Which Science Fiction Visions of the World Tomorrow Will Come Closest to the Actual Future?

Justin Swanton

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#41
To answer the poster's question means looking at two factors: human social order and technology.

Starting with technology, any SF vision that sees a future world pretty much as advanced as the present one is the most on the money. Macrotechnology (power and transport) hit a brick wall decades ago. Personal transport technology, a.k.a. the motor car is at a dead end. Public transport ditto: its ultimate achievement, the commercial airliner, has not - in terms of speed for cost - advanced an inch since the 1960s. Energy production is exactly where it was in the mid last century: coal, oil, HEP, wind, solar and nuclear. We cannot get power any cheaper or any easier.

Microtechnology (computing power) is also hitting its brick wall. CPU's can't get any faster and the old double-computing-speed-every-18-months benchmark is history.

Biotechnology had its inbuilt limits from day one as it means tinkering with an incredibly complex bio-programming language that we don't begin to understand even if we can map it.

So, yeah, from the POV of technology a world pretty much like this one is what I would expect.

The human social order is more interesting. The Western social model built on classical liberalism is breaking down, evidenced by the increasing polarisation of people into incompatible groups (which all surfaced at Trump's election). The old moral norms which governed societal behaviour are steadily disappearing and so far nothing has appeared that looks like it can replace them. With the individual as an absolute, possessed of a growing list of human rights which are not channelled by any human duties, the committment to the social good is fading fast. Presuming nothing happens to alter this trajectory, future society will be either anarchy or dictatorship - dictatorship, as force will be the only thing left that can keep people in line.

So something dystopian with authoritarian overtones a la 1984 looks pretty accurate to me.
 
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Joshua Jones

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#42
To answer the poster's question means looking at two factors: human social order and technology.

Starting with technology, any SF vision that sees a future world pretty much as advanced as the present one is the most on the money. Macrotechnology (power and transport) hit a brick wall decades ago. Personal transport technology, a.k.a. the motor car is at a dead end. Public transport ditto: its ultimate achievement, the commercial airliner, has not - in terms of speed for cost - advanced an inch since the 1960s. Energy production is exactly where it was in the mid last century: coal, oil, HEP, wind, solar and nuclear. We cannot get power any cheaper or any easier.

Microtechnology (computing power) is also hitting its brick wall. CPU's can't get any faster and the old double-computing-speed-every-18-months benchmark is history.

Biotechnology had its inbuilt limits from day one as it means tinkering with an incredibly complex bio-programming language that we don't begin to understand even if we can map it.

So, yeah, from the POV of technology a world pretty much like this one is what I would expect.

The human social order is more interesting. The Western social model built on classical liberalism is breaking down, evidenced by the increasing polarisation of people into incompatible groups. The old moral norms which governed societal behaviour are steadily disappearing and so far nothing has appeared that looks like it can replace them. With the individual as an absolute, possessed of a growing list of rights which are not tempered by any duties, the committment to the social good is fading fast. Presuming nothing happens to alter this trajectory, future society will be either anarchy or dictatorship - dictatorship, as force will be the only thing left that can keep people in line.

So something dystopian with authoritarian overtones a la 1984 looks pretty accurate to me.
Not a bad assessment, although it is possible that the frame of reference is too small. 58 years (how long it has been since you note an advancement in public transportation) is a drop in the bucket of human history, and while it is true that technological progress has slowed quite a bit in recent years, this does not mean that it has completely stagnated or has no possible future growth. We still haven't mastered fusion, which could well supply a nearly limitless supply of energy from hydrogen. We also haven't mastered quantum computing, which can move the limits of processing power significantly, though not infinitely. Then, of course, there is commercially accessible spaceflight. I suspect we may have already had some of these if we stopped investing so much money and time creating toys like smart phones and gaming, and focused those resources on other tech, but that is another rant...

Spaceflight excepted, I really don't see these altering society much, though. What typically does change society, though, is aggression. That is what I will suspect will happen to Western Civilization; we will face an existential threat and either be forced to suspend our individualism, or we will perish.
 

Justin Swanton

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#43
Not a bad assessment, although it is possible that the frame of reference is too small. 58 years (how long it has been since you note an advancement in public transportation) is a drop in the bucket of human history, and while it is true that technological progress has slowed quite a bit in recent years, this does not mean that it has completely stagnated or has no possible future growth. We still haven't mastered fusion, which could well supply a nearly limitless supply of energy from hydrogen. We also haven't mastered quantum computing, which can move the limits of processing power significantly, though not infinitely. Then, of course, there is commercially accessible spaceflight. I suspect we may have already had some of these if we stopped investing so much money and time creating toys like smart phones and gaming, and focused those resources on other tech, but that is another rant...

Spaceflight excepted, I really don't see these altering society much, though. What typically does change society, though, is aggression. That is what I will suspect will happen to Western Civilization; we will face an existential threat and either be forced to suspend our individualism, or we will perish.
My own take is that technological development has natural limits that no amount of ingenuity can overcome. I state it as a law: the further you try to push a line of technological development the more difficult and expensive it becomes. This law operates irrespective of the ingenuity of the solutions dreamed up to overcome the practical problems.

Take transport. A human being, with zero technological assistance, can walk 6km/h or run about 20km/h. One man can tame a horse and double that speed. Many more men are needed to create an industrial complex that makes it possible to work with steel, rubber and other materials, and extract and refine oil, permitting a couple of men to create an engine that powers a vehicle - the motor car - that in its original form costs the earth and can't move very fast. Many more men working together in an assembly-line factory can make a Model T that is low on petrol consumption, reliable, can go 70km/h and costs about US$2000 in contemporary money. In terms of speed for cost that's about as good as a car can get (with the possible exception of the Tata Nano which costs about the same, is less reliable, has the same petrol consumption but can go at 100km/h).

Then you get the plane. It's about as easy to build a basic flying machine as it is to build a car, but to build a flying machine that can travel at 900km/h for several thousand miles takes a lot of time, effort and money and must be used for group transport as it is just way too expensive to make smaller versions of it for private use (excepting multimillionaires of course).

Then the space ship. Space travel was always going to be hugely expensive no matter what you do, and the same technology that put Yuri Gagarin into orbit is still used now to ferry astronauts to the ISS - at about the same cost. Elon Musk's Falcons do not actually represent any significant progress in technology. The reusable first stage is cute but it's an old idea, tested twenty years ago, and it's not a real saving as you lose about half your potential payload capacity and you can't reuse a rocket very often in any case. There is simply no way of making spaceflight cheap enough for commercial travel. Musk's BFR is in the same category as his Mars city and Hyperloop - good for CG artist's renderings and that's about it.
 

Joshua Jones

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#44
My own take is that technological development has natural limits that no amount of ingenuity can overcome. I state it as a law: the further you try to push a line of technological development the more difficult and expensive it becomes. This law operates irrespective of the ingenuity of the solutions dreamed up to overcome the practical problems.

Take transport. A human being, with zero technological assistance, can walk 6km/h or run about 20km/h. One man can tame a horse and double that speed. Many more men are needed to create an industrial complex that makes it possible to work with steel, rubber and other materials, and extract and refine oil, permitting a couple of men to create an engine that powers a vehicle - the motor car - that in its original form costs the earth and can't move very fast. Many more men working together in an assembly-line factory can make a Model T that is low on petrol consumption, reliable, can go 70km/h and costs about US$2000 in contemporary money. In terms of speed for cost that's about as good as a car can get (with the possible exception of the Tata Nano which costs about the same, is less reliable, has the same petrol consumption but can go at 100km/h).

Then you get the plane. It's about as easy to build a basic flying machine as it is to build a car, but to build a flying machine that can travel at 900km/h for several thousand miles takes a lot of time, effort and money and must be used for group transport as it is just way too expensive to make smaller versions of it for private use (excepting multimillionaires of course).

