Mark Gritter (markgritter) wrote,
Mark Gritter

Gadget Futurism

Many science fiction futures, particularly space operas, tend to be populated with tools that are souped-up versions of the tools we have today.

I'll pick on the Vorkosigan series, just because it's what I was reading today. We've got: stunners, nerve disruptors, and plasma arcs. Audiofilers, data cards, comconsoles, and wrist phones. Uterine replicators for reproduction and cryogenic freezing for the mortally injured. Groundcars and lightflyers. All of these are more or less recognizable as advancements on tools we have today.

Yet, a lot of 20th-century technology was disruptive and novel in ways that would be hard to explain as advancements of 19th-century tools. Cars are sort of like carriages--- but why do they have cupholders and stereos? Cell phones are not just mobile telephones but computing devices, music players, cameras, and (in advanced societies unlike my own) electronic wallets. Computers can be adding machines but also communication devices, entertainment, simulations, or typesetters. A scanning tunneling microscope doesn't just display atoms but can arrange them as well.

Some tools will continue to do one thing and do it better; but I think that far more will do many things, in combinations that don't necessarily make sense to us today. There is plenty of SF which depicts strange and unfamiliar futures, but I can't think of many that capture this particular direction very well.
Tags: futurism, geek, science fiction
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