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 #155

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #155

…It is now four years hence, Maggie Lou is nine and Alfrey Campbell’s  future is being decided…

Among the crowd is a woman with her son. She had heard, from their Baptist preacher the .Hosea-001Sunday before, that Ezra Elijah would be passing through and is there to have him pray for the soul of wayward son, Hosea. Amanda Campbell has raised her family to love and fear God. Alfrey is there, still under her wing, Hosea is not. She prays for his soul in wretched Atlantic City.

Amanda and John are side by side, entreating God for different reasons. She sees the tears streaming down the face of a man she knows has accepted Jesus, embraces him, sharing the love of God.

It is a moment that 13 year old Alfrey will never forget; one of those life-defining moments. Here stands a man (John F.) he respects, vulnerable and broken, repenting before the Lord. He will never look at Maggie Lou quite the same. In light of what he knows about her father, she no longer is just another little girl, rather a human being that will need all the loving support she can get. He will be there for her as a true friend, not just the younger sister premise he had been working from. He wonders what she will be like in a decade.

Vertical-001    It is now four years hence (1906), she is nine and his future is being decided.

“Vat is you answer, Mr. Love? I know dis is much to ask, but Frieda and me, ve squeak by on our savings. Ve have not za resources for six years medical school.” Siegfried Endlichoffer has known for years that he must hand over the shaping of Alfrey Campbell into a real doctor. Until now, he did not know how to go about it.

“You know how I feel about the Campbells, Ziggy. Willy and his family are very dear to me. Ever since they were freed from that 19th century incarnate, Smythwick, they have been an absolute blessing and a joy.

Ziggy-001     “Heck, every time I light up a Loyal Campbell cigar… but only one a day, Doc…”

“Ya, ya, Mr. Love and you do not inhale, correct?”

“One fine cigar enjoyed and visions of a business that may have crumbled while I was serving the country in Washington. And I have it on good authority that Willy has long since ceased wondering why his only remaining Child spends more time at San Luis than here, helping shoulder some of his father’s burden.”

“Are you angry vith me?” the 70 year old German probes sheepishly.

Love's-001  “No, no, I did not mean to imply that. I do not believe God created Alfrey for manual labor.”

Love motions for Phoebe, who is cleverly keeping tabs on the conversation under the guise of setting the dining room table, knowing the precise time to include her; usually just before she starts clearing her throat uncontrollably.

“Phoebe, would you pour us a cognac? We have something important to discuss.”

“Cognac?  Cognac it is.” Her Herbert does not take a drink very often, especially since his father literally drank himself to death.

“Thank you, dearest… please sit while I tell you what Doctor Endlichoffer has proposed to me – I mean to us.”


Alpha Omega M.D.

philanthropy

Episode #155


page 143

The Future in Print – WIF Bookshelf

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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.


The Future in Print –

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The Newest Things, Gear, Paraphernalia and Stuff – WIF Technologies

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Futuristic Technologies

Available for Us Today

People watch sci-fi movies and get excited by the crazy ideas presented. Some of them even go on to become scientists or inventors, and many have helped bring the world inventions that mimic what they once saw in movies. In a way, these people are making a specific vision of the future happen, but some of these inventions aren’t really practical and are really more a form of wish fulfillment than they are moving humanity’s scientific advancement forward. But there are many inventions humanity could actually use, in a practical sense, that are also really cool and wouldn’t seem out of place in a science fiction movie…

10. An Accurate Breathalyzer-Type Device To Know If Someone Is High On Marijuana

Today, law enforcement everywhere has a difficult task on their hands when it comes to the roadways. They have to not only deal with drunk drivers, but drivers who are high on heroin, meth, and now (legally in many states) marijuana. And this raises a really difficult question for the police: How do you know if a driver is under the influence of marijuana, in a way that wouldn’t be instantly thrown out in any court of law in the country? The roadways need to be safe, but it’s no use prosecuting someone if you don’t have evidence that will hold up.

