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Thinking Up the Future

Wow. Posting every week? Look at me! Wonder how long I can keep this up. Anyway. The topic today, kids, is predicting the future.

crystal ball

No, not like that. I mean actually, scientifically, with reason and logic.

Last night, Big Bopper and I went to see 2001: A Space Odyssey on the big screen. Now, the last time I saw this movie I was ten years old. Yes, I saw it in its original release in 1968. And what I remembered was SCARY KILLER MONKEYS! FUTURISTIC SPACE TRAVEL! PSYCHOPATH COMPUTER! And also, my mother and aunt sitting with their mouths open in disbelief as the house lights came up after the show. (“Was that a fetus? Floating in space?”)

Some of the assumptions the director made about the future were spot-on—using credit cards instead of cash-money, flexible space suits, video phone calls—but most of the predictions of how Things Will Be in 2001 are laughable.

For instance, in 2001 all the superpowers will have moon bases where we can continue to carry on the Cold War. Also, furniture design remains frozen in time with Eames chairs. And to transfer information between computers, you need a punch card.

IBM_Punch_Card

The point I’m making is this: The roots of the future are in the present, but if you’re a writer, you have to look beyond the obvious.

The USSR economy was unsustainable. It took decades to fall apart, but its ultimate demise was predictable, if you knew how to look at it. The integrated circuit, which would become the microchip of today, was invented in 1959. At the time, almost no one understood the implications. But now, microchips power everything from toilets to cars.

So if you’re writing science fiction or science fantasy, read science news. World politics. Business.

And let your mind wander.

Homer-Simpson-Zoned-Out

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