H.G. Wells’ The World Set Free (1914) – Atomic weapons

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HG Wells’ The World Set Free was released in 1914, over 30 years before the US would drop the first nuclear weapon. Wells however correctly predicted the destructive potential that these weapons would have. The novel is set in the post-Great War era of high tensions and fear and Wells catches this perfectly in writing: ”Before the last war began it was a matter of common knowledge that a man could carry about in a handbag an amount of latent energy sufficient to wreck half a city”.

Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) – iPads

Arthur C Clarke’s epic 1968 tale 2001: A Space Odyssey, as well as Stanley Kubrick’s movie of the same year, saw the everyday use of reading the daily news on what we would recognise today as iPads. The use of the newspad is scarily accurate, as Clarke wrote ”he would plug in his foolscap-size newspad into the ship’s information circuit and scan the latest reports from Earth. One by one he would conjure up the world’s major electronic papers”.

Clifford Simak’s Time is the Simplest Thing (1977) – Artificial meat

The characters in Clifford Simak’s 1977 novel Time is the Simplest Thing live in a world where they have mastered the scientific process of creating artificially made meat. Wonderfully referred to as the butcher’s vegetable, the production of this man made meat is heavily debated in the book, much like it is today in our society with lab grown burgers.

John Brunner’s Stand on Zanzibar (1969) – Society in the 2010s

1969’s Stand on Zanzibar is so chock-full of predictions of our modern day lives, it’s hard to nail down just one. Set in the US in 2010, the novel talks about gay culture (still a crime in the US only a few years before the book was published) being widely accepted, electronic cars and satellite TV, terrorist threats and even the collapse of Detroit’s economy. The US President in the novel is also called Obami – strange!

Michel Verne’s An Express of the Future (1888) – The Hyperloop

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In 1888 Michel Verne, son of Jules, penned An Express of the Future. This brief tale envisions a transatlantic tunnel where trains are thrust forward within pneumatic conduits, driven by the force of compressed air. If Elon Musk has anything to do with it, Verne’s vision is soon to come true.

George Orwell’s 1984 (1948) – The NSA

From wire tapping to monitoring online communications (or even going as far as China’s controversial social credit system), Orwell’s 1984 (released in 1948) pretty much predicted the lot. Seeing the rise of Big Brother in 1948, Wells wrote: “There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system”.

Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land (1961) – Water beds

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Forgetting for a moment the book’s premise of the human race settling on Mars, Heinlein’s 1961 prediction in Stranger in a Strange Land of the characters relaxing on a water bed stands out. Heinelin did it in such accurate detail that Charles Hall, the real life inventor of the water bed, had his patent initially denied in 1968 on the grounds that Heinlein owned the intellectual property.

William Gibson’s Neuromancer (1984) – Computer hackers

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In 1984, while the majority of the world were still trying to figure out exactly what the internet was, William Gibson’s Neuromancer was released. Gibson’s protagonist in the novel not only navigated a world wide web adeptly, but also engaged in hacking and data theft. A glimpse of modern times brilliantly captured by Gibson.

Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward: 2000–1887 (1888) – Credit cards

In Edward Bellamy’s 1887 novel Looking Back: 2000, the main character is taken to a future Boston near the end of the 20th century and finds himself in a fair and equal society. In this world, women work alongside men and every American has a credit card that gives them equal credit for purchases based on their work.

Bruce Sterling’s Heavy Weather (1990) – Cryptocurrency

The 1990 novel Heavy Weather is essentially a story about storm chasers. It does however include conversations about what we today would recognise as cryptocurrency. In a passage, Sterling writes of this electronic currency “unbacked by any government, untraceable, completely anonymous, and global in reach.” We wouldn’t see the emergence of crypto until 2009 with Bitcoin.