When science fiction is truly prescient

There is an excellent article in this morning’s Boston Globe entitled The Screen Zombies by Carlo Rotella.   It’s a short read and touches on something that has always fascinated me: What will come true in science fiction?  There are plenty of examples of science fiction predicting the future, like the computer and communicator (see image) on the original Star Trek.  What’s more interesting to me are the social and behavioral changes to our society due to increasing reliance on technology.


source: Wikipedia

Much of science fiction presents a dystopian future that is at the very least, disconcerting.  This future is being played out on TV and movies almost daily.  The latest of these entries, Almost Human on Fox, has as its premise a future were technology has evolved faster than society’s ability to control it.  That’s right out the of current headlines of increasing cyber-criminal activity and cyber-anarchic entities like Anonymous.  It’s really not hard to imagine this vision coming true.

The gist of the Globe article is about the increasing reliance of technology and the effect of disconnecting ourselves from some of our fundamental human interactions.  Texting is replacing face-to-face discussion, especially among our youth.  People are not enjoying the “simple” pleasures of walking in nature and friendly conversation around a meal.  Either they are busy with their technology or the folks they’d interact with are doing the same.

In the article, Rotella describes being on the T and seeing everyone around them in the devotional stoop (great turn of phrase) of the screen zombies.   He also describes his 10 year old daughter not having anyone to play with on the playground because all her friends had their noses in their phones.

Rotella looks back at several classic sci-fi stories to draw correlations to the present trends.

Time for a long walk on the beach …


  1. Generally, it’s pure coincidence… SF authors are often completely UNINTERESTED in actually predicting a future, rather creating a future for a fun story. Or a commentary on the present….

  2. There’s no doubt that Sci-Fi authors are spinning a tale first and foremost. However, I do think that some authors are thinking about the future implications of what they come up with if for no other reason than to provide a hook that makes sense to their readers. Certainly some authors more than others. Some authors use SF as a medium for expressing concerns of the present and the near future. Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm are examples.

    On the TV and movie side, it’s clear that the starting place for some stories is to take what is causing angst today and project how it might play out in the future. The Net (the 1995 Sandra Bullock movie), Revolution, Almost Human are examples.

    Thanks for your comment.

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