From Nostradamus to The Simpsons, predictions about the distant or near future populate literature, pop culture or esotericism everywhere, while from the rigor of observation and empirical demonstration science also alerts of events that will occur in the coming years, from the conquest of space to climate change.
In this article we move away from the 2000 Effect or the Mayan apocalypse to focus on some of the most accurate predictions in human history and embodied in formats as diverse as novels, essays, research or postcards, many of them belonging to art, imagination and the exciting world of science fiction. Go back to the past to open a crack in this future that others saw coming with a visionary eye.
George Orwell and cyber surveillance
The luckiest and most acidic literary dystopias have served to predict our immediate future, anticipating elite control of the masses by half a century and employing disruptive technology. Yes, we are talking about Big Brother imagined in George Orwell’s 1984 classic, written in 1948.
In fact, Orwell’s work predicts from fiction numerous geopolitical, socioeconomic and structural predictions about our world today. Cyber surveillance is more plausible today than ever: The streets are full of cameras, our internet fingerprint allows anyone to follow our trail and our smart devices – from home appliances to connected cars, wearables or smartphones – define us almost better than ourselves.
Meanwhile, large corporations control consumers through Big Data and the surveillance status is notable in places in the world such as China, where the Government censors the content available to citizens on the Internet.
Jules Verne and the lunar conquest
Jules Verne predicted so many things in his prolific and talented literary work that he could fill an extensive article on his own. In addition to the submarine, the helicopter, the electric weapons or the news broadcasts, one of the most important future predictions of this French author focused on man’s trips to the moon.
Specifically, Verne wrote in 1985 the story titled “From Earth to the Moon”, in which he predicted that we would step on our nearby satellite, reviewing details incredibly ahead of its time, such as the elements of the space shuttle, the month in which it would launch , the place the number of astronauts on board. It also describes the capsule that goes over space rockets or “projectiles” that could be used to carry passengers.
Philip K. Dick, virtual reality and holograms
He is one of the most important references in science fiction and author of masterpieces such as Blade Runner or Minority Report. Phillip K. Dicks envisioned other worlds ahead of his time and riddled with electronics, holograms, and virtual and augmented reality, with the ability to alter humanity’s perception of reality.
In 1977 the novelist claimed how a revelation showed him that we could be living in a simulated reality that controls our minds, something that manifests itself precisely in the alternative realities or simulations in which the characters live. Although it is a lot to say to affirm this exactly today, the truth is that virtual reality and holograms have come to stay in this 21st century.
Robert Heinlein and the cold war
Five years before the United States launched its nuclear bombs, Heinlein predicted their existence and how they would lead to the tense conflict of the two blocks led by the Americans and by the USSR.
In addition to anticipating this warlike conflict, Robert Heinlein also anticipated the invention of waterbeds, described with such degree of detail in his novel “Stranger in a strange land” (1961), that its later inventor had some problems to patent it.
Edward Bellamy and credit cards
Edward Bellamy published Looking Backward in 1887, a futuristic novel set more than a century later, in the year 2000. It alluded to a card issued by the bank that would function as a payment mechanism and that would unseat paper money known until then.
Julian West is the protagonist of the novel, which falls asleep in 1887 and wakes up in a utopian society in the aforementioned year 2000, where each person has access to an identical amount of credit backed by the government and used to buy various goods. In this science fiction work also talk about the television, conceived as a device through which concerts can be seen and heard.
Hugo Gernsback and video calls
In 1911 the writer Hugo Gernsback published the novel Ralph 124C 41+, which anticipates the appearance of video call technologies as profuse today as Skype, HangOuts or Facebook Messenger. The work described a device called “telephot” that allowed people to see and hear each other from long distances.
Not only is he one of the most illustrious geniuses in science fiction, but the ingenuity of this author led him to patent numerous gadgets: An instrument to better capture sound on the radio (Radio Horn), a new method of waxing (Depilator) or a landing pad for airplanes and flying machines were some of his fantastic creations.
J.G. Ballard and social media
The obsession to document every small fragment of our life and today crystallized on social networks was already predicted in an essay written by J.G. Ballard in 1977. Below we reproduce, point by point, a real paragraph of the work that would prophesy the rise of this type of platform such as Facebook or Instagram that today are part of the daily life of billions of people.
“Each of our actions during the day, across the entire spectrum of everyday life, will be instantly videotaped. At night we will sit and watch the images, selected by a trained computer to choose only our best profiles, our most intelligent dialogues, our most affectionate expressions, captured through the kindest filters, and then we will put it all together to have an improved reconstruction of our day. ”
Chilling precision, right?
Robert Boyle and organ transplants
If we talk about ahead of his time, Boyle gave us many centuries of advantage. This scholar wrote in the 1660s a list of twenty-four great advances for humanity that he believed would take place in the future. Despite living in a deeply religious and superstitious age, Boyle joined other philosophers, doctors, and writers to form the Royal Society and seek scientific explanations from the world.
So Boyle predicted mmedical improvements such as organ transplants, the appearance of sleeping pills and pain relievers, the “recovery of youth”, the lengthening of life expectancy and also inventions such as telescopes – which he nicknamed “parabolic glasses” -, diving equipment or ships capable of sailing against the wind. Some of his predictions, like distant wound healing, metal transmutation and the invention of a universal solvent have not yet been fulfilled.
Neil R. Jones and cryogenization
In the short story “The Jameson Satellite”, written by Neil R. Jones in 1931, its protagonist, Professor Jameson anticipates the dream cryogenization or human cryopreservation, very present in science fiction and that today it is taking some of its first steps through startups like Cecryon, defined as the “first cryogenization clinic in Europe”.
The protagonist of this story asks that his corpse be brought into Earth’s orbit in the hope that it remains preserved there at a temperature of absolute zero. Another author who explored this theme in his narrative was the American academic Robert Ettinger, nicknamed “the father of cryonics” and who in 1947 coined a brief utopian history called “The penultimate triumph”, promoting the decision to freeze to resurrect in the future.
Aldous Huxley and antidepressants
Aldous Huxley’s dystopian novel entitled “A Happy World”, published in 1933, is George Orwell’s leading exponent of dystopian fiction in 1984, which portrays from a gloomy and pessimistic perspective the ins and outs of a society governed by psychological manipulation.
In the work, humanity is segmented into castes where each one knows and accepts his place in the social gear. War and poverty have been eradicated, and everyone is permanently happy that they have eliminated family, cultural diversity, art, the advancement of science, literature, religion, philosophy, and love.
In the book, citizens rely on drugs in mood-stimulating pills called “soma,” responsible for creating stability and psychological balance and reducing sad thoughts or anxiety. The merit is that This novel was written two decades before the first scientific experiments with antidepressants, led by Prozac, were carried out.
This article was published in TICbeat by Andrea Núñez-Torrón Stock.