Can science fiction writers predict our future?

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1. Brave new worlds

I adore science fiction. A good story can transport readers to strange new lands, force us to consider our humanity and introduce us to incredible new technology.

But how much of what we read about fantastical inventions and life changing technology could actually become a reality?

One of the best known sci-fi authors, HG Wells, was born 150 years ago this year. He wrote with incredible foresight and many of his predictions came true - from the moon landings to warfare.

2. You read it here first

How have science fiction writers successfully predicted the future? Tap or click below to find out.

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3. What are we still waiting for?

While many predictions have come true, we’re still not living in the futuristic world early 20th Century writers might have imagined.

One prediction that didn’t quite materialise is the three course meal in pill form, originating at Chicago’s 1893 World Fair and featuring in the 1930 film Just Imagine.

But in the US, meal replacement drink Soylent gained over $3m in crowdfunding in 2014. The drink’s makers claim it contains all the right nutritional elements for a healthy diet. The name Soylent even has its roots in sci-fi, from Harry Harrison's 1966 novel Make Room! Make Room!.

The ubiquitous flying car is sadly not with us just quite yet either, though a few small companies are working on it. Currently, the motor industry prefers to focus on driverless cars.

As for travelling in space, Isaac Asimov’s 1941 tale Runaround imagined we’d be living and working on Mercury by 2015. But this vision, along with HG Wells’ idea of time and interplanetary travel is still the stuff of fantasy.

But there has been some progress. We reached the moon, our space probes have gone much further, and some of us even live in orbit on the International Space Station. Meanwhile, the developing sub-orbital space tourism industry may yet make the stars more accessible to those who have the cash.

4. Imagining the future

How can authors make successful predictions?

Science fiction is perhaps more about the present than the future. It’s a tool that allows authors to explore current social or environmental issues.

And when an author takes matters which are grounded in reality, they can imagine how they might develop, and whether the outcome may or may not be for the better.

In addition, a little knowledge of current technological advances or scientific experimentation can also provide a realistic foundation for otherwise outlandish ideas. This was the case with engineer and author Robert A. Heinlein, who predicted various gadgets including, in his novel Assignment in Eternity, the mobile phone.

Science fiction stories frequently feature incredible new technologies, which are then read by people who are inspired to create them.

William Gibson influenced generations of computer programmers with his 1984 novel Neuromancer, which talks of ‘cyberspace’, a kind of virtual online environment in which people could immerse themselves, meet others, work and even buy things.

While some ideas from science fiction may never become a reality, much of what we’ve read has in time become very familiar indeed.

5. HG Wells' predictions

His time machine may not be with us just yet, but what did HG Wells successfully predict?

World War Two

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World War Two

Six years before it began in 1939 Wells imagined the outbreak of a long war between Poland and Germany which drew in other nations.

Genetic engineering

Genetic engineering

Genetic engineering

In 1896’s The Island of Dr Moreau a scientist creates human-animal hybrids. Scientists these days can manipulate the genetics of animals and crops.

Automatic doors

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Automatic doors

1899’s The Sleeper Wakes contains the first description of the automatic door, though it rolls up, rather than sliding open to the side.