Now, a small startup does have a device they are testing with law enforcement that can also test for alcohol as well, but it’s limited. The device can only tell if you’ve smoked within the last two hours. This isn’t exactly the futuristic level we were talking about, but it likely would be a lot of help, and may be enough to keep the roads safe for the time being. While some people may dispute that they would be safe to drive sooner, two hours is a pretty reasonable window of time, especially for state regulation.

9. Home Security Systems That Use Carefully Targeted Infrasound To Scare Off Intruders

Today, we have a lot of state-of-the-art security systems but most of them are just concerned with motion detection, cameras, making loud noises, and so forth. And, of course, all of them alert law enforcement. However, some have already considered the use of infrasound detection in order to help find intruders, and with that in mind, infrasound could help us in an entirely different way. Instead of guard dogs, actual guards, or weapons and the legal liability they can involve, if infrasound could be properly weaponized you could essentially scare people off your property.

Infrasound, often known as the “fear frequency,” usually stirs up the fight or flight feeling in people, and in the absence of anything to fight, most people just… run. A properly designed passive system that could detect and target intruders could theoretically use inaudible sound in order to keep your property safe and secure — almost like a magical spell that deters intruders. And as we know, it doesn’t get much more futuristic than something your enemies cannot distinguish from magic. Infrasonic detection could snuff out intruders quietly and alert the police if needed, but the active component would likely scare them off before they even broke a window or got up to any other shenanigans. It might even help deter teenage vandals from your property or, to put it another way: it might finally get those young punks to stay the heck off your lawn.

8. The James Bond “Fingerprint” Gun, For Which Only A Partial Prototype Exists

In the recent James Bond movies with Daniel Craig, Q gives Bond a special gun that can’t be fired without his handprint. Now, while there isn’t anything like this in real life, a German company did try to make a prototype. However, it involved a separate watch and the whole thing was all rather cumbersome. This technology, if it could actually be implemented in a way that truly worked well on a consistent basis and didn’t require any extra components, could revolutionize gun safety in the modern world, and especially in America.

Of course someone looking to hurt people could still use their gun to do so, but they couldn’t use their dad’s gun, a friend’s gun, and so on. And, a huge amount of gun deaths are tragically accidental, like when a kid gets his hands on a parent’s gun and, sadly, it goes off. Technology like this would keep your firearm from being used against you by someone who took it, and avoid horrible accidents that would scar you for life and destroy your family and relationships.

7. An Exercise Bike — Or Bike Switching Station — That Powers A Home Generator As You Use It

At the moment, this is the stuff of fantasy because of the amount of power it would (or more to the point, wouldn’t) generate. A bike-powered generator could fuel, say, lights for a little bit… and that’s about it. Some people have done the math and it really doesn’t sound like much. However, our imaginations have always wondered about how much power we could get from our own work, and many of us think of hand crank emergency radios as a good analogy. Still, those don’t use very much power at all, and that’s the real problem. While powering somelights is within the realm of reason, the biggest reason people want electricity after a disaster is heating and cooling.

Those things require a much more significant amount of power, and thus it’s quite difficult to actually get enough to make a real difference, or do anything for any significant amount of time. The amount of effort, in comparison to what you actually get in terms of cooling, or heating, might not be worth it. If a bike with enough gears and an efficient enough system was created so that a small family could, at least, generate enough power to keep themselves warm, or cool, as needed, it would be an incredible help in any kind of big disaster.

6. Ferromagnetic Roadways And Walkways For Practical Hover-Vehicle Technology

Not long ago, people saw the demo of the Hendo Hoverboards and got very excited… only to quickly crash back down to earth. The Hendo Hoverboard could hold several hours worth of charge, and really and truly hovered above the ground. It was a dream come true to many (especially those of us who have been waiting for Hoverboards since Back to the Future II), until the realities of the project hit. Now, it was a genius bit of engineering and did use some clever new techniques, but it was basically maglev technology, which requires a surface with metals that interact with magnets to actually do anything at all. In other words, unless it was on top of the right metal surface, it was just a big hunk of expensive junk you could stand on. This meant you could use it nowhere other than places specially constructed its their use.

