Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles In 1988, Isaac Asimov predicted that we would all own computers connected to massive libraries and be able to access digital teachers and reference materials on demand, allowing us to learn at our own pace, wherever we want, about whatever we choose. So . . . basically this? [MUSIC] You know what's frustrating about tomorrow? . . . that it's not today. That makes it very hard to predict. But that doesn't stop us from trying. And lots of our predictions about the science of TOMORROW come in the form of science FICTION. Science SCIENCE is, for the most part, a historical study, built on observations of things that have already happened. But science FICTION has a decidedly tomorrow-y bent to it. Not all predictions are CORRECT, I mean you'd have to be a pretty big bojo to think that we're actually going to have hoverboards by October 21, 2015, but throughout the history of science fiction, people have gotten a lot of things amazingly RIGHT. Like in 1865, Jules Verne predicted that the US would send three men to the moon in a spaceship named Columbiad launched on a rocket weighing 20,000 pounds at a cost of 12.1 billion dollars. 104 years later, the U.S. sent three men to the moon in a spaceship named Columbia on a rocket weighing 26,000 pounds at a cost of 14.4 billion dollars. NOT BAD. Mark Twain, in his 1898 story "From the 'London Times' of 1904" predicted a worldwide network of interconnected telephone devices that would let people share information and he even predicted we would just waste time looking at what everyone else was doing. He wasn't the only one to predict the internet. Douglas Adams wrote about a handheld device that was the standard repository for all knowledge and wisdom in the galaxy, but that was in 1979, and the internet was already being built, so I don't know if it counts. But hey, you can read books on it! Arthur C. Clarke is also on the list of people who predicted internet-type computer things [ARTHUR C CLARKE TALKING] but his BOOKS got so many things right that you'd think he had access to some superior form of artificial intelligence. "Siri can you open the pod bay doors please?" Today artificial intelligence has advanced enough to win at Jeopardy, but so far no one has died from it . . . I think. Before Arthur C. Clarke wrote stories, he worked on radar for the Royal Air Force. In 1945, he wrote an article describing "extra-terrestrial relays", which essentially predicted AND laid out a plan for our entire modern system of geostationary communications satellites. To this day, the particular altitude of space that those satellites live is known as the "Clarke Orbit" In the 1911 story "Ralph 124C 41+", Hugo Gernsback, the namesake of science fiction's annual "Hugo awards", predicted that an emitted radio wave should reflect off distant objects and make them detectable like visible light, which we call radar, something that wasn't invented until almost 25 years later. In 1961's "Stranger In A Strange Land" Robert Heinlein predicted screensavers, although I'm not sure he knew we'd use flying toasters. In Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury predicted flatscreen television, as well as "seashells" and "thimble radios" worn in the ears which I think we've all HEARD of. 50 years ago, during the 1964 world's fair, Isaac Asimov predicted that in 2014 we would have some robots, but they wouldn't be very good yet, that nuclear and solar power would replace fossil fuels, we'd have self-driving cars, we'd have unmanned missions to Mars, and everyone would wear killer sideburns and bolo ties Philip K. Dick is a decidedly more pessimistic predictor of the future, but he was . . . RIGHT. Maybe it's not all sunshine and roses out there. Minority Report's "Precogs" have been related by some to modern efforts to use neuroscience in the courtroom. Total Recall-level memory implantation is nowhere close to being real, but experiments in mice suggest that brain-to-brain neural linkage is not complete fiction. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep predicts a world full of bio-inspired engineering and human-like artificial intelligence, while A Scanner Darkly predicted a level of high-tech government surveillance that I think we all WISH was fiction, but I love the NSA, the NSA is our friend. But nobody, NOBODY, holds a Nostradmus-y candle to HG Wells. He, too predicted the iPad, oh AND automatic sliding doors, in 1899's When The Sleeper Wakes. He predicted the atomic bomb, in scary detail, including all of the radioactive fallout horror that it would bring, in 1914's "The World Set Free", even down to some of the nuclear PHYSICS involved. He even called it an "atomic bomb" which was not even a term that existed before that. In The Time Machine he predicted, well, the time machine (although he didn't explain how it works, so maybe we shouldn't count that one). The Shape of Things to Come predicted airborne warfare. Men Like Gods saw wireless communications. War of the Worlds (SPOILERS) reminded us that faced with man or even alien technology, bacteria will ALWAYS win. The Invisible Man used light refracting metamaterials for invisibility nearly a century BEFORE we even knew what metamaterials were. In The Island of Doctor Moreau he not only predicted genetic engineering, but asked a question that we still haven't answered: How does man safely manipulate nature when he is PART of nature? HG Wells was so good, and so often correct, about predicting the future, that he is called "the man who invented tomorrow". Or today. Of course, not all sci-fi is good at predicting the future, and sci-fi gets lots of stuff wrong, but you have to admit that some of these predictions are so spot on that you'd almost expect one of the authors to be from Gallifrey. One right prediction in any one body of work would be lucky, but this many right answers can't be luck. Clearly something sets these people apart. Many of the greatest sci-fi writers also had serious scientific training. Isaac Asimov had a PhD in biochemistry. Arthur C. Clarke degree in math and physics. HG Wells had a degree in biology. Of course it also helps to hang out with people like Carl Sagan. At its core, good science fiction must rest on good SCIENCE. It seems obvious, but this, I think, is why the best sci-fi authors are also the most frequently right when it comes to predicting the future. How far can we see into the future? It depends on what we're looking for. Isaac Asimov said that when we look at stars, or galaxies, or DNA we are looking at simple things, things that follow nice neat rules and equations. But when we look at human history, it's chaotic, it's unpredictable, our vision is limited. Science transforms the complex into the simple, it's how we explain the chaos. Science is how we see farther, and science fiction is where we write down what we see. I would like to know what YOU think down in the comments. Why makes some science fiction SO GOOD at predicting the future. And I PREDICT that I missed a TON of awesome science fiction that has become reality, so PLEASE leave a comment and tell me what I missed. Stay curious.