Then the space ship. Space travel was always going to be hugely expensive no matter what you do, and the same technology that put Yuri Gagarin into orbit is still used now to ferry astronauts to the ISS - at about the same cost. Elon Musk's Falcons do not actually represent any significant progress in technology. The reusable first stage is cute but it's an old idea, tested twenty years ago, and it's not a real saving as you lose about half your potential payload capacity and you can't reuse a rocket very often in any case. There is simply no way of making spaceflight cheap enough for commercial travel. Musk's BFR is in the same category as his Mars city and Hyperloop - good for CG artist's renderings and that's about it.
I don't disagree; there most certainly are limits to types of technology, and economic considerations are not the least of these. My only point is the wall may be a little further back than where we are now, but I don't see massive cultural changes from this unless we become a spacefaring species.
 

Mirannan

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#45
To answer the poster's question means looking at two factors: human social order and technology.

Starting with technology, any SF vision that sees a future world pretty much as advanced as the present one is the most on the money. Macrotechnology (power and transport) hit a brick wall decades ago. Personal transport technology, a.k.a. the motor car is at a dead end. Public transport ditto: its ultimate achievement, the commercial airliner, has not - in terms of speed for cost - advanced an inch since the 1960s. Energy production is exactly where it was in the mid last century: coal, oil, HEP, wind, solar and nuclear. We cannot get power any cheaper or any easier.

Microtechnology (computing power) is also hitting its brick wall. CPU's can't get any faster and the old double-computing-speed-every-18-months benchmark is history.

Biotechnology had its inbuilt limits from day one as it means tinkering with an incredibly complex bio-programming language that we don't begin to understand even if we can map it.

So, yeah, from the POV of technology a world pretty much like this one is what I would expect.

The human social order is more interesting. The Western social model built on classical liberalism is breaking down, evidenced by the increasing polarisation of people into incompatible groups (which all surfaced at Trump's election). The old moral norms which governed societal behaviour are steadily disappearing and so far nothing has appeared that looks like it can replace them. With the individual as an absolute, possessed of a growing list of human rights which are not channelled by any human duties, the committment to the social good is fading fast. Presuming nothing happens to alter this trajectory, future society will be either anarchy or dictatorship - dictatorship, as force will be the only thing left that can keep people in line.

So something dystopian with authoritarian overtones a la 1984 looks pretty accurate to me.
There are several types of failure in the game of trying to predict the future, and (I'm not trying to be condescending here) your post displays at least one of them being failure of imagination and at least one other failure; being flat-out wrong.

Personal transport first; an obvious advance starting right now (or maybe a year or two ago) is AI for cars - which gets rid of many problems with cars as a byproduct. Space for car parking goes away as a problem; there is no reason why an AI car can't go away once you've finished with it, and for that matter AI cars make it pointless for a city dweller to own a car at all. And driverless cars neatly remove many of the problems with public transport, as well.

For long-distance public transport, at least over medium range, maglev is up-and-coming. I would just love it if someone with vision announced that the HS2 line in Britain was going to be cancelled and replaced with maglev. Why maglev? Well, it is capable of 450kph and has the advantage that it can come right into city centres, as opposed to airliners where it often takes longer to get to and from airports (and get through security!) than the flight takes. And the Japanese (who seem to be first with so many things) have made it work.

And airliners are in fact less costly than they were, in real terms. The main reason is much more fuel-efficient engines.

Energy production? Well; OTEC and fusion (of types not currently being funded for some reason, such as DPF) are just two of the possibilities.

Computing? Well, nanotube transistors and quantum computing coming right up!

The real point is that technologies always display an S-curve of innovation. What happens at the top of the S-curve is that something completely different replaces a technology when its potential for innovation runs out. Witness some examples; jet engines replacing piston engines in the air, valves being replaced by transistors and them being replaced by integrated circuits, tube TVs being replaced by flatscreens based on LCDs and later LEDs, incandescent lights being replaced by LEDs...

