Science fiction is about predicting the future, based on hard facts or sheer imagination or, often both. Everyone, from Isaac Asimov to Tyra Banks, has taken stabs at guessing what lays beyond for our generation and for the many (or few) generations after us. In 2012, The Awl compiled an exhaustive list of predictions culled from science fiction novels and stories, starting with the Titanic being resurrected from the ocean floor as described in Arthur C. Clarke’s The Ghost from the Grand Banks.
But it wasn’t until Maria Popova from Brain Pickings tweeted this list a few months ago that Giorgia Lupi, an Italian information designer, was inspired to create an infographic of the data. Lupi’s design gives you an even better sense of the vast future laid out in fiction—with the added optimism that, in the eyes of our writers, the human race at least makes it until the year 802701!
Lupi put a lot of thought into how she and her team arranged The Awl’s list: Arranging events chronologically was just one aspect, as they wanted to add on layers of type of event predicted (scientific, sociological, technological, political, environmental, etc.) and if the reaction were positive, negative, or neutral. Even the author’s age and whether the piece of fiction were a novel versus comic novel are important factors to unpacking all of these predictions—the context in which they were formed, and how accurate they may be as time goes on.
You can see some examples in the piece of the infographic selected above: Mary Doria Russell’s prediction that humanity will detect its first source of extraterrestrial life in 2019 (The Sparrow) is neutral, considering that it brings both gains and losses; Lady Gaga’s arrest shortly after winning the Nobel Prize (Charlie Jane Anders’ “Six Months, Three Days“) is less beneficial to society than a cure for autism being discovered (Elizabeth Moon’s The Speed of Dark).
Here are some other snapshots from our many possible futures:
2020: You no longer need a computer to use the internet, because the internet can be accessed directly through your brain. (Geoff Ryman, Air, 2004)
2024: After WW4, resources are scarce. When men aren’t hunting for food, clean water, and weapons, they’re seeking the most valuable resource of all: women. (Harlan Ellison, “A Boy and His Dog,” 1969)
2030: New York is enclosed in a big dome. AIs are governed by the Turing police and Turing-coded laws. (William Gibson, Neuromancer, 1984)
2057: Someone violates the laws of the time-travel continuum by bringing a cat back from the Victorian era. (Connie Willis, To Say Nothing of the Dog, 1997)
2094: First landings on Mars. (Again? Again!) (John Wyndham, The Outward Urge, 1959)
2108: If you’re between 12 and 18 years old, you might be chosen to fight to the death. The odds are not in your favor. (Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games trilogy, 2008-2010)
2157: Tommy finds a real book in his attic, one that doesn’t have shifting words. Totally weird. (Isaac Asimov, “The Fun They Had,” 1951)
2171: Population of Mars attempts to unify, break colonial ties to Earth. (Greg Bear, Moving Mars, 1993)
2381: Population of Earth has reached 75 billion people. To compensate? Thousand-floor skyscrapers. (Robert Silverberg, The World Inside, 1971)
2540: Calling Zager and Evans! Babies grow in glass tubes so you ain’t got no use for husbands or wives. (Aldous Huxley, Brave New World, 1932)
3172: Political power is split across the galaxy. You can still get a liberal arts degree from Harvard. (Samuel R. Delany, Nova, 1968)
802701: The world still exists. (H.G. Wells, The Time Machine, 1895)
As Jane Hu, creator of the original timeline, points out, many speculative fiction writers were reluctant to make concrete predictions down to the date; by remaining inexact, she says, perhaps these writers wanted to give these events the greatest chance of occurring. However, the real delight is seeing which writers did commit to exact dates, and how our current society stacks up. (You can thank H.G. Wells for that bit of optimism carrying us forward through the millennia.)
Of course, this list only includes works published up until 2012. Here’s hoping that The Awl—and then, Lupi and Brain Pickings—might keep updating as more and more works pin hopeful and out-there predictions to specific dates in our future. In the meantime, click here to check out the entire infographic!
[via The Washington Post]