Six Eerie Predictions That Early Sci-Fi Authors Got Completely Wrong


Since the genre’s inception, science-fiction writers have imagined what the future might hold for Earth and beyond. While their stories are often fantastical, many of them anticipated technologies that actually exist today, such as television and artificial intelligence. However, countless more made predictions that were absolute whiffs.

1. Nuclear-Powered Soap Dispenser

While many sci-fi authors envisioned the possibilities of nuclear power, Philip K. Dick’s “The Land That Time Remembered” got specifically stuck on the idea of a society where humans washed their hands with “soap dispensers powered by the almighty atom,” and where “torrents of soap spurted forth by means of the forces that birthed the universe.”

2. Shoe That Does Your Taxes

Still cherished today, “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” brought us Jules Verne’s dreams of electric-powered submarines, tasers, and other technologies that were unheard of in 1870. However, there’s no arguing that his idea of a shoe that does your taxes—featured heavily in his novels “The Cerebellum Quandary,” “The Cerebellum Quandary 2,” and “Gizbo: The Shoe That Does Your Taxes”—more than missed the mark, as no such technology is even close to existing today.

3. “I’ve come up with something called e-mail. But it will never exist.”

From Harlan Ellison’s completely misguided 1952 epic “A Moon Adventure: To the Stars!!!”:

Lucas finished uploading his daily biometrics log for mission control
back on Terra. He wasn’t sure what the commanding officers did with
his bio-log, or if anyone even read it, but he liked the routine. You
needed daily rituals to survive the kind centuries-long journey he was
on. He popped another caffeine capsule and turned to his co-pilot,
Shepherd.

“What’s the word, Shep?”

“Not now, Lu,” Shepherd replied. “I’m inventing a method for
transmitting and receiving messages using electronic devices. It’s
like receiving mail back on Terra, but an electronic version. I’m
calling it ‘e-mail,’ and it’s going to revolutionize how we
communicate.”

Lucas frowned. “I don’t think ‘e-mail’ will ever become a viable
technology.”

Shep sighed and engaged the thrusters, revving the ship past light
speed. “You’re right,” he said. “E-mail will never exist.”

Note: This story was eventually adapted into what is considered to be the most popular “Star Trek” episode of all time.

4. Something Ray Bradbury Kept Calling a “Turbo Fridge”

Regarded as one of the greatest science-fiction writers of all time, Ray Bradbury was known for his poetic prose, trenchant political commentary, and deep understanding of the human condition. So it’s baffling that he repeatedly referred to a vague piece of future-tech he described only as the “Turbo Fridge” several hundred times in his beloved “Neptunia” series. In one passage, his protagonist, Cyro, mentions “re-oiling the steering columns of my Turbo Fridge,” while another passage recounts Cyro “using his Turbo Fridge to staple documents together.” It’s never made clear what the Turbo Fridge is, what it’s supposed to represent, or if it’s even a refrigerator, but it’s evident that no such tech came to fruition.

5. The Edmonton Oilers Winning the 2006 Stanley Cup

While Arthur C. Clarke’s 1969 short story “The Dying Star Screams ‘Ouch’ ” remains a staple of the genre, its prediction that the Edmonton Oilers would win the Stanley Cup in 2006 was just straight-up incorrect. Read for yourself:

Andromeda stepped back in terror, only to feel her proton backplate
meet the cold, unforgiving steel of the mainframe’s terminus. She was
trapped.

“Nowhere to run now, Empress,” sneered Gleebamax, setting his
wristwatch to “EXPLODE.” “The Babylon Protocol has already been
uploaded to the central codex—all that’s left is the final compile.
After that, your pathetic species will fall to their knees, the
Tachyon Core will crumble, and, thirty-seven years from now, the
Edmonton Oilers will defeat the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2006
Stanley Cup Finals in a seven-game thriller.”

“No!” cried Andromeda. Gleebamax laughed, then fired his wristwatch.
He exploded.

6. The Terminal Virus That Is Modern Capitalism Metastasizes Into Every Organ of Human Society, Inflicting Quantifiable Violence on the Most Vulnerable, Annihilating the Planet in a Hellfire Apocalypse, and Infecting Our Governments Until Democracy Becomes a Twisted Parody of Itself—Also, We’ll All Develop Hooves

This prediction was really close! But Ursula K. Le Guin did get the hooves thing wrong, so it goes down on the scorecard as a miss. ♦



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