Surprisingly Realistic Predictions in SF-Literature

Rhinocrates

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Good sf doesn't just introduce new concepts, it explores the ramifications of those concepts. As HG Wells introduced tanks, DEWs, nukes, transnational organisations, and air power, he also explored what they would mean. Now, I really can't recommend : Lem enough. Under this topic, his 1964 novel, The Invincible.


It was one of the first novels to explore the ideas of microrobots, smartdust, artificial swarm intelligence, and "necroevolution" (a term suggested by Lem for the evolution of non-living matter).


[...]

The protagonists come to speculate that a kind of evolution must have taken place under the selection pressures of "robot wars", with the only surviving form being swarms of minuscule, insect-like micromachines. Individually, or in small groups, they are quite harmless and capable of only very simple behavior. When threatened, they can assemble into huge clouds, travel at a high speed, and even climb to the top of the troposphere. These swarms display complex behavior arising from self-organization and can incapacitate any intelligent threat by a powerful surge of electromagnetic interference.

Similar themes are explored in 'The Upside-Down Evolution', collected in One Human Minute. The point is that (as Wells realised that air power transcends fronts of war and creates areas of strategic warfare) cybernetics doesn't create individual superweapons, but rather a landscape of war. As a witness to the Nazi invasion of Poland, and as a partisan fighter and a Jew who escaped execution by sheer chance, Lem has a profound sense of the absurdity of the horror, and of how it pervades a landscape. This comes through in an early novel, Eden, and in the lengthy discussions by the characters in Fiasco.

Fiasco
:


Summa Technologiae (nonfiction):

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Summa_Technologiae

This has now had a full translation into English.

A lot of it's nearly sixty years old and I think it should be required reading now.

Bonus: AI-generated art like the products of GPT-3 and Midjourney gets its first mention in Imaginary Magnitude.
 
It's easy for a writer to imagine a supercomputer that rises to consciousness and as it evolves, surpasses [insert great artist here] simply by being 'better.' However, what struck me on re-reading Lem's quasi-essay (1973 (translated into English 1974 - it's an introduction and first chapters of a nonexistant book), 'The History of Bitic Literature' is that the computers he envisaged are not superior at all. They're not even conscious. Chatbots and artbots do not 'think'. they detect patterns via statistical analysis of existing texts and iterate them. Lem uses a topological analogy:

It comes about that, in the space of meanings, a work of Dostoyevsky's develops into a curved mass, recalling in its overall structure an open torus, that is "a broken ring" (with a gap. Thus it was a relatively simple task (for machines, of course, not for people!) to close that gap, inserting the missing link.

When I read that more than thirty years ago, it seemed awfully clever. Now it's true.

However, it's the prediction that's true, not the machines' product:


And yet the chatbot that can write grade A essays will also tell you that if one woman can produce one baby in nine months, nine women can produce one baby in one month; that one kilo of beef weighs more than a kilo of compressed air; and that crushed glass is a useful health supplement. It can make up facts and reproduce many of the biases of the human world on which it is trained.

Links to examples in the article.

Chess players routinely pair with machines in teams called 'centaurs.' I expect the same to be inevitable in many other fields, including strategy and command. I don't think it's fanciful either to predict that intelligence - the information gathering agencies - will make use of artificial intelligence to complete 'broken rings', and as a spinoff, replicate not Dostoyevsky, but rival political leaders.
 
"The Machine Stops" by E. M. Forster, 1909. It predicts a future where people stay in their little cubicles and interact with each other largely through video conferencing, with clout coming from having the most followers. History is re-written on a whim and society is completely dependent upon automation. Everyone owns nothing and they're happy. Until it all collapses.
 
The ancient Greek philosophers Democritus of Abdera and Epicurus argued that countless inhabited worlds existed through an infinite cosmos. The philosophic question of intelligent life on other worlds was also debated during the middle ages by Albertus Magnus, Tomas de Aquino, Etienne Tempier and Nicholas of Cusa. During the Renaissance, Giordano Bruno and Johannes Kepler suggested that intelligent creatures might live in other planets.

