How Far Are We From Future Tech? Bridging The Gap Between Science Fiction And Reality

What do you think of when you hear the phrase “Future Tech” or “Science Fiction Technology?” Humanoid robots walking the streets? Genetic engineering? How about life in space?

Today we’re looking at science fiction technology that was once just a fantasy, that is now part of our daily life. We are also going to take a peek at some of our favorite sci-fi tech, and see how close it is to being a reality. So buckle up!

Credit Cards

Believe it or not, credit cards were first mentioned in science fiction. You might expect that the person who envisioned the credit card to be a genius businessman or bank executive of some sort, however the person who first developed the idea of the modern credit card system was a Utopian science fiction author Edward Bellamy. His novel, Looking Backward, made some very accurate descriptions about how the credit card system would currently work today, even down to the concept of one receipt for the store owner and one receipt for the consumer. His book, written in 1888, and the idea that you could simply take a card into a store, swipe it, and have the item paid for was, well, science fiction. During this time, “credit” only existed as a method for stores to allow certain buyers to purchase extra items.

… a credit card issued him with which he procures at the public storehouses, found in every community, whatever he desires whenever he desires it. This arrangement, you will see, totally obviates the necessity for business transactions of any sort between individuals and consumers.

Edward Bellamy, Looking Backward, 1888

Nuclear Power

Nuclear weapons are a staple story point in science fiction novels. Similar to “credit card”, the phrase “atomic bomb” predates the actual weapon, used in 1945. This phrase is first mentioned in H. G. WellsThe World Set Free, published in 1914, in which scientists make the discovery that radioactive decay implies potentially limitless energy locked inside of atomic particles. Robert A. Heinlein also wrote about atomic weapons in his 1940 book Solution Unsatisfactory, which poses radioactive dust as a weapon that the US develops to end World War II, however, the dust’s existence brings drastic changes into the postwar world. Cleve Cartmill predicted a chain-reaction-type nuclear bomb in his 1944 science fiction story Deadline, which led to the FBI showing up on his front porch, over concern there may have been a potential breach of security on the Manhattan Project.

Atomic War Pulp Magazine - First Issue - 1952
Atomic War Pulp Magazine – First Issue – 1952

Earbuds

In Ray Bradbury‘s Fahrenheit 451, earbuds were described for the first time. Mildred relies on little “seashells” to sleep. She puts them in her ears, and they constantly plays music, entertainment, news, and talk radio. They are described just like earbuds, but wireless, and Bradbury refers to them as Seashells.

“The little mosquito-delicate dancing hum in the air, the electrical murmur of a hidden wasp snug in its special pink warm nest. The music was almost loud enough so he could follow the tune. And in her ears the little Seashells, the timble radios tamped tight, and an electronic ocean of sound, of music and talk and music and talk coming in, coming on on the shore of her unsleeping mind.” -Farenheight 451

Mobile Phones

Inspired by Captain Kirk’s hand-held Starfleet communicator on Star Trek, Martin Cooper, decided to develop a hand-held mobile phone. We have seen many improvements to the cell phone since Cooper’s first prototype in 1973 which weighed two and a half pounds, and there are now a registered 6.8 billion cell phone subscriptions active.

We have discussed a few things that science fiction has inspired in the past. Let’s check out the future.

Genetic Modification In Humans

Is Genetic Engineering still something only of science fiction? “Genetic engineering” or “Genetic modification” is the process of adding or modifying DNA to an organism to bring about a change to the structure and nature of genes, using techniques like molecular cloning and transformation. This is currently being done in food (often known as GMOs), has been successfully tested in animals, and is now the discussion for human genetic modification is open.

Glofish, the patented and trademarked brand of genetically modified fluorescent fish, was one of the first genetically modified animals to become publicly available.
Glofish, the patented and trademarked brand of genetically modified fluorescent fish, was one of the first genetically modified animals to become publicly available.

There are many important things to consider when discussing all the possibilities genetic engineering could bring. People from all different fields, faiths and backgrounds weigh in on this issue, with many ideas and concerns. The standstill to actually begin trials is more on a moral level than scientific level.

