Sunday, February 22, 2009

Science fiction invention tracking

Science fiction has served as inspiration for real world design so many times that it would be useful to have a wiki with a rigorous index of innovations proposed in science fiction and a column for tracking their appearance in real life. At minimum, it could inspire the realization of imagined technologies not available yet. There is occasional anecdotal mention of the implementation of SciFiTech but no comprehensive list of ideas.

Everyday life is replete with examples, conceptual if not all fully realized. Heinlein’s remote communications device is the cell phone. Stephenson’s metaverse is virtual worlds like Second Life, where teleportation is possible. The molecular synthesizer or nanofabber is imagined for every home like Stephenson’s matter compiler, but no solution is envisioned yet for the deke (matter decompiler/recycler). The Internet was conceived in many science fiction tales (including Vinge’s “True Names”). The space elevator. FTL (faster than light travel). Immortality. Uploading and rembodiment. Distributed intelligence (Accelerando, Slant, Permutation City). Post-material scarcity. Transhumanism, posthumanism (To Hold Infinity). Multiple self-copies (Golden Age, Kiln People). A deeper contemplation of multiple permanent self-copies (digital or otherwise) and their interactions would be interesting, as would a more profound examination of the struggle for resource control across the universe informed by the ways in which society is currently evolving.

Concepts contemplated in great depth in science fiction (for example, Karl Schroeder’s (Lady of Mazes) rich virtual reality narratives with full upload copies of friends and family available for consultation and communication) become simplified in the early stages of their real life realization (Karl Shroeder’s narratives become Charlene Li’s “you’re friends are with you all the time [via Loopt, Latitude]”).

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