Writers are known for thinking outside the box, not only pointing out society’s behavior and our lives within it, but also showing what the future might hold based on acute observations of our day to day.
You could say that creativity and imagination are their main weapons in a struggle to map out what we are, where we’re going to, and how that future may change us. With that in mind, it would be foolish to think there aren’t practical opportunities hidden between all the hypothetical predictions, after all, there’s been more than one writer who successfully foresaw or even inspired new technologies far before they were invented. From the minds of actual scientists like Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov, to the world shaping imagination of the great Jules Verne, let’s take a look at some of this predictions, words, and devices that existed only in paper at the time of their writing only to become real decades later.
Arthur C. Clarke invented the iPad
In 2001: A Space Odyssey, Arthur C. Clarke (1917-2008) writes about a “newspad”, with which the protagonist could: “[…] scan the latest reports from Earth. One by one, he would conjure up the world’s major electronic papers. […] Switching to the display’s short-term memory, he would hold the front page while he searched the headlines and noted the items that interested him.” Sounds familiar? This “newspad” is pretty similar to a tablet like the iPad, only it was written at least 50 years before its invention. Could someone at Apple have read the novel? What’s clear is what Clarke, an inventor himself, thought was the reason this device was something that would inevitably become real. In the book, Floyd, the protagonist: “sometimes wondered if the Newspad, and the fantastic technology behind it, was the last word in man’s quest for perfect communications. Here he was, far out in space, speeding away from Earth at thousands of miles an hour, yet in a few milliseconds he could see the headlines of any newspaper he pleased.”
Isaac Asimov invented robotics
Another famous sci-fi writer with an uncanny ability to predict future technological advances is Isaac Asimov (1920-1992). His writings about the three laws of robotics have become iconic, with everything from t-shirts to ethical debates being made based on them. Asimov, along with Clarke, was considered one of the “big three” of science fiction, but, even though he didn’t predicted something as visible as the iPad, he did made a more subtle contribution to the scientific community, he invented the word “robotics”. Asimov was a scientist himself, a biochemistry professor at Boston University, and he was familiar with the use of the suffix -ics used in other branches of physics like, dynamics, mechanics, etc. He also inspired famous roboticists like George Devol and Joseph Engelberger who created the first industrial robot, called Unimite. That’s a pretty thorough job isn’t it? Not only did he create the name for a brand new branch of engineering, he also helped fill its ranks.
Jules Verne invented more means of transportation than you have ever used
The legendary french writer Jules Vernes (1828-1905) is credited with inspiring, among other people, Igor Sikorsky, the inventor of the first viable modern helicopter; Yuri Gargarin, the first man in space; and Simon Lake, considered the father of the modern submarine. The author, who always distanced himself from science fiction, used to say that there was nothing scientific about his writings, but that “Anything that one man can imagine, another man can make real.” And he wasn’t wrong. Writing at the close of the XIX century, Verne sowed the seeds that would nurture the imagination of scientists all over the world and inspire some of the marvels created in the XX century.
Literature is much more than just fantasy. The creation of the mind can and has, in many ways, inspired the brilliant minds of our world. From its beginning and up to today it has laid the groundworks for hundreds of inventions and revolutions. Having this in mind, it would be foolish to think literature is just a mean to express and paint the world through the eyes of a selected elite. Far from that, literature has shown time and again its practical uses. Who knows? The next big invention or profitable business enterprise might be hidden away between the pages of an unwritten book. One has only to know where to look.
Imagination knows no bounds, goals can be set, at first they might be far fetched ideas, but it can shape the world as it has done before in the past. Whether you’re a thinker, a builder, or both, thinking outside the box has brought to this world numerous marvels. Have you found the next big invention in the pages of one of the books you’ve read? Leave us a comment with the books you think might be the harbingers of the new marvels waiting to be created in our future.