As time goes on, more aspects of our daily lives are intertwined with technology in ways foretold by science fiction dreamers. The prophets of modern and future times have names like Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, Gene Roddenberry, Ray Kurzweil, Bruce Sterling, and Neal Stephenson. The fruits of our imaginations may take a while to mature into reality, but it’s often just a matter of waiting for the when rather than pondering over the what if. How has science fiction — the genre of speculation most often identified as keeping company with the epitome of geekery — become such a dynamic conduit of prophecy? Maybe it has something to do with little geeks growing up to be big geeks. For instance: how many astronauts and scientists began looking toward the worlds that can be seen through telescopes and microscopes after childhood obsessions with Star Trek took root?
Not surprisingly, the number would be quite a few, it seems. In a 2000 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, Star Trek’s science adviser Andre Bormanis said: “Half the scientists I know were inspired by Star Trek as kids. It’s a pat on the back — a lot of people think that science is responsible mostly for bad things.” Gene Roddenberry’s vision of the future was one of optimism, where the human race overcomes its xenophobic and self-destructive tendencies and launches itself to the stars to become not just a participant in a multi-species organization devoted to peaceful space exploration, but a leader. Rather than ending up diminished by the mechanisms of its own creation like the unfortunate souls residing in more dystopian visions of the future (e.g., Blade Runner, The Terminator), humanity greatly expands its reach by employing a positive use of technology. How could an aspiring junior scientist resist the allure of contributing to a tomorrow filled with such hope?
One small example of a useful technology finally getting recognized for its potential benefits is the tablet computer. Now that tablet computers — thanks to the overwhelming success of the iPad — have finally taken off, one wonders: what could possibly be next? While he confesses that he’s no prophet himself, Chris Pirillo does have a few thoughts on the matter in this video. Enjoy!