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How Has Science-Fiction Been Wrong?

Despite its imaginative and visionary nature, science-fiction has often been proven wrong in its predictions of future technology and our world. I'm always reminded of one of my favourite sci-fi books set in the cyberpunk genre, Neuromancer, by William Gibson (published 1984). In Neuromancer, Gibson writes about his characters jacking-in as a way to interface with the technology (ports, or sockets, are implanted into the body, while jacks, or cables, are used to connect the body to a computer).


Pretty ground-breaking, right? Well, yes it was back in the 1980s.


In the present day, in our digital wireless age, we have swiftly leaped right over the necessity for ports and jacks and other physical hardware that made Neuromancer so impactful. If Gibson was writing his novel today, I wonder if he would have implants in the body that could wirelessly connect to computer networks, no need for ports or jacks.


Anyway, here are a few other ways that sci-fi has been wrong about the present:


Flying Cars

You could also include the hoverboard from Back to the Future here, too. For decades, sci-fi envisioned a world filled with flying cars, where people could navigate the skies for everyday transportation.


While some prototypes and concepts of flying vehicles exist today, they are far from being commonplace. The challenges of infrastructure, safety and energy efficiency have proven to be significant obstacles.


Time Travel

Time travel has been a recurring theme in sci-fi, captivating us with the idea of journeying to the past or future (frankly, the idea of travelling to the past and future terrifies me so I don't think I'd use a time machine even if I could).


However, to date, no scientific evidence or theoretical framework supports the possibility of time travel as depicted in science-fiction. The laws of physics, as we currently understand them, present numerous paradoxes and inconsistencies in the concept.


There is an interesting video where Brian Cox explains why time travels in one direction, so even if we could build a time machine, chances are we'd only be able to go one-way.


Aliens and Extraterrestrial Life

This is a big one. I can talk about aliens from my own perspective, which is that we have no true, hard evidence that aliens have come to Earth, but that doesn't mean it's not possible. By which I mean, if we have no evidence either way, how do we really know?


One caveat to this though is the fact that, if aliens have indeed been among us for decades, there would have to be a point for them to use their technology and resources to travel all this way. It's certainly not that their own resources are limited - if they were, they'd have taken everything from us by now. So what's the point in them coming here if they are so far advanced compared to us?


And I can't buy that they're simply curious about us, either. Human biology and the body is something that we humans can already understand and have understood for hundreds of years. Do you really think aliens would come all this way just to pluck poor old Jed off his farm in the middle of nowhere and stick a probe up his butt? What's the point? Seems a bit silly to me. A bit overkill.


I'm not saying aliens don't exist. They probably do. But I don't think they're here.


Not yet, anyway.


Science fiction has often depicted encounters with intelligent extraterrestrial life as a regular occurrence. While the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) continues, we have yet to discover concrete evidence of sentient life beyond Earth. The vastness of the universe and the challenges of interstellar travel make alien encounters highly speculative.


Artificial Intelligence

AI is part the current discourse in nearly all fields at the moment. But it's not quite at the stage of having benevolent companion robots or malevolent mechanised overlords. Thank god.


While AI has made significant advancements, particularly in narrow domains like image recognition and natural language processing, we're (apparently) still far from achieving general artificial intelligence (AGI) or superintelligent machines that exhibit human-level cognition.


Colonization of Other Planets

This always takes me to Total Recall first and foremost. It was a huge movie from my childhood and I still love the original. Then came Ray Bradbury into my reading sphere and that just solidified my love of the idea of building human colonies on Mars. Hey, it's not too far away from where we are now.


While space agencies are actively exploring Mars and planning future missions to the Moon and beyond, establishing permanent colonies on other celestial bodies remains a formidable technological and logistical challenge.


Faster-than-Light (FTL) Travel

Many science-fiction works feature faster-than-light travel as a means to explore distant galaxies and star systems. However, our current understanding of physics, including Einstein's theory of relativity, suggests that surpassing the speed of light is impossible due to the massive amounts of energy required and the resulting time dilation effects.


Predicting Societal and Cultural Shifts

Sci-fi often portrays future societies and cultural norms, attempting to predict how they might evolve. While certain elements of social change and cultural shifts have been accurately anticipated, science-fiction often fails to capture the full complexity and unpredictability of societal dynamics, and the specifics of future developments can be significantly different from the projections.


Despite these inaccuracies, the value of sci-fi lies not only in its predictive power but also in its ability to inspire and provoke critical thinking. While some concepts may have proven implausible for the current time, the genre continues to stimulate our imagination and explore ethical dilemmas.


Can you think of any other ways that sci-fi has been wrong about the present day? Drop them in a comment below.

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