I always fight back laughter when someone tells me, “It’s just a movie! It’s just a book! It’s just a show!”
Humans are humans thanks to the stories we tell each other. Fiction frequently impacts the “real” world, leading to innovations we wouldn’t have dreamed possible if someone hadn’t first created a world where it was.
Take “Star Trek.” Love it or hate it, it’s undeniable fact that — more than simply make a mark on pop culture — it’s physically shaped our modern world. We have automatic doors, cellphones, holographic imaging: all because generations of scientists and engineers were inspired by a television show they grew up obsessing over.
Not bad for a series rife with green women, alien dogs and melodramatic line delivery.
We can also thank science fiction for robots, 3-D printers, the internet, the submarine and helicopter, bluetooth, virtual reality gaming — the list only continues to grow.
An exchange Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) have in the first “Thor” film has always stuck with me:
ERIK: I’m talking about science, not magic.
JANE: Well, “Magic’s just science we don’t understand yet.” Arthur C. Clarke.
ERIK: Who wrote science fiction.
JANE: A precursor to
Here are some of the awesome sci-fi doo-hickeys I hope will become science fact in the near future ...
6. LIGHTSABERS (“Star Wars”). “An elegant weapon for a more civilized age,” explains Obi-Wan. He has a point — lightsabers are way cooler than blasters. Sure, they may not be the most practical of weapons, but everything from the glow to the hum is thrilling. Who doesn’t want to deflect laser blasts and cut rocks in half with a single swing?
5. EXOSKELETONS (“Aliens,” “Iron Man” and “Pacific Rim”). This tech is already a solid reality in the medical industry; robotic frames are helping paralyzed patients walk again. They’re also being used for heavy physical labor in warehouses, a la Ripley’s Power Loader in “Aliens.” Tony Stark’s superhero suit, sadly, is still a ways away. And until giant monsters begin attacking, we don’t really have a need for the Jaegers of “Pacific Rim” — but how easy would moving be if you could just pick up the whole house?
4. FASTER THAN LIGHT TRAVEL (“Star
Trek” ‘s warp speed, “Star Wars” ‘s hyperspace and “Dune” ‘s foldspace). It sure would be great if we could cross the known galaxy in a matter of minutes or hours instead of lifetimes — especially if the destruction of the planet continues and we have to find another inhabitable world. It would also be useful when we finally make contact with the closest alien neighbors and want to arrange a human/Grabnock educational exchange program.
3. LEELOO’S FOOD REHYDRATOR (“The Fifth Element”). “Chicken, good!” enthuses Leeloo (Milla Jovovich) as she pulls an entire roast bird from this awesome microwave. For those of us who can’t cook even if our lives were on the line (guilty as charged), this device would be beyond helpful.
2. DIGITAL MIND TRANSFER (found in fiction from Isaac Asimov, Frederik Pohl, John Scalzi; “Ghost in the Shell,” “TRON,” “Lawnmower Man” and “Altered Carbon”). Forget eternal youth or immortality: being able to upload your consciousness and memories into a mainframe, robot or new body is the way to go! We could experience multiple lifetimes, finally fit in all of that world travel we long for and avoid bodily pain and disease. I, for one, would welcome the opportunity to go full robot.
1. TELEPORTATION (the “Star Trek” kind — not “The Fly”). No more traffic jams! No more pollution and outrageous costs generated by millions of vehicles! No more hours of our lives wasted on commutes or long flights! We could instantly pop to a new city, state or country with ease, allowing us to live in Canada, weekend in New Zealand and work in Sweden! Perfect for those with far-flung friends or frequent bouts of wanderlust. What a beautiful future that would be ...
ANGIE BARRY is a page designer and columnist for The Times. To suggest future topics for The B-List, which covers pop culture, history and literature, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org