The future of SF, life extension, and other "surprise technologies"

Dial back to just about any 20th century science fiction movie and you'll see no sign of smartphones and similar technology. For whatever reason, most people had no clue about iPhones and such, or how they would change society (for better or worse). In a similar fashion that they often over-estimated certain advancements (e.g. flying cars).

In watching the "old Picard show" trailer, I had the thought: could life extension technology be similar? If you follow futurism, transhumanism, or medical technology, then you know that some speculate that at some point in the next few decades we're going to make medical breakthroughs that will see us living centuries, if not indefinitely. Now there are more conservative views that the human body is hardwired for around 120 years max, but even then you would think that in a sufficiently advanced near future, we'd have tons of centenarians walking around who look middle aged. Presumably that's the (unintentional?) assumption of the Star Trek universe.

For the most part, science fiction films--even recently--don't take this into account. Thus we have the new Picard show; the series is presumably set 20 years after Nemesis in 2399 which makes Picard 94ish years old. With Stewart 78, that means the apparent age difference is about 15 years...not a lot of progress for almost 400 years in the future.

Now I understand that science fiction is generally about the present, even when set centuries in the future. The Jetsons said a lot more about the early 1960s than it did about the 2060s when it was set. I'm not even saying that they should make Picard, I don't know, two or three hundred years old. I'm just wondering if at some point in a few decades we're going to look back at the "quaint" SF of the early 21st century, before life extension became as ubiquitous as smart technology.

What say you? Any other possible "surprise technologies" that will change everything?
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
There's any number of works of sci-fi that include longer-life. However, it may not be the best source of plot points. "We all live longer now," isn't much of a story-driver in and of itself. And, in terms of visual media, it doesn't generate that much that is interesting to *see* on the screen. You get more mileage out of things that imply conflicts - like "the rich live long and better lives than the poor." But then the long life is a subtle element, compared to just higher quality life.
 

Tonguez

Adventurer
Star-trek-renegades.jpg

This is 143 year-old Pavel Chekov in Star Trek Renegades, so 120 might be the new 60 (just as now 60 is the new 40)


Dial back to just about any 20th century science fiction movie and you'll see no sign of smartphones and similar technology. For whatever reason, most people had no clue about iPhones and such, or how they would change society (for better or worse). In a similar fashion that they often over-estimated certain advancements (e.g. flying cars).
Aren't Star Trek communicators early predictors of cellphones? Star Trek also predicts touch screen Tablets (the PADD), wireless headsets and advanced 3-D printers (replicators).

What say you? Any other possible "surprise technologies" that will change everything?
personally I'm still waiting for the advent of personal robot maids (like Rosie), but then of course you get the whole issue of do Robots have rights, is robot-human love ethical and will we be overthrown by skynet.

On a related note the 3-D printing of synthetic organs (as per Asimovs Positronic Man) is of real interest as is the notion of nanotech interecting with DNA
 

Nagol

Unimportant
Dial back to just about any 20th century science fiction movie and you'll see no sign of smartphones and similar technology. For whatever reason, most people had no clue about iPhones and such, or how they would change society (for better or worse). In a similar fashion that they often over-estimated certain advancements (e.g. flying cars).

In watching the "old Picard show" trailer, I had the thought: could life extension technology be similar? If you follow futurism, transhumanism, or medical technology, then you know that some speculate that at some point in the next few decades we're going to make medical breakthroughs that will see us living centuries, if not indefinitely. Now there are more conservative views that the human body is hardwired for around 120 years max, but even then you would think that in a sufficiently advanced near future, we'd have tons of centenarians walking around who look middle aged. Presumably that's the (unintentional?) assumption of the Star Trek universe.

For the most part, science fiction films--even recently--don't take this into account. Thus we have the new Picard show; the series is presumably set 20 years after Nemesis in 2399 which makes Picard 94ish years old. With Stewart 78, that means the apparent age difference is about 15 years...not a lot of progress for almost 400 years in the future.