Some amazing scientific leaps could be made through genetic engineering, such as eradicating deadly diseases. Genetic mutations would be able to replace bad genes with correctly functioning copies. For instance, Tay-Sachs, a terrible and incurable disease could be completely wiped out with the help of selective genetic engineering. Genetic engineering could potentially get rid of all diseases in unborn children. There are illnesses that doctors can foresee your child will suffer from in the womb, such as Down’s Syndrome and sickle cell disease. Genetic Engineering would help all babies be born strong and healthy, and could stop the passing on of hereditary diseases such as Huntington’s disease, which children have a 50-percent chance of developing and passing along to their own children if one of their parents has it. Genetic Modification could also exponentially increase the human lifespan. Once the full understanding of genetics and aging is realized, it may be possible to slow down some of the cellular mechanisms that lead to our body’s degeneration.

However, there are some major concerns with the topic of genetic modification in humans as well. Scientist do not know everything about the way a human body functions yet, and so making changes on a cellular level may lead to genetic defects. What if we wipe out one disease, only to introduce something even more deadly? If scientists genetically engineer babies in the womb, there is still a possibility that this could lead to miscarriage, stillbirth or a premature birth. The human body is so complicated that scientists simply cannot account for everything that could go wrong. Also, is genetic engineering right? Many people believe it is like playing God. Besides religious objections, there are a number of ethical objections. If we eradicate all disease, this will lead to an overpopulation of the earth, according to some. Longer lifespans would also cause more social problems down the line. The most important question to ask with genetic engineering is, “will it go too far?” It could be used to stop diseases and give humans better quality of life, however, where does the research end? There has already been talk of “designer babies,” in which you are given the option to choose the hair color, eye color, height, intelligence, skill set, and sex of your child. Is this right and fair?

Writer Dinesh D’Souza states his position on this in a 2001 National Review Online article:

“If parents are able to remake a child’s genetic makeup, they are in a sense writing the genetic instructions that shape his entire life. If my parents give me blue eyes instead of brown eyes, if they make me tall instead of medium height, if they choose a passive over an aggressive personality, their choices will have a direct, lifelong effect on me.”

There is a lot to think about when it comes to the possibilities of genetic engineering in the future. I don’t think you’ll be needing to worry about “clones” like in The Island showing up at your door, but as science advances, possibilities in genetic engineering become a real issue, with both pros and cons needing to be heartily examined.

Life in Space

‘The way species get endangered and wiped out is by being dependent on a limited environment. Humanity started in East Africa and now live on literally every continent – even Antarctica – albeit for a small time. We live in snow, jungle, deserts, savannahas, forests; we have spread out about as far as we can spread out, and the next step is to move to space.’ – Dr. Al Globus

Dr. Al Globus, a contractor at NASA, believes humanity may not be far from having the technology to build human colonies in space. The International Space Station currently houses six astronauts at a time, ideally a space colony would have hundreds or even thousands of people on board. Many designs of a “space settlement” rely on a central cylinder, around which is a rotating living space. The force of rotation provides artificial gravity for the humans on board.

a habitat rotating around the central cylinder
a habitat rotating around the central cylinder

Dr. Globus believes the space colony could be potentially feasible by the end the century, if major national disasters are avoided. However a number of important obstacles that would need to be overcome first, before these settlements would be able to be built. First of all, the cost of getting rockets to space is too high to ferry hundreds or thousands of people up to the stars. The cost of rockets, fuel, and getting to space must decrease. Secondly, there needs to be a way that the space colony can be self-sufficient, using indoor farms and solar energy. This will also be very, very expensive, but the price could be paid either through “space tourism” or by all the nations of the world banding together to focus on the common goal of getting to the stars.

So life in space may not be in the cards for us, but perhaps for our children. I guess we’ll have to wait and see!

Sentient Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence. How could we discuss future tech without talking about AI?

Humans have always been wondering about sentient robots. Will robots ever get smarter than humans? Will they decide to wipe us off the map? Maybe they are already here, like Cylons from Battlestar Galactica, and we just haven’t noticed them yet!

All of this has happened before, all of this will happen again.

If you worry about artificial intelligence taking over the world, you’re in good company. Speaking at the Zeitgeist 2015 conference in London, Steven Hawking said:

“Computers will overtake humans with AI at some within the next 100 years. When that happens, we need to make sure the computers have goals aligned with ours.”

