You Don’t Need a Spaceship to Explore These Science Fiction Worlds – They’re Coming True!
As long as humans have been thinking, we’ve been dreaming of the future. Science fiction is a dream formed into a world we can experience. Each day the world adapts and changes around us and becomes more like the fantastic future-scapes we’ve read about for decades. Is it that science fiction authors are viewing a future the rest of us can’t see, or could it be that science looks to these great authors for ideas for the next innovation?
These questions perplex us, and we can puzzle over them for years; but there are five authors who have made a great impact on our modern world. They changed our thinking, and their visions of the future seem to have come (or are coming) true right before our very eyes.
Jules Verne dared to dream of undersea travel and what it would mean for humanity. He is considered by many to be the “Father of Science Fiction.” Verne was undoubtedly ahead of his time. He viewed the world around him as fantastic and rooted his ideas heavily in science. His works endure today despite being published in the late 1800’s; his story, 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, is still considered required reading. Even now, his works are often turned into movies which captivate our imaginations and inspire us to strive for that which lies just outside of our grasp.
As we enter the age of singularity, Isaac Asimov’s work comes into a new and brighter light and Asimov becomes more and more important in the modern world. He wrote the book I, Robot, which first introduced the three fundamental laws of robotics:
A robot shall never harm a human.
A robot shall obey all human commands unless they interfere with the first rule.
A robot shall protect its own survival as long as it does not interfere with rules one and/or two.
These laws endure today, with companies like iRobot and Boston Dynamics relying on these fundamental rules to govern the behavior of our new mechanical overlords (We kid! Skynet hasn’t happened… yet). As more and more technology incorporates learning and artificial intelligence, we have to consider these laws more carefully. One day you might have your own robot pal – and you’ll thank Asimov for creating these laws to protect you from your metal best friend.
Ursula K. Le Guin
In The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin explores gender identity through an alien race. Her main character must find a way to understand the aliens, which are vastly different from his own species. She also introduced the idea of “ambisexuals” who did not conform to any gender. Gender identity has become a larger part of the conversation in the modern age. What place does gender have in society? How do we relate to others when gender isn’t a factor? She began a conversation which has only become more important as we step further into the future of our society.
Philip K. Dick
Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? created the cyberpunk genre. The tale followed Deckard as he “retired” androids. Dick’s story grappled with artificial intelligence and humans’ place to determine right and wrong. We have to wonder if our ideas of these concepts are really as concrete as we think they are. Deckard also grapples with his own humanity, something many of us have to come to terms with. If this story sounds familiar, it’s because it inspired the phenomenal film Blade Runner. These ideas chase us through time and have influenced modern thinking as robots are made to look more and more human.
No name of any Science Fiction author is more casually thrown around than Orwell. He created the dystopian future of 1984 after immersing himself in the political rallies of the lower class. His curiosity also drew the attention of the state, which watched him for 12 long years. The surveillance, combined with his curiosity about the inequality of the classes, eventually lead him to write one of the most prominent science fiction novels ever. There are many who would insist we are living in Orwellian times right now. There seems to be no author who saw the future more clearly than Orwell, a man far ahead of his time.