Now I understand that science fiction is generally about the present, even when set centuries in the future. The Jetsons said a lot more about the early 1960s than it did about the 2060s when it was set. I'm not even saying that they should make Picard, I don't know, two or three hundred years old. I'm just wondering if at some point in a few decades we're going to look back at the "quaint" SF of the early 21st century, before life extension became as ubiquitous as smart technology.

What say you? Any other possible "surprise technologies" that will change everything?
A current show that posits nearly infinite life, body hopping, true AI, and the effect on society is Altered Carbon.
 

MarkB

Hero
Robert Heinlein's 1954 novel The Star Beast features a teenager owning a clamshell-design mobile phone with GPS-style location tracking. Not quite a smartphone, but still a remarkably good prediction for the time.
 

Ryujin

Adventurer
First Edition Shadowrun predicted the smartphone ("Pocket Secretary") in 1989.

Star Trek: TOS was the inspiration for flip phones so less predicted, than brought into being. People have been trying to make functional tricorders for decades too.

Self driving cars have been predicted by, well everyone but the one that sticks in my mind is Doc Smith's "Lensmen" series of novels.

The problem is that science fiction always shoots for the highest expression of a given technology rather than two factors that truly determine what gets created; ubiquity and marketability. Communications technology is ubiquitous. Personal, relatively inexpensive communication is marketable. What is in general use never remotely approaches the *possible* technologies.
 

Janx

Adventurer
I think it's really tricky predicting the future.

I wrote a longer post, but even without naming groups, it's politically tangled. That's our future.

I will add/restore this. Too much sci-fi focusses on technology or science going wrong and hurting us. That's a less likely actuality. It's almost always somebody's greed or hate using the tool as a weapon against somebody else. Not an AI gone rogue.
 

MarkB

Hero
The problem is that science fiction always shoots for the highest expression of a given technology rather than two factors that truly determine what gets created; ubiquity and marketability. Communications technology is ubiquitous. Personal, relatively inexpensive communication is marketable. What is in general use never remotely approaches the *possible* technologies.
It's a lot easier to predict a particular technology than it is to consider and explore all the secondary ramifications of that technology.

Plus, in many cases, that isn't even the goal. For many science fiction works, the objective is to examine the modern condition through the lens of a different setting, and introducing too many new factors is not merely irrelevant, it's detrimental and distracting. In a lot of stories, particularly short stories, the ideal is to introduce only one major new element, leaving everything else largely as-is, in order to focus upon how that single element would influence and change us.
 

Hussar

Legend
[MENTION=40176]MarkB[/MENTION] hits it on the head. SF is not fantasy. Creating worlds is not generally speaking, the goal of SF. It's part of the process, maybe, of reflecting on the real world, but, it's not a goal in and of itself. SF is inherently political, moreso than fantasy.
 

Aeson

Adventurer
Would you count Bicentennial Man? I suppose it's a reverse. A robot becoming human. How about Dick Tracy's watch? It was a communication device.
 

Ryujin

Adventurer
It's a lot easier to predict a particular technology than it is to consider and explore all the secondary ramifications of that technology.

Plus, in many cases, that isn't even the goal. For many science fiction works, the objective is to examine the modern condition through the lens of a different setting, and introducing too many new factors is not merely irrelevant, it's detrimental and distracting. In a lot of stories, particularly short stories, the ideal is to introduce only one major new element, leaving everything else largely as-is, in order to focus upon how that single element would influence and change us.
Not the goal, but a byproduct.
 

tomBitonti

Explorer
Star Trek TOS episode The Mark of Gideon takes a direct look at overpopulation as a result of near immortality.

You could view 40K’s Eldar Paths philosophy as a commentary on having potentially thousands of years of life.

Haldeman’s Old Twentieth has immortality as causing key events in the book’s timeline.

Other authors casually accept effective immortality, for example, Niven in the Known Worlds, and Banks in his culture series.

I’m not sure that folks views on us having a build in age limit (with large variance) is entirely conservative. There may be a need to limit cell divisions due to increasing replication errors. That is, taking away replication limits might unleash cancer. Adding substantially to lifespans might turn out to be hard.

Thx!
TomB
 
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