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The present that sci-fi imagined

Wednesday, 01 August 2012

The present that sci-fi imagined

1966’s American sci-fi show Star Trek followed the space adventures of the crew of the starship U.S.S. Enterprise in the 23rd century. The future imagined by Gene Roddenberry also worked the other way and inspired real world scientists and engineers to achieve technological advances similar to those shown in the series.

Roddenberry envisioned the technology that many captains of the many Enterprises would use in the franchise, devices that nowadays are as mundane as a mobile phone, tablets and touchscreens, among many technologies.

But before Star Trek, authors from the golden age of science fiction were surprisingly precise when they drafted the technology of the future, how machines would interact with each other and with humans.

Acknowledging this, Intel has been looking for sci-fi writers to help predict future consumer tech and explore through science-based fiction and video conversations with scientists and sci-fi authors. After all, imagination is the engine of innovation, and of course, this also applies to M2M technology. What follows is a recollection of how literature’s science fiction masters envisioned what would be M2M.

Reality catches on fiction

Wireless communication ,a fundamental technology for M2M, was envisioned even before, in 1923, and it was none other that one of sci-fi founding fathers, H.G. Welles.

Even before, in 1899, the same author imagined a very early concept of a networked society, a very early concept of what a connected world of people and machines might be. Later, other authors would further on the idea of how machines would communicate.

We are familiar with smart transport solutions like OnStar’s system to remotely stop the car in case it was robbed, which is something created only a few years ago. But the idea is much older: the first reference of this kind of technology is believed to be the one referenced in A Plague of Demons, by Keith Laumer. The writer calls it the Police Control-Override, but the core idea is very similar:

“I nudged the car into motion, steering between the two wide-shouldered, lean-hipped trouble boys. One whipped out a three-inch black disc - a police control-override. A red light blinked on the dash; the car faltered as the external command came to brake.”

Smart buildings are not something new when it comes to literature. Recently deceased sci-fi mastermind Ray Bradbury, author of Fahrenheit 451, drafted an early concept of what certainly looks like a smart building in his novel The Illustrated Man:

“They walked down the hall of their soundproofed Happylife Home[…] behind them, in the halls, lights went on and off as they left them behind, with a soft automaticity.”

Other authors like Robert Heinlein and Phillip K. Dick put some thought on these “intelligent homes”. Many more writers would further the ideas that dreamers like Dick, Heinlein, Bradbury and many others during the new wave of science-fiction of the sixties, when others like Gene Roddenberry would pick up the torch and dare to imagine a world of connected machines at the service of mankind.

Before you go, we wanted to recommend a few sci-fi books and authors we thought you M2M lovers would enjoy reading during your summer holidays. Here it is!

 

  • I, Robot - Isaac Asimov.
  • Ubik - Phillip K. Dick.
  • Neuromancer - William Gibson.
  • Snow Crush – Neil Stephenson.
  • The shape of things to come - H.G. Wells.
  • The man who sold the moon – Robert Heinlein.
  • The Illustrated Man – Ray Bradbury.
JUser
Telefónica m2m Team
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