Hello again and welcome to another Science Fiction Problems here at While We’re Paused!
Science Fiction commonly speculates on future technology, with varying success as some writers take a few more liberties with the laws of physics and reality than others (I’m looking at you, Star Trek). Many of the cool things presented simply do not jive with reality, and in some cases, can be easily proven to be impossible. While some readers (or viewers, or players in the case of video games of the genre) may not recognize the problem, if there is not a reasonable explanation for unfamiliar technology, even the least critical among your audience will feel like you don’t know what you’re talking about. I know I keep coming back to this point, as I discussed it in The Rules of the World and Why You Need Them, but in the case of speculative technology, you cannot afford to have your audience think your ideas couldn’t possibly work. The easiest way to address this difficulty is to base your future technology on currently emerging ones. Here are a few examples of some of my favorites:
Here’s a staple of Science Fiction wherever you find it. From its origin in E. E.
Smith’s Lensmen series to Ripley’s power loader of the Aliens series, these strength-augmenting suits have been in movies and novels since Science Fiction first began. Interestingly enough, the ideas eventually lead to the development of real-life exoskeletons which are being built for military applications, and potentially for more dexterous industrial machinery. This is far from fantastical in its most basic form, but it can be almost magical and unrealistic, and at that point we get something more along the lines of Gundum Wing than actual, scientific technology. This is not to say you can’t have giant battle suits duking it out in your story, but for heaven’s sake, at least briefly explain how they are able to power the things, and why those suits are more practical than any number of tracked or wheeled vehicles that the military already employs.
This concept in technology has become far more familiar since the advent of the home video game console, such as the Nintendo Wii system, and more recently, Microsoft’s Kinect peripheral. In general, augmented reality is the projection of computer generated images onto real-world images in real time. This is one of my favorite technologies, and one particular project I am keeping a close eye on is the LED screen contact lens. Once these are perfected, the wearer could have the kind of computer-vision you see in the Terminator movies, where the computer adds relevant information and visual aids to their environment. The applications for this technology are vast, and as a science fiction idea, they add a lot of background feel to the story while not straying too far from the believable.
While the previous technology is not so easily abused to groan-worthy levels, this one has already seen almost limitless potential for half-baked application. Since not many of us are telepathic, the ability to project commands to a computer with mere thought is something of an ordeal to actually demonstrate, but at this time it is technically feasible. Currently, the most impressive success in this field is the demonstration of one individual’s ability to control a computer cursor with his mind, but this involved the surgical implantation of sensors into the user’s brain. To say, control the actions of an entire spacecraft with one’s mind is a little out of reach at the moment (if you happen to have the spacecraft in any case), but the proof of concept is there. With these implants, it would likely also be possible to give the brain sensory information from the computer, giving the user the illusion of physical interactions and tactile response.
These are only a few examples of Science Fiction ideas that are based on real life technology, and in many cases, the science fiction was the inspiration for the technology itself. By basing your own speculative technologies on current ideas, you can project a potential for what may become of our newest ideas, and create realistic worlds that can easily draw in and immerse your audience.
So, what are some technologies you have seen in books or movies that you’ve seen become reality?