Books that predicted the future

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Robert Taylor, Masthaven’s Senior Communications Executive and avid reader and lover of literature, offers up four books that tell us much about the world we live in today.
 
An Express of the Future, Michel Verne (1888)

Michel Verne, the son of Jules Verne, wrote An Express of the Future around the turn of the 20th century. This brilliant short story predicts the development of some technologies we see emerging today. In the book, Verne outlines a theoretical transatlantic tunnel through which trains are powered through pneumatic tubes by pressurised air. A ‘hyperloop’, if you will – something that today is being proposed by various people, most notably perhaps Elon Musk.


 
Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury (1953)
Bradbury’s book, about a fireman who burns books in a futuristic American city, predicts a world in which humans are rampant consumers of technology and ‘content’, bombarding themselves with entertainment rather than talking to each other. In Fahrenheit 451, people do not read books, spend time in nature or make meaningful connections with others. Instead, they drive too fast in their cars, watch far too much television on flatscreen devices and listen to the radio via sets that are attached to their ears.
 
The Machine Stops, EM Forster (1909)
Forster is better known as the writer of grand novels like A Passage to India. But his foray into dystopian science-fiction, The Machine Stops, is a truly prescient vision of the world many of us have just lived through: lockdown life, driven by the Covid-19 pandemic. It’s set in a futuristic world in which people “isolate”, send messages by pneumatic post (a bit like email or WhatsApp), avoid large public gatherings and rely on Alexa-type devices to look after their day-to-day needs.
 
1984, George Orwell (1949)
In 1984 Orwell famously imagines a future world controlled by an oppressive regime, where technology is used to monitor and control society and governments and shadowy departments can redefine and even eliminate truth. The term ‘Big Brother’, which refers to abuse of government surveillance power, originated in the novel. Orwell predicted many technologies we see today, including devices that monitor us and facial recognition software.

 
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