Which science-fiction/modern thriller 'predicts' the future?

I read somewhere (or had this meme implanted into my brain) that science fiction novels have an uncanny knack of predicting certain aspects of the future. Example include Jule’s submarine, for instance. (Another interesting example, a computer tactical war game set in the Gulf War came out a few years before the first Gulf War).

Now if we look back, what science fiction or modern thriller novels/movies set during our times make some correct guesses? Did any hint that one day an African American would become president, for a very recent example?

Well, the writers of 24 predicted a black president. I consider that science fiction because no one can do as much as Jack Bauer does in 24 hours without having to go to the bathroom once.

I think Verne also predicted the fax machine.

David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest has a device in it called the teleputer which corresponds well with the way people currently watch TV. He wrote this book in the early 90s, though, so it’s not quite in the same league of prediction as Verne.

A common misconception. There have been a handful of correct predictions, and thousands of incorrect ones. People remember the handful of correct ones and forget the many, many times it was wrong (other than “Where are the flying cars?”).

Note that these aren’t really “predictions” in the sense that the author is trying to predict the future. They are speculations.

The best example is The Golden Kazoo by John G. Schneider. Written in 1956, it predicted that presidential campaigns (it’s set in 1964) will be solely dependent on their ad campaigns, with the candidate marketed like soap or breakfast cereal. Computers would predict the winner based on polling data, and the Republicans would nominate a handsome but intellectually challenged “regular guy” who would get elected by using clever marketing slogans (“Dime Bread!”) and cheap tricks (“His wife is going to have a baby! Awwww!”).

In 1969, Joe McGuinness wrote The Selling of the President, which showed that Schneider was dead on.

I think you folks are misinterpreting Jules Verne. They already had submarines in his time. They also had what were essentially FAX machines then, too.

Verne was a superb popularizer and extrapolator – his submarines were spacious, powered by electricity, had diving planes, and many other innovations. This put the Nautilus well ahead of the Hunley. Curiously, Verne did not predict the use of the periscope (which existed in his time) or the torpedo (the Nautilus rammed ships), even though submarines had been attacking ships with explosive charges for a century by the time he wrote.
His list of predictions is long and impressive. In Robur the Conqueror he had the heavier-than-air flying machine built out of composites (!!!). Even in the 1960s, most people didn’t properly understand what he was saying. He got the idea from the technology of his day, and properly extrapolated.

Tribulations of a Chinaman has his (Chinese) hero using a rubber suvival suit at sea.

Journey to the Center of the Earth and other novels have his heroes using electric flashlights with hand-cranked generators, like the ones I have in my house

The Barsac Mission has people calling for help using radio

Carpathian Castle has the first instrance I know of where the villain uses hidden microphones to spy on the good guys, and uses Projectors and televisions.
From the Earth to the Moon uses an aluminum space capsule for space travel (although he cheated in using a cannon for blast off), and the first record of a “count down” (although it was a “count up” – no one “counted down” to zero until the film Die Frau im Mond)
and many others.
Of course, he was frequently wrong, too. So was Wells, and so is any person who tries to extrapolate to the future. Science fiction isn’t – cannot possibly be – an infallible predictor of the future. It’s a form of popular entertainment (which might include a bit of didactic and/or social commentary) that very frequently takes the form of a story set in a future, which the storyteller has to extrapolate from his or her own knowledge and abilities. Sometimes they get it spectacularly right. Sometimes they overlook the obvious. Sometimes history takes a different turn and something that seems logical and rational never gets a chance to happen.

I don’t think we’re likely to get flying cars or rocket belts, but we’ve got the portable phones Heinlein ncasually threw into his srories. Henry Kuttner/Lewis Padgett’s movie theater-like TV sets aren’t the usual thing (although my local theater broadcasts Red Sox games onto a theater screen every summer), and almost everyone missed the real implications of widespread computers and the internet (wells’ World Mind and Murray Leinster’s “A Logic Named Joe” notwithstanding). And we aren’t in the stage of relatively easy insterplanetary travel, dammit. But a lot of other predictions have come true.

