The Engineer's Notebook Blog

The Engineer's Notebook

The Engineer's Notebook is a shared blog for entries that don't fit into a specific CR4 blog. Topics may range from grammar to physics and could be research or or an individual's thoughts - like you'd jot down in a well-used notebook.

Previous in Blog: Four Ways Nitrogen Affects Your Shop   Next in Blog: Types of Lightning
Close
Close
Close
8 comments

Science Fiction and Technological Progression in the 20th Century - Part I

Posted October 04, 2010 12:01 AM by mcgratp45
Pathfinder Tags: future invention science fiction

Science fiction authors have certainly played their part in sowing the seeds of technological evolution. Concepts previously thought to be impossible often become reality because someone elaborated on and cultivated that particular idea in the non-fictitious realm. Ideas in fields such as biology, space exploration, and electrical engineering that once existed only in novels and on television are now today's reality. Due to the fact that taste in literature is subjective, I will go through a cross section of my personal favorite short stories and novels.

Aldous Huxley – 'Brave New World' (1932)

Predictions: High-Level Genetic Engineering, Anti-depressant Drugs

When the novel opens, the setting is the year 2945. The location is the Central London Hatchery, and it becomes known to the reader that this is a place that mass-produces children in test tubes. Mass-production is stressed as a main theme in this novel in all facets of life. Custom-made children are divided into classes, each class dictating a different level of intelligence, future career, etc. Although things are unlikely to progress to this extreme in real life, this novel is an excellent predictor of future genetic research, modification, and testing.

This novel was published shortly after the famous Frederick Griffith experiment in 1928. In this experiment, the microbiologist effectively showed that something was surviving a heat-killing process and causing viruses to reproduce (that 'something' would be narrowed down to DNA years later). He also showed that bacteria could transmit their own genetic information to other strains of bacteria. While science was certainly on its way to advanced biology, Huxley had to make some extreme leaps to develop the concepts in his novel.

Another running theme in the novel is a mind-altering drug known as 'soma.' This substance causes a feeling of euphoria and carelessness in the mind of the user, and is effectively used in the novel to control an entire population. While 'soma' was used for literary evil, the idea of drugs that affect the mind became effective in helping medical science treat psychiatric patients. Consequently, the first MAOI type anti-depressant did not hit the market until 1957 (Iproniazid) and the first SSRI type (Prozac) did not appear until the year 1987.

Mark Twain – 'From the 'London Times' of 1904' (1904)

Predictions: The Internet

Before computers and long-distance friendly phones became common household items, it would have been farfetched to imagine communication between oneself and another person on the other side of the globe taking place in a short time. The idea of one person having come up with the concept that it just might be easier if everything were connected electronically is not unimaginable. Many works of science fiction have imagined a vague existence of the Internet. However, this short story calls it out explicitly in the following passage:

"The scene now changes to Chicago. Time, the autumn of 1901. As soon as the Paris contract released the telelectroscope, it was delivered to public use, and was soon connected with the telephonic systems of the whole world. The improved 'limitless-distance' telephone was presently introduced, and the daily doings of the globe made visible to everybody, and audibly discussible, too, by witnesses separated by any number of leagues."

Other works of literature credited with the prediction of the Internet in its current state are William Gibson's 'Neuromancer' (1984) and John Brunner's 'The Shockwave Rider' (1975).

Ray Bradbury – 'Fahrenheit 451' (1951)

Predictions: Big Screen TV, Cell Phones, and Internet Addiction

Today, there are many modern devices that resemble those described by Bradbury in this classic Tale. The setting is in a generalized futuristic city located in America. The average person seems to enjoy driving fast cars, watching many hours of television a day, and devouring information fed to them via something called a "Seashell Radio" headset. This headset is worn inside the ear of the individual, and transmits data in real time (extremely similar to a cell phone).

