It has been long established that many of the modern marvels we now enjoy in our everyday lives were sometimes predicted hundreds of years before by fiction writers. Often devices and inventions described by science fiction writers of the past are made reality by the scientists who read these works as children.
Director Ridley Scott has compiled information on some of the most inspirational science fiction writers for the Science Channel’s Prophets of Science Fiction. Taking the scientific elements from the works of such sci-fi writers as Mary Shelly and Arthur C. Clarke, Prophets of Science Fiction explains, through interviews with authors and scientists, how the work went on to inspire an actual innovation.
A science fiction writer often has vision, but lacks the scientific prowess to make that vision a reality. Writers like Jules Verne imagined huge underwater submarines, space travel, and the tools of Arctic exploration more than 100 years ahead of their actual discovery. Writers like Verne and H.G. Wells predicted the future with startling accuracy.
Some of the featured authors, such as Isaac Asimov and Philip K. Dick, have made numerous predictions that are yet to come true. Many in the field of robotics use Asimov’s work as a guide and Dick’s as a warning. Asimov is also the definitive master of all artificial intelligence writing. His influence on other sci-fi writers is apparent in many popular works.
The oddest inclusion in the program is George Lucas. Lucas in many ways is a fantasy writer. His definitive work and recent Disney property, Star Wars has a focus on things more supernatural than scientific. Lucas’ inclusion here has more focus on life saving and life extending medical technology. From Vader’s respirator to Luke’s prosthetic hand and even the surgical droids Lucas has predicted a great deal of medical tech.
Overall the program is quite watchable. Forgoing the usual reenactment style the show instead uses scenes from films based on the works in question. The remainder is filled in by animation, Interviews with scientists, futurists and current sci-fi writers and film makers and the thoughts of series producer and creator Ridley Scott.
The series is probably best summed up in a 1977 quote from George Lucas:
“I would feel very good if someday I were 93 years old and they colonize Mars and the leader of the first colony says “ I really did it because I was hoping there would be a Wookie out here.”