Yesterday’s Tomorrows, Revisited

amazing vintage sci-fi art

“If” Magazine Cover
from Flickr user “Modern Fred”

Hard to believe that 2014 will mark ten years of RandomConnections. As such, throughout the year I may be dredging up some old posts (basically because I’m lazy and it saves having to come up with new ideas.)

One of my personal favorites was from July 2004, when I wrote a post entitled “Yesterday’s Tomorrows.” In that post I put together a list of things that would have already happened, if various SciFi novels and movies were actually correct. I figured that with everyone making predictions for the new year, it might be a good idea to revisit and update this ten year old list.

Here’s the original list:

July 4, 2004 – If we were to believe science fiction predictions, by today’s date the following would have already come to pass…

  • The Jupiter 2 would be lost in space with a family named Robinson, a madman named Smith, and a robot named, well, Robot.
    • From the television series Lost in Space, broadcast from 1965-1968. According to the first episode, the Jupiter 2 lifted off October 16, 1997, bound for Alpha Centauri.
  • The Eugenics Wars would have already taken place, and Khan Noonien Sing and his band of super humans would already be consigned to imprisonment aboard a DY-100 Sleeper Ship.
    • From the television series, Star Trek, episode “Space Seed”, first broadcast February 16, 1967. According to Spock’s research, Kahn rose to power in 1992, and in 1993 a group of eugenically bred “super” humans simultaneously seize power in some forty of the earth’s nations. By 1996, the Eugenics Wars were over, and Kahn and his followers banished.
  • The space probe Nomad, created by Jackson Roykirk, has been on its journey for two years.
    • From Star Trek episode “The Changeling”, Nomad was launched in 2002. Airdate September 27, 1967.
  • The Discovery has made its ill-fated journey to Jupiter with a sentient computer named HAL.
    • From the motion picture 2001: A Space Odyssey, released in 1968. The movie contained numerous technological references which did not come to past in the time predicted, including routine commercial space traffic and a permanent manned lunar base.
  • Extra terrestrials are discovered through a series of encounters. After establishing communication through Kodaly hand signals and corresponding tones, contact is made at Devil’s Tower, Wyoming.
    • From the motion picture Close Encounters of the Third Kind, released in 1977. Dates are conjectural, based on automobile models and clothing styles.
  • A 50-foot wall has been erected around Manhattan, and the island has been declared a federal prison. The President of the United States has crash-landed in Manhattan, and has been held hostage.
    • From the motion picture Escape from New York, released in 1981. According to the opening monologue, in 1988 Manhattan is declared a maximum security prison, and in 1997, the setting for the movie, the president’s plane crashes. Eerily enough, the plane crash sequence shows Air Force One headed for the twin towers before diverting at the last minute.
  • The moon has been blasted out of its orbit by a nuclear catastrophe, and the inhabitants of the permanent colony on the moon are now hurtling through space.
    • From the television series Space 1999, broadcast from 1975 to 1978. According to the first episode, nuclear waste on the moon’s surface detonated on September 16, 1999, sending the 311 moon base inhabitants hurtling through space, apparently at light speeds.
  • The major cities of the world, including Washington DC, Los Angeles, and New York, have been decimated by huge hovering spacecraft 15 miles in diameter. Said spaceships have been destroyed by a computer virus.
    • From the motion picture Independence Day, released in 1996. Dates are inferred from visual references in the film, notably, the presence of the World Trade Center Towers. References are also made to the “Gulf War” with no subsequent reference to the Iraq War.
  • Two massive, little understood interstellar transport devices have been constructed at Cape Canaveral and Hokaido Island, Japan at a cost of $3 billion each. The Cape Canaveral device has been destroyed by religious zealots.
    • From the motion picture Contact, released in 1997. The movie clearly shows Bill Clinton as president, indicating that it must have taken place prior to 2000.
  • Two supercomputers, Colossus in the US, and Guardian in Russia, merge to form a sentient computer that takes over the world via control of nuclear arms.
    • From the motion picture Colossus: the Forbin Project, released in 1970. Dates are inferred from clothing and automobile styles.
  • The computer network Skynet also launches a pre-emptive strike against humans, allowing machines to take over the planet.
    • From the motion picture The Terminator, released in 1984. According to the movie, Skynet, built by the world’s preeminent computer company Cyberdyne, went online August 4, 1997 and became self-aware August 29, 1997.
  • A plague has wiped out all dogs and cats. Humans start using chimpanzees and other apes as pets, then as slaves.
    • From the motion picture Escape from the Planet of the Apes, released in 1971. According to the movie, Cornelius gives the dates of the pet plague.
  • Microsurgery is possible by miniaturizing the surgeons and sending them into the body in tiny submarines.
    • From the motion picture Fantastic Voyage, released in 1966. According to the movie, the action takes place in the late 20th century.