Another device that is implemented into homes in this novel was the Parlor Wall, or TV Parlor. The Parlor Wall is a giant interactive television that takes up an entire wall in the living room of the main character. The Parlor Wall allows the viewer to interact with what they are watching, and physically become part of the show (e.g. 'choose your own adventure' on television). In this novel, we essentially see large sound systems, virtual reality, on-demand television, and three-dimensional color television. Many of these predictions are exaggerated and are not true to today's technology; however, with the introduction of holographic television, we begin to see traces of Bradbury's classic emerge today. Aside from his predictions of devices, Bradbury went a step beyond and predicted the behavior of future generations. He saw people becoming technologically dependent, and saw a multitude of issues that would arise if such a thing occurred.

References:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H._G._Wells

http://ezinearticles.com/?Fahrenheit-451-Paper&id=1115548

http://www.technovelgy.com/

http://www.ehow.com/about_5333401_history-antidepressant-drugs.html

Reply

Interested in this topic? By joining CR4 you can "subscribe" to
this discussion and receive notification when new comments are added.

Comments rated to be "almost" Good Answers:

Check out these comments that don't yet have enough votes to be "official" good answers and, if you agree with them, rate them!
Guru
Engineering Fields - Optical Engineering - Member Engineering Fields - Engineering Physics - Member Engineering Fields - Systems Engineering - Member

Join Date: Apr 2010
Location: Trantor
Posts: 5363
Good Answers: 646
#1

Re: Science Fiction and Technological Progression in the 20th Century - Part I

10/04/2010 8:45 AM

A chilling prediction by Bradbury in Fahrenheit 451 was the live video broadcast from helicopters of police pursuits. He realized that these, combined this with the addictive power of TV, would create a powerful police state where the viewers join in the pursuit.

We've seen this when viewers were glued to their TVs watching the 'OJ' Simpson pursuit, with some high-speed pursuits where truck drivers used their rigs to help the police catch 'bad guys', and with shows like 'America's Most Wanted' where viewers aided the FBI in identifying fugitives who had moved and were in hiding.

__________________
Whiskey, women -- and astrophysics. Because sometimes a problem can't be solved with just whiskey and women.
Reply
Guru
Engineering Fields - Instrumentation Engineering - New Member

Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: San Antonio, TX USA
Posts: 845
Good Answers: 28
#2

Re: Science Fiction and Technological Progression in the 20th Century - Part I

10/04/2010 10:19 AM

Let's not forget about this guy.

__________________
"Do not worry about your difficulties in Mathematics. I can assure you mine are still greater". - Albert Einstein
Reply Score 1 for Good Answer
Guru

Join Date: Oct 2007
Location: Tulare, CA
Posts: 1783
Good Answers: 35
#3

Re: Science Fiction and Technological Progression in the 20th Century - Part I

10/05/2010 10:59 AM

Science Fiction writers get their ideas from theories that physists have actually put down on paper themselves. The have a room at Jet Propulsion Laboratories just for the SciFi Authors to observe experiments and get new material. Much of what we've read in SciFi Novels are the result of rejected scientific theories some that were shelved for someone elses more acceptible ideas and so on. You can pretty well rest assured that any far fetched technological advancement you read in a scifi has been has gone through an actual scientist before it got into the hands of a sci fi author.

__________________
Why is there never enough time to do it right the first time but always enough time to do it over?
Reply
Anonymous Poster
#4
In reply to #3

Re: Science Fiction and Technological Progression in the 20th Century - Part I

10/05/2010 12:05 PM

You imply only scientists are capable of having valid predictions of future technology. I would disagree. I guess if you consider Leonardo da Vinci a scientist then his ideas went "through an actual scientist." He didn't write science fiction, but the sketches in his notebooks would have appeared as much to his fellow citizens. Even so, I don't think he was testing his ideas with some "scientist" of his day.

Just doing a search on the Internet, there doesn't appear to be many "survey" type books about prophecy, in general. But I remember reading a book as a teenager, entitled, "They Foresaw the Future," by Justine Glass. Also, during that period I read books about Edgar Cayce. His predictions are well documented. Some happened and some not. But the material is worth looking at, if one is inclined to study "prophecy." And foretelling future technology is just a branch of that subject.