Elon Musk, inventor of Tesla Motors, agreed with him and had this to say:

However, some people disagree, for example, in Anil Ananthaswamy’s New Scientist article titled “Sentient Robots? Not Possible If You Do The Maths” He argues that robots will never be sentient, according to a study of a mathematical model of how our brains create consciousness.

However, there’s no doubt that future AI will have the ability to do great damage. For example, an unconstrained virus spreading throughout the whole internet, or machines programmed to set off atomic weapons, and so on. Some people have other worries, like artificial intelligence stealing our jobs. In Martin Ford’s book “Rise of the Robots” he talks about a jobless future where AI have overhauled the economy.

I see the advances happening in technology and it’s becoming evident that computers, machines, robots, and algorithms are going to be able to do most of the routine, repetitive types of jobs. That’s the essence of what machine learning is all about. What types of jobs are on some level fundamentally predictable? A lot of different skill levels fall into that category. It’s not just about lower-skilled jobs either. People with college degrees, even professional degrees, people like lawyers are doing things that ultimately are predictable. A lot of those jobs are going to be susceptible over time.

So what does our future look like with artificial intelligence? We build more and more advanced AI every day.

One of the world’s most lifelike androids was built by Japanese designer Hiroshi Ishiguroand is named Geminoid F. She can smile, blink, furrow her brows, talk and even sing. She is able to mimic human expressions due to the 12 motorized actuators in her face, and she was so convincing she was cast as an actress in a Tokyo play.

Gemenoid F
Gemenoid F

With recent technological as well as automotive advances, Uber, Google, Tesla and more have all been working on self-piloting cars. The AI that drives these vehicles will work alongside with multiple sensors, radars, and lasers to drive the vehicle, accelerate when needed, brake at the right places and stop when the car arrives. These vehicles can spot objects as far as two football fields away and make calculated turns. AI cars have an advantage over human-driven ones as they will have a 360-degree view of the surroundings from the dome on top of the vehicle.

Google's Self-Driving Car
Google’s Self-Driving Car

Amazon is making use of AI technology in many of its warehouses in the U.S. where human and artificial intelligence work hand in hand to dispatch over 1.5 million packages each day. The need to deliver the right products to right customers in the fastest time has made way for artificial intelligence to come to the forefront in warehousing, logistics, and soon, delivery. Amazon is excited about their “Prime Air”, where they boast, “a delivery system from Amazon designed to safely get packages to customers in 30 minutes or less using unmanned aerial vehicles, also called drones. Prime Air has great potential to enhance the services we already provide to millions of customers by providing rapid parcel delivery that will also increase the overall safety and efficiency of the transportation system.”

So what does our future look like with advanced artificial intelligence? Will robot overlords overthrow us and take over? Will they take our jobs and enslave us? Only time will tell, I suppose. For now, I suppose I’ll enjoy my Amazon two day shipping. Thanks, robots!

Netflix Is Planning A ‘Lost In Space’ Reboot Next Year, And It Sounds Awesome

Look out, Sci-Fi Fans! Netflix is cooking up a reboot of Lost In Space, slated for a ten episode release in 2018.

The series will be starring Tony Stephens, of the show Black Sails, as John Robinson. It will be co-starring Molly Parker from House of Cards as Maureen, as well as Falling Skies actress Taylor Russell as Judy.

Don West, played by Ignacio Serricchio from Bones, has been re-imagined as a rough flyboy with a side job as a smuggler of exotic goods. Parker Posey, known for her role in Woody Allen’s Café Society, will be playing Dr. Smith in this 2018 remake.

The 2018 Lost in Space reboot is being produced by Legendary Television, and will be written by Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless, known for their movies Dracula Untold and Last Witch Hunter.

According to sources, this will stick closer to Irwin Allen’s original source material, but with a more modern feel. Here’s what Netflix’s Cindy Holland said in a statement:

“The original series so deftly captured both drama and comedy, and that made it very appealing to a broad audience,” “The current creative team’s reimagining of the series for Netflix is sure to appeal to both fans who fondly remember the original and to create a new generation of enthusiasts around the world.

What Do you think? Will this be a hit or miss for Netflix in 2018?

