At their best, science fiction writers are able to predict (or project) the future with striking accuracy. Let’s look at the list of ideas that made their way from the pages of Sci Fi novels and scripts straight to the assembly lines of the manufacturers:
Star Trek alone is responsible for wireless phones, tablets, medical scanners and a number of other crafty gadgets we are pleased to use today.
What is it about the writers that allows them to tap into the prophetic realm and come up with these amazing ideas? Is it an informed intuition grounded on certain acquired knowledge? Is it the ability of a visionary to zoom between the big picture and small details? Or maybe it is the ability of our consciousness to tap in into the quantum realm and catch a glimpse of an insight that lingers in the basic structure of the universe? Could it be the case, that the Sci Fi writers open a ‘communication channel’ between our reality and the bizarre quantum scale reality, where particles communicate with each other ‘faster then light’ (entanglement, tunneling), where the particles exist in a state of all possible realities (superposition), and where all properties in the universe are fundamentally inaccessible for precise measurements (uncertainty)?
Anyone with the slightest fascination with the Sci Fi knows about the proverbial Schrodinger’s cat, wormholes, black holes, particle beams, Turing test, gravitational effects on time, entanglement, superposition, parallel universes etc. Also we’ve heard of tachyons and that somehow they have something to do with the time travel. In the Trekian tradition, you’d hear a line that goes something like that:
Sci Fi writers are obsessed with the nature of the universe. They ask themselves tricky questions and rack their brains to come up with the answers, much like recently sensationalized Andy Weir, who became obsessed with the idea of what would he do if he was stuck on Mars with a handful of potatoes and nobody to come to his rescue.
However, many scientists suspect that if there is anything to be known about the universe, it is it’s mathematical structure. In the video, featured at the beginning of the post, the authors attempt to uncover the mystery behind the origin of mathematics. Is mathematics an objective reality of the universe and we discovered it? Or is it created in the human brain and we follow our own made up rules?
While the scientists are all over the place on this one, the video suggests that it’s a little bit of both. The numbers, for example, are totally arbitrary, and we made them up. We routinely use the decimal numbering system (from 1 to 9, and 0), but our computers use a binary system that translates our mathematics using only two numbers: 1 and 0. It is possible to have a numbering system made of 3, 4, 14, or any other number of numeric figures. The numbers can look like this:
I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X
Or like this:
Ñ, Ÿ, þ, Γ, Œ, Ø, β, Ψ
Ok, I made up the last one, but there is no reason why our calculus couldn’t consist of these numbers. It’s just we happened to be attached to the decimal one. However, the relationships between the properties of the universe seem to be rigid, and we discover them using our arbitrary numeric system. Thus, all the laws of physics, all the mathematical theorems that describe the relationships of the properties in the universe are discovered by us.
For example, Pi (π), a mathematical constant that represents the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, in decimal numbering system is commonly approximated as 3.14.
That being said, many scientists entertain a thought that we may be living in a sort of a video game. If Super Mario video game was written with enough complexity to give Mario a proxy of a consciousness, he would conclude that his universe is governed by certain laws, and he could study those laws.
Let’s say, Mario observed enough of his universe, and came up with a quaternary numbering system (based on four numeric signs: 0, 1, 2, and 3). He would think some more, and come up with his own calculus, trig, and physics. We, as observers, would scratch our heads, because his ∏ (Pi) would not be equal to 3.14, but to something very different. Well, see it for yourself.
Can you imagine asking Mario directions to the gas station? Three meters to the right, 10 meters straight… Wait, let me get my base system converter!
Anyway, science cannot progress without a vision, without yearning to understand describe, and predict. I’d dare to assert, that Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, Elon Musk, and Stephen Hawking are, by a broad definition, Sci Fi writers. By the same token, Herbert Wells, Ray Bradbury, Aldous Huxley, and Gene Roddenberry are visionary scientists.
Now, let’s think about how a visionary idea becomes a reality. Say, in the conventional cause and effect thinking, if I have an idea, I develop it, share it with the enough of people, it catches on, someone wants to make money on it, and puts it into production. Or in a shortcut scenario, if you are Steve Jobs or Elon Musk, you have your own idea, and you need to convince a lot less of people to put it into production.
Some believe that we create our reality, others believe that we discover exiting reality. One way or another, whether it is on a quantum scale, or on the scale of our reality, we as observers are of critical importance. Science fiction writers are best positioned to inspire us, to generate a critical mass of futuristic ideas, that will lead to practical scientific breakthroughs.
That being said, I have a word of wisdom to the writers: Get your shit together! Focus! Research the subjects of your writing to the best of your abilities! If you doodle UFOs, spaceships, warp drives and such on a napkin while washing down your pizza with Coke, you are creating history! Your doodles are important! Your excitement is a rare commodity, maybe even more valuable then Spice of Dune. Because, you know what? Someday, some fella in NASA will read your blog or your self-published Sci Fi novel, and her lightbulb will go off! And she will get excited! And she will stop drinking coffee by gallons going back and forth between her notes and her computer models, and will finally realize that the solution was in the plain sight, and the only missing thing was inspiration. And you, yes, small quiet you, made it possible.
So yeah, writers, get your shit together, and write something awesome. Today. Now. On that depends the future of humanity.
By Ellie Maloney
hahaha, nice, I did enjoy that read… and I’m very pleased that diagram included Gibson in the list… that was a mighty big prediction he made…