More than fiction. Science fiction ideas that can become a reality in the XXI century

    12 Oct 2021

    Lunar bases, flying cars, and teleportation are likely to appear in the coming decades. Let’s learn more reading Chas article.

    Sometimes reality is separated from fiction by a very thin line. A “smart” house, a mobile phone, space stations, uncrewed vehicles – not even a century has passed since these inventions lived only in books and movies. Today they are all, one way or another, a regular part of our world. But the arsenal of science fiction ideas is not exhausted. Some concepts described or shown by the genre over the last two centuries have not yet crossed the fiction line but may do so in the present century.



    Lunar bases

    Both the classic science fiction writers Arthur Clarke (Earthlight, 1955) and Robert Heinlein (The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, 1965) and modern authors such as Andy Weir dreamed of man colonizing the moon (“Artemis”, 2017). Today, this concept has a very high chance of becoming a reality because the world’s leading space agencies have undertaken its implementation.

    NASA will take the first step toward a lunar settlement in 2023 when construction of the Gateway station begins. It will not be located on the surface of the satellite but in its orbit. In the future, astronauts will not only be able to live at the station temporarily but also use it as an intermediate point when traveling to the moon or Mars. But the agency will not stop at Gateway.

    In 2028, NASA plans to place a stationary module on the moon’s surface, which will make astronauts’ expeditions to the satellite longer. This is not yet a full-fledged base but the basis for its creation.

    Not only Americans are going to get a job on the satellite. China plans to build a lunar base near the South Pole in the 2030s. At first, only robots will live there. People will come there only with short visits. But by 2045, the Chinese want to prepare a base for the long-term stay of taikonauts (as the astronauts are called in China).

    Neither the United States nor China plans to implement the monthly plans alone. For example, Gateway is an international project in which, in addition to the American, European, Canadian and Japanese space agencies are involved. Russia has its ally in China. On March 9, the two countries’ governments signed a memorandum of understanding, emphasizing their desire to create a lunar station together. Moreover, the official statements of the Russian and Chinese space agencies state that the station can be both ground-based and orbital.



    Flying cars

    If lunar bases are a matter of the near future, then flying cars already exist today, in some sense. Currently, there are two well-known players in this field: the American company Terrafugia and the Slovak AeroMobil. Both have working prototypes, which do not look as elegant as in the movies but can move in the air and on the ground. These are literally cars that can fly.

    However, they have not yet reached customers. AeroMobil promises to start sales in 2023, Terrafugia planned to do so in the last decade but has repeatedly postponed the deadline. Now the company has more modest goals: to obtain approval from the American authorities for flights and travel on public roads for the flying car Transition. Although this is not true – according to unofficial reports, Terrafugia is going to close its operations in the United States and move to China.

    There is another category of cars, which are also sometimes called flying cars. It’s about air taxi. These are compact electric-powered aircraft capable of taking off and landing vertically. Unlike the Terrafugia and AeroMobil developments, they are not intended for road use and are not intended for private customers. They have to carry two to five passengers over short distances in the air, performing the same task as conventional land taxis.

    Companies from all over the world are developing such devices. Among them are young companies such as Joby Aviation or Lilium, and well-known brands such as Airbus or Hyundai. And some have already come close to entering the market. For example, the German company Volocopter promises to launch a commercial air taxi service in Singapore in two to three years. And this is just one of the first swallows – in the next 10 years, many others will join it.

    Experts predict a great future for the air taxi market, which is yet to be born. According to analysts of the consulting firm Frost & Sullivan, by 2040 there will be up to 430 thousand such devices in the world. So, until no one invents something like DeLorean from the movie “Back to the Future-2”, they will play the role of flying cars.



    Strong AI

    Artificial intelligence as an idea was born long before the “Terminator” or “Matrix”. Back in 1955, the term was suggested by the American scientist John McCarthy. In 1967, Marvin Minsky, one of the pioneers of AI research, was optimistic that a machine with the average person’s intelligence would be born in a maximum of eight years.

    Much more time has passed since then, and such machines still exist only on big screens. In real AI, the possibilities are somewhat smaller. He is developed enough to surpass humans in some things. For example, AI can look for signs of breast cancer on a mammogram more accurately than doctors of flesh and blood, or beat the grandmaster of the logic game. But this does not mean that artificial intelligence can be put on a par with human intelligence.

    The fact is that modern AI systems can achieve outstanding success in solving one specific task and can do nothing more. For example, no matter how skilled a virtual grandmaster is, he will not be able to write even the simplest poem because it was not created for this purpose. This AI is called “weak” or “narrow”. The smartest systems today fall into this category.

    However, in theory, there is a more advanced AI called “strong” or “general”. Such artificial intelligence can solve several problems, learn independently, expand their capabilities, make plans, and generally compete with humans (in theory). Such an AI does not yet exist in practice, but experts believe that its creation will not take too much time.

    In 2017, the universities of Oxford and Yale conducted a survey among 350 researchers of artificial intelligence on the prospects of creating a strong AI. Experts have estimated the probability of its occurrence by 2060 at 50%. At the same time, Asian researchers are optimistic that humanity will create a strong AI in 30 years. Their North American counterparts have spent 74 years achieving this goal. In any case, according to experts, the technology that terrifies science fiction will appear by the end of the century.

    Flight to Mars

    In 1865, Jules Verne published the famous novel “From Earth to the Moon”, and 104 years later a human foot stepped on the surface of our planet’s satellite. This is a classic example of how the author’s imagination foresaw the future achievement of humankind. But after Verne, science fiction began to look closely at other celestial bodies.

    While the new NASA Perseverance rover lives on the Red Planet, we talk about the main scientific achievements of its predecessors

     For example, in 1894, the American writer Gustavus Pope published the novel “Journey to Mars,” which may also be prophetic. And it will happen very soon, if Ilona Mask’s optimistic forecasts come true.

    Late last year, the businessman said that his company SpaceX will deliver people to the neighboring planet in 2026, and even in 2024, “if you’re lucky.” However, Musk still lacks luck. Prototypes of the Starship spacecraft, which is supposed to take a person to the Red Planet, exploded during tests with unenviable regularity.

    With so many failures, Musk may not meet the deadline. But even if he abandons the idea altogether, Mars is unlikely to remain uninhabited. After all, NASA has long harbored plans to send people to the Red Planet. The agency is going to send its astronauts there for the next decade.




    Let’s immediately upset those who dream of moving from one point of the globe to another simultaneously. Human teleportation is likely to remain beyond fiction. After all, human being is a massive repository of information. According to researchers from the University of Leicester (UK), even if we express all the cells of our body in the data, their volume will be 2.6 × 10 to the 42nd power (26 and 41 zero after that) bits. The transfer of such an array of information will require a huge amount of time and energy, and it is still unknown what kind of person will be on the other side.

    However, scientists are already conducting experiments with teleportation, but not living organisms and data packets. They transmit information about the quantum state of light particles, photons. The experiments are based on the phenomenon of quantum entanglement, in which two particles can be interconnected regardless of distance, and a change in one of them causes a change in the other. This allows you to transmit or teleport information from one point to another instantly.

    This data exchange method is the basis of the quantum Internet – a more secure analog of the modern World Wide Web. Specialists from the United States, China, and Europe are already working on its creation. Working on technology will take time, but not long, for the quantum Internet to seem a hopelessly distant prospect. Last summer, the US Department of Energy presented a plan to prototype a quantum network to be created within the current decade.


    What if it rains for two months, and the nuclear bomb explodes? Check our author’s column about the “Years and Years” science fiction series.

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *