special relativity. Imagine two identical twins. One remains on Earth, while the other travels to a star six light years away using a rocket that travels at six times the speed of light. Before the traveling twin leaves Earth, both twins reset their watches to zero. When the traveling twin reaches the star, her watch says eight years have passed. When the twin on Earth reads her watch, she will find 16 years have passed by the time the traveling twin reaches the star. From the perspective of the twin on Earth, the traveling twin’s rocket takes 10 years to reach the star. The light that will show the traveling twin at the star will take an additional six years to return to Earth, making the trip to the star take 16 years. To the traveler, whose rocket moves at six times the speed of light, the star she is traveling to, which seems six light years away to her twin sister on Earth, is only 4.8 light years away. It takes another 4.8 years for light to travel from Earth to her rocket, so she perceives the trip as taking roughly eight years.

Robert A. Heinlein is respected as a gifted science fiction writer. He was named the first Science Fiction Writers Grand Master in 1974. He also pursued graduate degrees in physics and mathematics at UCLA. Because of his scientific knowledge, his explanations of special relativity and the Twin Paradox are mostly correct. He applies the theories correctly, with one minor inaccuracy. In his novel, the traveling twin and the twin on Earth are communicating in real time via intercom. Once the traveling twin is moving at the speed of light, he hears the twin on Earth as though he is speaking more slowly. By contrast, the twin on Earth hears the traveling twin as though he is speaking more quickly. In fact, each twin would only be conscious of his own perception of time.

9. The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

Concept: Colonizing Mars

In Ray Bradbury’s 1950 collection of vignettes, humans have successfully colonized Mars. Bradbury explores which impulses, noble and ignoble, humans obey regardless of which planet they’re inhabiting. As of 2019, NASA is still planning to send astronauts to Mars. The topographical features that led Bradbury and other science fiction writers to imagine it might be possible to colonize Mars by the mid-20th century, though, have been revealed to be misleading.

By 1960, astronomer Carl Sagan had discovered that Mars is consistently freezing due to its lack of atmosphere, and the canals on Mars were not, as had previously been hypothesized, former waterways.

8. Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

Concept: Reanimating Dinosaurs

Unlike the saddled dinosaurs calmly coexisting with humans in the Creation Museum’s exhibits, the destructive dinosaurs in Michael Crichton’s 1990 novel are a cautionary tale for humans. A course of action made possible by scientific advancement isn’t necessarily a wise one. However, despite the intricately detailed scientific plot of the novel, resurrecting dinosaurs isn’t possible.

The science of paleontology dates from the 19th century, and dinosaur footprints and fossils have consistently been recognized as historically important. To resurrect dinosaurs, though, paleontologists would need viable dinosaur DNA in order to reassemble dinosaurs’ genetic codes. Dinosaurs dominated the Earth roughly 66 million years ago. Even if their DNA was found, it would be too decayed to be useful in reassembling a genetic code. That’s good news for anyone getting tired of holding onto their butt.

7. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Concept: Reanimating Humans

Defibrillators can be used to revive someone who has gone into sudden cardiac arrest. However, it’s impossible to revive someone who has already been hanged, like the scientist Victor Frankenstein does in Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel. During the 19th century, there was scientific research that seemed to support the possibility that corpses could be revived through the use of electricity. In 1781, a surgeon, Luigi Galvani, dissected a frog while standing near a static electricity machine. When an assistant touched a nerve in the frog’s leg with a scalpel, the frog’s leg spasmed. Galvani built a bronze and iron arc, and he attached the frog’s leg and the static electricity machine to it. The frog’s leg twitched whenever it touched the metal. Galvani formed a hypothesis: he believed the frog possessed what Galvani called animal electricity. The bimetallic arc conducted the animal electricity to the frog’s nerve, making its leg twitch. The plot of Shelley’s novel is an exploration of what might be possible if humans, too, possessed animal electricity.

After reading Galvani’s work, physicist Alessandro Volta replicated Galvani’s experiment. He observed the same result, but he reached a very different conclusion. His hypothesis, which we now know to be accurate, was that the metal was acting as a conductor for the electric current from the static electricity machine. When the current touched the frog’s leg, the frog’s leg twitched.

6. Never Let You Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Concept: Human Cloning

Jodi Picoult’s 2003 book My Sister’s Keeper explores the question of whether it’s morally defensible to expect one sibling to become an organ donor for another. In Kazuo Ishiguro’s 2005 novel, organ donation is a social requirement. Human clones are created solely to become organ donors. There are many science fiction novels featuring human clones. While the question of how humans determine quality of life will always be a valid one, human cloning isn’t currently possible. Further, there is no way to guarantee that a clone will be as healthy as the animal from whose cells the clone was created.

In 1996, Dolly, a sheep, became the first successfully cloned mammal. The average lifespan of a sheep is 12 years, but Dolly was euthanized in 2002. At six-and-a-half years old, she had already developed a progressive lung disease. She also had shorter telomeres than other sheep of a comparable age. Telomeres are pieces of DNA that protect the ends of chromosomes. Since telomeres shorten as cells divide, they are considered an indication of an animal’s age. Based on Dolly’s lung disease and the length of her telomeres, scientists speculate that she was actually born six years old, the same age as that of the sheep from which she was cloned.

5. Babylon Babies by Maurice Dantec

Concept: Designer Babies

In Maurice Dantec’s 1999 novel, a woman is carrying genetically modified twins whose birth might forever change the human race. Unlike most of the scientific advancements on this list, this one isn’t currently impossible. In 2018, Chinese researcher Jiankui He created the first babies with artificially increased resistance to HIV. Afterward, the embryos were implanted in the mother’s uterus, and the babies were born healthy.

Technically, these weren’t designer babies, because their parents weren’t selecting particular genes. However, the same gene editing techniques could be used to create designer babies. Gene editing in embryos is permitted in Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, China, and Sweden. Gene editing is scientifically possible, but there’s not international consensus regarding whether it’s ethical. Consistent gene editing could allow certain countries to practice genocide or produce physically and intellectually enhanced soldiers that would give them an advantage during international conflicts.

4. The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin

Concept: Utopia

Ursula K. Le Guin’s 1979 novel The Dispossessed isn’t the only science fiction novel depicting a utopian future for humankind. Though no author who has imagined the future as a utopia is right (so far), Le Guin’s utopia is unique for two reasons. First, her world has an anarchic planet, Anarres, that’s rich in resources. It’s a colony of an arid planet, Urras. Even in a utopia, inhabitants of Anarres are deprived of their own natural resources. Second, the novel’s protagonist, Shevek, fares better than his real world model. Shevek was modeled on a family friend of Le Guin’s, J. Robert Oppenheimer.

