Predicting Technological Growth

In Star Trek: The Original Series the characters used large rectangular microtaps. With today’s technology a card that size might have a capacity of over six terabytes. Given the rate that Mr Spock sometimes switched disks it is clear the creators of the show didn’t have that capacity in mind.

This isn’t surprising. The first floppy disk wasn’t commercially available until 1971. It was impossible for someone in the 1960s to predict how data storage, and compression, might work in the future. For us today it is a little easier. I have used floppy discs, CDs, CF cards and, the various sizes of SD cards. Just in my life time I have seen technology change.

I like the technology, in the science fiction I write, to look as plausible as possible. This works but only to a point. If you asked an inventor, living two thousand years ago, to imagine a speed boat – what might they come up with? They might look into the best shape of sail or having a huge deck space for hundreds of oarsmen. They would have no concept of electricity or anything else that makes a speed boat work. My point is that one day we may discover something new. The microprocessor was a huge change from how computers worked before. What if their is some other change? That would throw any prediction off.

It’s not just computers. In Peter F. Hamilton‘s: Commonwealth Saga the characters enjoy virtual immortality. They can go through this process, rejuvenation, and basically become young again. Might we have this in the future? Given my limited, non-existent, knowledge of science it isn’t all that ridiculous. Cells in the body already replace themselves so what if you could do away with the degradation of that process?

Should I have immortality in my science fiction?

Ultimately science fiction seems to go down one of two paths.

  1. In the case of Star Trek we are ahead of them – with the notable exception of warp drive, phasers, artificial gravity, deflector shields, and… okay this is getting silly. Much of today’s household technology is ahead of Star Trek’s. Even in TNG the away team would describe stuff for Picard. Today most of us carry a camera where ever we go.
  2. On the other hand 2001: A Space Odyssey was set thirteen years ago and we still don’t have a moon base… damn it.

There are no real answers here. Perhaps all science fiction is destined to eventually be damned with this sentence: ‘Its of its time.’

Perhaps warp drive will be invented one day. Maybe a student studying at a university, somewhere in the vicinity of Betelgeuse, – will one day wonder why the USS Voyage is so slow. In his universe a trip of 75,000 light years can be considered as a weekend get away.

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