…and finally, Big Brother is watching you read this.

The year 2000 seemed so far away. Writers could predict the most fantastic things for the “late 20th Century” and get away with it. In the real world, programmers could disregard basic mathematic concepts and send the world into a minor panic with the Y2K “bug”. We’re now four years past that and sentient computers and robots, permanent lunar and space colonies, interstellar travel, as well as apocalyptic visions are just a small part of the canon of science fiction that has not come to pass. That’s probably a good thing.

With the passage of a decade there are several obvious items to add to the list:

  • 2004 – July – T-850 and T-X arrive, sent by the resistance and Skynet, respectively. Judgment Day occurs in July 24. (Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines)
  • 2010 – Heywood Floyd would have joinesa Soviet team aboard the Alexei Leonov to travel to Jupiter to find out what happened to the Discovery and the HAL 9000 computer. Jupiter explodes to become a new sun in the solar system (From 2010: The Year We Make Contact).
  • 2012 – A virus turns 99.9% of the world’s population into vampires. (From I Am Legend.)
  • 2013 – Snake Plissken relives old times in a rescue mission to the now geographically-isolated Los Angeles of the post-earthquake era. (Escape from LA)

There were several that I apparently missed the first time around.  Here are a few samples:

  • 1951 – A saucer suddenly lands in a Washington D.C. field, and a humanoid visitor steps out, with a message for Humanity. He’s preceded by a towering silver robot, whom the visitor calls Gort – The Day The Earth Stood Still, based upon Harry Bates ‘ short story Farewell to the Master, 1940.
  • 1955 – Doctor Emmett Brown falls and hits his head. He then has a vision of a mechanism allowing for time travel, the Flux Capacitor – Back to the Future, 1985.
  • 1972 – Astronaut George Taylor and three other volunteers (John Landon, Dodge and Stewart) depart Earth from Cape Kennedy on a mission that will take them 2,000 years into the future. (Planet of the Apes)
  • 1973 – Designed by Adm. Harriman Nelson (USN-Ret), the nuclear supersub USOS Seaview, with its transparent hull-plating ‘window’ nose section, undergoes radio silence and deep-diving trials in the Arctic Ocean. (Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.)
  • 1984 – The first T-800 series Terminator arrives, sent back in time by Skynet in an attempt to prevent the birth of resistance leader John Connor by killing his mother Sarah before he is even conceived. The John Connor of 2029 sends Kyle Reese back to defend Sarah from the Terminator. He knows that Reese, though doomed, will fall in love with his mother and is, in fact, his father (The Terminator).
  • 1987 – Civilization on Earth is devastated by a nuclear war, cause unknown. (Buck Rogers in the 25th Century television series)
  • 1988 – A flying saucer carrying enslaved aliens (“Newcomers”) crashlands in the Mojave desert. (Alien Nation movie)
  • 1995 – T-1000 is sent by Skynet to kill John Connor, and a reprogrammed T-800 is also sent to protect him. John, Sarah Connor and T-800 blow up Cyberdyne Systems Corporation and destroy the remains of the “original” Terminator, supposedly preventing Judgment Day (Terminator 2: Judgment Day- supposed date, since John is 10 years old).