Shevek makes the citizens of Anarres question both the limits of their personal autonomy and the consequences of exercising it. By contrast, Oppenheimer’s expertise made the first atomic explosion possible in 1945. Unfortunately, he was stripped of his job title, chairman of the General Advisory Committee of the Atomic Energy Commission, when he opposed the United States’ development of a hydrogen bomb. Asking the American government to critique its own use of personal autonomy cost Oppenheimer his professional reputation.

3. The Time Machine by H.G. Wells

Concept: Time Travel

H.G. Wells’ 1895 novella isn’t the only story involving time travel. However, Wells popularized the idea that humans could invent a machine that makes time travel possible. Technically, time travel exists. As previously mentioned, Einstein’s theory of special relativity says time is relative, and one’s perception of time varies based on how quickly one is moving. Astronauts living in space are moving more quickly than people on Earth. Therefore, an astronaut living in space for a year will age slightly less than people who are living on Earth during that year.

The Large Hadron Collider moves protons at almost the speed of light, essentially propelling them into the future. The kind of time travel that Wells writes about — the kind that’s controlled  by humans and measured based on a Western European perception of time — isn’t possible. In 2015, Ali Razeghi, the managing director of Iran’s Center for Strategic Inventions, claimed he had invented a machine that could accurately predict five to eight years into a person’s future. His claim was debunked when he declined to release the design for his time machine.

2. The Xenu Files by L. Ron HubbarL.Rond

Concept: The Origin Of Humanity

Unlike most of the entries on this list, The Xenu Files isn’t a novel. L. Ron Hubbard was a writer of popular science fiction short stories, but he’s most famous for founding the Church of Scientology. Scientologists pay a minimum of a quarter of a million dollars to audit Scientology courses. Once they reach the level of Operating Thetan 3, they are permitted to read the religion’s origin myth. According to the 2015 HBO documentary Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, the origin myth, which was handwritten between 1966 and 1967, is stored at the church’s Advanced Organization Building.

According to Hubbard, Xenu, the dictator of the Galactic Federation, needed to solve his planet’s overpopulation problem. He sent his own subjects to Earth, then called Teegeeack. There, they were strapped to atomic bombs and hurled into volcanoes. The spirits of Xenu’s subjects, called Thetans, cling to contemporary humans. The only way to rid oneself of Thetans is through the Scientologists’ practice of auditing. In auditing, someone talks about events from his or her previous lives while an auditor reads an e-meter (a lie detector). The person’s truthfulness, as determined by the auditor, shows how susceptible the person is to Thetans.

If these religious practices seem like they belong in a science fiction novel, perhaps that’s because science fiction readers were the original intended audience for Hubbard’s ideas. After failing to convince doctors, psychologists, and explorers to integrate his ideas into their professional practices, Hubbard appealed to the science fiction readers who were fans of his work. He and his editor, John W. Campbell, Jr., developed the system of dianetics, a term used to describe the methodology of Scientology. Hubbard’s first article about dianetics appeared in a 1950 issue of the magazine Astounding. Campbell, who owned the magazine, primarily published science fiction short stories, including Hubbard’s. Later, Hubbard used one of his science fiction short stories, “Masters of Sleep,” as a prolonged advertisement for dianetics. In his 2012 post for The Village Voice, Tony Ortega says Scientologists might be more susceptible to Hubbard’s origin story in The Xenu Files because many of them have vividly experienced past lives during auditing. For Hubbard’s early readers, the process was much simpler. They encountered information about dianetics in the same magazine that had published Hubbard’s science fiction.

1. The Blazing World by Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle

Concept: The Future

Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, isn’t noteworthy because her book contains prescient predictions. The North Pole isn’t a portal to another planet. We haven’t discovered a planet that we can verify is lit by the brightest stars ever created. No human has been transported to another planet, then declared war against her own home planet (unless alien victors have compromised our collective memory of the event).

No, Cavendish isn’t noteworthy because of how she envisioned the future. She’s noteworthy because of when she did it. Written in 1666, The Blazing World is widely regarded as the first science fiction novel. A respected poet, playwright, biographer, and essayist in her own time, Cavendish also created a genre. As Bronwyn Lovell says in her 2016 article for The Conversation, “Science Fiction’s Woman Problem,” science fiction is still a male-dominated genre. Still, Cavendish ensured a future for female writers by creating a space for them.


Great Sci-Fi, Wrong Future

WIF Bookshelf


Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #198

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #198

…Please tell me what it was like to be knighted by the Queen.” John tries his best to get his cousin to be the least immodest, bringing up a subject of great pride to a loyal subject…

Knighted

Knighted by Eva Hollyer

John Ferrell interrupts the polarized opinion exchange about golf, “I have heard of the sport, in fact we have a club in Tallahassee, on the university grounds.”

“Splendid! I will show you how to play when we take you up on your kind invitation to visit. It sounds like you have the perfect climate.” He grips his mashie niblick.

“Don’t be aswingin’ those things in the house James, remember the chandelier?” Mrs. Barrie warns.

“One of my best passes, it was.”

“Me thinks you should be in France, shurein the Germans would flee to home at the sight of you and that stick.”

Please tell me what it was like to be knighted by the Queen.” John tries his best to get his cousin to be the least immodest, bringing up a subject of great pride to a loyal subject, when a carriage comes barreling up the winding trail leading to the Barrie country home. “That will be Harv Pearson and his bride, the publishers of that magazine I brought you.”

“Good work… with stories that match the finest photographs I have ever seen,” high praise from an accomplished judge of word and people.

     “That is Sir James Barrie,” Judith nudges her husband, who may not know, “saw his first production in London, now he is one of the most prolific playwrights – ever.”

“Welcome to bonnie ol’ Scotland set a spell and let’s talk about the generosity of America!”

Judith, who almost never drinks alcohol, accepts a spot from the host. She is smart enough to sip, yet unable to prevent the inevitable shiver, as it burns a path down her esophagus.

“Thank you, Mister Barrie. My wife has been following your career from the beginning, as she will surely tell you later.” Harv speaks, Judith is recovering. “And it is good to see you, John. We were surprised at your cable, quite an undertaking in these troubling times.” He does not recall extreme bravery as one of this man’s character.

“Matthew, that’s what his friends call him, told us of the terrible suffering in the Isles and I was moved to gather the excess bounty that God has blessed us with and share them.”

Neither does Harv remember him as an excessively Godly man.

 “I am so inspired by John’s kindness that I myself feel twinges of guilt. I see the suffering, yet continue on with my flights of fancy.”


Alpha Omega M.D.

