Literature: 6 Times Authors Predicted The Future

By James

Predicting the future is something I’m sure we’d all like to be capable of. You could guess the lottery; stop a serious crime, or maybe just prevent your favourite glass from smashing - but alas, until we break the space-time continuum, it’s not likely to happen any time soon.

That being said, there have been multiple authors over the years that have done exactly this. Through their own means, they’ve managed to capture elements, items, weapons, or even ideologies in their work that were not seen in the real world for some time. Now, either they know something we don’t or there is a serious amount of chance and luck going on. I guess, if you have enough authors writing enough books then you’re bound to get lucky and predict something way before it happens.

I guess it’s not dissimilar to the infinite monkey theorem, but we won’t be so mean as to make that comparison.

Now, to business: The following authors have written great works - and through intuition or chance have hit upon phenomena that would later see the light of day. Both in our understanding and due to our invention. So, let’s take a look at the six times authors predicted the future.

Jonathan Swift in Gulliver’s Travels (1726)

Way back in 1726, modern advances in technology would have seemed like sheer and utter science fiction. I mean, to put it into perspective, this was the time when the first ever Prime Minister was brought into power: Robert Walpole. It’s slightly beside the point I’m trying to make, but it gives you a rough idea of what was going on at the time.

So, when Swift nonchalantly stated in his book that Mars had two moons, it was all a little fictitious and taken for granted. It was, I guess, sci-fi of the times. Bearing in mind that this is only a couple of centuries on from when popular opinion was that the world was flat. When it was finally proven a century later that Mars did in fact have two moons, well… all I can say is Swift must have had extraordinary eye-sight.

Mary Shelley in Frankenstein (1818)

Mary Shelley is, famously, the creator of Victor Frankenstein and his monster. Well, it turns out that in the early 1800s, reanimation of a dead corpse was all the rage ... apparently. It was all in the name of science, of course, but this is also during a time when grave-robbing was at large (I assume for the aforementioned purpose).

What nobody realised is that the advances in the reanimation of dead flesh would be the first steps on a path that has now saved hundreds of thousands of lives: organ transplants. Yes, that is correct. What started as an attempt to create actual zombies has developed into one of the staple procedures in order to save lives with serious organ complications.

Aldous Huxley in Brave New World (1931)

I’m actually halfway through reading this one but I’ve read enough to know that he has earnt a place on the list. In 1931, Huxley was in the interim period between WWI and WWII. I have no doubt that this was a trying and scary time for everyone. What he then went and wrote about was, as the title suggests, a brave and new world; free from imperfections.

So, what exactly did he predict? Well, in the book, there are mood enhancers and mood altering medicines to change and adapt a person’s disposition. It would seem that our friend here had struck upon modern day antidepressants ... and that’s not all: Through various methods and science fiction mumbo-jumbo, he was describing (and had arrived at) genetic engineering. We have barely scraped the surface in the modern day with this technology, so at the time, I imagine this was met with disbelief.


H.G. Wells in The World Set Free (1897)

H. G. Wells is one author who seems to know his way around a science fiction novel, however, I’m sure he did not expect to make quite so many predictions in his ventures into the scientifically unknown.

Combined with The War Of The Worlds, Wells predicted a plethora of weapons and events that have marked our history. He envisaged lasers, flamethrowers and mustard gas in both novels and even went on to predict uranium-based grenades that would be dropped from planes ... so, basically the atom bomb. Not only that, but he also predicted our lunar expedition would be a success. We may not be living there like he thought, but we’re not far off...

Hugo Gernsback in Ralph 124c 41+ (1911)

In Ralph 124c 41+, Gernsback basically invented many of today’s inventions. This work is a fine display of utopianist science fiction was split into a 12 part series written for Modern Electrics magazine. Pronounced, "One to foresee for one another" (1 2 4 C 4 1 +), it’s creative genius.

The list of creations is as long as it is impressive. TV (as well as the notion of channel surfing), remotely controlled power transmission, video phones, intercontinental air service, practical use solar energy, movies with sound, synthetic milk and food, artificial cloth, tape recorders, and even spaceflight. Obviously he knew something we did not. Either that or he was an alien/robot/wizard.

George Orwell in 1984 (1949)

I think Bill will be pleased to see this old-boy sitting pretty on this list. That’s right, Orwell takes the crown for his wildly accurate prediction of modern life. Not only did he predict technological advances, but he imagined a world ruled by certain ideologies that are very prevalent and threatening to this day.

Among his stream of prophesied foretellings were lie-detectors, Big Brother, CCTV, digital displays, missile detection, TVs in everyone’s living room, face recognition, speech-to-text software, the list just keeps going… To top it all off, he spoke of the decline of freedom of speech - the idea that nothing is private and hinted at the notion of digital media. What’s more impressive is he pictured the corruptibility of digital media which is somewhat mind-boggling.

With the final entry drawn, we are at the end of this whirlwind of this list of witchcraft. Come on though, how intelligent would these guys needed to have been to predict this stuff? I’m sure they were just dreaming up interesting things to write about, but little did they know it would turn into actual, usable, and tangible objects and services here in the future… Blows my socks off…

Anyway, if you have read any other creepy or eerily accurate visions of a similar nature in any books you’ve read, then let us know @MugwumpBlog

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