In 1987 L. Ron Hubbard challenged his fellow science fiction writers to predict what the world would be like in 25 years — 2012.
Some things they were way off on — one writer had computers winning prestigious literary prizes and another thought we'd have colonies in space. But on others, they fared better — they predicted that the spread between the rich and poor would grow and that that energy would be a central problem for the future world.
So why do we look to science fiction writers for predictions on the future?
Chris McKitterick, director of the Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas and author of "Transcendence," joined The Daily Circuit Wednesday. He referenced a John W. Campbell quote about the genre: "Science fiction consists of the hopes and dreams and fears (for some dreams are nightmares) of a technologically based society."
Science fiction authors "write about possible futures and how things might be in the future, to sort of inoculate us against the future," McKitterick said. "I know a lot of science fiction writers think the same way ... It influences a lot of people like scientists and engineers and inventors. A lot of these things we're talking about became something real in the future after these things were written."
Sara Robinson, senior fellow with the Campaign for America's Future and editor of Alternet's Vision page, also joined the discussion.
"The dreams are really important because whatever future we have starts in our heads," she said. "It has to exist first as a vision before it can be realized. The visions are really important and one of the things science fiction writers bring to the future is conversation ... They encourage us to stretch our imaginations forward."
MPR News' Kryssy Pease contributed to this report.
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