Episode #198


page 186

Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #197

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #197

…Each sip of whiskey makes it easier to repress the bad memories, not forget them…

J.M. Barrie

J.M. Barrie by James Quinn

There is a rejoicing noise coming from out the Central Lowlands, not yet audible to the men and women of the P-E J, just loud enough to echo through the Tay River valley, all the way to Dundee. Sir James Barrie, of literary fame, shares gallons of tales and scotch whiskey with John Ferrell, who has become a local hero; the man who has loosed a wealth of necessities on people who may well have remained distant memories. Now John is having regrets having to leave this festive gathering, away from the new world he created.

“I so wish that it hadn’t been a war to bring us together. We could have brought Martha’s Gaskells from merry ol’ England and had a reunion that would put the Queen to shame. Can you imagine the Scots and the Gaskells here in Perth? Come to think of it, we are all apt to be related… in a cousin sort of way.”

“In the American South, relation is a way of life,” admits John, speaking as if it is a foreign practice, without revealing the exact extent of his contribution to an even more sensitive subject. Each sip of whiskey makes it easier to repress the bad memories, not forget them. “Martha would have loved a holiday in Scotland, we rarely get out of Florida, don’t know why.” He silently rues the day he sacrificed a normal life for the lust of his flesh.

James Ferrell Lawyer

“So your James is a barrister? I am proud that he bears my name, me a lowly bard from the Lowlands. I myself never could get past the fantasy world, one which I have complete control. Fiction can far surpass reality.”

“My husband is not a borin’ you with his fancies, is he?” Madame Barrie brings them a tray of smoked kippers to snack on. “I am surprised he has not talked the bunch of us into rehearsing his new play… what is it again?”    

A Kiss for Cinderella, just a modest production in London, but I’d rather be playing golf than staging theater.”

“Oh, that silly game: A waste of good grazing land, if you ask me!”

“We did not!” ask you.

“Pasture billiards!”

“It is a gentleman’s pastime.”

“It is a poor excuse to catch a death of a cold.”


        Alpha Omega M.D.

“Golfers” by Charles Lees

Episode #197


page 185

Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #192

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #192

…The Lord asks us to share our brothers’ burden. I need to take up the cause, stand shoulder to shoulder with my kinsmen,…

“What does your cousin say?” asks Martha Ferrell of her husband John, who reads a letter from Scotland intensely. It is dated 22 March, 1915, received the day before Thanksgiving same year.

“Oh, Martha, they’re suffering great hardship. Nearly everything is rationed, living off their potato plot, they are. Most of the grain they grow goes to the cattle; the rest must be submitted to the war effort.” As he reads Sir James M. Barrie’s tale of woe, waves of guilt wash against his spirit, remembering the happy days of his youth, playing with James. John’s own son is named after his relative left behind, after the Ferrells abandoned the  Isle clan for a new life in Florida. “He fears his son, Matthew, will be drafted into the British Army, though a recent bout of consumption may disqualify him from battle.

“‘How ironic; spared the horrors of war by a disabling disease.’”

 “Those are his very words, aren’t they?”  She recognizes the work of a writer, albeit far from his wispy ‘Peter Pan’. “I so love his letters, every one a masterpiece unto itself.”

  “I’ve been praying about the plight of our people. We are so blessed by the lord, insulated from adversity, bounties beyond deserving. I ask myself, ‘what can I do to support my homeland an ocean away?’ My answer is never the same.”

Scotland      “What if we take a collection of goods, you know, foodstuffs, clothing, anything the Panhandle can offer that will help them survive hostilities.”

“Yes, yes, and we can hire a ship out of Panama City to carry them to Perth. How I would love to see old James again!”

It was a splendid idea until mention of him going home to the Central Lowlands enters in the back door. “Must you go to Scotland? Why put yourself in harms way?”

The Lord asks us to share our brothers’ burden. I need to take up the cause, stand shoulder to shoulder with my kinsmen, making a difference in their community.” John Ferrell lacks only a kilt. “Please wire Dundee with the news of our plan. I am going to begin gathering the cargo, I think Herb Love will jump right in with both feet, if I know him and Jacques Francoise will mix up some medicines, maybe help Matthew with his tuberculosis. And every farmer in Leon and Gadsden County will surely contribute something. I know we can fill a small freighter.”


Alpha Omega M.D.

Episode #192


page 180

Plot Holes Exposed – WIF @ the Movies

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Beloved Movies

and

TV Episodes

with Gaping

Plot Holes

At this point, writing a script for a film or an episode of television should be down to an exact science. Even people with a passing interest in scripts know about phrases such as inciting incidents, peaks and valleys, and denouncements, and even without popular web-pages like IMDb goofs or the endless ranks of video essayists on YouTube, we can sniff out a hole in a plot.

So knowing audiences have that level of savvy, how can filmmakers that have to devote months, if not years to these projects think that they can get away with having holes in stories that seem like they would take a conscious effort to ignore? On top of that, how do they sometimes not only get away with it but make movies and episodes that audiences cherish for generations? Perhaps we can gain some insight into that by looking at the stories below. All 10 examples are, we should mention, movies and episodes that we love enough to have watched multiple times. Still, you can’t really love something until you accept its flaws.

(By the way, if you’re expecting Citizen Kane and its infamous supposed plot hole to be on here, check this page for why it isn’t. Also, SPOILERS ahead!)

10. Avengers: Infinity War

In the fourth movie in world history to gross over two billion dollars at the box office, the villain Thanos wants to become so powerful that he can, at a stroke, kill half the universe’s population to provide more resources for the other half. Aside from how nonsensical that is (think how many systems of producing and distributing the needed resources would be practically wiped out, how traumatized many of the survivors would be, etc.) considering he can do whatever he wants with time, space, reality, and so on, it also means that he can provide infinite resources to everyone. So why would he kill half the population to deal with alleged shortages?

However, some might try to dismiss that by claiming it’s part of his insanity. In terms of sheer plot mechanics, there’s a less high-falutin example near the end of the movie. The hero Doctor Strange possesses a green stone which allows him to, among other things, reset time for at least a short period. This was demonstrated quite memorably in the climax of Doctor Strange. Yet after a confrontation with Thanos late in the movie, he allows himself and his associates to be defeated without employing this power at all, despite the loss being an extremely near-run matter. There’s a common trope among superhero stories of the heroes “forgetting” their powers, but rarely does it go that far.

9. Get Out

While the meticulous plotting of Get Out‘s screenplay required twenty drafts and resulted in Jordan Peele receiving the Academy Award for Best Screenplay, he left an unfortunate hole in the story that’s as much unnecessary as it’s a cheat.

