Jules Verne was prescient in his novels 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and From the Earth to the Moon. In hindsight, it’s tempting for pundits to point out how his scheme of firing a cannon at the moon was laughable, but it is the concepts not the particulars that are important. His recognition of the need to offset the violent acceleration of a cannon shot with collapsible boards separated by baffles of water may be quaint and almost steam-punk Victorian in its notions, but his vision to reach out toward the stars was correct in every respect.
Over Christmas, I got hold of Explorers, a video tribute to Jules Verne by Buzz Aldrin and James Cameron. Although the video doesn’t explore as much of Verne’s vision as I would have liked, it does highlight that Buzz Aldrin, who, along with Neil Armstrong, landed on the moon, and James Cameron, the film maker that personally explored the sunken wreck of the Titanic, both share the same vision as Jules Verne.
Perhaps the most overt example of this in the past generation has been TV shows like Star Trek, with it’s communicators pre-empting the mobile phones of today, and its non-intrusive medical scans being a precursor to the CAT scans and PET scans of today. It seems, we are boldly going where science fiction has gone before.
I’d go so far as to say not only has science fiction predicted and anticipated the future, it has changed the future. The case in point here, being, George Orwell’s 1984. In our mostly benign, modern western world, it is easy to forget the overwhelming threat posed by fascism and communism after the Second World War. These were very real threats in 1948 when Orwell inverted the decades to come up with 1984.
With bidirectional communication between individual homes and the state police, the advent of electronic surveillance was anticipated with the horrifying recognition of what Adolph Hitler and Joseph Stalin could have accomplished if they’d lived just a few decades later.
Orwell’s publication of a dystopian future in 1948 ensured 1984 never came to pass. Concepts like newspeak and Big Brother became seared into the public conscience and the free world has kept its politicians accountable, avoiding all Orwell feared.
And so, in the best traditions of science fiction anticipating the future, Matthew Mather has brought together a raggedy band of degenerate cyborgs intent on… oh, wait, they’re a bunch of science fiction authors, but the effect is the same, they’re intent on looking forward and anticipating Phuture News.
Phuture News is an experiment in social intelligence where anyone can propose a potential future story and then, in an example of crowd sourcing, readers are invited to vote on the likelihood and timing of that future story. Although some of the stories are humorous, like Justin Bieber becoming President of the United States in 2053, Ronald Regan accomplished pretty much the same thing in his generation, so it’s not as far fetched as it may at first seem.
I’ve thrown a few stories into the mix, looking at them as micro fiction. To my surprise, in thinking about these concepts I’ve realised that they’re an extension of viable current thinking, asking the question ‘what if?’ Like Jules Verne and his moon cannon, I doubt any of the stories on this site will actually come true as written, but the concepts underlying them may very well anticipate future progress.
If you haven’t checked out phuture news, you should.