Although they were the smartest men of their time, they all lacked a good reason to make such claims, but they were not charlatans or tricksters either, they simply got carried away by inspiration, a neurological event so complex and enigmatic that today's science is only beginning to understand.

The ancient Greek philosophers considered inspiration to be the enemy of reason and they believed it to be an emotional storm passed on to humans by mythical beings, the muses. Inspiration, intuition, and creativity are uncontrollable random phenomena that have always obsessed artists and scientists... Where do writers get their ideas from?
 
This. The Reiner Gamma anomaly, or: how the Moon created, just for the fun and without aliens nor monolith, his very own AMT-1 & AMT-2 hybrid.
It has the look of Iapetus' AMT-2 (a big empty white eye painted on a moon, staring at the universe) and AMT-1 powerful magnetic anomaly (even without a monolith buried underneath)

Document on the right is a very real 1979 science paper and analyzis of Apollo J-mission magnetic field subsatellites results. Exactly as Artur C. Clarke had predicted a mere decade before, when writing 2001 - the novel.


 

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Jules Verne 60% correct description of Apollo 8 exactly a century before the date. Stone'hills is less than 100 miles from Cape Canaveral. Empty weight of his three-men aluminium Moonship evenly matches that of an Apollo with empty tanks.
He got the USN picking the capsule after a splashdown in the ocean (even if he forget the parachutes LMAO).

In the original edition I was lucky to be offered as a kid and red 30 years ago there is a truly astonishing picture of the Columbiad firing its solid fuel rockets, that looks uncannily like an Apollo with the SPS engine bell in the back. And make no mistake, that picture was part of the 1868 book, not the 1969 edition :D


De-la-terre-a%CC%80-la-lune-bayard3.jpg
:p
 
What's the intended takeaway from that ancient Greek philosopher history recap, that would include earth, fire, air, and water being the elements that made up everything? As an engineer I much prefer looking ahead as opposed to looking backwards.
 
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What's the intended takeaway from that ancient Greek philosopher history recap, that would include earth, fire, air, and water being the elements that made up everything? As an engineer I much prefer looking ahead as opposed to looking backwards.
As a writer I agree with that. My predictions about the future do not include the search and colonization of new habitable worlds for humanity, an adventure too expensive and too dangerous to free the planet from a negligible number of people that might not survive. In my opinion, the future of humanity in space will consist of great arcologies endowed with artificial gravity that use the water of comets and artificial photosynthesis to produce food.
 
Where do writers get their ideas from?
We talk about that sometimes in our local creative writers group.
General consensus seems to be that where the ideas come from is of far less practical relevance than what you DO with the ideas.
I agree. In my case I usually find solutions during sleep to the problems I encounter when I try to write a story, no matter where the answers come from, but I know very well what I can do with them: delete some bad sentences and rewrite them better.;)
 
I've heard about a nineteenth-century novel describing a huge ship called TITAN that sank on its first voyage. Anyone has more information about this story?
 
I've heard about a nineteenth-century novel describing a huge ship called TITAN that sank on its first voyage. Anyone has more information about this story?
"The Wreck of the Titan." Morgan Robertson, 1898.

It has some remarkably accurate predictions, but it's dull as hell.
Like the Titanic, the fictional ship sank in April in the North Atlantic, and there were not enough lifeboats for all the passengers. There are also similarities in size (800 ft [244 m] long for the Titan versus 882 ft 9 in [269 m] long for the Titanic), speed, and life-saving equipment.[2] After the Titanic's sinking, some people credited Robertson with precognition and clairvoyance, which he denied. Scholars attribute the similarities to Robertson's extensive knowledge of shipbuilding and maritime trends.[3]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wreck_of_the_Titan:_Or,_Futility
 
nineteenth-century novel describing a huge ship called TITAN that sank on its first voyage
How about this,


People throughout the world have pondered Robertson's psyche for almost a century, ever since that fateful April night in 1912 when the HMS Titanic slipped into the icy depths of the North Atlantic.

Robertson had written a book of fiction, called "Futility," about an unsinkable British ocean liner named the Titan that hits an iceberg in the North Atlantic in April and sinks, taking hundreds to the bottom of the ocean.

