Science Fiction Predictions, or, 2001: No Space Odyssey

This is an extension of the conversation in the comments section of “Worst Movie Endings” over my distaste for the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey.  My conclusion: first third (Apes) terrible, middle third (HAL) okay, last third (LSD trip) horrific. Anyway, the point of this post is to pose a question.

2001: A Space Odyssey was written about the year 2001 (12 years ago now!) and predicted that space travel would be fairly common, with large space stations in orbit and a manned missi…

  1. Fred Cole

    Define “accurate” please.

    Do you mean an accurate timeline?

    Also: The ending to 2001 makes sense if you read the book.  (Actually the whole thing makes a lot more sense.)

  2. Misthiocracy

    Note: In 2001: A Space Odyssey, and also in 2010: The Year We Make Contact, the Soviet Union never collapses.  As such, the US and the USSR are still embroiled in the Space Race.

    Furthermore, in the books there is also Space Race competition from China and the “United States of Southern Africa”.

    That helps to explain why 2001 didn’t turn out like 2001.  No space race, no impetus for governmental manned space exploration.

  3. Z in MT

    Fred Cole

    I would define “accurate” in terms of timeline and quality of technology.

    I did read the book, and it is not that the ending doesn’t make sense I just don’t need 10 plus minutes of flashing colors and weird music in a movie.

    Misthiocracy

    That’s a good observation.  Society does push technology.  It does seem like the space race greatly slowed down after the USSR fell.  Maybe the advent of commercial opportunities in space (e.g. asteroid mining) will re-start a space race.

  4. Donald Todd

    Given that science fiction is “fiction” there are a great many things that appear to have been anticipated.  Submarine travel ala Captain Nemo.  Space flight.  The use of lasers in warfare.  The shrinking of various kinds of personal equipment, such as radios (communicators) and weapons.  

    I am sorry to note that the Pan Am Clipper featured in 2001 A Space Odyssey won’t be shuttling people to a space station because Pan Am no longer exists.  And those lovely stewardesses with it.  Our loss.

  5. Misthiocracy

    Robocop did a pretty good job of predicting Detroit’s complete and utter collapse (although there sure is an unrealistic proportion of white people in Robocop’s version of Detroit).

    Demolition Man portrayed a future free from pollution (unusual for a sci-fi movie of that era) and emotionally crippled by political correctness.  Seems pretty prescient to me.

    Predator 2: The portrayal of high-tech federal law enforcement surveillance technology,  juxtaposed against urban decay and low-tech municipal police, turned out to be fairly accurate.

  6. Lord Humungus

    Well, Harrison Bergeron (Vonnegut) seems pretty real. And the Rocky Horror Picture show seems a lot less bizarre than it once did. And I’m  tellin’ ya – Planet of the Apes is coming. And if you want to count Brave New World as Sci Fi….well there you go.

  7. Z in MT

    One of the things that I have noticed is that science fiction has always overestimated the progress of transportation technology and generally underestimated the progress of computing technology.

    My answer to this is that science fiction writers generally extrapolate from the “hot” technology of their day.  This means that people from the car, rocket, and jet age overestimated the progress of transportation (not just space travel, science fiction predicted flying cars and such), while most underestimated computing.

    Extrapolating to today I think that Ray Kurzweil is way over extrapolating computing technology.

  8. Misthiocracy
    Donald Todd: 

    I am sorry to note that the Pan Am Clipper featured in 2001 A Space Odyssey won’t be shuttling people to a space station because Pan Am no longer exists.  And those lovely stewardesses with it. 

    If you think about it, the Pan Am Clipper in 2001 doesn’t make a lot of sense.  The only orbital destinations we’re told about in the movie are the American and Russian bases on the moon, which are secure government installations.  It seems unlikely that there would be enough traffic to and from these two moon bases to make a private shuttle economically viable.

    It’s possible that there are other destinations in orbit that we never see, I suppose. Still, the “orbital terminal” space station we see is pretty sparsely-populated.  

    The only people we see are Dr. Floyd, the three Russian scientists, and the station’s manager. That really doesn’t seem like enough traffic to support a private regularly-scheduled space shuttle service.  

