Science fiction has been criticized over the years for failing to provide us with all those glorious inventions and ideas we remember from the Golden Age (and after). Let’s face it, a lot of those inventions and ideas will never happen and some are actually being debated right now. Of those hundreds of inventions and ideas, which ones are a sure thing, either soon or in the distant future? Here’s what I think (in no particular order):
- The Singularity
Mostly I’m referring to the creation of an artificial intelligence at the human level. Still, I believe there will come a point when the Singularity, across the board, will happen. Technology will reach a point where it can’t be stopped, sort of like the Industrial Machine. I don’t mean we’ll have a world like in The Matrix where machines have turned us into little puddles of energy to be sucked up and what not. I just mean that we won’t be able to stop technology from continuously progressing, no matter what we do. You might find that a silly notion (why would we care if technology just keeps going?), but there will come a time where some technologies will hit a point they shouldn’t cross…and they will cross it.
Yes, we will discover aliens. I don’t know if they will be intelligent, but I don’t doubt that at some point in the next few hundred years we will have discovered proof of alien existence. And yes, little microbes count.
- Near-light Engines
No, I don’t think we will ever get FTL drives. I think Einstein might be right on that part. We may be able to use wormholes or some other mode of travel that manipulates the fabric of space, but I’m going to be realistic here. I do think we will get Near-light Engines (or NLDs–near-light drives–if you will). This is a very vague description, but basically what I mean is the ability to reach speeds significantly faster than what we have now so that trips between stars might not be so completely outrageous. Granted, trips will still take years, but in the future that might not be such a big deal. If a trip takes you ten years it may very well be worth it.
- Genetic Manipulation, etc.
I have no doubt that in the relatively near future (maybe 100 years or so) there will be significant advances in medical technology, the result of which will be extremely long lives, easy methods to creating new organs, and most likely significant genetic tampering (though I imagine there will be controls for this). Basically, I think we’ll be doing just about everything possible with the human body from making it live longer to making it stronger against viruses and infections. My hope, though, is that we don’t get the point where we are creating supersoldiers or genetically “superior” individuals. Human diversity is a necessity.
- Space Stations/Hotels
Not I.S.S., but a real station. You know, like you see in the movies with people walking on the walls and actually doing things other than floating around in a giant metal can. I think we’ll definitely have these things. Some of them will likely be military facilities. As the military becomes more involved in space it will be a necessity to have first-response units in space, not to mention a presence there to protect space tourism. It sounds like, gasp, science fiction, but with Virgin Galactic getting very close to turning space travel into a tourist trade it’s not that unlikely that we’ll have hotels and big stations in the future.
- Solar Power (on a massive scale)
I think this will likely become viable first as a ground-based option and then as a space-based option. The thing is that people have to be willing to pay for these things. Solar power isn’t cheap (it’s not grossly expensive either), but in the long run it is a better solution that fossil fuels and other sources. The sun is free, after all. So let’s get on top of it. Yes, we might have to pay a bit more for it, but think about it in the long run? When we pay off the loan that would be used to make it, can you imagine prices dropping drastically? Yeah. But we might have to wait a while for that to happen, or wait until folks can make it more financially desirable. I can’t wait for that space-based facility though! Solar power 24/7.
- Fusion Power
This is a long way off, but I think we’ll have it in a viable form in the future. It may or may not coincide with Solar Power (which might be beneficial if you think about it). We’re getting remarkably close to it now. Maybe in the next fifty years, or maybe longer. The fact that scientists are seriously testing and dealing with the concept, and getting useful data from doing so, suggests that this will be a real possibility at some point in the relatively near future. I don’t know what the result will be, though. Maybe it will be mostly good things, but that’s what they thought about nuclear power too, remember?
- Intelligent Robots
I, Robot, had it right, and perhaps so did The Matrix, though on a much darker scale. Obviously if I’m right about the whole AI thing, then it would be applied to robots, in some fashion. I don’t know if robots will become evil man-killers (perhaps we’ll be smart enough to consider this possibility and put in safeties to prevent it), but I do believe we will have walking, talking, thinking robots that may very well integrate into society on a higher level than we might suspect. I don’t know if we will treat them as human, but most likely you can expect some backlash from the human community. Who knows where it will go? Regardless, robots are becoming more complex now and will be so complex in the future that they might be considered on par with human beings, or better in some areas.
Not personal teleportation (as in super powers), but the actual transmission of matter from one place to another, whether as a new form of transportation or simply as a quirky thing only rich people can do. I’m tossing this in here because there need to be a couple of those “say what?” moments. This is one of them. The logistics of teleportation are staggering and there are ethical issues about it, since in theory you are copied, destroyed, and reborn on the other side. I think it will happen. There has already been research into this and news has traveled that some scientists have transported very small bits of matter. So, yeah, it’s going to happen in the future.
- Alternate Realities
I know what you’re thinking: “You’re nuts. That’s not possible and you know it. Besides, alternate realities don’t exist.” Are you sure? I’m not. In fact, I think it’s entirely possible that they do exist. Why not, right? The Universe is complex, nuts, and full of bizarre crap we are discovering all the time, much of which boggles the most intelligent of scientists. I think we’ll discover them. Whether we actually go to them (if that’s even possible), I doubt it. I, personally, think it is impossible. I think the energy needed to do that is outside human limitations.
Which SF ideas do you think will happen?