Science fiction is fun because we get to look at what new technologies will do to the world. That can be fun, but it can also be incredibly challenging. In the Film and Literature class I teach, my students talk about retro futuristic science fiction (basically stories where writers from the past imagine what the future might look like, only their dates have already happened. Think Time Cop or 1984). One possible solution to the challenge of dealing with a hundred new technologies is to focus a sci-fi story on just one or two new technologies. After all, a lot of stories would come about from these new devices.
For today’s blog, I’ve listed a couple different common staples of science fiction, but I’ve focused on exactly how these technologies might change the world. What would happen? What new stories could develop? How would this affect the way people see the world?
Teleportation: I hate driving. I hate driving because I do it way too damn much. I work two jobs which means I spend a good two hours on the road every day. Teleportation would solve this problem. It would also make traffic disappear. Oh yeah, and it would radically alter people’s view of distance. Right now, I don’t go to San Francisco very often because it’s a two hour drive. If I had access to a teleportation device, I might go every weekend. We wouldn’t need highways or truckers. Long distance relationships would be a lot more possible.
Implanted Computers: A couple weeks ago, a friend of mine got nervous when he couldn’t find his cell phone. This was despite being at home and having no intention of leaving his house. He wanted to be able to hold it and know it was in his pocket. This makes me think people are growing dependent on having instant access to computers (which smart phones have basically become), and this also makes me think it won’t be long before everyone has a computer implanted somewhere in their bodies. Think about how this would change entertainment or education. Would students need to memorize anything anymore? Would people have perfect memories now?
Artificial Intelligence: Plenty of sci-fi writers have talked about robots and how they might look or sound, but they rarely deal with how this would change the economy. If artificial intelligence comes before teleportation, then a computer could drive my car. This would give me a lot of free time. Also, it makes me wonder how a self-driving car would change the classic car chase scene. Suddenly, is it a question of who has the better computer? Are there any new vulnerabilities? A driver doesn’t have to worry about having one hand on the wheel anymore.
Nanotechnology: This one is a spin off of the implanted computer idea, but it leads to some different possibilities. Imagine millions of tiny robots running through your body and what they could do. They could heal wounds, help your brain, rewrite your brain, make you stronger, tougher, or faster. One of my favorite images is a reinvented vampire, this one a cold, pale warrior powered by microscopic robots.
There are a million possible technologies. I haven’t even started talking about lasers, space ships, or genetic engineering. A lot of this will almost assuredly come to pass. It might take decades or centuries, but it’s hard to imagine limits on what humans have accomplished. Just look at how much the last ten years have changed our world. Now if you decide to write some sci-fi, this is your job. Have fun.