The basic plot of the film is that Chris goes with his girlfriend Rose to visit her parents’ home. While there, he encounters a person from his neighborhood who is now in a relationship with a much older woman. Since he and other black people that Chris has encountered have been acting weirdly, he is deeply suspicious, even before he receives confirmation from his friend Rod that, indeed, the person he just met has been listed as a missing person, just as numerous other black people in that neighborhood have been. Shortly after, Chris discovers a box in the closet of the bedroom he and Rose have been sleeping in. It is full of photos of Rose with a large number of black boyfriends and girlfriends, including the person Chris knew was missing, revealing that something profoundly wrong is happening.

The issue is this: Why does Rose have that very incriminating box of evidence where Chris could find it? In the following scenes, it’s revealed that Rose is a willing participant in the disappearances and feels no remorse. Indeed, we see her casually looking through photos of up and coming athletes shortly after, indicating that she’s already moving on from the harm she’s going to inflict on Chris, so it’s not as if she’d subconsciously be sabotaging the crime. They’re also printed photos even though the movie is set in contemporary times when surely she would be inclined through social conditioning to take digital photographs. Even the best screenplays can’t seem to escape these missteps.

8. Black Mirror: National Anthem

Often hailed as The Twilight Zone for the internet age, Charlie Brooker’s science fiction anthology struck a chord with audiences from its pilot episode, which premiered in December 2011. In the episode, Princess Susannah is kidnapped by an unknown person who will only release her alive on the condition that the prime minister do something by that late afternoon that the prime minister very much does not want to do, with the full understanding of the public. One of his subordinates makes arrangements to cheat the arrangement in the event Princess Susannah is not rescued in time. Word of the attempted cheat gets out, so the kidnapper releases a video of him removing one of the Susannah’s fingers, and he sends a finger to the press. Learning about this cheat and the harm inflicted on the Princess turns the public against the prime minister, forcing him to go through with the deal. In the end, it’s revealed that the princess is released unharmed and that the kidnapper was an old performance artist who cut off one of his own fingers.

The issue with that is that the performance artist is revealed to be an aged man with a generally working class body while Princess Susannah looks like she’s a model in lower middle age, at the oldest. There’s no way their fingers could plausibly be mistaken for each other, even in the heat of the moment. Even if the extent of the news that leaked was that a finger was sent to a media outlet after the video of the supposed finger removal (which is staged so that the injury itself does not happen in the camera’s line of sight), word would just as quickly get out that it wasn’t her finger, which would massively undercut the public pressure for the prime minister to meet the kidnapper’s demands.

7. Cinderella

While it is a tale as old as time, most viewers today are probably familiar with it through either the 1951 animated Disney adaptation or the 2014 live action Disney adaptation. Or maybe the 2014 deconstruction in Into the Woods by… uh, Disney again. Our readers very likely don’t need the plot synopsis, but in brief: There’s a hardworking stepdaughter/maid who sneaks to a royal dance after her fairy godmother gives her a dress, carriage, and slippers made of her old clothes, a pumpkin, and magic respectively. She dances with the prince, they fall in love but she has to leave at midnight, leaving her slipper behind. He hunts her down by having every woman in the kingdom try on the slipper until it fits her.

But this story, whether it be the original French version, the German version by the Brothers Grimm, and every film adaptation, has a major problem related to the character of the prince. It doesn’t even make sense by fairy tale logic that the prince loves someone without even knowing what she looks like. Even the star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet knew each other’s faces! While fairy tales naturally get deconstructed a lot despite being wish fulfillment fantasies for children, everyone always seems to get too hung up on how impractical glass slippers would be as an article of clothing to observe this problem with the plot.

6. Raiders of the Lost Ark

This 1981 film was both a tribute to 1930s movie serials (even though creators George Lucas and Steven Spielberg admitted they didn’t actually like those when they screened a few for each other during pre-production) and one of the films that codified Hollywood’s blockbuster era. Indiana Jones was instantly iconic as a tomb raiding academic who goes on an adventure to retrieve the Ark of the Covenant  in a race against his old rival Belloq and his Nazi collaborators.

It probably helped that in Lawrence Kasdan’s acclaimed screenplay, Indiana Jones is more relatable because he so often fails on the way to the climax, including said climax beginning with him in captivity.

This is where the trouble with the story emerges. As Indiana and his fellow captive Marion Ravenwood look on, the Nazis open the Ark. Ominous light emanates from the Ark, and out of the blue, Indiana Jones tells Marion to shut her eyes. As they do, angels that seem more like demons emerge and kill all of their captors. Never mind the moral issues that they indiscriminately kill everyone solely on the basis of looking at them. How does Indiana know that shutting their eyes is the way for him and Marion to save themselves? The only thing he’s said about it before this scene was when, back at the university, he sees an image of the Ark and blithely guesses that the light emerging from it is the “power of God.” It’s a very puzzling oversight.

Except it actually isn’t. Kasdan included a scene in the original screenplay where the means of surviving was explained to Dr. Jones, but it was cut during editing. Which just goes to show that even a perfect script can be undone during the production process.

5. Black Mirror: USS Callister

After six years and a move from BBC to Netflix, the premiere for Black Mirror’s fourth season once again left audiences in awe and slightly disturbed. In brief, the episode is about the creator of a virtual reality online video game named Robert Daly. Instead of merely playing his game (which is modeled in large part on a fictional equivalent of the original Star Trek series) as a light adventure as originally intended, Daly makes artificially intelligent copies of coworkers and tortures them into treating him as essentially a god. Part of Black Mirror’s conceit was well-established by that time that AI simulations of people have the equivalents of physical sensations and emotions, thus making the AI in this show as sympathetic as any human beings would be and their existences just as Hellish.

Still, a problem with the story is revealed almost immediately. To properly map out the memories and emotions of his coworkers to make the simulations as accurate as possible, Daly sneaks samples of their DNA home from work from such things as discarded Styrofoam cups. The issue of that is that while Daly would indeed have good DNA samples to make clones, in real life he wouldn’t be able to make replicas required by the narrative because our DNA does not contain our memories. It’s a testament to the execution of the episode that this did not seem to take many viewers out of the experience.

4. A Quiet Place

A Quiet Place, the directorial debut from John Krasinski, is a commercial and critical darling. However, its suspenseful pace and limited dialogue left audiences with plenty of time to nitpick the details of its story about monsters that rely on sound to hunt down a family. The biggest issue is really a nail that is sticking up from the middle of a step to the basement that Evelyn Abbott steps on. Now, the nail is sticking up right from the middle of the step, and the staircase is in good condition, so this is not a matter of rushed or improvised repair after the apocalypse. It also is not joining two pieces of wood together. So why in the world is it there? Perhaps the deaf daughter Regan Abbott put it there because she’s subconsciously becoming suicidal (that’s extrapolating from how she blames herself for the death of her young brother and wants to stop experimenting with hearing aids). That still leaves a nagging question: How did it get pounded in without an immediate monster attack?

