Science Fictions has a long history of being science facts. So many outlandish creations inspired real research. You may not immediately believe it, but future inventions and technologies are a lot closer to science fiction than people think.
We often presume that the technologies we are using daily came from inventions done by ingenious innovators working in research labs. But we are not completely correct in this assumption. In fact, several of the most pioneering ideas came from the people who had very little to do with science and technology. But they had the inspiration and talent to imagine future worlds. Several sci-fi novels have very accurately predicted many of the pieces of inventions and technologies we are using today. Those novels have paved the way to the future.
The American engineer and physicist, Robert H Goddard, who created world’s first liquid-fuelled rocket was inspired by H.G. Wells’ science fiction novel War of the Worlds (1898). More recent examples include motion sensing capability and 3D gesture-based user interface used in Mircrosoft’s Kinect, Which we already have seen used by Tom Cruise’s character in movie Minority Report (2002). The movie was based on the short story “The Minority Report” by Philip K Dick.
Here are few more examples of inventions and technologies we are using today were inspired by science fictions.
Jules Verne often referred as “the father of science fiction”. Jules Verne imagined a great underwater ship named Nautilus in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. The submarine contained a grand ballroom and organ and was using electricity power. Verne’s imagination was so concrete that it inspired a lifelong interest of undersea exploration in Simon Lake, the American inventor. He first read Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea in 1870. It inspired him to invent his own submarine called the Argonaut. In 1898, Verne wrote a letter to congratulate Lake on his invention.
Czech author, Karel Capek, imagined the existence of sentient robots in 1920. In his play R.U.R, the classic sci-fi tale of artificial intelligence unfurls. The robots were first used as slave labors. Eventually, they gain sentience and rise up. They fight back against their human creators. Recently, Google’s Deep Mind has an AI program that demonstrated understanding of betrayal. In this way, we may not be too far from our own robot uprising.
One of the most famous literary characters of the early 20th century was Tom Swift. He was the protagonist and a genius inventor in a series of science-fiction books written for children in 1900s. The series was influential to a generation of science-minded folk. The character Tom Swift made use of a stun gun in the series which inspired Jack Clover, a NASA physicist. Jack invented Taser and named it Taser because of his love for the series and Tom Swift. Taser is actually an acronym for one of Swift’s fictional inventions, the “Thomas A. Swift’s Electric Rifle.”
The great science fiction writer Isaac Asimov, after attending the 1964 World’s Fair, wrote an article for the New York Times. In that article, he imagined what inventions would be on display at the World’s Fair in fifty years. He hypothesized “robot-brain” cars capable of self-driving. And now major global companies such as Google, Uber, Tesla, Lyft are working towards becoming the first to sell self-driving vehicles to the public.
In Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury presented a dystopian world where books are outlawed and destroyed by fireman in the society. In the book, he presented a world where people are zonked out and distracted by technologies, from flat screen TVs to Seashell radio. Bradbury described how the Seashell radio device is tucked inside the ear. It’s clear what he was mentioning there by Seashell radio, as nearly every person at the gym, on the bus, or jogging on the street has a pair of ear bud headphones.
H G Wells first mentioned the idea of atomic power in his novel, The World Set Free, in 1913. Wells’ this vision inspired Hungarian-German-American physicist Leo Szilard. Twenty years later, he patented the idea of nuclear reactor with Enrico Fermi. While this invention of Leo Szilard led to the atom bomb, Wells definitely envisioned a greater use for atomic power than a bomb.
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