Any millennial watching an episode of The Jetsons might not see a futuristic world the way that generations before them have. That’s because our culture has a knack for turning science fiction into reality. The process is pretty straightforward:
Our imaginations run wild with the “what-ifs” and possibilities. The creative and innovative minds out there turn those what-ifs into story lines and plot points. Then, innovators with a passion for action use their own creativity (and emerging technologies) to turn those seemingly out-of-reach sci-fi concepts into the real thing.
Here’s the proof.
It’s funny to think of credit cards as science fiction, because they’ve been such a huge part of our culture. Most people these days carry more plastic in their wallets than they do cash.
But it wasn’t always like that. In the 1888 novel Looking Backward, Edward Bellamy wrote of a utopian world where “universal credit” existed. In this world, citizens carried a card that allowed them to spend credit from a central bank without exchanging any paper money.
Imagine that! Not only did Bellamy’s vision become reality, but it’s also completely changed the way the world handles money and finances.
You can’t really talk about science fiction without bringing up H.G. Wells. While there’s no shortage of prophetic innovations Wells dreamed up within his pages, one idea from his 1903 The Land Ironclads comes to mind.
In The Land Ironclads, Wells incorporated a fairly new technology into his story … with a twist. By 1903, the military already had metal-hulled warships. But what Wells did in his short story was put those warships on land. He created a new war machine that served as the precursor to the tank. His land craft featured a 100-foot-long body, eight pairs of wheels, and a conning tower to let the captain survey the scene.
Wells’ story came out in 1903. The first tank was deployed at the battle of the Somme in 1916. Here’s evidence of how even the newest inventions out there (like a metal warship) can be improved upon to create something new.
Another sci-fi legend, Ray Bradbury, might have helped Apple design the modern-day earbud. Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 didn’t introduce portable audio in 1953. By then it was already a reality. But headphones were large and weighty. That’s why Bradbury’s description of his headphones as “little seashells … thimble radios” that introduced “an electronic ocean of sound, of music, and talk …” is so impactful. His ability to envision a potential for a smaller sized headphone demonstrates the type of against-the-grain thinking evident in all great minds.
The earbud, which Bradbury was essentially describing, didn’t enter popular culture until 2000, nearly 50 years after his masterpiece was published.
During the 1964 New York World’s Fair, AT&T showed off a picturephone, which wowed the crowd. Since then, technology has come a long way, and now we can talk face to face with someone on our phones.
But AT&T didn’t come up with this video call idea. Back in 1911, Hugo Gernsback’s serial Ralph 124c41+ introduced a “telephot,” which allowed people to have eye contact while speaking across long distances. That’s impressive, seeing as Alexander Graham Bell’s patent for the first telephone came just a few short years earlier, in 1876.
Today, we look back at the innovations and ideas above and shrug our shoulders, as if to say, “No big deal.” But considering when these ideas were first introduced into the landscape, it is extremely remarkable the kinds of ideas an innovative mind is capable of.
Who knows what the future might bring? At this very moment, most people would consider it extremely unlikely that a magic invisibility cloak – like the one worn by Harry Potter in the J.K. Rowling series – could never become a reality.
Scientists from the University of Rochester have discovered how to use special lenses to make objects disappear completely, while everything around it appears undisturbed.
There is no limit to a person’s imagination. And as time and history has proven, there is no limit to mankind’s capability to turn unorthodox ideas into earth-changing innovations.
What so-called crazy idea do you have that one day may become a reality? Remember, nothing is impossible.