And on top of all that, the immense possibilities of nanotech - which is already in use in a limited way.
 
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#46
My own take is that technological development has natural limits that no amount of ingenuity can overcome. I state it as a law: the further you try to push a line of technological development the more difficult and expensive it becomes. This law operates irrespective of the ingenuity of the solutions dreamed up to overcome the practical problems.

Take transport. A human being, with zero technological assistance, can walk 6km/h or run about 20km/h. One man can tame a horse and double that speed. Many more men are needed to create an industrial complex that makes it possible to work with steel, rubber and other materials, and extract and refine oil, permitting a couple of men to create an engine that powers a vehicle - the motor car - that in its original form costs the earth and can't move very fast. Many more men working together in an assembly-line factory can make a Model T that is low on petrol consumption, reliable, can go 70km/h and costs about US$2000 in contemporary money. In terms of speed for cost that's about as good as a car can get (with the possible exception of the Tata Nano which costs about the same, is less reliable, has the same petrol consumption but can go at 100km/h).

Then you get the plane. It's about as easy to build a basic flying machine as it is to build a car, but to build a flying machine that can travel at 900km/h for several thousand miles takes a lot of time, effort and money and must be used for group transport as it is just way too expensive to make smaller versions of it for private use (excepting multimillionaires of course).

Then the space ship. Space travel was always going to be hugely expensive no matter what you do, and the same technology that put Yuri Gagarin into orbit is still used now to ferry astronauts to the ISS - at about the same cost. Elon Musk's Falcons do not actually represent any significant progress in technology. The reusable first stage is cute but it's an old idea, tested twenty years ago, and it's not a real saving as you lose about half your potential payload capacity and you can't reuse a rocket very often in any case. There is simply no way of making spaceflight cheap enough for commercial travel. Musk's BFR is in the same category as his Mars city and Hyperloop - good for CG artist's renderings and that's about it.
Another problem with your assumptions is the idea of "expense". How much do things actually cost when there is little or no human labor involved? What is the real expense when some individuals have the discretionary spending power of small countries but no citizenry to be held accountable to?


Otherwise, talking about clock speed in computers or chemical rocket costs sounds a lot like the famous 1899 patent office quote.
 

Justin Swanton

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#47
There are several types of failure in the game of trying to predict the future, and (I'm not trying to be condescending here) your post displays at least one of them being failure of imagination and at least one other failure; being flat-out wrong.
I am quite capable of being wrong but as regards failures of imagination I always prefer to check imagination against the laws of physics (and just plain facts sometimes). So here goes:

Personal transport first; an obvious advance starting right now (or maybe a year or two ago) is AI for cars - which gets rid of many problems with cars as a byproduct. Space for car parking goes away as a problem; there is no reason why an AI car can't go away once you've finished with it, and for that matter AI cars make it pointless for a city dweller to own a car at all. And driverless cars neatly remove many of the problems with public transport, as well.
AI's reliability has not yet been adequately demonstrated to the point where it can be proven to be notably safer than human drivers. The problem with AI is that it cannot foresee every possible situation. It is for this reason that jet airliners, whose flight paths are much simpler for an AI than that of vehicles, and can take off, fly and land without human assistance, nevertheless have human pilots. And even if AÏ works, it doesn't make cars any faster (though I grant you it would make them cheaper).

For long-distance public transport, at least over medium range, maglev is up-and-coming. I would just love it if someone with vision announced that the HS2 line in Britain was going to be cancelled and replaced with maglev. Why maglev? Well, it is capable of 450kph and has the advantage that it can come right into city centres, as opposed to airliners where it often takes longer to get to and from airports (and get through security!) than the flight takes. And the Japanese (who seem to be first with so many things) have made it work.
Maglev is not substantially faster than conventional high speed rail trains. See here. The only way to make maglevs faster is to put them in a vacuum tube, and that would set up an epic disaster waiting to happen.