The producers Brad Fuller and Andrew Form were questioned about the nail and the best they came up with was saying that the family couldn’t risk the noise of removing a nail. Which… Fine. But why, or even how, did they get it there in the first place?!

3. Hereditary

While there are many that are contemptuous of this horror hit (hence the fact the influential audience test score called Cinemascore gave it a D+), those that view it favorably tend to be passionate about it. It is deliberate in its pacing and unpredictability, and its art design is as subtly creepy as it is beautiful. Near the beginning, a family learns that a recently departed grandmother’s grave has been desecrated and things… well, they get even more grisly and disturbing from there, including the death of of the main character’s young daughter, Charlie, which culminates in a truly horrifying ending.

While it could be fairly said that writer-director Ari Aster attempted a much more grounded form of occult horror, he still left some substantial holes in the story. Staci Wilson of At Home in Hollywood pointed out that the cemetery calls the family to inform them of the desecration. However, later in the movie Charlie’s remains are also seen, and the movie devotes time to seeing her burial. So how is the family not being told about this desecration? How are the police not being informed of it? With a clear connection between the two desecrated graves, why are the police not investigating the family? Aster has to really fill the run-time with unsettling imagery to keep the viewer’s mind off matters like that.

2. The Dark Knight Rises

While it might not have achieved the heights of critical hype and commercial success of 2008’s The Dark Knight, this 2012 film still made quite an impression with its story of how Bane practically paralyzes the billionaire vigilante Bruce Wayne and conquers the city of Gotham. It makes Bruce’s eventual recovery and triumph all the more compelling, especially with how costly it was in the end. And for this entry, we’re going to go ahead and ignore the well-established plot hole of how Bruce somehow got halfway around the world and snuck into Gotham despite being, at this point, a former billionaire with no resources.

However, one of the greatest problems with the story was that Bruce Wayne recovering from his injury and going through the spiritual journey that allows him to go confront Bane again on more favorable terms takes five months. Can you imagine any administration allowing a city to fall into the hands of criminals to such an extent that people physically cannot enter the city? We can just see some commentators saying something like “sure, look at Chicago, New Orleans, etc,” but you know what we mean. Even in a series where urban crime is to an extent decided by costumed heroes and villains having fistfights, that’s just silly. Silly in a way that the movies directed by Christopher Nolan have tried their hardest not to be.

1. The Sixth Sense

One of the biggest hits of 1999 and the possessor of perhaps the most famous twist in modern cinema history, this film had members of entertainment media predicting that M. Night Shyamalan would be the next Steven Spielberg. We’ll see if his recent hit Split will put him back on course to achieving that honor, but we can always appreciate his story of a child who could see the many ghosts that walk among us. One or two oft-parodied scenes dominate most people’s memories of this film, but there’s a particularly touching scene where Cole Sear conquers his fear of ghosts by helping bring closure to the ghost of Kyra Collins.

Problem with it is that Kyra’s sequence brings with it all sorts of problems. For one thing, it’s said of the ghosts that “they see what they want to see,” so why is she the only one who’s aware she’s dead? There’s also the fact that the way she imparts the truth to Cole for him to pass on to her father is by pushing a VHS tape out from under her bed when he goes to her house during the funeral. But if Collins is aware she’s dead, and has apparently already watched the tape (otherwise she wouldn’t know that it has the information that would identify her murderer on it), then she must be able to move the tape around considerably. So what’s to stop her from just showing it to her father herself without seeking out Cole Sear? Like the rest of these, it’s hardly a movie ruining problem, but it’s enough to make you wonder how such inconsistency was never picked up by critics or harped on during the years-long Shyamalan backlash.


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Jobs That

Artificial Intelligence

Can’t Take Away

Let’s face it. Pretty soon, robots will take over the world, and humanity will become a distant memory. The good news is, by the time technology catches up to The Terminator, we will already be dead.

Artificial Intelligence is invading human territory to take our jobs away, but these robots are going to have a hard time getting everything right. Here are 10 jobs that A.I. can’t take away from humans… at least, not yet.

10. Authors

When you think about it, writing is just rearranging words that already exist. So, A.I. should be able to figure out patterns in language to make their own stories. And, they have! Well, sort of. One Game of Thrones fan and professional programmer named Zack Thoutt was sick and tired of waiting for George R.R. Martin to write his next book, The Winds of Winter. So he decided to create an artificial intelligence software to write it for him.

Just to give you a taste of the results, here is a quote:

“This dragon does not say we had four of a band, or no men or rats and two singers, the great pack of men and the winged trees.”

Maybe that story would make sense after a few glasses of wine, but it’s not likely that a robot will publish a New York Times bestseller any time soon.

9. Fashion Designers and Tailors

Unless you’re a fashion designer, most people in the western world don’t bother learning how to sew clothes anymore. The majority of the clothing in the world is made by people living in Third World countries like Bangladesh, where their working conditions are appalling. However, these people need those jobs to survive. Without the clothing industry, there aren’t enough jobs to replace them, so many of these people would starve to death.

So, who would ever want to risk ruining the lives of millions? Well, there’s Dov Charney. In case you weren’t aware, he founded American Apparel. He was kicked out of his own company because multiple employees came forward with sexual harassment accusations. Charney denies this, but the mattress in his office says otherwise.

He decided to start a new company called Los Angeles Apparel, where he is still employing American seamstresses and tailors. However, his loyalty to his employees seems rather shallow, because he would clearly rather be alone counting his money in a factory with a robot invented by Steve Dickerson called “SoftWEAR”. This robot is learning how to sew clothes. The only snag is, robots don’t have a human sense of touch. They are great at sewing straight lines, but they can?t anticipate when fabric moves or wrinkles. For now, Charney’s plot to ruin even more lives has been foiled.

8. Psychologist

One thing that artificial intelligence is truly terrible at is showing empathy. Since it has never been a human, how can it understand our emotions? Chatbots can?t pass the Turing Test, which means they can’t communicate on the same level of a human conversation.

Alexa and Siri can’t even understand our search requests half the time. Do we really want them to give us advice about our traumatic childhood memories from the third grade? We certainly don?t think so. Besides, therapists need to pay off their crippling student loan debt somehow, and not everyone can be a weirdly successful radio therapist.

7. Doctors

Artificial Intelligence is beginning to break into the medical field. In the future, we’ll be able to get a simple diagnosis by taking a photo on your smartphone. A.I. will run through a database of photographs and compare with yours to see if there’s a match.

