Science Fiction has, for decades, represented the furthest limits of how far the human imagination can be stretched. Whether it is books, comics, TV series or films, the characters and worlds that are represented in it have filled us with amazement and wonder, enthralling generation after generation.
The genre has existed for centuries. Over the years the perception around it has varied. It started out as a genre with humble roots. It was perceived to be a bit of a novelty, something that only a specific section of society could relate to. For years, it lay in the shadow of the more popular action and romance genres. It did however always have some of the most dedicated fan bases. Even though they were originally few in number, those that enjoyed the content were completely devoted to it, making sure they were clued in to the intricate details of the alien worlds the stories were set in.
Over time the ardent fan base grew and today science fiction or sci fi as it is popularly called has become big business. It is not only the massive movies now showing but the merchandising and ancillary verticals that have made it a thriving billion dollar industry with large conglomerates jumping into the fray.
While all this fanfare around them is well and good, Sci Fi has made another significant contribution to society that it doesn’t quite get enough credit for. The underrated influence it has had on the creation of modern day products and technology that have become integral to our daily lives is probably its most valuable contribution to the world we live in.
The products in question are not some futuristic prototypes scientists are working towards. We can already see these products in the market today.
One of the most popular pieces of technology today, the cell phone was famously inspired by the wireless communication devices seen in the star trek franchise. Martin Cooper, the director of development at Motorola emphasised just how much of an influence it was when he said. “That was not just fantasy to us that was the objective.”
Like the cell phone, the submarine, atomic energy and the helicopter are just some of the inventions that have well documented roots in science fiction. The influence is stark and together a lot of these inventions have had a big part in shaping the society we live in today.
The trend does not seem like it is seeing any decline. The current crop of fiction across genres seems to a be genuine indicator of the future of many industries. Driverless cars and sustainable civilian space travel no longer seem like distant pipe dreams. It looks likely that they will be accepted norms in the coming decades.
Technology has advanced rapidly over the past decade. The progress we have made is an indicator of how quickly we are moving forward. Just three decades ago the thought of having a computer powerful enough to perform complicated tasks with access to all kinds of information in every person’s pocket seemed laughable but today it is just the norm.
While sci-fi is a great source of inspiration and teaches us a lot of things both scientific and otherwise, it can not take all the credit for this technological spurt. Today information is shared faster than ever in the history of the human species. Inventors and product designers from all over the world have access not only to resources but state of the art tools like 3D rendering and CNC machines. These tools allow them to let their imagination run wild making the process from conceptualisation to holding a physical prototype less expensive, both in terms of time and money.
Research and development has become an integral part of the corporate structure of large corporations allowing for an adequate inflow of funding for in the field of product design and creation.
Across industries we can see the results of these innovations come to fruition faster than ever before. These innovations are no longer expensive and can quickly be deployed into mass market sectors benefiting larger and larger chunks of society.
Though science is moving faster and it seems like it is closing the gap to the fantasy worlds created in science fiction, we can rest assured that the gap will never disappear completely. Science Fiction creators will continue to come up with ideas nobody thought possible. They will push boundaries even further giving scientists and inventors loftier ideas to pursue.
The one thing that both science and science fiction will always have in common is the fact that they will only be limited by the human imagination. While the world of science still has a set of rules that govern its growth, science fiction will continue to blaze forward constantly re-imagining what humans (or the other worldly races they interact with) are capable of accomplishing.