However, if we had ferromagnetic roadways, we could have hoverboards, hover cars, and other hover technology. With the precision of maglev technology, we could likely cut down greatly on accidents while increasing our overall speed and efficiency at the same time, which is a big win-win. Of course, this would be ludicrously expensive, but in the long term, if built right, it would probably also last a lot longer than our current roadways.

5. Researchers Are Looking Into Ways To Use Our Own Body Heat To Charge Our Phones

Several years ago, people latched onto an article about some very experimental ideas to use a small device in your pocket to generate energy from your body heat, and some magazines started wildly speculating that you would have body heat-powered smartphones before you knew it. However, several years of fast-moving technology later, we really aren’t any closer on that front. The good news is, researchers are looking into it now for real, and not just looking at something that theoretically could get there for unrelated reasons.

If something like this could be designed, it could at least help with supplementary power. It’s possible it would only be enough to slow down the battery degradation, and not charge it enough to go much farther, but with battery technology bottlenecked every little bit could help. This would allow us to push our phones just a little bit further without resorting to bulky and cumbersome backup batteries and the like.

4. If We Could Create A Truly Energy-Efficient World, Much Fossil Fuel Use Would Be Eliminated

Today, there’s an incredible amount of energy used that is simply untapped. This source is motion, in general. Whenever something is moving, a certain amount of force is used. Some of that energy is transferred (energy, as we know, cannot be created or destroyed). If we could truly harness all kinetic energy from movement, especially all of our movement throughout the day, and not waste any energy potential around us, we could greatly cut down on our reliance on fossil fuel and other energy sources.

One company that found its way onto Shark Tank called Tremont Electronics designed a special device that could help charge a smartphone while you walk. They are working on other smaller products, but are also thinking big. They hope to one day secure the funding to test their technology to make “wave farms,” where energy is generated by using the motion from… well, waves. That was probably obvious. With this kind of technology, we could take green energy to an entirely new level most people never before imagined.

3. Affordable Water Filtration Infrastructure That Removes Pharmaceuticals And The Like

Today, the water infrastructure of some of the biggest countries — including the United States — has some huge deficiencies. And we aren’t even talking about places like Flint. But a huge amount of pharmaceutical byproducts are ending up in the water supply. Unfortunately, many water filtration plants are not properly equipped to clean this stuff out of the water. Even those sites that can get most of it out often only boast success rates of about 95%, which doesn’t sound so great when you realize the other 5% or so is pharmaceutical byproducts in your water.

To make matters worse, the FDA doesn’t really even have proper guidelines for this yet in the USA, and there really isn’t a standardized technology, much less a standardized system or set of methods get water to a safe level across the country. Part of the problem is people aren’t even sure what a safe level is with some of this stuff, as hormones have even ended up in the water can have effects in incredibly low concentrations, which we don’t even fully understand yet. If someone could invent a filtration method that could get this stuff out entirely (or, at least, almost entirely), and get water to a safe level — that could be easily implemented across the country — it would be an incredible help to humanity.

2. Sound Technology That Allows You To Filter And Hear Only What You Want To Hear

Hearing aids allow deaf people, or those hard of hearing, to hear. There are now special prototype speakers out there that can direct sound to an almost pinpoint degree, to the point where it will only be heard in one small location. Now, the second technology is fairly new and experimental, but with a little tweaking the two could be combined into an incredible invention. If you could truly direct sound accurately enough, you could make a device you could fit in your ear that could block out everything except for the sounds you did want to hear.

Imagine having a device where you could tell it to listen only to the TV in front of you, and not anything else that might be going on in the background. You could also use it to pay better attention to a conversation without worrying about background noise, or just shut out people or things that are bothering you in your environment. Let’s face it: All of us need our peace and quiet sometimes, and almost everyone would use this.