Robertson's book about the Titan was published in 1898 — 14 years before the Titanic left Southampton, England, for New York City.

Similarly, people have wondered about a fictional book Robertson had published in 1914 that told of a Japanese attack on Hawaii. But more about that later.

Robertson, born Sept. 30, 1861, in Oswego, was the son of Andrew and Amelia Robertson. He attended Oswego's School No. 6, on the site where St. Paul Catholic Church sits today.

Oswego County Historian Justin White said the Robertson family lived on East Seventh Street — the house still exists with the current house number of 103, according to a biography written about Robertson
 
nineteenth-century novel describing a huge ship called TITAN that sank on its first voyage
How about this,


People throughout the world have pondered Robertson's psyche for almost a century, ever since that fateful April night in 1912 when the HMS Titanic slipped into the icy depths of the North Atlantic.

Robertson had written a book of fiction, called "Futility," about an unsinkable British ocean liner named the Titan that hits an iceberg in the North Atlantic in April and sinks, taking hundreds to the bottom of the ocean.

Robertson's book about the Titan was published in 1898 — 14 years before the Titanic left Southampton, England, for New York City.

Similarly, people have wondered about a fictional book Robertson had published in 1914 that told of a Japanese attack on Hawaii. But more about that later.

Robertson, born Sept. 30, 1861, in Oswego, was the son of Andrew and Amelia Robertson. He attended Oswego's School No. 6, on the site where St. Paul Catholic Church sits today.

Oswego County Historian Justin White said the Robertson family lived on East Seventh Street — the house still exists with the current house number of 103, according to a biography written about Robertson
Many thanks!
 
Jonathan Swift in his book "Gulliver’s Travels" (released in 1726) of astronomers in the land of Laputa who discovered " ... two lesser stars, or satellites, which revolve around Mars." Both satellites revolve around Mars in nearly circular orbits and also very nearly in the plane of the planet’s equator. Phobos orbits a mere 3,700 miles (6,000 kilometers) above the Martian surface. And it's getting closer.

The odd thing is that Phobos and Deimos were discovered by Asaph Hall at U.S. Naval Observatory only in 1877, in other words 150 years after the Switf's novel.
 
I've heard about a nineteenth-century novel describing a huge ship called TITAN that sank on its first voyage. Anyone has more information about this story?
"The Wreck of the Titan." Morgan Robertson, 1898.

It has some remarkably accurate predictions, but it's dull as hell.
Like the Titanic, the fictional ship sank in April in the North Atlantic, and there were not enough lifeboats for all the passengers. There are also similarities in size (800 ft [244 m] long for the Titan versus 882 ft 9 in [269 m] long for the Titanic), speed, and life-saving equipment.[2] After the Titanic's sinking, some people credited Robertson with precognition and clairvoyance, which he denied. Scholars attribute the similarities to Robertson's extensive knowledge of shipbuilding and maritime trends.[3]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wreck_of_the_Titan:_Or,_Futility
Many thanks!
Jonathan Swift in his book "Gulliver’s Travels" (released in 1726) of astronomers in the land of Laputa who discovered " ... two lesser stars, or satellites, which revolve around Mars." Both satellites revolve around Mars in nearly circular orbits and also very nearly in the plane of the planet’s equator. Phobos orbits a mere 3,700 miles (6,000 kilometers) above the Martian surface. And it's getting closer.

The odd thing is that Phobos and Deimos were discovered by Asaph Hall at U.S. Naval Observatory only in 1877, in other words 150 years after the Switf's novel.
Miguel de Cervantes and the enigma of Jupiter's moons.

In one of his 'Novelas Ejemplares', the author of Don Quixote referred to the moons of Jupiter as 'little Ganymede'. The work of Cervantes was published in June 1613, four months before the Jovian satellites were baptized.

 
I'd hazard to guess that that particular gentleman in your mind would be Lucien Rudaux, who created some truly stunning spacespape illustrations, although his lunar depictions still appeared rather rugged to me?
 
That sounds familiar. “Lunar Gardening” was a term that described micrometeoroids replacing rain as and agent of erosion. Good luck in looking that up on the web.
 
