For decades, fiction authors have built worlds for their books that, over time, become reality. H.G. Wells imagined inspired inventions from the laser to email. Jules Verne envisioned modern submarines, TV newscasts and lunar modules. Isaac Asimov predicted robotics and mobile computing. “Star Trek” conjured the holodeck and universal translators. I still get chills thinking of Ray Bradbury’s short story “The Veldt.”
As the tech advances, engineers and technologists begin to build what seemed like science fiction fantasy only a few years or decades before. Today, teams at Amazon AWS and elsewhere are working on a sort of universal translator. And what is a holodeck but an advanced form of virtual reality?
Not all such fantasies pan out — we still don’t have Wells’ time machine or invisible man — but a funny thing is happening as the future rushes toward us ever faster: The mind-bending changes that new technologies imprint on society are no longer centuries or decades away. They’re right around the corner.
That means near-future fiction is no longer the province of just sci-fi authors. Nora Roberts, writing as J.D. Robb, has a lengthy Eve Dallas series of police procedurals set in the 2050s. Daniel Suarez has given us “Change Agent” and “Daemon.” Andy Weir’s “The Martian” is more science thriller than sci-fi. Matthew Mather gives us “CyberStorm” and “Polar Vortex” without tipping into straight-out sci-fi — it’s the realism that makes it all so scary. Even Ernest Cline’s “Ready Player One” hews to a credible futuristic landscape circa 2045.
Over at Forbes.com, technology columnist Giovanni Rodriguez has a smart new piece titled, How A Great Techno-Thriller Might Help Us Reshape The Future. In it, he holds up my new high-tech thriller, Catch and Kill, as an example of this new breed of suspense novel that warns of the dark side of emerging technology. [Read more…] about How cutting-edge fiction shapes our future