Monday, April 03, 2006

We're living in a science fiction world

Every once and a while we take a vertiginous lurch into the future. Something happens that reminds us that the world is changing faster than ever before.

Logically I knew that implantable cloned organs were coming sooner or later, probably sooner - but it fascinates me the things science fiction gets right - and the way it usually gets them wrong. Hundreds of science fiction writers wrote about man walking on the moon before it happened. None of them predicted it would be televised.

In 1968 Larry Niven wrote A Gift From Earth about a human colony plunged into revolution after the arrival of a pod containing organ cloning technology - which completely upends a society that has a justice system based on keeping the organ banks full of spare parts for the elites - much like China today.

In other words Niven has a future where human colonies in other star systems are only just discovering cloned organs. Today the human race still lives soley on planet Earth, but seven people are walking around today with genetically engineered bladders implanted in their bodies.

I still don't have my jet-pack - and I'm quite annoyed about that by the way - but I have most of human knowledge at my fingertips through the global computer network my personal computer is connected too. Most SF writers never saw computers becoming a fairly standard household appliance.

A single Blackberry has more computer power than NASA had when they first put man on the moon - on the other hand we haven't left low Earth orbit for decades, barely touching the edge of space. And as powerfull and omni-present as computers have become none has achieved self awareness as thousands of SF novels and movies predicted they would and very likely none ever will.

I wonder what assumptions today's science fiction make about the future will prove right, and at the same time wrong?

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