Whether it’s reading comic books or novels, or watching films, I have always been a huge fan of science fiction.
Watching old episodes of Star Trek from the 1960s, it’s truly amazing what was predicted in that relatively short-lived TV series that has left a lasting legacy on the world.
Back then, many of the most ardent devotees of science and technology might have been hard-pressed to believe that one day the world would see the blending of biological and technological humans, ethical dilemmas regarding artificial intelligence (AI), flatscreen TVs, or automated doors, things that were predicted in the original Star Trek series.
What about iPhones and other devices we carry around with us each day that are as much of a fabric of modern life in the early 21st century as horses were 200 years ago?
Yet, what was once the unthinkable realm of science fiction has become reality. Going back many decades earlier, such iconic science fiction writers as H.G. Wells in his novel ‘The World Set Free’, written and published in 1914, predicted the atomic bomb and nuclear propulsion. Other writers of the age such as Jules Verne foresaw the growth of news broadcasting and envisioned the creation of the electric submarine while Edward Everett Hale, who wrote ‘The Brick Moon’ in 1869, predicted that one day the human race would put one of their own on the moon and even build a space station.
What is truly remarkable is these visionaries saw achievements and inventions that would surely have been considered impossible at that time. So that brings us to where we are in 2023. How soon will space travel become attainable for the average person? There’s really no way of knowing, yet the captains of industry of our post-industrial age such as Elon Musk believe it will eventually happen.
How advanced (or sinister, all depending upon your point of view), will AI become before society is forced to place restrictions on the technology?
Speaking of artificial intelligence, while it remains unclear as to what extent this emerging field of computer science will pose a danger to humans, it does have the potential to cause rampant unemployment. The World Economic Forum has estimated that AI will replace some 85 million jobs by 2025.
If this realistic scenario were to play out, would nearly 100 million people be able to find employment in other industries? Would such a dramatic shift spurn more discussion around the concept of a universal basic income (UBI)?
At this point, there are so many unanswered questions. Perhaps the more pressing is whether we should be frightened of the future or embrace it with open arms. Will vast technological changes enslave or liberate us?
Like the sci-fi story-lines from decades ago, we truly are going where no one has gone before.