Infographic: Sci-Fi Books That Predicted The Future

by Elizabeth Howell on May 2, 2014

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The Saturn V rocket bearing Apollo 11 lifts off from the Kennedy Space Center on July 16, 1969. Credit: NASA

The Saturn V rocket bearing Apollo 11 lifts off from the Kennedy Space Center on July 16, 1969. Credit: NASA

A moon rocket thundering from a pad in Florida. Two moons discovered around Mars. Space tourism. These are all things that are part of history today — and which were also predicted in literature years or decades before the event actually happened.

This fun infographic (embedded below) shows a series of fiction books that were curiously prescient about our future, ranging from From The Earth to the Moon to 2001: A Space Odyssey. Submarines, rocket ships and other pieces of technology were all imagined long before they were reality, so what inspired these authors?

“Many writers of the past have predicted the facts of our present society with a level of detail that seems impossibly accurate,” wrote Printerinks, a print and toner shop that produced the graphic.

“Some of them were even derided in their times for what were called outlandish and unbelievable fictions. Yet their imaginations were in reality painting portraits that would eventually be mirrored by history books a century later. Which seems to beg the question, Where does inspiration come from? So to decide for yourself whether these writers were seers or just plain lucky, explore our History of Books that Predicted the Future.”

You can click on the graphic for a larger version. Is it missing anything? Let us know in the comments.

(h/t It’s Okay To Be Smart)

History of Books that Forecast the Future Infographic

About 

Elizabeth Howell is the senior writer at Universe Today. She also works for Space.com, Space Exploration Network, the NASA Lunar Science Institute, NASA Astrobiology Magazine and LiveScience, among others. Career highlights include watching three shuttle launches, and going on a two-week simulated Mars expedition in rural Utah. You can follow her on Twitter @howellspace or contact her at her website.

dangerdad May 2, 2014 at 1:33 PM

Waterbeds ‘actual’ is a typo that repeats the claim above it (“1st visual flight simultaor”).

In-ear headphones existed long before Apple’s earbuds: http://www.sony.net/Fun/design/history/product/1980/mdr-w30l.html , from http://coolmaterial.com/roundup/history-of-headphones/

stan9fos May 2, 2014 at 2:19 PM

Came here to see if “Stand on Zanzibar” was on the list, glad to see it well represented. Set in the year 2010, Brunner also included MTV style music videos complete with Lady GaGa style outrageous makeup, domestic terrorism, and GMO’s up to and including experimentation on humans. Perhaps his most prescient and disturbing detail were “muckers,” who went berserk and killed as many people around them as they could, seemingly for no reason. All this without the benefit of ever having watched CNN or MTV.

Torbjorn Larsson OM May 2, 2014 at 5:28 PM

“GMO’s up to and including experimentation on humans”, what does that mean? Do you have any references?

Since this is a science site, let me just state the obvious:

- Society has been doing genetic modification, mostly on itself, since Homo evolved its lineage culture, and species did it anyway before that – it’s what evolution _is_. Modern selection methods, of which “GMOs” repeat what horizontal genetic transfer already do in nature, are just cheaper, quicker, more precise and so safer.

- No one has not been doing targeted genetic modification on humans until lately, when it became apparent that some diseases can be rectified by gene therapy. It is a difficult area, but one thing is clear: the companies called “GMOs”, doing horizontal gene transfer, are not involved, nor their techniques. The horizontal gene transfer being tried (if it has, I’m uncertain) would be within a population, fixing a non-functional gene. Such gene transfer are not usually called “horizontal”, even if it is such as seen from the individual. Nor would it have the kill switches and other stuff like markings that are regulated for artificial selection purposes.

stan9fos May 5, 2014 at 9:22 AM

Yes, I wasn’t too clear on that, Brunner’s “genetic optimization plan” involved the supposed manipulation of the human genome to produce superior offspring from “substandard breeding stock” – a fictional plot device which would warm the heart of many a super villain or Nazi scientist.
Using GMO’s as an example was a little hasty & less than precise, and also opens up the post to the flood of those whose mantra has become “No GMO’s! Ban the GMO’s,” while not realizing that throwing out that bathwater would also eliminate the family dog, dairy cows, and corn.

PhabGuy May 2, 2014 at 4:08 PM

I was hoping E. M. Forster’s easy-to-read short novel “The Machine Stops” (1909) made the list but it didn’t. “The Machine Stops” is a chillingly accurate portrait of today’s Internet-connected, Facebook-addicted world which I believe was inspired by then-recent inventions such as the telephone. Forster’s dystopia envisions a world in which the Earth is supposedly uninhabitable so no one goes outdoors. Everyone lives in one-room “cells” and they communicate almost exclusively through video conferences using remarkably iPad-like tablets. The world is run by machinery that no one understands.

I have no idea how Forster could have come up with this. “The Machine Stops”, as far as I know, was his only foray into science fiction.

Torbjorn Larsson OM May 2, 2014 at 5:26 PM

This is ripe for pareidolia, e.g. the two moons of Mars/Swift and decriminalization of marijuana/Brunner.

Else the area is part extrapolation, game playing computers/Kurzweil (and note that algorithms already draw or beat the best humans in similar games such as draughts), part self-fulfilling, teleportation/quantum teleportation.

Suggestions:

I would add the forgotten Star Trek stuff: communicators vs cell phones, tricorders vs handheld analysers, teleportation vs quantum teleportation, medical analysers vs tomographs, phasers vs tasers/battleship lasers.

The water bed entry is repeating the flight simulator text.

squidgeny May 3, 2014 at 4:43 AM

Some are definitely more interesting than others. The “Mars has two moons” is literally a guess, and isn’t even an achievement of humanity so seems rather misplaced on this list.

What I’d be more interested in is how these techs were envisioned in their fictions and how close they are to our current reality of them. I’d love to know more about Bellamy’s idea of credit cards, for example.

Also, this info-graphic seems to imply color-coding (blue = prediction, green = influence) but I doubt Brunner influenced the economic struggles of Detroit, and some of the others seem highly unlikely too.

retepaskab May 3, 2014 at 1:56 AM

Roadside Picnic by Strugatsky brothers, 1971: The Zone
Chernobyl, Exclusion Zone: 1986

kkt May 3, 2014 at 11:24 AM

In Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon, they did launch from Florida, but it wasn’t in a rocketship. The capsule was launched from a cannon and traveled without course corrections.

MikeG1776 May 3, 2014 at 11:38 AM

You forget “Forbidden Planet”. A great movie done around 1950. Flat screed TV, PDA, Robby the robot, etc. Interesting that they didn’t have a remote for the TV.

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