1. Even In The Year 2018, In The Fanciest Cars, You Won’t Find A Truly Accurate Gas Gauge

It’s fairly amazing to think that, even in the year 2018 — when most vehicles now are decked out with all of the most ridiculous new gauges and sensors and features — the one thing that’s stayed pretty much the same is the gas gauge. It still operates on the same principle with the floater mechanism where, on inclines, you may think you have more (or less) gas than you really do, and overall even when you think it’s full, it often really isn’t.

The truth is your gas gauge is actually designed to lie to you, mainly because car manufacturers think you enjoy the crazy game of trying to figure out how much gas you have left at any given time, and like going for broke — psychologically speaking. They also like to give you the false sense of security you get when you think it’s full when it really isn’t. Apparently, people really enjoy that feeling and don’t like how quickly the full meter would truly go away. Now, we believe that in 2018 people are grown up enough to accept the truth and enjoy the convenience of a truly accurate gas meter. It would lead to fewer people being stranded on the road, as they’d know the exact percentage at any given time — if this theoretical design was done right — and it would just be a great convenience for everyone in general.


The Newest Things, Gear, Paraphernalia and Stuff –

WIF Technologies

Newfangled Transportation – WIF into the Future

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Transportation Methods

of the Future

It is somewhat safe to say that, without transportation, we wouldn’t have gotten anywhere. The discovery of fire, speech, writing, and all the other man-made inventions, have definitely brought us a long way. But without the ability to transport these inventions to other parts of the world, many of them would have simply faded back into obscurity. And many of them have, by the way. Nevertheless, transportation freed us up to become the dominant species on the planet, moving from one place to the other with relative ease, colonizing new places and meeting new cultures – sometimes with bad consequences.

We went from simply walking, to riding horses, to inventing the wheel, to crossing vast oceans, to flying over them entirely, and finally, to going into outer space. But even with how much transportation has evolved over the centuries, especially during the past several decades, innovation is only picking up steam. Who knows how people will be moving around in 20 years? Well, these examples might offer us a glimpse of what is to come.

10. Gliding Taxis

Up until the invention of flying, water was the fastest means of transportation. But even to this day, traveling by water is still the cheapest. In any case, by combining the benefits of both air and sea travel, two men, Alain Thébault and Anders Bringdal, have designed a water taxi that seems to be gliding right above the water surface. Known as Sea Bubbles, these transportation vehicles are perfect for overly-congested cities that also have a major river, or another body of water, passing through. Not only are they able to take you to, or close to, your destination in a fraction of the time, but they will do it in a completely clean way.

Each individual Sea Bubble can hold up to five people, and can be accessed via special docks along the river. They are battery-powered, and have a 50-62 mile range at speeds of up to 20 mph. What’s particularly interesting about these vehicles is their ability to glide over the water surface, thus reducing friction with the water, and improving both its speed and range in the process. They do this by making use of two wings submerged below the water surface. When in motion, the Sea Bubble lifts up from the water, with only its two wings making contact. Because of this, the ride will be less bumpy as compared to ordinary boats, and there will be little to no waves generated. And because it is battery-powered, the Bubble is completely silent.

They made their debut on Paris’ River Seine in the summer of 2017. Anne Hidalgo, the city’s mayor, said in a statement, “I really believe in the development of river transport. Most of the world’s big cities were built on riverbanks, an advantage we have to use to reduce our reliance on polluting cars.”

9. Hoverbikes

How long have we’ve been waiting for hoverbikes? Probably ever since we first saw them being used in Star Wars, at least. Well, they are finally here and they work. Looking more like a commercial drone on steroids, the Hoversurf Scorpion-3 is the brainchild of a Russian drone start-up. These hoverbikes are programmed to fly at altitudes of 16.4 feet for 25 minutes, and at maximum speeds of up to 44 mph. They are capable of going much higher than that, setting a record of 93.5 feet, but for safety reasons they are limited to only 16.4 feet. It weighs only 229 pounds, which luckily is below the 250-pound threshold – the maximum weight allowed before you would need a registration or a pilot’s license in most countries.