Back when I started this project I really had to dig for information for this project. Now there are several such lists. SciFi Wikia has a great list, and there are several good infographics with SciFi timelines.

Then, there is the “Ultimate Sci-Fi Timeline.” It may not be the ultimate, but it is still very cool.

Finally, we pause to consider two Sci-Fi authors that made several predictions that did (sort of) come true. In 1964 Isaac Asimov was asked to predict what life would be like in fifty years. Here are a few of his predictions:

  • “Gadgetry will continue to relieve mankind of tedious jobs. Kitchen units will be devised that will prepare ‘automeals,’ heating water and converting it to coffee; toasting bread; frying, poaching or scrambling eggs, grilling bacon, and so on. Breakfasts will be ‘ordered’ the night before to be ready by a specified hour the next morning.”
  • “Communications will become sight-sound and you will see as well as hear the person you telephone. The screen can be used not only to see the people you call but also for studying documents and photographs and reading passages from books. Synchronous satellites, hovering in space will make it possible for you to direct-dial any spot on earth, including the weather stations in Antarctica.”
  • “[M]en will continue to withdraw from nature in order to create an environment that will suit them better. By 2014, electroluminescent panels will be in common use. Ceilings and walls will glow softly, and in a variety of colors that will change at the touch of a push button.”
  • “Robots will neither be common nor very good in 2014, but they will be in existence.”
    “The appliances of 2014 will have no electric cords, of course, for they will be powered by long- lived batteries running on radioisotopes.”
  • “[H]ighways … in the more advanced sections of the world will have passed their peak in 2014; there will be increasing emphasis on transportation that makes the least possible contact with the surface. There will be aircraft, of course, but even ground travel will increasingly take to the air a foot or two off the ground.”
  • “[V]ehicles with ‘Robot-brains’ … can be set for particular destinations … that will then proceed there without interference by the slow reflexes of a human driver.”
  • “[W]all screens will have replaced the ordinary set; but transparent cubes will be making their appearance in which three-dimensional viewing will be possible.”
  • “[T]he world population will be 6,500,000,000 and the population of the United States will be 350,000,000.” And later he warns that if the population growth continues unchecked, “All earth will be a single choked Manhattan by A.D. 2450 and society will collapse long before that!” As a result, “There will, therefore, be a worldwide propaganda drive in favor of birth control by rational and humane methods and, by 2014, it will undoubtedly have taken serious effect.”
  • “Ordinary agriculture will keep up with great difficulty and there will be ‘farms’ turning to the more efficient micro-organisms. Processed yeast and algae products will be available in a variety of flavors.”
  • “The world of A.D. 2014 will have few routine jobs that cannot be done better by some machine than by any human being. Mankind will therefore have become largely a race of machine tenders. Schools will have to be oriented in this direction…. All the high-school students will be taught the fundamentals of computer technology will become proficient in binary arithmetic and will be trained to perfection in the use of the computer languages that will have developed out of those like the contemporary “Fortran.”
  • “[M]ankind will suffer badly from the disease of boredom, a disease spreading more widely each year and growing in intensity. This will have serious mental, emotional and sociological consequences, and I dare say that psychiatry will be far and away the most important medical specialty in 2014.”
  • ”[T]he most glorious single word in the vocabulary will have become work!” in our ”a society of enforced leisure.”

Then there’s Arthur C. Clarke’s predictions from the same time:

Still, no jetpacks or hoverboards, but it is fun to predict what might be. Assuming this blog is around in another 10 years, I may have to check back to see what has come to past.

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1 Comment

  1. Ken Cothran says:

    “The Discovery has made its ill-fated journey to Jupiter with a sentient computer named HAL.”

    No HAL, but we do have Siri. ;-)

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