Reply Off Topic (Score 5)
Guru

Join Date: Oct 2007
Location: Tulare, CA
Posts: 1783
Good Answers: 35
#5
In reply to #4

Re: Science Fiction and Technological Progression in the 20th Century - Part I

10/05/2010 12:34 PM

No, No. What I'm pointing out is where SciFi writers go to get their materials. I'm not say anyone can't come up with an original thought on their own. What I'm saying is a lot of information you read about in SciFi novels have actually been to the drawing board of some physisist and much of that information has actually been considered for actually application only to be scrapped for someone else's idea. Like one of Larry Nivens stories, they launch a space craft into space by detonating several nukelear blasts under a giant iron plate. That was actually considered for getting a man into space and he used it in one of his novels.

__________________
Why is there never enough time to do it right the first time but always enough time to do it over?
Reply Off Topic (Score 5)
Guru

Join Date: Oct 2007
Location: Transcendia
Posts: 2963
Good Answers: 93
#6
In reply to #5

Re: Science Fiction and Technological Progression in the 20th Century - Part I

10/07/2010 7:59 PM

My most successful short story as far as a paycheck, and the fact it was a magazine coverstory unique to the history of the mag, as being fiction with the facts straight, was based on extensive reading about espionage, and an article in Scientific American.

Really all writers of fiction need to read non fiction so as to create or portray the world more fully than even their own experiences.

P.S. I appreciated the link to the bit of history about George Orwell. A link here to the CR4 top ten Science Fiction movies would continue and expand the discussion over the CR4 long haul, if it wants one. -in my editorial type judgement, looking at the place as an interactive magazine...

__________________
You don't get wise because you got old, you get old because you were wise.
Reply
Active Contributor
United States - Member - New Member Engineering Fields - Electrical Engineering - New Member

Join Date: Jun 2010
Location: Troy, NY
Posts: 21
Good Answers: 1
#7
In reply to #6

Re: Science Fiction and Technological Progression in the 20th Century - Part I

10/08/2010 10:40 AM

Transcendian, that link would be much appreciated. I'd like to read it!

Reply
Guru

Join Date: Oct 2007
Location: Transcendia
Posts: 2963
Good Answers: 93
#8
In reply to #7

Re: Science Fiction and Technological Progression in the 20th Century - Part I

10/09/2010 7:21 PM

Title of the story published in Upstate Magazine is In This Medium Town. Don't know of it existing somewhere online, as it was published in 1985. Upstate Magazine was the Sunday Mag of the Democrat and Chronicle, of Rochester, New York. It was supplanted by Parade.

I originally wrote it with Espionage Magazine in mind, but they rejected it, and I sold it to Upstate, or really the editor, Melinda Meers. As it was not particularly in line with the Star Wars propaganda of the Reagan era, but based on facts. We may have been blackballed. The space shield is still to this day of dubious utility, though progress has been made, at incredible costs.

The turn towards cyberwar sabotage for buying time is apparently more pragmatic, though fraught with its own problems. Still it is more sensible to prevent the launching of WMDs, than attempting to shoot them down after they have been launched.

__________________
You don't get wise because you got old, you get old because you were wise.
Reply
Reply to Blog Entry 8 comments
Interested in this topic? By joining CR4 you can "subscribe" to
this discussion and receive notification when new comments are added.

Comments rated to be "almost" Good Answers:

Check out these comments that don't yet have enough votes to be "official" good answers and, if you agree with them, rate them!
Copy to Clipboard

Users who posted comments:

Anonymous Poster (1); Janissaries (2); mcgratp45 (1); RDGRNR (1); Transcendian (2); Usbport (1)

Previous in Blog: Four Ways Nitrogen Affects Your Shop   Next in Blog: Types of Lightning

Advertisement