What Lies Ahead? (The Future of Our Technological Society)

  • Barry B. Luokkala
Part of the Science and Fiction book series (SCIFICT)


As we discussed in the previous chapter, the distant future of our technological society will depend on the decisions that are taken now and in the near future, regarding what research projects to fund or not to fund, and how to use the new discoveries that are made and the new technologies that are developed. In this chapter, we will explore some visions of the future, as presented in science fiction. We will also consider how cultural and historical context can influence the way in which a classic science fiction story is told, and how our understanding of technology can influence how we think about culture. But we begin with a brief survey of some sci-fi predictions which have already come to pass, and a few more which may be coming very soon.


Accurate Predictions

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    The Man They Could Not Hang (Nick Grindé, Columbia 1939). Heart-lung bypass machine [DVD scenes 1, 2, 6]Google Scholar
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    GATTACA (Andrew Niccol, Columbia 1997). High-speed DNA sequencing [DVD scenes 6, 7]Google Scholar
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    Forbidden Planet (Fred McCleod Wilcox, MGM 1956). The Krell plastic educator: using brain waves to control external devices [DVD scene 14]Google Scholar
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    The Force Trainer toy, similar in concept to the Krell plastic educator.
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    A.I. Artificial Intelligence (Steven Spielberg, Warner Brothers 2001). A boy, who would otherwise be unable to walk, is fitted with robotic leg braces, which he controls, presumably with his brain [DVD scene 8]Google Scholar
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Coming Soon

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    NASA’s Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer.
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    Large Synoptic Survey Telescope.
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    Big Hero 6 (Don Hall and Chris Williams, Disney 2014). Baymax, the personal healthcare robot, diagnoses and treats minor injuries [DVD scene 2]Google Scholar
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    Star Trek: The Next Generation – “Tapestry” (Les Landau, Paramount 1993). Captain Picard’s artificial heart [DVD season 6, disc 4]Google Scholar
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Science Fiction in Historical Context

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    The War of the Worlds (Byron Haskin, Paramount 1952). Aliens emerge from what was believed to be a meteor [DVD scene 3]. Conventional military weapons useless [DVD scene 5]. Experimental Flying Wing aircraft and A-bomb also ineffective [DVD scene 9]. Death of Martians from natural causes [DVD scene 13]Google Scholar
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    War of the Worlds (Steven Spielberg, Paramount 2005). Parallel between Martian invaders and sleeper terrorists is made obvious [DVD scenes 5–7]. Military response [DVD scene 14]Google Scholar
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    The Day the Earth Stood Still (Robert Wise, 20th Century Fox 1951). Arrival, greetings, and response [DVD scenes 2–3]. Final remarks and warning about nuclear proliferation: “Join us and live in peace, or continue present course and face obliteration” [DVD scene 15]Google Scholar
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    The Day the Earth Stood Still (Scott Derrickson, 20th Century Fox 2008). Humans are killing the earth. The Earth must survive. Therefore the humans must die. No warning. No opportunity for repenting and reforming. Just die! [DVD scene 17]Google Scholar

Visions of the Future

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    Metropolis (Fritz Lang, UFA 1927). A future society divided into a technological elite and a laborer class [DVD scene 1]Google Scholar
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    GATTACA (Andrew Niccol, Columbia 1997). Society divided into genetic haves and have-nots [DVD scenes 3, 4, 6, 7]Google Scholar
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    Things to Come (William Cameron Menzies, United Artists 1936). The end of the movie offers a choice between rejecting technological progress and living like the animals, or embracing progress and conquering the universe [DVD scenes 10, 12]Google Scholar
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    WALL-e (Andrew Stanton, Disney PIXAR 2008). Humans of the future have become overly dependent on technology [DVD scenes 12, 14]Google Scholar
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    Terminator 2: Judgment Day (James Cameron, Studio Canal 1991). Robots waging war against humans [DVD scene 2]Google Scholar
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    Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (Jonathan Mostow, Warner Brothers 2003). Startup of SkyNet and the beginning of the machine war against humans [DVD scenes 22–24]Google Scholar
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    Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (George Lucas, 20th Century Fox 1977). Holographic chess [DVD scene 27]Google Scholar
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    Forbidden Planet (Fred McLeod Wilcox, MGM 1956). The Krell plastic educator translates mental images into holographic images [DVD scene 14]Google Scholar
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    Star Trek: The Next Generation – “Encounter at Farpoint” (Corey Allen, Paramount 1987). The holodeck – a virtual reality environment, which combines transporter and replicator technology, in order to create tangible objects [DVD season 1, disc 1, scene 11]Google Scholar
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    Star Trek: Voyager – “Caretaker” (Winrich Kolbe, Paramount 1995). The pilot episode introduces the Emergency Medical Hologram, a holographic doctor, who can manipulate real instruments and treat real patients [DVD season 1, disc 1, scene 5]Google Scholar
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    The Illustrated Man (Jack Smight, Warner Brothers 1969). The “instantaneous atmosphere”: a VR environment, which may have inspired Star Trek’s holodeck [DVD scene 12]Google Scholar
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    The Matrix (The Wachowski Brothers, Warner Brothers 1999). Humans are enslaved in a virtual reality environment created by machines [DVD scene 12]Google Scholar
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    Caprica (Jeffrey Reiner, Universal Studios 2009). Recapturing the essence of a real person by copying a VR avatar [DVD scenes 11 and 13]Google Scholar
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    The Day The Earth Caught Fire (Val Guest, British Lion Films 1961). Nuclear testing by U.S. and Russia cause shift in Earth’s motion around the Sun, resulting in rapid increase in global temperature. Only 4 months before all life on Earth will burn up [DVD scene 18]Google Scholar
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    Star Trek: The Next Generation – “Ship in a Bottle” (Alexander Singer, Paramount 1992). A holodeck-simulation of Professor James Moriarty becomes self-aware, and demands to be allowed to leave the confines of the VR environment [DVD season 6, disc 3, scenes 1, 2]Google Scholar
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    The Thirteenth Floor (Josef Rusnak, Columbia Pictures 1999). Simulated characters discover that their world is not real; real characters fall in love with simulated characters [DVD scenes 18, 22]Google Scholar
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    Forbidden Planet (Fred McLeod Wilcox, MGM 1956). A civilization at the pinnacle of achievement was destroyed by the power of their own technology: “monsters from the id” [DVD scenes 21, 22]Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhysicsCarnegie Mellon UniversityPittsburghUSA

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