Science fiction pioneer H.G. Wells conjured some futuristic visions that haven’t (yet) come true: a machine that travels back in time, a man who turns invisible, and a Martian invasion that destroys southern England.
But for a man born 150 years ago, many of Wells’s other predictions about the modern world have proven amazingly prescient.
Wells, born in 1866, was trained as a scientist, a rarity among his literary contemporaries, and was perhaps the most important figure in the genre that would become science fiction. Writers in this tradition have a history not just of imagining the future as is might be, but of inspiring others to make it a reality.
In 2012, Smithsonian.com published a top ten list of inventions inspired by sci-fi, ranging from Robert H. Goddard’s liquid-fuelled rocket to the cell phone. “Wells’s was an imagination in a hurry, he wanted to get to the future sooner than it was going to happen. That’s why he’s so predictive in his writing,” explains Simon James, head of the English Studies department at Durham University and the editor of the official journal of the H.G. Wells society .
Wells’s ideas have also endured because he was a standout storyteller, James adds. No less a writer than Joseph Conrad agreed. “I am always powerfully impressed by your work. Impressed is the word, O Realist of the Fantastic!” he wrote Wells after reading The Invisible Man.
Here are some of the incredible H.G. Wells predictions that have come true, as well as some that haven’t—at least not yet. Phones, Email, and Television.
In Men Like Gods (1923), Wells invites readers to a futuristic utopia that’s essentially Earth after thousands of years of progress.
In this alternate reality, people communicate exclusively with wireless systems that employ a kind of co-mingling of voicemail and email-like properties.
“For in Utopia, except by previous arrangement, people do not talk together on the telephone,” he writes. “A message is sent to the station of the district in which the recipient is known to be, and there it waits until he chooses to tap his accumulated messages.
And any that one wishes to repeat can be repeated. Then he talks back to the senders and dispatches any other messages he wishes.
The transmission is wireless.”Wells also imagined forms of future entertainment.
In When the Sleeper Wakes (1899), the protagonist rouses from two centuries of slumber to a dystopian London in which citizens use wondrous forms of technology like the audio book, airplane and television—yet suffer systematic oppression and social injustice.
Read on further via The Many Futuristic Predictions of H.G. Wells That Came True | Arts & Culture | Smithsonian