Today a Chinese train set a new world record for the fastest unmodified passenger train with a speed of 302 miles per hour. The train ran on a high-speed line between Beijing and Shanghai. Although the train will not begin regular operations until next year, it is already being hailed as revolutionary as it will cut the 10 hour trip between the cities down to 4 hours.
Radical changes like these make science fiction writers practically salivate. Typically, we see technology change our lives a bit more incrementally. Of course, in the US we don't seem to see this technology at all, but that's besides the point.
Another point I'd like to make is how fickle techology is in its advancement. Some scientists and science fans (including science fiction fans) will look at this new record and hypothesize on what it means for the future. Remember when the iPads came out? Some quickly compared it with data devices used in shows like Star Trek (Next Generation, DS9 and Voyager to be more specific). But can these leaps also lead to unrealistic explanations?
If you've watched one of the few entertaining science fiction shows left on SyFy - Eureka, you saw the addition of James Callis to the cast last year. His character was accidentally brought to 2010 from the late 1940s. I remember one interesting quote his character had about the 21st century - "I thought there would be more flying cars by now." Speaking of flying cars, we're only 5 years away from the flying cars shown in Back To The Future II. Granted, that was a comedy, but a few decades ago, people probably did expect flying cars not only to be a reality, but a regular form of transportation.
Another example of science fiction technological timelines missed can be found right in the title of one example - Space 1999. 11 years after the moon was blown out of orbit, we still are really not significantly closer to Moon Base Alpha.
Will we get there some day? Perhaps, but keep in mind when reading and writing science fiction that, as I just said, technological advances can be fickle and unpredictable. But sometimes that's what makes them really cool. Let's face it, if we had regular and scheduled technological revolutions, I'd probably have nothing to blog about!
Have a good weekend and