There are already programs that exist that can check for skin cancer on that mole you’ve been meaning to get checked out, and another that will look for diabetic eye disease. Heart monitoring watches already have the ability to check for an irregular heartbeat, as well. As time goes on, more and more medical issues can be diagnosed at home.

However, that doesn’t mean A.I. will be taking the place of real doctors. With robots, there is no such thing as bedside manner. Can you really imagine a world where a soulless chunk of metal tells you that you’re dying in six months, with absolutely no empathy? People will always need a human to communicate with about their body, and there needs to be a sense of accountability, in case something goes wrong. After all, if you’re in surgery and things go awry, you need a surgeon who can improvise, not an oversized computer who lacks any semblance of adaptability.

6. Musicians

Artificial Intelligence has been able to create its own music, from Irish folk songs to marimba, and it’s actually quite good. In Japan, a fictional video game android called Hatsune Miku is so popular that she already sells out her own concerts.

But don’t worry. There?s no way A.I. can kill “Lisztomania”‘, which is the phenomenon fans feel towards their favorite musicians. Robots will probably never replace dreamy photos tacked on bedroom walls of little girls everywhere, which means that pop stars are safe, at least for now.

5. Police Officers

You may have seen security guard robots by Knightscope patrolling malls, but their usefulness is questionable, at best. The inventors compare it to a police car parked on the side of the road. If people know they are being watched, they are more likely to behave. Some may see these walking trash cans and believe that Robocop is the next step in technological law enforcement. In reality, humans truly don’t want artificial intelligence in charge of arresting people.

At Shanghai Jiao Tong University, a program was created that uses facial recognition to determine if someone is a criminal or not. They judge features like scars, facial expression, and even the curve of someone’s lip. If you have ever seen Minority Report, you know that this won?t end well. The program has already received a lot of backlash, because obviously, people can?t help if they were just born with a jacked up face.

4. Judges

The European Court of Human Rights gets so many complaints sent to them on a daily basis, it’s not possible to try all of the cases in court. In 2015, the University College London came up with an algorithm that was able to predict a cases’ outcome correctly 79% of the time, which helped them cut down on human work hours sorting through paperwork to find winning cases.

But that doesn’t mean a robot can sit in place of a judge. Human empathy has a lot to do with the outcome of a case. For example, an impoverished mother stealing a loaf of bread would probably be let off with a lesser sentence than someone robbing a bank. Well, unless Javert is on the case, of course. As we just mentioned in the last entry, A.I. also has a nasty habit of being incredibly biased when it comes to facial recognition. Without a 100% accuracy rate, someone would likely end up in jail when they’re actually innocent. Um, y’know, because that never happens with human judges, of course…

3. Art Teachers

Art is an incredibly important part of human history and culture. Even if you were the type of student who fell asleep during art class and wondered why your tuition dollars were being wasted on information you’ll never need to know in your future career, we think we can all agree that we definitely don’t want art education to fall into the hands of a robot.

Thankfully, robotic arms only have the artistic abilities of a 4-year old, and they’re equally as terrible at identifying the artist of a painting. An A.I. program called Recognition searches an image for colors, composition, and facial recognition. The matches they come up with are interesting, but not exactly accurate, like comparing a photograph of corn to a Jackson Pollock painting.

2. Pro Athletes

The 2018 Winter Olympics featured the world’s first skiing robot competition. Does this spell out doom for human athletes everywhere? Not so much. The owners of these mini robots had to chase down their creations as they crashed through flags and fell over on their way down an incredibly small hill. Which is hilarious, but not really a threat to Mikaela Shiffrin’s career just yet.

Considering how expensive it is to build a robot in the first place, it’s safe to say that developers won’t want to create a million-dollar machine just to push it down the side of a mountain. This means that in the future, robots will leave all the broken bones and sports injuries to us humans.

1. Clergy

Last, and certainly not least: the job that is guaranteed to never be taken by a robot is a member of clergy. Robots only function with evidence based on data and facts, and these soulless buckets of metal have absolutely no concept of faith. In fact, a study conducted by The Future of Employment claims that there is less than a one percent chance that clergymen would lose their jobs to robots in the future.

Compare that to telemarketers, who have a 99% chance of being replaced by automated voice messaging systems, and… well, what do you know? Maybe there is a God after all.


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Books That Predicted

the Future

With Eerie Accuracy

When authors write about the future, they have to predict what technology and life might be like decades down the road. While the books are often written as a metaphor for their contemporary society, some authors have made amazingly accurate predictions about what modern life has actually become.

These are all fiction books that, somehow, managed to predict the future. 

10. They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? By Horace McCoy

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? is a relentlessly bleak book that was published in 1935. It’s about a young man named Robert who moves to Los Angeles to get into the film industry. When Robert tries to get work as an extra on a movie, he meets Gloria, a young woman who wants to be an actress. After failing to get jobs, they decide to join a dance marathon. The problem is that these marathons are death marches that can go on for weeks. The only breaks that the contestants get are 10 minute time-outs after an hour and fifty minutes of dancing. The couple that lasts the longest gets $1,000, and all the contestants are fed.

Throughout the contest, new gimmicks are added to liven up the marathon. Like at the end of the night, there’s a speed walk and the couple that comes in last is eliminated. Another twist that is added to the marathon is two contestants get married, and are saved from elimination. Other times, celebrities show up at the marathon for cameos.

Published in the mid-1930s, They Shoot Horses was written as a metaphor of the plight of people during the Great Depression. However, today it can be seen as a frightfully accurate precursor to reality TV shows.

In reality shows, people voluntarily do things that are physically and mentally grueling and/or humiliating, all for money and their 15 minutes of fame. Reality shows are also known for using gimmicks to make the show more exciting. Finally, celebrities of varying degrees of fame are known to pop up on all types of reality shows, from Big Brother to MasterChef.

The question is, is a grueling dance marathon any more dehumanizing than making someone eat something like horse rectum or blended rats, like some contestants on Fear Factor had to do?

9. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

Infinite Jest is a long and unwieldy book; the story is nearly a thousand pages and there are over 100 pages of footnotes. It’s believed that the book takes place around 2009, in an alternate timeline where the years aren’t numbered. Instead, they are sponsored by companies. For example, there is the Year of the Whopper and the Year of the Depends Adult Undergarment.

Due to the scope of the book, the plot is impossible to summarize in a few sentences, but it’s mostly set at a tennis academy and a halfway house for addicts. Both are in Boston, which is part of the Organization of North American Nations, or O.N.A.N. In this reality, the United States forced Canada and Mexico to join America as one big super state.

