While science fiction might be sometimes dismissed as a case of over-active imagination of a distant and exciting future, an over-active imagination is not always a bad thing. Particularly when, as in the case of the following five technologies, authors accurately predict the future:
Anyone who owns an iPhone, iPad or Kindle can attest to the innovative, and efficient, method of reading achieved through these devices. But in 1961, Stanislaw Lem’s novel, Return From the Stars, had already predicted their invention. The story makes reference to a touch-screen technology, where a book’s content is recorded and perused, making the traditional form redundant. Ironically, you could probably read Lem’s work digitally now.
George Orwell’s haunting portrait of society in his epic novel, 1984, was way ahead of its time. Written in 1949, the book envisions a future where the mythic and omnipresent, Big Brother, closely and secretly uses telescreens to monitor the citizens of society. Twenty years later, the first Closed Circuit TV (CCTV) was installed in the United Kingdom.
Almost a century before the Internet was conceived, Mark Twain alluded to the future of a global, pervasive information network. In From the London Times of 1904, published in 1898, Twain wrote about a ‘telectroscope’:
"The improved ‘limitless-distance’ telephone was presently introduced, and the daily doings of the globe made visible to everybody, and audibly discussable too, by witnesses separated by any number of leagues.”While Twain’s global network of communication used a telephone as its main device, the general idea was still the same.
There are those who prefer the smell and feel of reading a traditional newspaper, and then there is everyone else, scanning headlines online and getting news through RSS feeds. This future, among other innovations, was accurately predicted in Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (yes, the Kubrik film too), who described online papers:
"In a few milliseconds he could see the headlines of any newspaper he pleased… The text was updated automatically on every hour; even if one read only the English versions, one could spend an entire lifetime doing nothing but absorbing the ever-changing flow of information from the news satellites.”
The elimination of money, due to proliferation of plastic cards loaded with cash was a prediction made in Edward Bellamy’s 1888 novel, Looking Backward. A century and a bit later, Bellamy’s words are a tangible reality.