And airliners are in fact less costly than they were, in real terms. The main reason is much more fuel-efficient engines.
It seems (though I lack comprehensive data) that airfares have not changed significantly from 1963 until now, though flight times have become longer and in-flight service has been scaled down.

Energy production? Well; OTEC and fusion (of types not currently being funded for some reason, such as DPF) are just two of the possibilities.
These are just ideas. Let's see them actually working on an industrial scale.

Computing? Well, nanotube transistors and quantum computing coming right up!
Let them come up and deliver performance for low cost.

The real point is that technologies always display an S-curve of innovation. What happens at the top of the S-curve is that something completely different replaces a technology when its potential for innovation runs out. Witness some examples; jet engines replacing piston engines in the air, valves being replaced by transistors and them being replaced by integrated circuits, tube TVs being replaced by flatscreens based on LCDs and later LEDs, incandescent lights being replaced by LEDs...
Sure. My point is that in a particular field of technology, where one is trying to do something precise, a new quantum leap is more is more difficult and expensive to implement than the previous one. My example was transport: you want to convey people from A to B more quickly and cheaply. Walking costs nothing. A horse (faster) costs something but not much. A car (faster) costs more. A prop aeroplane (faster) costs more. A jet (faster) costs much more. A space ship (much faster) costs a fortune and cannot be use as a means of mass transport. Just the way it is. Re CRTs being replaced by LCDs, a LCD is not actually superior in performance to a CRT, it's just flatter. Not really a huge leap forward. But I take the point that there have been improvements, however my question is whether those improvements are really substantial rather than just refinements.

And on top of all that, the immense possibilities of nanotech - which is already in use in a limited way.
Fine. Nanotech, like any new technology, will have an initial period of rapid development followed by a levelling off and finally a brick wall.

I would also posit that the big technological changes that substantially changed our lifestyle (safety, bodily comfort, reliable sources of food, water, etc, health) was implemented first and reached their brick walls long ago. Later technology changed our lives but not so much. New technologies increasingly cross T's and dot I's but don't really revolutionise our existence.
 

Justin Swanton

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#48
Another problem with your assumptions is the idea of "expense". How much do things actually cost when there is little or no human labor involved?
The car manufacturing industry is about automated as you can get, nevertheless a typical modern car costs several times the price of a Model T. The labour is there, just hidden. The support technology for manufacturing robots needs maintenance which means human labour. The sourcing, transport and refinement of raw materials needs labour. The power needed for manufacture needs labour. The organisation and smooth running of the complex manufacturing process needs a huge bureaucracy hence labour. And so on.

Otherwise, talking about clock speed in computers or chemical rocket costs sounds a lot like the famous 1899 patent office quote.
We live in an age that worships human ingenuity and inventiveness so there's hardly an end to new inventions. Problem is that inventiveness is constrained by the limits of the laws of physics and chemistry. You cannot design a homemade Mars ship in your garage no matter how much of a genius you are. The further you push matter the harder it pushes back.
 
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#49
The car manufacturing industry is about automated as you can get, nevertheless a typical modern car costs several times the price of a Model T. The labour is there, just hidden. The support technology for manufacturing robots needs maintenance which means human labour. The sourcing, transport and refinement of raw materials needs labour. The power needed for manufacture needs labour. The organisation and smooth running of the complex manufacturing process needs a huge bureaucracy hence labour. And so on.



We live in an age that worships human ingenuity and inventiveness so there's hardly an end to new inventions. Problem is that inventiveness is constrained by the limits of the laws of physics and chemistry. You cannot design a homemade Mars ship in your garage no matter how much of a genius you are. The further you push matter the harder it pushes back.
We are already well into an era when the amount of labor needed to produce goods is minimal, and it will only continue to fall. When robots are making and servicing the robots that run a plant that is managed and marketed by programs, the work force will dwindle to zero.