Image quality was crap but I was glued to the screen anyway. In 1986, I stayed up in what was the middle of the night for me to see the flyby of Halley's comet. My neighbours in the students' house thought me slightly peculiar. Image quality was crap again, but what can you do?
 
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During the golden age of science fiction thousands of stories and novels were written about the first trip to the moon, I have only read a small fraction of these stories but none of them mention that the first moon landing was broadcast on television in real time.:)

Apollo was able to communicate with Earth because of the large radio dishes that were built for that and radio astronomy. Without those, communications would have been damn near impossible. So a lot of the early stories about the first moon landing suggested that it would be done by a small group... crazy inventors, a small military project, something like that. But the reality was that it was a *vast* undertaking. And without *vast,* you don't get reliable communications over 240,000 miles.

Except Hitler. Hitler at the Olympics will cross the galaxy.
 
Bonus: AI-generated art like the products of GPT-3 and Midjourney gets its first mention in Imaginary Magnitude.

Don't forget Roald Dahl's Great Automatic Grammatizator. This was required reading when I was in middle school over a decade ago.

He even has the inventor take over the entire publishing industry and put everyone out of work.
 
What's the intended takeaway from that ancient Greek philosopher history recap, that would include earth, fire, air, and water being the elements that made up everything? As an engineer I much prefer looking ahead as opposed to looking backwards.
Earth, water, air and fire describe how he different STATES of matter. Cold, low-energy matter is solid. Heat matter a bit and it melts to liquid. Heat it some more and it evaporates into gas. Heat it a whole bunch more and that matter turns into plasma/fire.
 
What's the intended takeaway from that ancient Greek philosopher history recap, that would include earth, fire, air, and water being the elements that made up everything? As an engineer I much prefer looking ahead as opposed to looking backwards.
As a writer I agree with that. My predictions about the future do not include the search and colonization of new habitable worlds for humanity, an adventure too expensive and too dangerous to free the planet from a negligible number of people that might not survive. In my opinion, the future of humanity in space will consist of great arcologies endowed with artificial gravity that use the water of comets and artificial photosynthesis to produce food.
Hello Justo, I would dearly like for you to be correct on this issue, but currently I just don't see a viable path for that as of yet, although I realize the extremely hard unforeseen turns history may take from this point on...
 
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I'm personally rooting for giant lunar lava tubes. Very close from Earth, nice temperatures, oxygen in the rocks, some of them (potentially) 170 km long by 4 km diameter... those lava tubes could be more voluminous than O'Neill space habitats !

I can no longer watch Interstellar without thinking "Plan C - after the black hole and the population bomb - go to lunar lava tubes, you dummies !"
 
I think Iain M. Banks`s CULTURE series (although hardly from antiquity) is the only plausible prediction I`ve ever read of space battles and the future of humanity.

The universe is mostly run by giant ships powered by immensely powerful AI "minds", most of them are fairly benevolent but some are vicious and evil. Humans are mostly kept alive because the AI minds find them amusing and unpredictable creatures to watch and toy with. So many allow the humans to travel with them in their travels through the stars, mostly to keep the minds from getting too bored.

Most humans are non-standard, which is to say have a range of modifications from visual enhancements to almost fully mechanised body`s, and generally live to be about 200, many of the humans get bored after about 100 years and can tap into their genetic structure as you would in the BIOS of your home PC and change their sex, frequently to experience childbirth or just for fun.

Some branches of humanity have rejected all this lifestyle and live very much as primitive tribes in isolated settlements.
Space battles (unlike the laughable "maritime" sitting there in space chucking things at eachother ones in Star Trek), are usually
all over in a few microseconds.

The humans who work for the CULTURE in senior roles all have their own tiny "knife missile" drone which hovers nearby watching for threats. He wrote the first one in 1987.
 
I like most of "Culture" series books, including a "spin-off" - "Algebraist". For me, the most convincing prediction of Ian M.Banks is the the ability of persons in the future not to live forever (despite the possibilities of that) and bring their lifes for the beliefs.
 
