10 Science Fiction Issues That Never Became a Reality

Today’s post is another instalment of Mrs NW’s top 10 series. Previously, Mrs NW gave you the 10 Rules for Living with a Sci-fi Nerd.

Do you remember watching science fiction movies as a kid or reading books and being absolutely in awe of the ideas they contained? I was one of those kids and from that I’ve compiled a list of things I thought would be a much bigger issue as a “grown up” than they actually panned out to be.

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1. The Y2K Bug

This is not so much out of a book or movie, but the idea of computers all failing due to an incapacity to handle the /00 date seems like something out of a science fiction novel. This was supposed to be disastrous. The sudden shutdown of computers world wide. What if the nuclear missiles accidentally go off? I remember standing there at the turn of the millennium waiting for the sudden loss of power, satellites falling out of orbit, and just general mayhem. Instead, Windows 95 was still running strong on our home PC, the CDMA network was still up, and everyone just got on with enjoying their summer holiday. But it did cause 150 slot machines in Delaware to stop working.

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A beautiful piece of pre-2000 clip art

2. Artificial Intelligence Taking Over

What if machines become smarter than us? So, I was a tiny bit obsessed with The Matrix (**cough** may have seen it more than 10 times **cough**, but which self-respecting 13 year old girl didn’t have a crush on Keanu Reeves). Now this only just makes it on the list. Why? Because there is some evidence of machines starting to take over. Not in The Terminator “I’m going to kill you” styles. More of a slow creep into daily life. For example, Mr NW’s workplace has just worked out it might be cheaper to have an app than actual employees to talk to customers.

3. Flying CarsAF498878-1BE8-4614-863B-D4AFA4B6E415

Would you need a driver’s licence or a pilot’s licence? It’s confusing. And how do you avoid collisions if there are no road markings?  My belief that there would be flying cars in the future was heavily inspired by some the classics (The Jetson’s, Back to the Future). Clearly, flying cars and monorails never really took off, but self-driving vehicles are looking more and more like a reality. It will be interesting to see if we ever need to teach the little NWs how to drive.

Read: Can Science Fiction be Cool?

4. Implants for Telecommunication

I can’t remember where I first saw or read this, maybe Total Recall, but the idea of carrying around a phone implanted in your skin is kind of creepy. I’m glad this hasn’t come into fruition. I do remember reading about the idea of using vibrations against your teeth or jaw so that you could hear people talking in your ear. They even made these singing lollipops…

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5. The Planet Being Destroyed by a Meteor

Closely followed by the possibility of massive volcano eruptions wiping out mankind. I’m beginning to think I watched way too many disaster movies as a kid. The idea of volcano eruptions wiping out mankind wasn’t helped by studying the eruption of Mt Vesuvius and the destruction of Pompeii in Latin classes.

6. Space Travel

The film Gattaca blew my mind as it covered genetics (!!) and space travel. This was at a time when we had just learnt how to extract strawberry DNA. I thought by 2017 we would at least have a space hotel. Is Richard Branson still working on his space program? If anything space travel seems to have taken a backward step since its initial breakthroughs. On a side note, The Dish, is an excellent film about the true story of getting the images of man landing on the moon to people’s TVs.

7. Alien Invasions

After listening to the classic War of the Worlds radioplay, I had nightmares of alien invasions. I was about 12 at the time and a friend of mine had pinched it from her parents’ collection. Absolutely haunting. I had heard that the original airing of the play caused mass panic, but this article suggests that rumour is a long perpetuated myth.

8. Genetically Engineered Dinosaurs

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Might need a bigger backyard

My dad let me watch Jurassic Park for the first time when I was 7 and I was terrified. Those were the most realistic dinosaurs I had ever seen. To a 7 year old, the whole premise of reviving dinosaurs from a bit of DNA found in preserved mosiqutos seemed totally legit. About the same time, scientists announced that they had produced Dolly the Sheep, a clone. All of the sudden it seemed like cloning and reviving extinct species was going to be a piece of cake. But actually, as the scientists found out with Dolly, it’s not that simple. For starters, using cloned mitochondria causes all sorts of problems with the “genetic age” of the animal.  And for that reason, I don’t have a pet brachiosaurus, no matter how much the little NWs would love one.

9. Time Travel

Paul Jennings, an Australian children’s short story writer who covers some wild ideas, first introduced me to the concept of time travel (and a story about a girl being born with an eye on her finger). To a kid, time travel seems as easy as inventing a machine. Just pick a time and wahoo there you are. However, no matter how many fancy subatomic particles they discover at CERN, time travel being a reality seems incredibly unlikely.

10. Pirates and Quicksand

Ok, this isn’t a science fiction issue but I really thought pirates and quicksand would be a much bigger problem in life than they panned out to be.

What did you think would be a problem in the future that hasn’t become a reality?

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20 thoughts on “10 Science Fiction Issues That Never Became a Reality

  1. I hate to burst your “too bad it didn’t happen” bubble, BUT…

    The computers took over when Y2K wiped out our computerized infrastructure. What we are using now is simply the tip of what our electronic overlords allow us. Windows8 was an experiment to see how much misery humanity as a whole would put up with 😀

    I was in bibleschool when the whole y2k thing started and one of our teachers let his survivalist instincts run wild. He started buying 55gallondrums filled with wheat berries [which you grind to produce flour] and stashing them around. He bought a LOT of them too. He was ready to go. Water filtration tablets, destillers, etc. I was 21 at the time and I was totally hyped. I’d read some of those “Deathland” books back in highschool, so I knew I was completely ready to survive off the land and fight wars with neighboring towns for dwindling supplies.

    Thank goodness it never happened!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha. I purchased a bottom of the range Lenovo laptop and I’m fairly sure that thing is actually a torture device. That, and the person who decided to force Windows updates upon you right when you are in the middle of doing something important.

