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Any SF that foresaw the present?

  1. May 11, 2017 #1
    I wondered, whether anyone in the past had written a story, that gave at least a good approximation of our present?
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  3. May 11, 2017 #2


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    I think my present would be too boring to make a story of.

    On the other hand there have certainly been many stories about a general degradation of the environment, society becoming more separated into more distinct economic, religious, and ideological groups.
    All the rocket and space stuff is far more developed SciFi though.

    What aspects are you thinking of?
  4. May 11, 2017 #3


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    I know of several that foresaw various aspects of modern society, such as the internet, but none that truly gave a good approximation of the present. I can't remember their names at the moment though.
  5. May 12, 2017 #4


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    The Simpsons had an episode where Donald J Trump was elected president!
  6. May 12, 2017 #5


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    "Foresaw" might be difficult to define. There has been such a wealth of science fiction over the years that purely by chance some of them are going to get some predictions right. Beyond that a big issue is that first order predictions are relatively easy, it's the second and third that are incredibly hard. For example: Predicting a global network of personal computers that can share files is one thing, predicting the spread of social media, the rise of let's plays, meme culture etc. is way more difficult. TL;DR predicting technology is easy, working out the social consequences is hard.

    Of all the SF genres that have done a relatively good job an argument can be made that 80s cyberpunk got it right. Sure we don't have physical sockets in our head, nor have megacorporations replaced the nationstate but we do live in an always online world with an increasingly global wealth inequality (and at least over the course of my life in the UK East Asian food and culture has become more common here).
  7. May 20, 2017 #6
    Arthur Clarke had a few of these, including the use of satellites for a global communications network.
  8. May 26, 2017 #7


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    I would have to nominate "Stranger in a strange land" for this thread, not exact by any means but so many parallels that you have to be impressed.
  9. Jun 8, 2017 #8
    1984, the piano player, just 2 of the top of my head but there are lots
  10. Jun 9, 2017 #9
    The original Star Trek 'communicators' were an interesting bit of fantasy at the time.
    Imagine that!, a pocket sized device that could be used to communicate with anyone anywhere who also had such a device.
  11. Jun 13, 2017 #10
    Dick Tracy's 1952 wrist radio watch is now the iPhone watch of today... Yes past to present invention.
  12. Jun 13, 2017 #11
  13. Aug 22, 2017 at 5:06 AM #12
    Star trek of course predicted the communicator (~cell phone) and tablets [touch screen] (no one uses PC s there, and no one writes on paper anymore - reports etc. are done with "tablets" etc.). Furthermore, today's 3d printer is just a primitive form of the Startrek "replicator". Moreover, verbal command computers, universal voice translators etc..
    I can go on with holograms and VR, and perhaps their "sub-space communications" (or something) are kind of like a "space (not just galactic) wireless internet" ... etc.

    So it seems that Gene Roddenberry did a good job in predicting some of the things that we have today, but ... for way into the future ...
  14. Aug 22, 2017 at 5:24 AM #13
    As to predicting technology, science fiction has a very mixed record. Some SF things have not happened, like strong AI and easy spaceflight, and some real-life things have seldom been predicted, like the Internet. SF is sometimes behind the times. For instance, SF started with the main AI in it being robots and the like, but when real-life computers started appearing, SF ones started appearing.

    Isaac Asimov suggested in his essay "Future? Tense!" (collected in From Earth to Heaven) that the important prediction is not the action but the reaction, not the technology but what people do with it. Thus, something like a positronic brain is a technical detail and not very relevant to the overall picture of advanced AI. Likewise, for self-driving cars, what happens to manual driving. IA himself wrote "Sally" (collected in Nightfall and Other Stories) about self-driving cars where manual driving had been outlawed as needlessly dangerous. He himself wrote
    Robert Heinlein, writing as Anson Macdonald, wrote "Solution: Unsatisfactory", in which nations arm themselves with radioactive dust. But since it is hard to defend against, the outcome is the same as with nuclear bombs: every dust-possessing nation becomes dependent on the goodwill of every other one.

    IA also imagined how a SF writer might write about cars in 1880. Like this?
    That is, technobabble. Or like this?
    Lots of visual-media SF is not much better about spaceships.

    HG Wells proposed that cars would enable people to move outward and create suburbs, among other things, in his 1901 book Anticipations of the Reaction of Mechanical and Scientific Progress: Upon Human Life and Thought. IA suggested writing a story about a problems that HGW didn't anticipate: where to put one's car when one is not driving it.
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