Bladerunner and What Has Come to Pass

One of the things I always fascinating about science fiction is that idea that it is somehow meant to be predictive or prescient in some way. While writers often start with 'if this goes on' as their launchpad, I don't really believe any of them (or many of them) actually sit down with the intention of predicting the future. That's what makes the kind of exploration from this BBC article ("Blade Runner: Which predictions have come true?") both interesting and annoying at the same time. It's cool to see what the writer "got right" but that's not the intent of science fiction. 

In a sense, the journalist is assuming that science fiction, by its nature or intent, is a form of soothsaying. If it is, then science fiction writers may enjoy a slightly higher return on their predictions than most precogs from the  supernatural camp only in that they studiously watch events and attempt to extrapolate a future based on varying degrees of likelihood and, naturally, fictional intent. 

Supernatural soothsayers, those oracles of the spirit world, employ a much more slipshod or prosaic approach. They predict what they believe their customers are willing to pay for, telling people what they want to hear. True soothsayers, if such things actually existed, are more likely to face Cassandra's fate (or Chicken Little's). And so they predict what the market will buy.

There are those who make it their business to predict trends and suggest likely future outcomes using science and statistics as their tools and they too are selling to those who will purchase these predictions. These people are sometimes called futurists. And while some futurists may be science fiction writers and vice versa, when the futurist is operating as a science fiction writer, the product is entertainment. The stories may be cautionary tales or invitations to wonder, but they are meant to entertain. Science fiction writers are, first and foremost, storytellers. But the history of science fiction, its sometimes futuristic visions of wonder, inspired by the boundless discoveries of science and technology, has raised the bar for this particular species of writer. In writing about the future, their tales are seen through the lens of the oracle, with their created futures examined for accuracy. 

Futurists, on the other hand, tend to fall into the same category as economists. Or weather forecasters.

So, read on, dear friends, to see what has come to pass in some of the most famous manufactured futures in science fiction. My good friend, Robert J. Sawyer, a masterful spinner of science fiction tales, is one of the people consulted to judge what came to pass if this went on.


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