My Top 12 Sci-Fi Movie Picks of All Time

Science Fiction is my favorite genre of everything. Movies, books, formal attire. Its the best. Here are 12 Sci-Fi movies that are my absolute favorites. (I have excluded the Star Wars/Marvel Movies from this list, because they get enough hype already.) Let me know what you think!

Starship Troopers (1997)

This satirical comedy follows Johnny Rico, a young soldier in a futuristic military unit called the Mobile Infantry. Johnny’s military career progresses from recruit to officer, while in the midst of an galactic war between mankind and the insecticide species known as the “Arachnids.” This movie is hilarious, imaginative, and also just downright entertaining. A win in the comedy, sci-fi, and action genres all around.

Aliens (1986)

A sequel to the 1979 movie “Alien,”  This film follows Ripley for a second time, as she returns to the planet where her crew first encountered the Alien species. I like this movie only a little bit better than the original Alien, although the whole Alien anthology is definitely a work of art.

Predators (2010)

Royce, a mercenary, appears in an unidentifiable jungle, only to find that he and several other less-than-friendly people have been abducted, and set down on a planet which serves as a game reserve for two warring tribes of extraterrestrials. I really enjoyed this movie, I am a big Adrian Brody fan. I don’t think its as good as the original Predator with Schwarzenegger, but I would still call it my favorite. But once again, all the Predator films are great.

The Terminator (1984)

In the future, machines have all but taken over. With its only goal being to completely erase humanity from existence, Skynet, an Artificial Intelligence network, develops robot assassins called Terminators that outwardly appear human, to hunt down what is left of the surviving human race. John Connor starts the resistance to fight and defeat Skynet, and with a human victory imminent, the machines’ only choice is to send a Terminator back in time to kill John’s mother, Sarah. The Terminator movies are classics, amazing, the first of their kind. Both The Terminator and T2 are amazing films.

 Equilibrium (2002)

This movie follows John Preston, an enforcement officer in a future where both feelings and artistic expression are forbidden.To maintain order, citizen take daily injections of drugs to suppress their feelings. After John misses an injection, he experiences emotions for the first time, and begins to question his own morality and actions.

Minority Report (2002)

Set is Washington DC in the year 2054, the special police department of “precrime” apprehends criminals before they act, based upon foreknowledge provided by three psychics. This movie came out about the same time as Equilibrium, and they are along the same vein in both style and feel. I enjoy them both very much, as they remind me a lot of George Orwell’s 1984, one of my favorite books of all time.

Jurassic Park (1993)

The film is set on the Isla Nublar, where an eccentric millionaire and a team of genetic scientists have created a wildlife park of cloned dinosaurs. This movie is a classic, and everyone’s dream. Based on an amazing book, it is an amazing Sci-fi movie.

The Matrix (1999)

The Matrix depicts a terrible future in which perceived reality is actually a simulation called “the Matrix”, created by machines to subdue the human population. Neo learns the truth, and is pulled into a war with the machines. This is one of the first movies that drew me into the science fiction genre. What an incredible tale.

Twelve Monkeys (1996)

A deadly virus released in 1996 wipes out almost all of humanity, and forces survivors to live deep underground. In 2035, James Cole is selected for a mission, to be sent back in time to locate the original virus in order to help scientists develop a cure. This is an interesting movie, and it’s gritty and well done. Great action, sci-fi and mystery.

Moon (2009)

The film follows Sam Bell, an astronaut who experiences an identity crisis as he nears the end of his three-year solo mission mining helium-3 on the Moon. This is an interesting movie with an excellent plot. It can be slow at times, since it’s just the protagonist and his robot, but it’s an excellent work of science fiction overall.

Edge of Tomorrow/Live Die Repeat (2014)

The movie takes place in the year 2020, after Earth has been invaded by an alien species called the Mimics. Bill Cage is killed fighting the Mimics, but finds himself in a time loop that sends him back to the day before the battle begins each time he dies. I liked this movie, it was an interesting plot that I had never seen before, it was definitely a win in my book.

What did you think about my list? What would you have added or taken away?

 

Short Story: The Encounter

Sarah casually walks down the street, taking in the cool night air around her. She is whistling the song “Don’t worry be happy,” as she strolls, thankful it’s finally her weekend, and she won’t have to return to the resturant for two whole days. There’s no one on the roads, which isn’t that unusual, since it is 2am, but a little strange to see absolutely no one at all. No cars driving, no drunk man stumbling home from the nearest bar, not even that ugly, orange alley cat that usually sulks around begging for food.