According to their website, these hoverbikes are made for extreme sports enthusiasts who don’t shy away from heights and high speeds. But someone else has shown interest in acquiring an entire fleet of them – the Dubai Police. With them, the officers could zip over traffic, or reach inaccessible areas, in a moment’s notice. But before they will unleash them onto the city streets, the Dubai Police will conduct further testing to explore what other possible uses these hoverbikes might have.

8. Flying Cars

If there are hoverbikes around, then flying cars shouldn’t be too far behind. Now, even though the project is still under development and has some way to go before it will become available to the general public, Uber and NASA have come together in order to make flying cars a reality. Known as Uber Elevate, this project involves the development of a vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft, which will most likely have a fixed-wing design. Mobile propellers at each end of the wings will be able to rotate up and down, thus allowing the VTOL to land and takeoff on the spot, without the need of a runway.

The aim of this project will be to bring an airborne version of present-day Uber taxis to large, congested cities all around the world. Uber is also aiming to make their vehicles autonomous, so as to eliminate the human error element. The hope is to have these flying cars take people from one place to another over the city and land on specifically-designed helipads or on the rooftops of certain buildings.

But in order to do that, a special system needs to be developed that will manage the airspace above the city. NASA has been working on a project called Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration in the National Airspace System(UAS in the NAS) which aims to achieve just that. In a statement, Uber’s Chief Product Officer said that “Uber Elevate will be performing far more flights over cities on a daily basis than has ever been done before. Doing this safely and efficiently is going to require a foundational change in airspace-management technologies.”

They hope that by 2020, some of these flying cars will be operational. The company has also announced that LA, Dallas, and Dubai will be the cities where this technology will be implemented first. Uber is not the only one with such grand plans in mind. Airbus is also developing its own City Airbus program, which will work, more or less, on the same principles as Uber Elevate.

7. Personal Submarines

In recent years, Aston Martin, the British luxury car manufacturer best known as James Bond’s car-maker of choice, has entered the seafaring market with a 1,000-horsepower motorboat. More recently, however, they’ve designed and created a submarine. Together with Florida-based Triton Submarines LLC, Aston Martin has developed a high-end, luxury submersible, codenamed Project Neptuneand worth $4 million. Built around a platform specifically designed for super yachts, Neptune will only be 5.9 feet in height and with a total weight of about 8,800 pounds. It will be able to carry three people to a depth of 1,650 feet and at speeds of up to 3 knots, or about 3.5 miles per hour. Oh, and it’s also air conditioned.

Now, based primarily on its price, this submarine will not be for everyone. Like their cars, Aston Martin is providing for the higher-ups in society. With those super rich people in mind, Marek Reichman, the company’s chief creative officer, said in a statement that “what they want to experience is changing. It’s no longer about just having a launch or having your tender. It’s about having some other way of entertaining your guests.”

6. City-to-City Rockets

“If you build a ship that’s capable of going to Mars, what if you take that same ship and go from one place to another on Earth? We looked at that and the results are quite interesting,” said Elon Musk in an interview not that long ago. Over the past several years, Musk’s SpaceX has been experimenting with reusable rockets in an attempt at lowering the cost of going to Mars. If the cost of sending people and cargo into space was at around $10,000 per pound, after Musk’s many test flights and experimentation with reusable rockets, that price has dropped to around $1,000 per pound. This price reduction has ignited some debate about a possible intercontinental transportation system involving rockets.

Now, the plan is pretty out there and it may take some time before it could become a reality and available to the general public. Nevertheless, if it’s ever put into practice, it could connect any two cities anywhere on the face of the Earth. One such rocket would be able to transport 100 people from New York to Shanghai at speeds of 17,000 miles per hour and in just 39 minutes. It would, thus, take most people more time commuting to work every day than it would to travel half-way around the world.