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Yikes - sounds like yet another one of the myriad of sloppy syfy (and I use that term very advisedly) yarns that mindlessly conflates artificial intelligence with artificial consciousness, let alone artificial intent - thanks for the helpful consumer report! Now if you'll excuse me, let me get back to rewatching Demon Seed...
 
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I like most of "Culture" series books, including a "spin-off" - "Algebraist". For me, the most convincing prediction of Ian M.Bansk is the the ability of persons in the future not to live forever (despite the possibilities of that) and bring their lifes for the beliefs.
I, for one, wholeheartedly welcome and enthusiastically embrace the truly visionary, absolutely revolutionary, and awesomely mindblowing ability of persons in the future not to live forever! But seriously, suicide is always an option, so what else is new?
 
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Yikes - sounds like yet another one of the myriad of sloppy syfy (and I use that term very advisedly) yarns that mindlessly conflates artificial intelligence with artificial consciousness, let alone artificial intent - thanks for the helpful consumer report! Now if you'll excuse me, let me get back to rewatching Demon Seed...
I`ve never read anything in the "space opera" genre that's even in the same realm as THE EXCESSION. Bank`s writing is almost terrifying in its excellence. But feel free to say "YIKES" and miss out, your loss, believe me.
 
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What's the intended takeaway from that ancient Greek philosopher history recap, that would include earth, fire, air, and water being the elements that made up everything? As an engineer I much prefer looking ahead as opposed to looking backwards.
As a writer I agree with that. My predictions about the future do not include the search and colonization of new habitable worlds for humanity, an adventure too expensive and too dangerous to free the planet from a negligible number of people that might not survive. In my opinion, the future of humanity in space will consist of great arcologies endowed with artificial gravity that use the water of comets and artificial photosynthesis to produce food.
Hello Justo, I would dearly like for you to be correct on this issue, but currently I just don't see a viable path for that as of yet, although I realize the extremely hard unforeseen turns history may take from this point on...


An orbital colony with rotating Earth gravity would allow life off the planet in the long term and would be easier to supply than a Martian or lunar colony where the lack of gravity would cause serious physical damage in the medium term.

An orbital colony can move to avoid impacts or solar flares by orbiting Mars or beyond if the sun begins the red star phase. Over time, numerous orbital colonies and other specialized enclaves can be built: mining, factories, solar agriculture, etc. to ensure the survival of the species.

An orbital colony can become a generational ship if needed. We have the technology and the only major problem we need to solve is radiation protection, something that would also be necessary in a lunar or Martian colony.

If one day we manage to get rid of Einstein's curse we can establish orbital colonies in other solar systems, but I don't think humans of that time want to live on a planetary surface with all kinds of discomforts and dangers. It is not a simple scientific project, it is a vital necessity for humanity, which does not believe me to ask a dinosaur.
 

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I can thoroughly recommend Stephen Baxter's 'Titan' as a dark prediction novel (unfortunately prescient in too many ways) :)
 
I think Iain M. Banks`s CULTURE series (although hardly from antiquity) is the only plausible prediction I`ve ever read of space battles and the future of humanity.

The universe is mostly run by giant ships powered by immensely powerful AI "minds", most of them are fairly benevolent but some are vicious and evil. Humans are mostly kept alive because the AI minds find them amusing and unpredictable creatures to watch and toy with. So many allow the humans to travel with them in their travels through the stars, mostly to keep the minds from getting too bored.

Most humans are non-standard, which is to say have a range of modifications from visual enhancements to almost fully mechanised body`s, and generally live to be about 200, many of the humans get bored after about 100 years and can tap into their genetic structure as you would in the BIOS of your home PC and change their sex, frequently to experience childbirth or just for fun.

Some branches of humanity have rejected all this lifestyle and live very much as primitive tribes in isolated settlements.
Space battles (unlike the laughable "maritime" sitting there in space chucking things at eachother ones in Star Trek), are usually
all over in a few microseconds.

The humans who work for the CULTURE in senior roles all have their own tiny "knife missile" drone which hovers nearby watching for threats. He wrote the first one in 1987.

100% agree here.
 
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