Anyone who loves sci-fi (that’s everyone, right?) is looking for a glimpse of the future. And all sci-Fi writers like to paint big, bold visions of the future that we find exciting, amusing or just plain scary. So, who has been best at getting it right? And how badly do they get it wrong? This week we take a look at the best and worst predictions of sci-fi.
It’s difficult to draw up a shortlist as so many great writers and directors have managed to be so uncannily accurate in their predictions. However, here is a list of my personal favourites starting with…
- DRONES! – Yes drones, those annoying little flying things that regularly invade public spaces and occasionally shut down airports – but do you remember where you first saw them? No neither do I but it might well have been thirty years ago in ‘Back to the Future’ where a startlingly modern-looking drone makes an appearance as roving TV reporter.
- VOICE ACTIVATED TYPEWRITERS: The concept of a typewriter that would type out your words as you spoke turned up a few times in Star Trek but made its first appearance in George Orwell’s 1984 – predating speech recognition software by about sixty years.
- SELF-DRIVING CARS: These turned up pretty regularly but the first time I saw one in a sci-fi movie was in the original version of TOTAL RECALL – starring Arnold Schwarzenegger – who remembers the ‘Johnny Cab’?
- ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE: The idea of a machine that speaks is not new but IMHO, the best and most chilling portrayal of a smart machine is still Stanley Kubrick’s HAL, the homicidal computer in 2001. (Fun fact, the film was made in 1968, a year before the moon landings which made many suspect that Kubrick had a hand in faking the whole thing.)
- THE iPAD: The idea of a tablet-style computer turns up a few times in different films, not least in 2001 where the astronauts are shown taking video calls and watching movies on them. However 2001 was made in 1968 and it was two years earlier that I saw my first iPad in the hands of none other than CAPTAIN KIRK!
The worst predictions in sci-fi? Well there are a lot but I realised very quickly when I started writing that I was actually compiling a list of “things-we-were-promised-in-sci-fi-movies-but-which-never-turned-up”. So, here is my list of stuff I’m still waiting for…
- A CURE FOR ALL KNOWN DISEASES: Well yes, it would be nice wouldn’t it – predicted many times over in episodes of Star Trek as well as Cities in Flight, by James Blish – however, as I write, most of China is in lockdown with Snake-Flu, so this one is a definite fail.
- MOONBASES: So, after we got to the moon in 1969 moonbases were a given. We were all going to be living/working and even holidaying on the moon in twenty years, right? Who knew that we weren’t even going back there for 50 years. I spent most of my childhood watching Moonbase Alpha, 2001 and reading the novels of Robert Heinlen, Arthur C Clarke and Ursula LeGuin – all of whom included moonbases in their stories. I’m still waiting people.
- JET PACKS! So where is my damn jet pack? All my life I have faithfully watched Lost in Space, Boba Fett in Star Wars and Buzz Lightyear – confident in the expectation that I’d have one of these babies before I die. So where is it? (Alright I know jet packs do exist but if I can’t buy one on Amazon they ain’t real)
- THE HOVERBOARD: Who didn’t watch the hoverboard sequences in ‘Back to the Future’ and think ‘That’s gonna be so cool’. Unfortunately all of us who watched it first time around are still waiting (and probably too old by now to be honest).
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