5. The Self-Driving Monorail

Back in 2015, a company by the name of SkyTran opened a 900-foot test station near Tel Aviv, Israel. This station is used as a testing ground for a self-driving monorail system capable of transporting people 20 feet above the ground, and at speeds of 155 mph. The system involves a series of 300-pound pods traveling on a network of rails suspended above the ground. Together with NASA, SkyTran designed differently-sized pods that can accommodate two or four people, one for the disabled, and another, larger one used for transporting cargo. Somewhat similar to a Maglev train, these pods glide on the suspended rail by making use of electricity, gravity, and magnetism. Using the same amount of electricity as two hairdryers, each pod reaches a speed of 10 mph, after which it accelerates on its own, without any additional power.

Due to their small design, these pods can even go through buildings, with stations being located within the buildings’ lobbies themselves. Unlike normal public transport, SkyTran pods do not have a precise schedule. Passengers will get on the first pod that shows up and will input their destination of choice. They will then be taken there automatically in only a fraction of the time it would take traveling on the ground. The first such suspended rail system will be implemented in Lagos, Nigeria by 2020. There are also plans of building one in Abu Dhabi.

4. Self-Balancing Wheelchairs

An obvious sign of a developed society is how well it treats its weakest members. When we look at disabled people, for instance, that progress presents itself in the form of integrated infrastructure such as ramps, special platforms, toilets, and so on. But this infrastructure, especially if not built right from the start, can cost well into the billions nationwide. One other way to address this issue, while still providing for the disabled, is to redesign wheelchairs so as to get around without the need of this costly infrastructure. This is what four university students have managed to achieve by independently funding, designing, and creating the scewo wheelchair.

By making use of state of the art technology, this wheelchair uses two large wheels to drive on flat terrain, while two sturdy rubber tracks allow it to climb and descend stairs with ease. Thanks to its wide base, the wheelchair is also able to go up and down spiral staircases. Its design is also compact enough so as to maneuver easily indoors and fit through standard doors. It can also rotate on the spot, drive on slippery terrain such as snow or loose gravel, and can raise itself so as to bring the user at eye-level, as well as to reach overhead objects.

3. The Float

With the tremendous potential the Maglev system has when it comes to fast transportation, it is no wonder that more and more companies are looking to implement it in the coming decades. But while this system is still restricted to rail networks for the time being, some have envisioned it being used on our roads and highways. Short for magnetic levitation, the Maglev system makes use of two magnets – one that lifts the train off the tracks, and another that pushes it forward. The train is, thus, able to accelerate without actually making contact with the rails themselves. This way, it can reach speeds of up to 375 mph – making a trip from NYC to LA last only around 7 hours. Anyway, the Float is a car concept designed by student Yunchen Cai which makes use of the Maglev system.

The design makes the Float look like a bubble floating just above the street. Each individual pod is able to seat one or two passengers, but several of these pods can clamp up together (like bubbles in a bubble bath), allowing for more people to travel together. The Float also has bucket seats and sliding doors, making it easy for people of all ages to get in or out. And like several other entries on this list, the Float will not necessarily be private property, owned by individuals, but rather, they could be better seen as taxis which one could call upon anywhere, by using an app.

2. Windowless Planes

At first glance, windowless planes (and definitely not windowless in the way you’re probably thinking) do not sound like a particularly good idea. But after seeing this new design, some may just change their minds. Conceptualized by Technicon Design, an international agency, this proposed idea was designed to make use of already existing technology, or one that will be available in the very near future. Instead of the standard plane windows, these private jets will have no windows whatsoever. Instead, they will make use of high-resolution, low-voltage screens located on the sides and ceiling of the plane. Cameras mounted on the outside will capture the surrounding views and will display them in real-time in the inside of the plane.

These screens will be powered by solar panels mounted on the roof of the plane. Now, besides making the flight a more pleasurable experience, this technology will make these private jets sturdier and less cumbersome. By removing the windows altogether, the overall weight of the plane will drop significantly, thus making it much more fuel efficient. And with a simplified fuselage, there is much more flexibility for the interior design, as well. These displays can also project other images, besides the outside view – changing the mood inside the jet, depending on preference. If desired, they can also display a traditional plane interior.