The limits of physics and chemistry are all around you - single celled organisms that can convert light and CO2 to oxygen and fuel. Organisms that live for thousands of years and grow structural materials out of compost. We're not even beginning to scratch the well of molecular machinery in all its durable, self-reproducing glory. That will also come sooner or later, and predictions that we are somehow unable to get there are frankly silly. The level of technology we are currently in - using mostly force and heat to reshape raw materials - is just a primitive step in the line of potential processes that are just chemical in nature. Long before we've even mastered those we'll be making things on an even smaller scale than the atom.
 

Justin Swanton

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#50
We are already well into an era when the amount of labor needed to produce goods is minimal, and it will only continue to fall. When robots are making and servicing the robots that run a plant that is managed and marketed by programs, the work force will dwindle to zero.

The limits of physics and chemistry are all around you - single celled organisms that can convert light and CO2 to oxygen and fuel. Organisms that live for thousands of years and grow structural materials out of compost. We're not even beginning to scratch the well of molecular machinery in all its durable, self-reproducing glory. That will also come sooner or later, and predictions that we are somehow unable to get there are frankly silly. The level of technology we are currently in - using mostly force and heat to reshape raw materials - is just a primitive step in the line of potential processes that are just chemical in nature. Long before we've even mastered those we'll be making things on an even smaller scale than the atom.
Interesting you should mention bioengineering. I wrote a novel incorporating that theme called Immortelle (welcome to a free ebook if you like :)). In the novel, an ancient race eschews machine technology as it is too burdensome to maintain and disrupts their lives too much. By manipulating DNA they are are able to create a gradually evolving series of organisms that are progressively adapted to their needs. Everything eventually goes sideways for an unforeseen reason.

As you point out, bioengineering eliminates labour since biomachines are self-maintaining, self-repairing and self-duplicating. The thing is to be able to make them. Have you any idea how complex genetic programming is? Current programmers each work on a separate module, link the modules together, then spend years figuring out why the complete programme doesn't work. No single programmer understands more than a fraction of the entire programme. For bioengineering it's the same, only more so. Humans would create ova for organisms that most certainly will turn out completely differently from their original expectations. Some good horror SF movies on the subject. :oops:
 

BAYLOR

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#51
Silent Running 1972 Looks dated but the premise of a future earth without nature is still a possibility.
 
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Joshua Jones

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#54
Not to get into theology here, but I think fiction was in view with the OP, and I would suspect you (and I) would consider Revelation to be non-fiction. Then, there is the futurist/partial preterist/allegorical interpretation question, which is honestly not an easy question to address, as we don't have anything else of the same genre. Parts of Daniel bear a passing resemblance, but Hebraic prophetic texts are decidedly different than Greek Apocalypse.

Feel free to PM me if you would like to discuss this further. I do lean toward one sort of futurist view, but I try to be fair to all sides.
 

Al Jackson

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#59
Which books , stories, Graphic Novels, Tv Shows and Games will the world of tomorrow come closest to being like and why? And at what point does a fictional vision of the future become obsolete?

Thoughts? :)
A note on overlooked science in science fiction.

There are a good many stories about OLD MARS and OLD VENUS. (Recent collections.)
Old Mars stories alway has canals , maybe even a marginal breathable atmosphere.
Old Venus was WET , with a trailing biological evolution that sometimes even had dinosaurs.

Welp, if any SF writer had of looked hard at the literature they could have found papers by Joseph Evans and Edward Maunder 1903. Skeptics of Mars canals they conducted experiments showing the canals were an optical illusion. Carl Sagan repeated this on Cosmos. When Mariner went by in 1965 the canal doubters were proved dead smooth right! I am sure there are Old Mars SF stories that don't have canals but Heinlein had his heroes skating on them in Red Planet and Bradbury had characters staring into them.

In 1940 the astronomer Rupert Wildt deduced that Venus's atmosphere had a lot of CO2 in it and that Venus was hot as hell. Venus had not tropical forests.

1903 and 1940 are kinda way-back info that got lost. I know Canals and dinosaurs are story glitzy but having to deal the real physical universe may be harder but will make for more fun!
 

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