How about predicting the future? Look at what’s being written now. Will the software-enabled soldiers of the future use the things in Scalzi’s Old Man’s War? A lot of them, I’ll bet. But that’s not a tough extrapolation. Robert Forward made some hard-core science and engineering extrapolations, but they look a long way off.

The meme about sf writers predicting the future is sheer nonsense, as the others have said. Science fiction is not about the future; it’s about the present. Writers take what’s in the newspaper headlines along with some science journals and write about possible effects. They are wrong 99% of the time, but it doesn’t matter because they are written for their contemporaries who have no more idea of how the future will turn out than they will.

Flight was an obvious advance. Writers of the 19th century, including dozens we don’t think of today as sf writers, predicted flight of every possible variation they could imagine. And they all got it wrong in the details because they didn’t understand the potential of the lightweight gasoline engine. Airplanes would be useless in war; no, airplanes would end all wars. Everyone would have a personal airplane; no, airplanes would be toys of the rich. The slow and tortuous growth of airline companies wasn’t predicted. Why would it be? It’s not very dramatic.

Automobiles really would transform the world far more than airplanes. Far fewer people wrote about them. Even for decades after their invention, they seemed like toys and gadgets and not a new way of living for everybody on the planet. When automobiles became common everybody knew one thing: they needed to be taken off the crowded streets and placed high in the air so they wouldn’t interfere with pedestrians.

BTW, the first black president novel I’m familiar with was Irving Wallace’s The Man in 1964, although that was a black vice president who became president. There probably were earlier ones. So what? It’s an obvious dramatic device, not in any way a prediction.

But Chuck is completely right. If you make a million scattershot predictions some will come true. But 99% even of those will need tortured logic to make the prediction “right.” Predictions aren’t what sf is about.

Chuck and I are both professional sf writers, BTW, which is why we get so irritated - or at least I do - when this meme comes up. We’ve stomped on it in a dozen previous threads, and I have no doubt we’ll do so a dozen more times to equally small effect.

A slightly earlier one was the serialized comic-book story “Pettigrew for President” in my old Catholic comic book Treasure Chest (of Fun and Fact), in which sinister forces try to prevent the titular Pettigrew from attaining office. Two kids, a boy and a girl, work on his behalf and help to get the Bad Guys. You don’t see Pettigrew’s face throughout the series, until the very last panel, which reveals that he’s black.

As Exapno notes, this wasn’t prediction, it was a reasonable expectation about a future event, used to make an ethical point. Nicely done, though.

Wasn’t “The Man” the third or fourth in line for the presidency?

Boy, a little while ago I couldn’t find anything about “Pettigrew for President” on the Internet. Now it’s everywhere:



Sidenote: It doesn’t help that this meme, if I recalled correctly, are always repeated in books all over. I think I got mine from a children book - one of those “Do you Know?” books.

He was the President Pro Tem of the Senate; the Vice President had recently died and had not yet been replaced when the President and the Speaker of the House were killed in the collapse of a building in Germany. (IIRC the President was killed instantly, and the Speaker died in surgery soon afterward.

Sorry. I haven’t read the book in 40 years and my memory’s obviously rusty.

I’m more amused by the idea that SF predicts the future than annoyed by it.

One of the better predictions (at least in concept): Dick Tracy’s two-way wrist radio, which allowed cops to be in instant communication with each other. Now, they wear the radio on their shoulder, but the concept of cops being able to instantly contact other cops is quite a good extrapolation.

My father said that when he first read about it, he thought it was ridiculous. Who could make a radio small enough to fit on your wrist?

Gotta hand it to the Catholics!

To the OP- Aldous Huxley’s BRAVE NEW WORLD- cloning, socially-acceptable promiscuity & virtual reality porn.