Science Fiction Technology Isn’t Just Fictitious

Image: 2001 A Space Odyssey, via Humanity has always had an innate fascination with technology and development, and science fiction has always appealed to this fascination. Humans strive to learn more about the world in which they live, as well as what they can create. Many inventors have credited science fiction with inspiring their love of creating as well as being a source of inspiration for many different things, ranging from the internet to tablet computers and space travel.One of the earliest fascinations amongst the most prominent science fiction writers, notably Jules Verne and H.G Wells, was with space. Books such as War of the Worlds, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Ender’s Game, a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and 2001: A Space Odyssey, amongst innumerable others gave us an insight into the idea of extra-terrestrial life and human habitation of planets other than our own. Science fiction books have been quoted as the inspiration for many astronauts as well as the technicians and mathematicians who helped get humans to the moon. These books were all written before we had made it to the moon, and it is no surprise that the 1970s and 80s were heralded as the “golden age” of science fiction, following on from the 1969 moon landing. The technology and intelligence needed to get us to other planets is very difficult to imagine, which was actually a good selling point for this cult fiction.
Humans strive to learn more about the world in which they live, as well as what they can create.”
It wasn’t just books that catapulted this genre into the mainstream, although most movies were either partially or fully inspired by books already written. Blade Runner and Short Circuit taught us about the possibility of intelligent AI and Terminator showed us what could happen if artificial intelligence were to become corrupt. The Star Wars saga gave us lightsabers and laser guns, both of which actually now exist in some shape or form.Science fiction oozed intelligence, so it was an inspiration as well as an escape for many. It is difficult to say which individual books or films had the greatest impact for technology or inspiring the masses, but Jules Verne’s From The Earth to the Moon is amongst the most influential novels, showing us that someday, mankind would get to space. The book was written in 1865, predating so much of the technology used by Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin in 1961, yet it came to fruition. It’s amazing to think how Jules Verne was able to correctly predict spaceships in 1865.It is impossible to say what the most influential science fiction film would be, because there are so many contenders. Terminator taught us to be careful with what we invent, whilst Star Wars captured the minds of a generation, becoming one of the most successful movie series of all time. Mad Max told us of how humanity could survive after an unknown apocalypse. Gattaca gave us the idea of genetic profiling to sort and improve the human society, posing moral and ethical questions about changing your unborn child that persist to this day. There is no definite answer as to what one movie inspired the most future technology, but a serious contender would be 2001: A Space Oydessy.Based on the novel of the same name, this movie revealed the notion of space travel being something ordinary. The main character is out on a regular business mission to a base on the moon. The HAL9000 inspired voice recognition software, which is now mainstream technology such as software like Siri on the iPhone. It also gave us the idea of in-seat TV entertainment, video calls, computer chess technology, liquefied food and tablet computers, although this should really be credited to Star Trek.
“Suddenly you weren’t just a nerdy kid, you had the blueprint on how to create the Space Shuttle or a molecular model that might cure a form of cancer.”
Star Trek inspired the most technology by far, due in part to its huge cult following and the fact that it ran for many years. The universal translator (Google translate, anyone?), badge communicators (ie: mobile phones), phaser guns that could stun (inspiring the idea of stun guns) and even the famous visor that gave sight back to the ship’s engineer Geordi LaForge. The visor gave us the idea of bypassing the damaged sensory organs and instead transmitting images or even sound straight to the brain, which has given many back their sight in recent years.One could talk for years about how much science fiction has done for us. It has made us question established authority, develop medicine and radically increased how quickly we got to the moon. We are currently trying to get to Mars, develop electric and self-driving cars and eliminate debilitating diseases from fertilised cells. This work was all done by scientists and other researchers who are portrayed in a myriad of ways in the genre itself, proving that even when the scientist is the crazy old man fumbling with the papers, it doesn’t stop us from wanting to be just like him. On screen and on the page, scientists have been evil, they have been cold and calculating, they’ve been manipulative. But they’ve also been the ones who ask the questions, who get to the bottom of the problems and can see what others miss. The scientists have the answers, and even if their intentions are evil, it’s what makes them so unique.Science fiction helped to make intelligence “cool”. Suddenly you weren’t just a nerdy kid, you had the blueprint on how to create the space shuttle or a molecular model that might cure a form of cancer.Science fiction permeates everything in both the fictional and real-life universe and it continues to inspire a future generation of people to learn, question and improve. Who knows what it could help us create in the future?