There are several groups of characters in the book and some of those people are looking for a lost film called “Entertainment.” The film is supposedly so entertaining that if someone starts to watch it, they can’t stop. They will do nothing else but watch the film. This includes stopping eating and drinking, and eventually, they will die while watching it.

In many ways, Wallace’s novel predicted contemporary life fairly accurately. Most notably, he predicted the way people would consume media and their obsession with entertainment. In the book, people watch teleputers, which are combinations of televisions, phones, and computers. People can get movies and TV shows off the InterLace to watch whenever they want, and then they listen to their teleputers with white ear plugs.

Of course, all of those inventions are now commonplace, albeit not exactly the way that Wallace envisioned it. Teleputers sound a lot like smart phones, Wallace just didn’t predict that they would be mobile and fit in the palm of your hand, while the InterLace is a lot like Netflix. However, Wallace thought that a system like the Interlace would be the death of TV advertising. Finally, the earplugs are, of course, Apple’s earbuds.

Wallace also wrote about video phones, which had been predicted by many other writers before him, but Wallace had an interesting insight. In Infinite Jest, videophones were just a fad because people don’t like seeing themselves on the screen. In real life, there are many reasons people don’t use video chat as frequently as texting. One reason is that people don’t like seeing pictures of themselves.

Finally, Wallace predicted the rise of Donald Trump. In his book, the President is the loudest and brashest right wing sensationalist of the mid-1990s – Rush Limbaugh.

8. Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke

Childhood’s End, by famed sci-fi writer Arthur C. Clarke, is about an invasion of Earth by a group of aliens called the Overlords. The Overlords aren’t violent, but they hide themselves from human eyes. Through a spokesperson at the United Nations, they say that they will reveal themselves to humankind in 50 years. 

During those 50 years, the Overlords improve life on Earth in many ways – ignorance, poverty, hunger, and disease are all things of the past. Of course, the Overlords also help advance human technology. One of those technologies was a type of virtual reality that is like a movie, but it is so realistic that you can’t tell the difference between the movie and real life. “The program,” as Clarke called it, would appeal to all the senses and would allow the person to be someone completely different from themselves, or even a plant. Why someone would want to be a plant is beyond us, but that isn’t the only head scratching prediction Clarke made.

He also predicted that in the early 2000s, people might watch TV for three hours a day. The only way someone would be able to watch all the programming would be to never sleep, as opposed to it being impossible.

So while Clarke didn’t foresee cable TV or YouTube, he did correctly predict video games and virtual reality. This is pretty impressive considering that when the book was published in 1953, televisions in homes were just becoming common.

7. The Plot Against America by Phillip Roth

In Phillip Roth’s 2004 book, The Plot Against America, a well-known celebrity gets into politics and starts to spew conspiracy theories about minorities. Finding his niche, the celebrity, with no political experience, panders to racists and anti-Semites. Surprisingly, he wins the nomination of the Republican Party and then goes on to win the presidency. As president, he aligns himself with a notorious and brutal world leader and this creates global tension and conflict. He also begins to persecute the minorities that he villainized in his campaign.

The Plot Against America takes place in an alternate timeline and it starts in 1940. The celebrity who is running for president is Charles Lindbergh, who uses a platform rife with anti-Semitism to become president. After he’s elected, the world leader that Lindbergh associates himself with is Adolf Hitler.

Of course, the parallels in Roth’s book to real life should be obvious to anyone who wasn’t living under a rock in 2016. But if you were in a coma or something, let us fill you in. Celebrity real estate mogul Donald Trump ran for the Republican ticket with no political experience. His platform included racist conspiracy theories and he spouted offensive rhetoric about minorities. He found popularity among white nationalists and people who were anti-immigration and then shamelessly pandered to them. Amazingly, he not only won the Republican nomination, but he went on to win the presidency.

So far, as president, Trump has alienated several of America’s allies, but talks glowinglyabout Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose government has a horrendous record of human rights violations, which includes state-sponsored human trafficking.

The final similarity between President Trump and President Lindbergh is that after Trump became President, he started to persecute those he villainized in his campaign, specifically Muslims and undocumented immigrants.

6. Neuromancer by William Gibson

William Gibson’s 1984 novel, Neuromancer, not only gave birth to the cyberpunk genre, but it also predicted cyberspace and the internet.

The book follows Case, a former computer hacker and drug addict. Before the book starts, Case was fired from his job and his central nervous system was poisoned, so he couldn’t “jack in” to cyberspace, which is called “the matrix.” Millions of people can jack into the matrix, which is a 3D virtual world that appeals to all the senses. One day, Case meets a mysterious employer who says he will help Case get back into the matrix, but in exchange, Case has to complete an incredibly difficult hack.

In 1984, there was an internet, but only a handful of universities used it. Gibson foresaw that it would eventually connect millions of computers. Of course, the internet isn’t as immersive as the matrix Gibson predicted (yet) but he did predict the rise of technological addiction and people’s need to be online.

5. Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut’s debut novel, Player Piano, was published in 1952, and it takes place in the near future, 10 years after the Third World War. Since people were needed to fight the war, factories were designed to be more autonomous. Also, the stock market is controlled by a computer that tells the factories how many products the world needs. Unfortunately, this automation leads to massive unemployment. Only managers and engineers, who have doctorates, are employed and everyone else can either join the Reconstruction and Reclamation Corps, where they do meaningless work like fill potholes, or they can join the army. However, being in the army has kind of lost its meaning as well, because there is nothing to fight for. Essentially, Player Piano is about how automation could make life purposeless for many people.

Of course, we are a long way from the world of Player Piano, but Vonnegut did correctly predict the rise of automation in society, and that it would cause people to lose their jobs. Many people have blamed these job losses on China, or immigrants, but that isn’t exactly the case. Since 2000, America has lost 5 million manufacturing jobs, but American manufacturing output has increased during that time; meaning the jobs are being lost to computers and robots, not to other countries or people.

We’re seeing automation take over jobs more and more every day. Just a few examples include with self-checkout lanes at the grocery store or McDonald’s automated menus. In the future, more jobs are expected to be lost to automation. Drones are already being tested for deliveries by companies like Amazon. Notably, by 2020, self-driving cars are expected to be the norm and this will eliminate all driving jobs. It is expected to get so bad that, over the next 20 years in a country like Canada, four out of 10 jobs will be lost to automation.

So what do you want to do? Join the army or the Reconstruction and Reclamation Corps?

4. Earth by David Brin

David Brin is best known for writing the book The Postman, which was made into one of Kevin Costner’s worst movies (and that is saying something). In 1989, Brin published the novel Earth, which takes place in the year 2038. While the novel does have a plot, the book is more or less Brin’s predictions about the future. If you’re curious what the plot is, it’s that an artificial black hole has fallen into the Earth’s core. Scientists have a year to fix it, or the Earth may be destroyed.

