Here’s a bit I wrote for a BBC article by Peter Ray Allison:
Science fiction hits some predictive targets in science but rather in the way that a clip fired from an assault rifle will hit some of the enemy hidden in the jungle, but mostly hit trees and leaves.
One of the past criticisms of SF has been that it’s all ‘zap-guns and rocket ships’ whereupon the SF writer can smugly point out the LaWs US navy laser system knocking down drones and then perhaps wax lyrical about the X Prize, Virgin Galactic and Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
Yet, prior to Sputnik and the space race we had SF about space ships with the navigator aboard calculating the ship’s course with a slide rule. Today many people use a communication device much like those used in Star Trek, but the Roddenbury communicator was distinctly lacking in apps, games, camera and video recorder. It’s a simple fact that SF completely missed the computer revolution we have seen, yet, three-D printers we are now seeing have been there in the books for some while, though admittedly running on hand-wavium.
But in the end SF is not there to make accurate predictions about the future. It’s there to entertain and stimulate the imagination. And there is absolutely no doubt that many of the imaginations it stimulates belong to scientists and that to some extent it drives and directs science. I can think of many examples, but offer this one: the X-Prize now being offered for aStar Trek tricorder.