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Future fails: 5 tech predictions sci-fi got wrong

Joel Willans Published by Joel Willans November 08, 2012

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Future fails: 5 tech predictions sci-fi got wrong

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250

Joel Willans Published by Joel Willans November 08, 2012

Science fiction has a remarkable record of predicting tomorrow's world. However, there's still some room for improvement.

Holograms, lasers, satellites, smartphones and hoverboards: if there’s anything that science-fiction has taught us, it’s the power of imagination to make our dreams come – wait! Hoverboards?

Back in 1989, Robert Zemeckis’s Back To The Future: Part II reckoned that, come 2015, the humble skateboard would be no more, and we’d all be zipping about, without wheels. above the ground. Well, clock’s still ticking on that one, and though Mattel claim to have a sort-of-hoverboard in development, it hasn’t hit the high street yet. While we wait, let’s look at five other unfulfilled sci-fi predictions

Cloned Dinosaurs

Okay, we’re not sure how this would benefit mankind, but we’ve been waiting to hear the real-life roar of a T-Rex since Jurassic Park stormed the box-office in 1993. Surely pterodactyls ought to be soaring around the Manhattan skyline by now? Sadly, Australian scientists say that although DNA strands could survive for up to 6.8 million years and remain readable for 1.5 million years, the last Dino went extinct about 65 million years ago – so the sums just don’t add up. But hey, at least we’ve had Dolly the sheep, right?

Moon Colonies

Not only are we not lounging on our space deck-chairs on the surface of the moon, squinting down at the distant Earth, but we haven’t even been back there since 1972! So much for Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Lathe of Heaven, Asimov’s The Gods Themselves, Wall-E and Moon, not to mention huge swathes of Arthur C. Clarke’s writing! Our extra-terrestrial frontiersmen may still be grounded, but NASA’s right now got the unmanned Mars Curiosity rover uncovering all the Red Planet’s secrets – so maybe one day, we’ll all be Martians instead of Moon Men.

Teleportation

Star Trek has much to answer for, but the primary culprit is this: how come we still can’t zap ourselves from A to B? We’ve seen it in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Doctor Who, Stargate, Logan’s Run, and, perhaps most gruesomely, The Fly – but, in reality, scientists say that the most we can hope for is the teleportation of particles and information. China’s planning to launch a quantum teleportation satellite in 2016 to test this out. Now, that is pretty exciting, but in the meantime, it’s back to the bus-stop for us…

Nuclear Apocalypse

On the bright side, science-fiction has more than once foretold the nasty end of our cosy modern age due to some catastrophic nuclear holocaust. La Jetée, The Road, Blade Runner, The Hunger Games – it’s a long and growing list by a collection of rather pessimistic writers and directors. And yet, here we are, nearing the end of 2012, still more or less intact! We might not have robotic servants, but we haven’t blown ourselves sky-high. Phew!

Garbage Fuel

As well as hoverboards, Back To The Future (Part III, this time) suggested we’d solve both our landfill and our fuel problems in one convenient stroke by using our trash to power our equipment! Well, while this one isn’t quite as unrealistic as the T-Rex cloning effort, we’re not there yet. Scientists are working on thermo-chemical and fermentation processes to turn medical, radioactive, industrial, and municipal waste into fuel that could replace petrochemical products – and British Airways are looking into turning waste into jet-fuel! So perhaps Doc Brown wasn’t all wrong…

 

Clearly, predicting the future is a risky business even for writers who make it there business to do just that. If you think you can do a better job, why not dust off your crystal ball and let us know your predictions for the 21st century.

Image credit: Lee Jordon

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