    (Also, considering that none of those people are staying on the space station overnight, how the heck does the orbital Howard Johnson’s make money?)

  9. Z in MT

    Donald Todd

    I would say that Jules Verne was pretty good (especially imaginative) for his time.

    Misthiocracy

    I would agree, but these are really political predictions not technology predictions.

  10. Misthiocracy

    I think the most eerily-accurate sci-fi story I’ve ever read is E.M. Forster’s The Machine Stops.  Forster predicted the sociological effects of 24-7 computer networking way back in 1909

  11. Z in MT

    Another area of science fiction that hasn’t really come to fruition yet is biologicalgenetic.  We probably could be closer to The Island of Dr. Thoreau than we any would like.

  12. Z in MT
    Misthiocracy: I think the most eerily-accurate sci-fi story I’ve ever read is E.M. Forster’s The Machine Stops.  Forster predicted the sociological effects of 24-7 computer networking way back in 1909!  · 2 minutes ago

    I’ll have to give it a read.

  13. Misthiocracy
    Z in MT: 

    Misthiocracy

    I would agree, but these are really political predictions not technology predictions. 

    Ok, how about Runaway’s portrayal of unmanned drones run amok?

  14. Z in MT

    Also energy.

    Remember Mr. Fusion from Back to the Future II?

  15. Z in MT
    Misthiocracy

    Z in MT: 

    Misthiocracy

    I would agree, but these are really political predictions not technology predictions. 

    Ok, how about Runaway’s portrayal of unmanned drones run amok? · 1 minute ago

    Ok.  Why are the potential bad effects of technology more popular than the good?  i.e. Why is Star Trek is one of the few optimistic takes on the future.

  16. Misthiocracy
    Z in MT: Another area of science fiction that hasn’t really come to fruition yet is biologicalgenetic.  We probably could be closer to The Island of Dr. Thoreau than we any would like. 

    There seems to be no slowing down the world’s progress towards society as portrayed in Gattaca.  We have sex-selection abortions and in utero screening for genetic diseases today, and you better believe plenty of companies are hard at work perfecting human genetic engineering.

    Remember, Gattaca came out six years before the Human Genome Project published its data. Genetics has progressed by leaps and bounds since then.

  17. Z in MT

    I have to sign off now but,

    My technology prediction is that we are at the beginning of the end of the rapid technological progress we have made since the start of the industrial revolution.  I expect that the world 200 years from now will be much the same as it is now.  It will take a big breakthrough in energy technology and space travel for things to be dramatically different (better or worse).

    I’ll give one caveat on the geneticsbio side, that is the real future.

  18. Misthiocracy
    Z in MT

    Misthiocracy

    Z in MT: 

    Misthiocracy

    I would agree, but these are really political predictions not technology predictions. 

    Ok, how about Runaway’s portrayal of unmanned drones run amok? · 1 minute ago

    Ok.  Why are the potential bad effects of technology more popular than the good?

    It’s simple.  Because fiction depends on conflict.  

    Plus, keep in mind that the drones in Runaway don’t “go rogue” all on their own, like HAL or Skynet.  Instead, they are programmed by the evil bad guy to commit crimes.  As such, the movie isn’t a paranoid tale about the evils of technology, but rather a common sense vision of how any technology can be used by a determined criminal element.

  19. Misthiocracy
    Z in MT

    Why is Star Trek is one of the few optimistic takes on the future. 

    Because it flies in the face of scientific realism.  Star Trek breaks the laws of physics (not to mention the laws of economics) with wild abandon.  

    Star Trek is fantasy, not science.

  20. Don Tillman

    Professional futurists have always been notoriously bad at predicting the future.  Often humorously so.

    (My personal favorite being the flywheel-powered automobile on the cover of Popular Science magazine in the 60′s.  Man, oh man; if that got into an accident it would take out a city block.)

    But professional comedians, on the other hand, have scored pretty well.  

    Woody Allen absolutely *nailed* cloning, Aibo the robot dog, and some other things in Sleeper.   And there’s an episode of The Jetsons that accurately predicted reading news on the internet.

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