5 sci-fi classics that predicted the internet
- The Fantabulous Futurists of Speculative Fiction!
- Authors that used both SCIENCE and FICTION to do the IMPOSSIBLE!
- Dare you read any further?? Dare I even WRITE ANY FURTHER?? I do!
Books! I mean, what even are they? Well I guess they're sort of like bricks, for smart people. And not unlike bricks, they come in varying quality. Some of the better ones can be as educational as they are entertaining, and the genre of science-fiction has often been good at hitting that sweet spot, to the point where some works of sci-fi have predicted certain leaps and bounds of technology with eerie accuracy.
Here are 5 classic novels that did a somewhat amazing job of predicting the astonishing (if oftentimes toxic) technology that continues to change the world - the internet!
"THE MACHINE STOPS" by Edward Morgan Foster
In 1909 Edward Morgan Foster authored a tale titled "The Machine Stops". It was about the human population's connection to (and reliance on) an almighy, worldwide machine. The story is set in a post-apocalyptic world where people live in underground pods (sort of like, y'know, The Matrix) and communicate through, and have their needs met by, a big global machine-operated network. At a time when radio was the mainstream medium (and telephones were the new evil), Foster's foresight into the way things would pan out for the wolrd in real life makes one wonder if he was some kind of witch.
"NEUROMANCER" by William Gibson
The grandaddy of cyberpunk, author Willian Gibson always had a good eye on how technology might shape our society. In 1988 he was commissioned to write a new science fiction novel in less than a year. Writing in a blind panic, Gibson pumped out Neoromancer, a sci-fi suspense that he was sure that everyone was going to hate, or at the very least, find derivative of the recently released Blade Runner. Instead, he authored a critically and commercially successful sci-fi darling that many credit to be a huge influence over the entire genre, and perhaps, the real world internet. As fellow writer Jack Womach postulated: "what if the act of writing it down, in fact, brought it about?". The plot revolves around a computer hacker named Chase who operates inside of a global computer network in cyberspace, a virtual-reality dataspace called the "matrix". So even if Neuromancer didn't influence the real life internet, it very clearly influenced other notable works such as, y'know, The freakin' Matrix.
"FROM THE LONDON TIMES OF 1904" by Mark Twain
Five years before The Machine Stops, noted prolific author Mark Twain also penned a very internetty element into one of his stories. Jeez, what was in the water in the early 1900's that was making all these authors predict the internet? Absinthe, probably. From the London Times of 1904 is about a U.S. army officer who is falsely convicted for murdering someone who has invented the "telecrtoscope" - a device that allows the user to see and talk to people all over the planet. The convicted soldier is permitted to use the contraption before he is executed.
"...day by day, and night by night, he called up one corner of the globe after another, and looked upon its life, and studied its strange sights, and spoke with its people, and realised that by grace of this marvellous instrument he was almost as free as the birds of the air, although a prisoner under locks and bars."
From his jail cell, the convicted man is eventually able to use the telelecrtoscope to find the man that he was framed for murdering. So besides the internet, the book also sort of predicted online prison matchmaking.
Nothing for you to steal here, The Matrix, just keep on walkin', pal.
"THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE" series by Douglas Adams
Though it was originally a radio series - and consequently, a TV series, a video game and a decidedly underwhelming feature film - Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide is arguably best remembered as series of books (but y'know, totally disregard that comment if you disagree, I have better hills to die on). The beloved comedy sci-fi deftly satirises many different aspects of society (in particular, but not limited to, British society), and though its colourful space-themed allegories are many, the one that mostly resembles today's internet usage is not so much the main characters or anything in the plot, but rather the Guide itself - a handheld, electronic "standard repository for all knowledge and wisdom". So you know. Basically a smartphone.
"A LOGIC NAMED JOE" by Murray Leinster
In 1946, sci-fi author Murray Leinster wrote a book titled "A Logic Named Joe", a somewhat predictive tale about vastly networked personal computers and the trouble that comes with them. The story features computer-like devices named logics, and a protagonist named Ducky who is a logic repairman. The logics are described as looking "like a vision receiver used to, only it's got keys instead of dials and you punch the keys for what you wanna get."
The logics also operate much in the same way as Google...
"You got a logic in your house. It looks like a vision receiver used to, only it's got keys instead of dials, and you punch the keys for what you wanna get. It's hooked in to the tank, which has the Carson Circuit all fixed up with relays. Say you punch 'Station SNAFU' on your logic. Relays in the tank take over an' whatever vision-program SNAFU is telecastin' comes on your screen ... But besides that, if you punch for the weather forecast or who won today's race at Hialeah or who was the mistress of the White House durin' Garfield's administration or what is PDQ and R sellin' for today, that comes on the screen too."
Witchcraft? Aye, English, t'is most certainly WIIIIIIIITCHCRAAAAAAAAAAAFT.