Sci-fi is often set in the future. If you’re going to create a world where amazing technology exists, it’s much easier to make the whole thing seem plausible if you can also say "well, in a few hundred years, who knows?." But, now that sci-fi itself has been around for a while, every now and then reality actually catches up with it—and either proves those earlier ideas to have been pretty much on the ball… or totally insane. Here are a few of our favourite (cue Futurama-style announcer voice) "Sci-Fi Viiiisions of the Fuuuture That Have Come to Pass!"
Back To The Future
We’re almost there! Despite what the seemingly bi-annual internet hoaxes tell you, we’re still a couple of years off of the date that Marty goes forward to in Back To The Future II, where, as we’re sure you don’t need reminding, you don’t need roads. And you know what? Despite the slightly optimistic predication that we’d all have flying cars by now, the movie got a lot right about the teenies or the tens or whatever we’re supposed to be calling them these days. The telephone screen technology in old Marty’s house, for instance, is pretty much a massive version of Facetime. Jaws 19 in 3-D? Well, considering all the biggest films are sequels and require you to wear massive plastic shades these days, yeah. Hundreds of TV channels that you pretty much end up watching simultaneously? Uh, yep. That said, faxes didn’t quite have the staying power the movie seems to think they were going to.
George Orwell’s novel is probably closer to a warning that a prediction; he wrote it in 1948 as a way of saying what he thought could happen if hard line communism-style politics took over the world. And, admittedly, it captures some of the more extreme aspects of what life had become under Soviet a few decades later; people didn’t have much personal freedom, and the punishments for stepping out of line were harsh. That said, the novel takes place in England, not Russia. But, you know, whatever.
Brave New World
Another Dystopian vision, 1931’s Brave New World predicts a society where people have their desires and ideas defined by subliminal messages—where they’re encouraged to be obedient, complicit and even promiscuous by a series of catchphrases and mottos. And forgive us for getting a little tin-foil hatty here, but that’s a pretty direct description of what advertising has become in the 21st century. That said, the novel also predicted that everyone would have their own helicopter, so it’s not totally on target.
V For Vendetta
Now this 1982 comic book series (the movie is a little too recent to qualify) has got to feature one of the most impressive sci-fi predictions out there. Its writer, Alan Moore, went and predicted the internet! Okay, it’s not the internet as we know and love it now—more of a massive communications system used by the comics’ fictional government as a way of controlling people and monitoring their behavior. Still, considering some of the recent headlines about the NSA, maybe Moore wasn’t so far off.
From The Earth To The Moon
Okay, so this is a big one—space flight. And considering Jules Verne was writing in 1865, over a hundred years before man actually did reach the moon, he actually got a surprising amount right about how it would happen. He was French, but correctly predicted it’d be the US that did it first. He predicted that Florida would be a good launch site—being near the ocean and at the right latitude. He predicted a three-man crew. He even predicted the cost, putting it at around $12 billion (adjusted for inflation), which tallies pretty close to the $14 billion the mission did finally add up to. That said, he also predicted that it would be a cannon, not a rocket. And since being shot out of a cannon powerful enough to accelerate an object to escape velocity would probably reduce the crew inside to a fine, wet paste, maybe it’s a good thing that particular part of the book didn’t come true.
What sci-fi predictions about the future can you NOT WAIT to come to pass?