Why do people like science fiction? It's because all good science fiction asks one simple but fundamental question: What does it means to be human?
But readers of sci-fi also enjoy the genre's cool, high-tech gadgets. And although fiction is supposedly make-believe, ideas sparked while reading sci-fi have a real impact on the world.
Science fiction really does influence our future
Believe it or not, science fiction has an uncanny ability to help us predict and create the future. Recent research from MIT suggests that today's scientists design with science fiction books in mind. Inventors of today gather inspiration from science fiction, and this influences the products they strive to create.
Nowhere is this clearer than in the transportation industry, where new technologies such as driverless cars, personal space travel, and flying taxis are now in production. It's unclear exactly how the transportation industry will shift over the coming decades, but one thing is for sure, the way we get around is about to change.
Sci-fi technologies are about to become the new normal
The future of transportation might sound like science fiction, but it will soon be our reality.
Here are five new transportation methods under development that will drastically alter our world.
- Hyperloops -- Using a concept developed by Elon Musk, the company Hyperloop One intends to send passengers through a frictionless tube to travel above or below ground at 700 mph. While current hyperloop tests have only reached around 200 mph, the state of Missouri has partnered with Hyperloop to design a route between St. Louis and Kansas City.
- Flying taxis -- With the investments in flying taxi prototypes from companies such as Google, Uber, and German-based Volocopter, everyday air travel could be available sooner rather than later in our future. Uber's aerial taxi project, called Elevate, hopes to have flying taxis in Los Angeles by 2020.
- Drone deliveries -- Forget a UPS truck showing up in your driveway. In the future, packages might be delivered to your house by drones. To explore the use of drone delivery, the Federal Aviation Administration has partnered with private companies, including Apple, Uber, and Microsoft, to conduct a three-year commercial drone pilot program.
- Driverless cars -- There is already lots of competition in the driverless car space, including big automakers like Ford, which plans to have fully autonomous vehicles in operation by 2021. Forget about driving. In the future, your car will drive for you.
- Personal space travel -- Soon, astronauts won't be the only ones going to space. Companies like SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, Boeing, and Blue Origin are working to build spaceships to bring tourists and astronauts to the stars.
Are we on our way to becoming the Jetsons?
Think of the future for a second: people traveling in hyperloops between cities and ordering flying taxis with an app; drones crisscrossing the air delivering packages; roads filled with driverless cars; people hitching a ride to space, well, just because we can.
And my generation thought cell phones were a breakthrough. What our kids will see will be nothing less than miraculous. What we first thought of as science fiction is quickly becoming our reality.