The book has a large cast of characters and through these characters, Brin explores what life might be like in the future. Currently, there is a website that keeps track of his predictions, and there are 14 predictions confirmed to have come true and another eight that are likely.

Some of the predictions that Brin did get right are global warming, rising sea levels, and the breaking of the levees on the Mississippi River. Another natural disaster that is postulated in the book that came true was the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster.

In 1990, people knew about the internet, but Brin accurately predicted the World Wide Web that was invented by Tim Berners-Lee a year after the book was published. On the “net,” as Brin calls it, there are pages full of hyperlinks. Brin also thought that the net would be used by major news outlets and citizen reporters, along with everyday people who wanted to express themselves. Finally, he also foresaw spam and Trojan horse viruses.

At the time of this list, Brin still has about 21 years to be proven right on the rest of his predictions. So far, only one prediction from his book has been disproven. In Earth, the characters haven’t discovered any Earth-like planets and they didn’t think they would be found any time soon. In reality, we have found several Earth-like planets that are in habitable zones around their star. The first was Kepler-186f; its discovery was announced by NASA in 2014.

3. The World Set Free by H.G. Wells

In The World Set Free, H.G. Wells predicted atomic bombs, even going as far to use the term “atomic bomb” in his book. His bombs are uranium-based and they are about the size of an orange. The explosion is caused by the splitting of atoms and after the explosion, there is corrosive radiation left over. What is so impressive about this is that Wells wrote the book in 1913, 32 years before the first nuclear bomb was tested.

The World Set Free also has an interesting role in the technology it predicted – it helped inspire its invention.

In 1932, English scientists had successfully split an atom through artificial means and the experiment didn’t show any evidence that splitting an atom would cause a huge release of energy. Later that year, Hungarian physicist Leo Szilard read The World Set Free and thought that Wells was correct. Splitting an atom would probably release a lot of energy; the question was how to split the atom. A year later, he had a eureka moment. Szilard said, “It suddenly occurred to me that if we could find an element which is split by neutrons and which would emit two neutrons when it absorbed one neutron, such an element, if assembled in sufficiently large mass, could sustain a nuclear chain reaction.”

Szilard patented the idea in 1933, but he was disturbed by The World Set Free. He didn’t want the patent to become public because it might fall into the wrong hands. Something else that worried him was the rise of Nazism. So in 1939, he drafted the letter that was sent by Albert Einstein to Franklin Roosevelt, saying that Germany was stockpiling uranium. This letter, in turn, gave birth to the Manhattan Project. Szilard and some British scientists worked with the Americans, and this eventually led to the first nuclear bombs. Two of those bombs were dropped on Japan in August 1945 at the tail end of World War II.

Wells died in 1946, after having seen the weapon that he warned against used on civilians in a war.

2. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Yeah, you knew this one was coming.

Published in 1935, Brave New World takes place in the year 632 A.F., which is actually 2540 A.D. (A.F. stands for After Ford, as in the industrialist Henry Ford). In the future, babies are born in labs, meaning the family unit is dead. When they are children, they are told in whispers while they sleep to buy things and to love consumer products. When they are older, the state demands that they be sexually promiscuous, and women wear their birth control on their belts. No one has any real worries about life because mood enhancing drugs are widely available and its usage is encouraged.

Of course, contemporary society isn’t quite to the point of Brave New World, but in all fairness to its author, Aldous Huxley, we still have over 520 years to go. However, he did accurately depict several aspects of contemporary culture, including our consumerist-heavy society. He also predicted antidepressants and their prevalence in modern society.

What’s interesting about Brave New World‘s relationship to contemporary society, is that in 1985, writer and media critic Neil Postman published the non-fiction book Amusing Ourselves to Death. In the book, Postman accurately predicts the rise of a candidate like Donald Trump and the prevalence of fake news in society. In the introduction of the book, Postman explains that he got the idea in 1984, when he was participating in a panel on parallels between George Orwell’s 1984 and real life in 1984.

What Postman realized is that modern life is becoming more like Brave New World than 1984Postman wrote:

“What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture.”

Essentially, what Postman says Huxley was warning us against is the dangers of being oppressed by our own amusement; meaning we use endless streams of entertainment to distract ourselves and fail to engage with real life.

1. Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner

Stand on Zanzibar is probably the least well known book on the list, but it is the most accurate prediction of what life would be like in the future. 

The book, which was written in 1968, follows a large cast of characters, but many chapters are backstory and information about the world of 2010. According to the website The Millions, there are at least 17 amazingly accurate predictions that Brunner makes about 2010 in Stand on Zanzibar.

In the book, a major problem in society is that individuals are committing random acts of violence, often at schools. Terrorists also threaten American interests and attack American buildings. Between 1960 and 2010, Brunner predicted that prices would increase six fold because of inflation; it actually increased sevenfold. America’s biggest rival is China, and not the Soviet Union. It’s also a different dynamic because instead of warfare or a weapons race, the competition is seen in economics, trade, and technology. 

As for the rest of the world, the countries of Europe have formed into one union. Britain is part of it, but they tend to side with the United States, while the other European countries are critical of American actions. Africa is behind the rest of the world, while Israel’s existence is still a source of tension in the Middle East.

When it comes to the lives of everyday people, marriage still happens but young people prefer to have short-term relationships instead of committing to someone long-term. Society is also much more liberal. Homosexuality and bisexuality is accepted. Black people are in a better position in society, but racial tension is still prevalent.

When it comes to technology, Brin predicted that cars would run on electric fuel cells. Honda and General Motors are the two biggest manufacturers. And even though General Motors is a Detroit based company, Detroit is a rundown ghost town, but they have a unique techno music scene, which really did emerge in the 1990s.

TV channels are played all over the world thanks to satellites and the TV system allows people to watch shows on their own schedule. Inflight entertainment on planes is in the back of the seats and they feature videos and news. Also, in the book the characters can phone each other on video screens, but instead of a picture of themselves, they use avatars, which can look like the caller or someone completely different. There are also laser printers, which print documents.

Pharmaceuticals are used to help sexual performance, and they are advertised. Due to a societal and political backlash, tobacco has been marginalized and marijuana has become decriminalized. Finally, the President of the United States is President Obomi, which is an amazing fluke or actual evidence that Brunner somehow saw or experienced 2010.

In all, Stand on Zanzibar is a pretty remarkable vision of the future. Unfortunately, the author, John Brunner, did not get to see many of his predictions come true – he died in 1995 at the age of 60.


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