1. The Space Train

With so many proposed plans of colonizing the solar system these days, it would only be fair to address at least one means of future space travel. Hopefully, in the not-so-distant future, humans will begin forming a colony on Mars. If this ends up being the case, we will need to develop a means of transportation that is fast and reliable enough to get us to and from there in only a fraction of the time. Today, a manned mission to the Red Planet is expected to last somewhere around six months, or even more. During this prolonged period of time, astronauts and colonists will be exposed to microgravity which has a long series of negative effects on the human body. One proposed transport system is a hypothetical space train, known as the Solar Express.

When it comes to space travel, the most expensive and time-consuming portions are the acceleration and deceleration phases. This proposed space train would, thus, never stop, going back and forth between Earth and Mars indefinitely. The Solar Express will first begin to accelerate by making use of rocket boosters. It will then use the planets’ gravity to continuously slingshot itself back and forth between the two. This way, the train would be able to reach 1% of the speed of light, or about 1,864 miles per second. This speed would reduce an Earth-to-Mars trip to just 2 days. Geez, Matt Damon would be pissed. 

Unmanned probes would mine for water or other resources from asteroids and would rendezvous back with the train on its return journey. Boarding the train from the planets would be done in somewhat the same fashion, without it ever needing to stop. We are still a long way away from developing one such space train – with much of the technology required not even existing at this point. Nevertheless, the entire concept is intriguing, to say the least.


Newfangled Transportation

– WIF into the Future

THE RETURN TRIP – Next to Last Episode

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THE RETURN TRIP – Next to Last Episode

#The enemies of your United States of America, the United Korean Peninsula would take advantage of Stellar Explorer’s imminent failure…

Bitterness To Enemies – Painting by Nicholas Roerich

Ekcello explains the reasoning behind Gus McKinney’s allowed “escape” from Eridanus.

#When the High Counsel convened, some time ago, we had one specific issue to deal with; the effect of the humans on the stability of our society#

#We were prepared to deal with the introduction of change, until the drumbeat of a young pioneer became deafening. Your son Gus’ reluctance to accept his situation Futureforced us to reconsider some of our positions and we discovered we could solve one problem, the one of temporal tampering.

#We had originally assumed that should Stellar Explorer and your sons be allowed to return to Earth, after we made the necessary corrections to their flaws, that it would destabilize the time-stem they were operating in. What we found farther out in the future changed our minds.

#The enemies of your United States of America and treacherous infection to your planet, the United Korean Peninsula would take advantage of Stellar Explorer’s imminent failure and embark on their own space program, go on to dominate your Solar System, and eventually force its flawed ideology on inferior planets they meet along the way. It is not our practice to tamper with the future, its past or its current, but we could not allow that reality to exist in a galaxy where coexistence is so vital, not dominance#

Memories of the long-past Ÿ€Ð invasion is never far from their minds.

#Gus McKinney travels in a vehicle of which there is no match. He will return to the 2051.025 time-stem without knowing how the improvements came to be. He will experience strange dreams in the aftermath, dreams that will haunt him, taunt him, and cause him to search for their meaning.

#We on Eridanus will be watching and waiting#

Those that Gus leaves behind, the Space Family McKinney on Eridanus stand together, bolstered by the wise Ekcello, pinning their hopes on Gus and his indomitable spirit of exploration.


THE RETURN TRIP

Next to Last Episode


page 322

Contents TRT

The Future – As Read in Fiction

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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 toMasterChef.

The question is, is a grueling dance marathon any more dehumanizing than making someone eat something likehorse 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 spoutedoffensive 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 glowingly about 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 helpedinspire 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 than1984. Postman wrote:

“What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that therewould 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 beingoppressed 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.


The Future

– As Read in Fiction