      Your teacher sounds a little bit paranoid, until he’s right and we are all bartering for his flour berries. Maybe he should hold on to them. I hear 2040 is a difficult date for computers too. He could make a fortune.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The thing that niggled at me as a kid in the UK (I guess somewhere between the ages of 9 & 14) was the fact that we were always being told about increasing population and the problem of more and more cars on the roads. I thought that when I started driving it would be much busier than in the 1970s & early 80s (yeah, it was a bit) and by the time my kids were driving there wouldn’t be any open country roads left for them to enjoy. (I think I also watched Soylent Green when I was about 12 so the dystopian theme was set).
    I gave my eldest daughter some driving lessons this summer (she eventually showed an interest having hit the grand old age of 21) and we were not nose-to-tail in continuous traffic jams. Take that, young me.
    In fact, as much as the lunatic right bang on about Britain being a ‘small island’ and ‘we’re full’, Great Britain is the NINTH LARGEST ISLAND IN THE WORLD. You could also, theoretically, have the entire world population living here, provided that every square kilometre was turned into tightly-packed residential space so that population density was just a little less than the central district of Manilla. So if, in theory, we could accommodate 7.4 BILLION people, 64 million is practically empty. Of course, successive governments haven’t built enough homes for the people we already have, so perhaps inviting the rest of the word over is asking a bit much.
    By my mid-to-late teens I was more concerned with nuclear war than overpopulation, having watched Threads, which scared the bejesus out of me – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Threads .
    Thankfully, that never happened either, although some idiots are determined to give it another go.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We have a very similar issue here at the moment. We are getting massive distortions in our housing market from overseas investment and immigration. But at 4.5 million people we are certainly not full. A median house price of $1 million in our biggest city is nuts, though. People seem to really struggle with the concept of supply in demand. We are growing by 100,000 people per year but we are building 10,000 homes. The maths doesn’t stack up. Definitely here a shortage of homes will be an issue much faster than too many cars, here at least. We need to start using pre-fabrication technology because at the moment a typical home build takes close to a year, mostly due to a lack of people to do the construction. If robots could take over the house construction industry we might start getting somewhere. On the subject of cars, there are only 4500 electric cars in this country. Talk about a slow uptake of new technology!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hello Mr and Mrs NW, Everybody, I never worried too much about the Y2K bug as I felt that the timing/calendar function and chips of computers would just recycle back to the setting of “Year00,Day01” It was a bit like a Pedometer or lap counter/clicker used in sport, you reach 9999 steps then the device rolls over to 0000 again and continues. All the data on computers would still be there. But Windows 8 wasn’t the start of our trouble with PC’s, VISTA WAS! There was a great quote in a UK television comedy called “The I.T. Crowd” which went something like, “You have VISTA? You do know VISTA MEANS DEATH?!” Anyone who had Vista will know what I mean (especially the User Account Control UAC function Microsoft incorporate that required “Permissions” to access your own files!)

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I believe the police force in Manchester, England are still running XP as are a lot of ATM cash machines so you are not alone. Vista played havoc with MS Flight Simulator (where I flew models of X-Wings and the Millennium Falcon) especially if I edited the graphics to change an aircraft’s paint scheme. (I mentioned Star Wars to keep my comment Sci-Fi based!)

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Haha! Definite bonus points for staying on topic. Mr NW will sympathise with the graphics issues. There’s been complaints lately that his graphics card that was new in 2013 can no longer handle the latest games on full spec and hints that an upgrade is necessary. Terrible though when it’s the operating system causing the issue rather than your hardware!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Oh the graphics card always needs to be upgraded! But in my case the operating system didn’t recognise my edited image files used to “paint” the aircraft because it didn’t have the same “Permissions” profile as the original images. These are just small problems however. the end of the world is much worse!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. You are hilarious!
    I am disappointed by the lack of flying cars and terribly terrified of self driving ones!
    I think some of the ones you mentioned could still happen in our lifetime.
    Implanted cellphones, alien invasion, massive zombie like illness….
    Personally, I would love an implanted e-reader so no one could tell if I was reading… which I would be!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I don’t know exactly how it would work…. I worry if it is implanted you wouldn’t actually be actively reading… more like downloading, and that would take all the pleasure out of it!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. hehe I’m still terrified of AIs taking over 😉 I wish flying cars would become a thing (but I’m also aware of how impractical and not environmentally friendly they would be) Gotta be honest I’m glad most of these didn’t come true- although time travel would be fun (aside from the butterfly effect 😉 )

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Excellent post. It is fun to think about sci-fi movies and books that have portrayed “future history” that was supposed to take place in our present. Back to the Future is a good one for that kind of thing. There was a lot of work done to capture what it would be like in the year 2015 – controlled weather, flying cars, self-fitting clothes and shoes. All the things you pointed out in your post are great fun to consider.
    I, personally, spend time thinking about the technology presented in the Shadowrun RPG game. I marvel at how close we are starting to get to some of the tech represented in SR. Internet devices, personal area networks and even cybernetics – some of the prostheses being developed and how they are being “connected” to the human mind – are all in existence in one form or another in our present world. And there is similarity to what is written about in the SR books. It’s freakin’ amazing 🙂 Again, great post; fun stuff to think on.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Those are some great points, Scott. It’s interesting that a lot of the ideas in Back to the Future are probably technically possible but just not commercially viable or a bit gimmicky. The list of ideas that have developed into reality is extensive. I know a couple of guys that are working on cybernetic type machine for ICU departments that controls a patient’s ventilation, fitting real-time patient data to a mathematical model which adjusts flow rate and pressure. It’s definitely fun to think about what might be next!

      Like

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