 Only her, and the traffic lights slowly blinking orange like they always do after 9:30 in Casper. No one anywhere. All alone in the world. 

She shrugs, and continues to walk and whistle. She likes to be alone. She wouldnt talk to anyone anyway, so what’s it to her if there here or not. 

The road she usually takes is blocked off, so she turns down an unfamiliar sidestreet and began a walk down a long grey tunnel. She likes the tunnel, her song echoes and makes her feel less alone. Something makes her suddenly stop, her song ceasing and the whole world goes quiet with it.

 Everything seems strangely familiar, like she’s already done this. She looks around at the tunnel…Its the tunnel from her dream. She had been here before. More than once. She turns back to go a different way, out of the tunnel. This time she’ll escape. But when she looks back at the path she had taken to get to the tunnel, every single light, in the shops, in the street, and even the comforting blink of the orange caution lights, had gone dark. The only way forward is the tunnel. 

She doesn’t want to go in the tunnel. There has to be another way. This time she’ll figure it out.  She takes her phone out of her pocket and turns on the tiny flashlight, in an effort to navigate back through the darkness. In the beam of her flashlight she sees a 7-foot tall figure, bony, gaunt and utterly terrifying. It’s oversized head houses two gigantic black eyes and his pale grey skin reflects the beam of light back into her eyes. 

She screams and drops her phone, the world going dark as the being reaches out for her. 

There is a a loud feedback noise that comes from seemingly, the heavens, speaking in a horrible foreign tongue. “Begin the test again.”

Science Fiction Authors That Were(n’t) Ahead of Their Time

I love science fiction. Its why I play video games. Exploring new worlds, killing aliens, space travel, life on Mars, all the things that may or may not ever be possible to humankind right at my fingertips.

I ran the idea for my blog post of the day: “Sci-Fi Writers That Were Ahead of Their Time” past my husband this morning, and he told me that these authors weren’t AHEAD of their time, that they were ON time, and we wouldn’t have science fiction as it is today without them.

So here is my top four list of science fiction authors that were ON time, and we have sci-fi as we know it because of them:

Jules Verne: This popular author is most well-known for his stories “Journey to the Center of the Earth” and “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.” If you haven’t read these books, you have undoubtedly seen one of the numerous movie adaptations. The thing that I think is the most amazing about Jules Verne is that he lived in the late 1800’s, before any of the technology for the ideas in his books would have ever been imagined. He was just curious about what was under the sea, and inside of the earth.

HG Wells: Author of “The Invisible Man,” “War of the Worlds,” and “The First Men in the Moon,” his titles are slightly spooky and I’m sure pretty alarming at the time, before people had ever heard of anything like this! Giant aliens attacking the earth? An invisible man?

George Orwell: I’m not exactly sure if Orwell should be on this list, as I would probably say that his books are more political commentary than actual Science-Fiction. However, his book “1984” is an amazing and terrifying classic. Perhaps not the first of its kind, but I believe it had an influence on Science-Fiction, as well as popular and political culture. Some movies that carry a similar tone to his book are: “12 Monkeys,” “Blade Runner,” and “Total Recall,” not to mention Ray Bradbury wrote his classic story, “Fahrenheit 451,” only four years after Orwell’s “1984” was published, so Bradbury may well have been influenced by Orwell’s writing also.

Ray Bradbury: “Fahrenheit 451” and “The Martian Chronicles” are amazing full length books, descriptive and imaginative. The “Martian Chronicles,” written in a journal-like format, is an interesting story about a family’s life on Mars. My all-time favorite book by Bradbury is “The Illustrated Man.” This is a short story collection, based on a man’s enchanted tattoos. The unique idea is intriguing, and every sci-fi story within is captivating. Many people don’t like short story collections because they’re not detailed enough to get pulled into, but each story in this collection is unique and captivating from beginning to end.

Thinking about these creative men being the first to have the science fiction idea is astounding to me. Thank you for your work gentlemen, and creating my favorite genre as it is today.

What do you think? Who are some other great authors that made science fiction what it is today?