I have always been fascinated by author Philip K Dick and here’s a set of predictions he made in 1980:
We’re All Living In A Philip K Dick Novel
By Darryl Mason
Philip K Dick was the creator of such novels as ‘Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep’, ‘A Scanner Darkly’, ‘The Man In The High Castle’ and ‘Now Wait For Last Year’. A number of his books and short stories have been turned into films, including ‘Blade Runner’, ‘Minority Report’ and ‘Total Recall’. Through the ’50s, ’60s and ‘70s PKD had powerful visions of a tech-heavy police state future, where robots fight our wars, where designer drugs replace love and people compete in dehumanising television games shows for a shot at a better life.
In 1980 he wrote a list of predictions he thought would become reality over the next thirty years. This list was published in the ‘The Book of Predictions’ in 1981. He got a few things on his list very right, and some vastly wrong. At least they’re wrong in our reality. Maybe he was thinking of another reality, the one he lived in.
I’ve included today’s interpretation of his predictions (in brackets) where appropriate. Feel free to comment on what you think he got curiously right, and very wrong.
“The Soviet Union will develop an operational particle-beam accelerator, making missile attack against that country impossible. At the same time the USSR will deploy this weapon as a satellite killer.”
(Russia has now abandoned the idea of a missile shield, while the US is still very keen. A particle beam has been developed by DAPRA and has been field tested in Iraq. The Pentagon loves the idea of weaponising space, after Ronald Reagan talked up the idea in 1983-84. Satellites orbiting above our heads right now can ‘blind’ other satellites with lasers)
“The United States will perfect a system by which hydrogen….will serve as a fuel source, eliminating the need for oil.”
(Hydrogen is now a fuel source, and GW Bush is talking up its prospect as a replacement for oil because he won’t be getting much out of Iraq)
“By….this date there will be a titanic nuclear accident either in the USSR or in the United States, resulting in a shutting down of all nuclear power plants.”
(Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, he was out by a few years)
“….satellites will uncover vast, unsuspected high-energy phenomena in the universe, indicating that there is sufficient mass to collapse the universe back when it has reached its expansion point.”
(Sonds like something I read recently, but buggered if I know what it means)
“The United States and the Soviet Union will agree to set up one vast metacomputer as a central source for information available to the entire world; this will be essential due to the huge amount of information coming into existence.”
(Top marks for that one. Dick wrote of an information-rich age way back in the mid-1950s, he saw computers in our pockets and information serving as a currency. Seen the Google stock price lately? PKD obviously didn’t foresee the downfall of the Soviet Union, however)
“An artificial life form will be created in a lab…thus reducing our interest in locating life forms on other planets.”
(Scientists have just created an embryo without the need for sperm. Is this artificial life?)
“Computer use by ordinary citizens will transform the public from passive viewers of TV into mentally alert, highly trained, information-processing experts.”
(We might be alert, trained and processing, but passive TV viewing is still a necessity, because we spend so much time being alert whilst processing)
“The first closed-dome colonies will be successfully established on Luna and on Mars. Through DNA modification, quasi-mutant humans will be created who can survive under non-Terran conditions – alien environments.”
(The interplanetary dome colony idea must have made a big impact on science fiction writers in the 1950s, and Dick was no exception. Was it the fear of getting nuked by the Soviets? PKD loved writing about dome life, and was partial to the odd genetically modified quasi-human)
“The Soviet Union will test a propulsion drive that moves a starship at the velocity of light, a pilot ship will set out for Proxima Centaurus, soon to be followed by an American ship.”
(Are the SF writers of the 1950s shocked that we never really got off this rock in a major way?)
“An alien virus, brought back by an interplanetary ship, will decimate the population of Earth but leave the colonies on Luna and Mars intact.”
(SF writers of the 1950s and ‘60s, like Philip K. Dick, hated to imagine we might get back around to nuking ourselves out of existence, particularly after the decades of Cold War fear that shuddered their generation. If it wasn’t nukes, then it had to be insanely communicable interplanetary biological alien hitch-hikers that would do ultimately waste humanity)
“Bereft of a decent idea, Hollywood film producers continue to mine my old books and stories for all the best bits, characters and concepts. Their relentless thieving is shameless and curses their black souls to an eternity of satanic flaying. Some producers will buy the rights to one story and then think this means they can go and five finger discount whatever else they please from my tales. Blade Runner will stand tall as best film made from one of my stories, but I predict good things for an experimental adaptation of ‘A Scanner Darkly’.”
Note : Okay, I made up all of the 2005 prediction about the movies, but all the rest of PKD’s predictions are authentic.
In various old stories and novels PKD also envisaged a great many other realities of our day. Some were long shots, others were extremely prescient.
Here’s a smattering of PKD realities that are becoming our own : Criminals being tracked by satellites, remote control robot machine-gunners, synthetic and cloned pets, swipe cards to enter buildings and malls, laptop computers, reality television, hacker anarchists, mega-global corporations that rule entire continents, android babysitters, a military controlled United States divided into police-state zones (post-Hurricane Katrina, this was New Orleans), whole towns as nostalgia amusement parks, a technology-interconnected global humanity and a president who bankrupts his country and creates fictional wars to distract his people from their dark reality.
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