Watch TV to Predict the Future

Television can be more than entertaining.

BY Matilda Sands
Aug.31,2019 / UPDATED ON FEB.28,2020

When reality is stranger than fiction, TV writers have to pick up their game. Since 2018, more than a quarter of Netflix originals are classed in the sci-fi/fantasy category—that’s higher than any other genre, even comedy.

Apparently, we’d rather dream than laugh. Or maybe we’d prefer to see kids trapped in parallel worlds than watch depressed comics make jokes about politics. No. More. Reality.

Unless that reality is based on fantasy. “Science fiction prototyping” is now standard practice in technology companies, where futurists look to science fiction to get ideas for new gadgets and marketable concepts.

As a kid, Jeff Bezos spent his summers reading pulp science fiction, and he founded his rocket company, Blue Origin, on the advice of the sci-fi writer, Neal Stephenson. The cast of ‘The Expanse’ recently took a field trip to see Bezos’s suborbital spaceship, New Shepard, which is currently in development.

Star Trek has a monopoly on speculative tech. The iPad was pinched directly from StarTrek’s Personal Access Display Device–PADD, for short. Google Glass shares striking similarities with the virtual display devices favored by the evil Dominion. Flip phones and smartwatches were first seen on screen, modeled by the crew of the Starship Enterprise.

Other sci-fi inventions have been a long time coming. Self-driving cars were predicted as far back as 1982, in the TV series Knight Rider. Laser guns and hover boards have yet to materialize, and androids are still stranded in the realm of uncanny valley.

Still, we shouldn’t complain. There’s probably a lot of evil geniuses who watch Black Mirror.

Keywords: Sci-Fiscience fictionBlack MirrorNetFlix Jeff BezosStarship EnterpriseStar TrekNew Shepard
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