Writers Who Predicted the Future in Their Books
It’s true what they say- life imitates art. But what is even truer is that writers are the inadvertent prophets of the world. Historically, there have been many fascinating books that have been able to foresee the future. Some have featured incidents that were to be closely imitated in future events. Others dealt with concepts that have become a part of our everyday reality today. The writers probably intended their inventions to remain fictitious, not knowing that they would become an eerily accurate part of our world centuries later. Here’s a list of 5 such books which foreshadow the future so closely, it’ll give you goosebumps!-
- Morgan Robertson in the novel Futility
In this book, a massive ocean liner described as “the largest craft afloat” is cruising at full speed through the North Atlantic when a watchman cries out “Iceberg.” However, the ship hits the ice and begins to sink. With too few lifeboats, many passengers tragically drown as the ship goes down. The story sounds familiar, right? Wait till you hear what Robertson had named this ship- the Titan. Robertson penned his novel 14 years before the Titanic took its doomed maiden voyage. Such was the predictive power of the text that just a week after the sinking of the Titanic, the novel, now called The Wreck of the Titan, was serialized in newspapers as “an amazing prophecy.”
- Jonathan Swift in the Gulliver’s Travels
Swift’s 1726 social satire follows a man named Gulliver as he travels into different worlds. One is occupied by tiny humans, another with humans with horse heads and another is inhabited by giants. When Gulliver visits the island of Laputa, a floating world filled with scientists, the astronomers notice that the planet Mars has two moons in its orbit. Fast forward 150 years later, in 1877, it was discovered that Mars indeed does have two moons- Phobos and Deimos. Not only this, the design of the imaginary Laputa, the floating city rising above a small island in the Asia-Pacific, is eerily similar to the city design of Singapore today. Creepy, right?
- Sarah Pinsker in A Song for a New Day
Our contemporary reality has been changed forever by the unforeseeable coronavirus pandemic. Quite coincidentally, Sarah Pinsker’s novel was published in September 2019, just months before the pandemic spread across the globe. It explores how a deadly pandemic unleashed by a terror attack transforms society completely. Social distancing and quarantining become the norm in the novel. Live music performances are held online via the live streaming of holograms. Sounds uncannily familiar to our current experience of reality, right?
- John Brunner in Stand on Zanzibar
Written in the late ’60s and set in 2010, Brunner’s novel predicted a popular politician by the name of President Obomi, (sound familiar?) random mass shootings; a European Union; and people connecting to an encyclopaedia over the phone (Wikipedia?). Not only this, the novel accurately predicts the major innovations of our times including electric cars, direct TV, laser printers, video calls and same-sex marriage. Further, in his 1975 novel, The Shockwave Rider, he created a computer hacker hero before the world knew what one was. It also envisaged the emergence of computer viruses, something that early computer scientists dismissed as impossible. He even coined the use of the word ‘worm’ to describe them.
- George Orwell in 1984
1984 is quite possibly the most well-known works of science-fiction that have predicted the future from over 70 years ago. The world of 1984 features ‘telescreens’ used as tools of surveillance and a means for the government to convey information. today, in modern society, we have smartphones that track our actions and movements and which constantly feed us information from all around the globe. In 1984, ‘Speakwrites’ are used to record and convert speech into text. Today, we have an array of recording devices, digital applications, software and transcription tools with speech-to-text functions. In the novel, the consequences of totalitarianism, mass surveillance, and repressive regimentation of individuals within a society are described in great detail.
Fiction reveals eternal truths about our world and offers timeless insights into the human condition. Sometimes, in striving to do so, a novelist ends up using the future as their backdrop. They’ll predict what’s to come with uncanny accuracy- how generations to come will be travelling, relaxing and communicating. Works of fiction explore future possibilities, and in doing so, they often mould the future itself. Go ahead and give the above books a read, the writers’ foresight will leave you astounded.