Sci-Fi · Star Trek · Uncategorized · William Shatner

Do sci-fi authors tap into a universal mind?

We’ve all heard the guy who played the original #CaptainKirk brag [and even create a 2-hour TV documentary film] about #How_William Shatner_Changed_The World.

It’s a tongue-in-cheek peek at the many common technologies that their real world inventors say were first inspired by the Star Trek franchise.

What was on that tablet that so fascinated Mr. Spock? Could Data’s limitless music library be housed in a computer for real? And what about those #Beam-me-up-Scotty communicators that seem oddly old fashioned compared to your cell phone.

Yep, the future view of the Star Trek crew — the writing crew that is — captured the imagination of a couple generations of geeks who, in John Luc Picard’s words, wanted to ‘Make it so.’

But were the writers making lucky guesses or were they plugging into some universal mind meld?

As a writer with loads of sci-fi and sci-fi-ish elements in all my books, I get input from science magazines and online science feeds but sometimes an idea comes from out of the blue.

When I wrote the first Nathan Sherlock Foodie Thriller — Gravity Games — I had to imagine a world where #anti-gravity became true. As a former business writer, I didn’t think of the fun factor as the raison d’etre for anti-gravity skateboards [Back to the Future] but foresaw real impact on the global economy. My thoughts were that in a world where gravity could be turned off and on, the entire proposition for what we hold valuable vanishes.

Location location location in real estate doesn’t hold water if you can create your own lakefront property by lifting an iceberg from the Arctic and melting it into the ugly vale behind your home. Same with all those oil and gas stocks. If ships, trucks and trains are weightless, a mechano set motor can haul you or anything you need anywhere with a single drop of fuel.

I raise the topic because Vanessa Bates Ramirez posed the question how free energy will change the world in a recent post via Singularity Hub:

That low price isn’t because of negative gravity as I envisioned but because solar and other ‘free’ energy sources are getting more efficient. One day, green energy sources WILL be cheaper than oil. There will be no turning back once the scales tip.

Getting back to Star Trek [because everyone likes to read about Star Trek], the inspiration I liked best was the mobile phone. People born after 1990 find it hard to believe we were tongue-tied by cords till they became light and cheap enough for average people to own around 1996. The cell phone was invented by Motorola engineer Martin Cooper in 1973, seven years after Captain Kirk’s communicator got him hooked on the idea of a wireless phone.

If you want a laugh, get a copy of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home where Kirk and crew go back in time to 1986 to save the last of the humpback whales. They enlist the help of a marine biologist who refuses to believe they’re from the future until Kirk gets a call from Scotty on his communicator.

That’s all the proof she needed and proclaims: ‘You are from the future” or something like that. Given that easily holdable cell phones came on the scene around 1996, they could have beamed in from less than 10 years in the future.

Some of the other stuff Star Trek inspired include:

  1. The Replicator — 3D printing is the beginning.
  2. Universal Translator — You can get an app for that
  3. Tablet Computers — Star Trek 2nd gen even named their tablet the PADD (Personal Access Data Device). Sound familiar?
  4. Hypospray — Needleless injections are here
  5. Phaser — A directed particle beam has been available to the U.S. military since the first Iraqi War and [not to hog credit from another space franchise] Ronald Reagan’s vaunted but never implemented initiative (SDI) was referred to as the Star Wars missile defense.
  6. Tricorder — The Star Trek version scanned for geological, biological, and meteorological anomalies. Today, handheld scanners can detect almost anything.
  7. Holodeck — Virtual worlds are used in computer gaming and to simulate real world conditions to test reflexes or the capabilities of cars and buildings.
  8. Computer dialogue — Rather than saying ‘Computer tell me about …’ we say Hi Siri or Hey Google.

Elon Musk revealed that Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy inspired his thinking and specifically gave him a push to start the Space X program.

I’d love to hear from you about how sci-fi inspired other technologies, programs and people.

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