Why Didn’t Science Fiction Writers Predict the Internet?


First off, I actually rather like the term “Speculative Fiction” as compared to “Science Fiction”. But regardless of that, this is a very short blog post that posits three possibilities for why writers in decades past (1930’s, 1940’s, 1950’s, etc.) didn’t predict anything quite like the World Wide Web that we know today…

  1. The possibility–as Isaac Asimov and Harlan Ellison have said in the past–that SF writers just plain suck at predicting the future.
  2. They just couldn’t fathom the idea. Or the writers had thought of it, but the publishers thought it was too ridiculous for the public.
  3. SF writers felt that it was a bad idea and could eventually become harmful to humanity’s future, so if something like the internet were created, how could there be a future to write about for humanity? Or perhaps that they just wrote about the next great leap in human interaction beyond the internet? (Which also begs the question if it was predicted, was the World Wide Web written in such a dystopian way that we don’t recognize it as the future form of our present “benign” internet.)

Not a comprehensive list, one might add the idea that perhaps publishers or enterprising writers would see something like the internet as relinquishing them of total power over their works. But that last one on the above list deserves some thought (though the first one is probably the most likely). I can think of a few SF stories that might fit its potential dystopian bill. P2P style systems had certainly been theorized in various stories of the future, and used in a very positive fashion. But one giant network? Oh no, the stories that may have laid out that idea before there actually was a internet…well…they always took place in a very frightening world…

Carpe lucem!