When discussing the future in any but the broadest terms, single sources are generally more likely to miss the mark than predict with any degree of reliability. Unless the person is continuously and actively pursuing advancements and trends – particularly those of a highly technical nature – any guess is as good as another.
As prime examples of futurists, consider the works of the last 50 years of the noted writers of science fiction. Robert A. Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, and Michael Creighton received formal training in engineering and scientific studies and we able to make the concepts accessible to the common man. Decades before robots and robotics became mainstream, Heinlein conceived the application of remote handling under control of an operator. To this day, the generic term for one of these devices is a “Waldo,” a device that was conceived in fiction three years before its invention in 1945. Arthur Clarke virtually established the concept of communications satellites and cell phones, Asimov pioneered robotics and genetic engineering, Creighton – also a noted non-fiction writer as was Asimov – set the groundwork for many procedures used in the control of micro-organisms and epidemics in “The Andromeda Strain”.
Today’s science fiction – some prefer the term “speculative fiction” – focus on emerging and yet-to-be-determined technologies. John Ringo correctly surmised the explosion of the PDA and predicts artificial intelligence interfaced to be integrated with the devices in the future. The sheer number and volume of speculative fiction novels is such that it is almost impossible to determine what will be invented 50 years from now or 3 years from now.
In either case, the future is as likely to be predicted with accuracy by a futurist author as it is for a cognitive group such as the Cambridge Group of Cambridge, England and Boston, Massachusetts. Long-range futurists, such as William Gibson in “Neuromancer”, and Bruce Sterling’s “Schismatrix” series predicts neural implants which directly connect to what was eventually to become the Internet, decades ago. They offer the darker, seamier side of a future reality most often referred to as cyberpunk – and predictably – post-cyberpunk.
Many of the Golden Age of Science fiction authors have passed away, including Heinlein, Clarke, and Asimov who predicted the future 50 years – or more – in advance of the reality. The new generation is prolific and keeping with the standards set by those who have preceded them. It is worthwhile to read their work with an eye to the future.