Here’s how science fiction novels and movies imagined the year 2020. Science fiction vs reality: what actually happened?

The colonization of Venus: “Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet”

In the 1965 American science fiction film “Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet”, it is 2020 and the Moon already has been colonized. The next step is Venus. The first group of humans land on Venus.

They find a prehistoric world (with dinosaurs, etc) in Venus. There are even oceans on the planet. They are attacked by various monsters, plants, etc.

The movie is actually an adaptation of the 1962 Soviet science fiction movie Planeta Bur (Planet of Storms), scripted by the Soviet science fiction writer Aleksandr Kazantsev (2 September 1906 – 13 September 2002) from his novel and directed by Pavel Klushantsev (1910-1999).

Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet (1965) – Theatrical Trailer

What actually happened?

First of all, we still didn’t colonize the Moon. Even worse, we didn’t go there since the last Apollo lunar landing mission in 1972, the Apollo 17. But there are plans.

The movie contains a huge load of scientific inaccuracies. The most obvious one is, in 1965, we already knew Venus was inhospitable for life.

Mars voyages

The first astronaut walks on Mars: “Red Mars”

In the 1992 science fiction novel “Red Mars” written by Kim Stanley Robinson (born March 23, 1952), the first human, an American astronaut named “John Boone” walks on Mars in 2020.

After returning to Earth, Boone becomes a public hero and uses his considerable influence to lobby for a second mission, this time one of colonization. Red Mars starts in 2026 and tells this colonization‘s story, with the first colonial voyage to Mars aboard the large interplanetary spacecraft named Ares. It carries the first hundred Martian colonists.

Red Mars is the first book of Robinson’s Mars trilogy (others being “Green Mars”, published in 1993, and “Blue Mars”, published in 1996).

The first crewed mission to Mars

In the 2000 science fiction movie named “Mision to Mars” directed by Brian De Palma and written by Jim Thomas, John Thomas, and Graham Yost, 2020 is the year that the first crewed Mars exploration mission, the Mars I.

Mission To Mars (2000) – Trailer

What actually happened?

No human stepped on Mars yet. The colonization of Mars in the 2020s is also highly unlikely, despite the ambitious plans of Elon Musk.

Sea monsters attack

In the 2013 American science-fiction monster film directed by Guillermo del Toro, legions of monstrous creatures, known as Kaiju, starts rising from the sea, and a war begins that would take millions of lives and consume humanity’s resources for years on end in the year 2020.

To combat the giant Kaiju, humans devise a special type of weapon: massive robots called Jaegers, which are controlled simultaneously by two pilots whose minds are locked in a neural bridge.

But even the Jaegers are proving nearly defenseless in the face of the relentless Kaiju. On the verge of defeat, the forces defending humankind have no choice but to turn to two unlikely heroes-a washed-up former pilot (Charlie Hunnam) and an untested trainee (Rinko Kikuchi) – who are teamed to drive a legendary but seemingly obsolete Jaeger from the past. Together, they stand as mankind’s last hope against the mounting apocalypse.

Pacific Rim (2013) – Official Main Trailer

What actually happened?

Kaiju didn’t attack.

It seems Jaegers are inspired by Digla, a planetary machine in Stanislaw Lem’s 1986 science fiction novel Fiasco. A Digla combines mechanical strength with human (operator) dexterity, so does a Jaeger.

Internet of brains

In the 2005 novel named “Air” (also known as Air: Or, Have Not Ha) by the Canadian science fiction writer Geoff Ryman (born 1951), in 2020, there is a new information technology called “Air”. It is an information exchange that occurs in every people’s brain and is intended to connect the world.

What actually happened?

As of 2020, there is no “Internet of brains”, and our brains are still not connected to the Internet. But there are technologies on the horizon like Elon Musk’s “Neuralink“.

Aliens invade Earth

In “Edge of Tomorrow”, the 2014 American science fiction action film starring Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt, and directed by Doug Liman, tells the story of an alien race invading the Earth.

In 2015, aliens called “Mimics” arrive in Germany carried by an asteroid. They are unbeatable by any military unit in the world. By 2020, they invade most of Europe.

A global military alliance named the United Defense Force (UDF) established to combat the alien threat finally achieves a victory over the Mimics at Verdun using newly developed mech-suits (powered exoskeletons).

Edge of Tomorrow – Official Main Trailer
The epic action of “Edge of Tomorrow” unfolds in the near future in which an alien race has hit the Earth in an unrelenting assault, unbeatable by any military unit in the world.

What actually happened?

Aliens didn’t invade the Earth.

Mind uploading and robots with free-will

In the 1982 cyberpunk science fiction novel written by the American mathematician Rudy Rucker (born March 22, 1946), there is a colony on the Moon in 2020 created by “boppers”, the robots have artificial intelligence and free will. What’s more, humans can gain some sort of “immortality” by having their minds transferred into the software.

The robots overcome the Asimov priorities (Three Laws of Robotics) to achieve free will.

What actually happened?

There’s still no colony on the Moon. Robots don’t have free will – they are actually quite primitive yet and will remain so in the foreseeable future. We cannot transfer or “upload” our minds into the software.

Tim Maughan wrote:

“1980s were a time of seemingly limitless and rapid technological change. Many people started the decade not really understanding what a computer was and ended it using it in many aspects of their daily lives. Microchips were suddenly in every household object and appliance, from refrigerators to microwave ovens, and video games and VCRs were redefining entertainment and how we interact with and consume it.”

It was an exciting time, but it also came with new anxieties, such as the very real fear that you had to keep up or be left behind – made old, forgotten, and redundant – by each new technological wave. It’s a fear Software (and its sequels [Wetware (1988), Freeware (1997), and Realware (2000)]) captures perfectly.”

I was a kid and a teenager in the 1980s and I couldnd’t agree more.


M. Özgür Nevres

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