How would people in the Middle Ages respond to a television? What would someone from the 1700s think of a helicopter? What would a person from the early twentieth century think of a computer, or more specifically, the internet?
They would think these things were magical — either illusions or genuine supernatural occurrences. They might even believe the persons yielding the magical objects were witches, wizards, or gods.
But you and I both know that’s not the case. Televisions, helicopters, and computers are all very real, and thanks to modern technology, most of us have access to them.
We humans have a tendency to believe that we are at the apex of knowledge — that right now, we know as much as we ever will. As much as we love fictional, futuristic stories, we tend to think of them as fanciful. Sure, a great writer or a skilled filmmaker can help us suspend our disbelief for the duration of a book or film, but sitting in your living room on an ordinary day, it all seems rather unlikely, doesn’t it? People bouncing around in time? Fighting intergalactic wars in outer space? Come on.
But if you stop to wonder what our world will look like 100 or 1,000 years in the future, these fantastical ideas don’t seem so crazy. What incredible inventions will be developed over the next millennium?
Asking questions about the future is an excellent way to generate ideas for speculative fiction.
Let’s Take a Trip to the Future
Let’s do some thought exercises to flex our imaginations. You’ll need to envision what the world looked like in the past, what it looks like today, and what it might look like in the distant future.
Use these questions to spark ideas, and then write a story, an outline, or just a short scene. The goal is to engage your imagination, remove barriers that block all the possibilities, and open your mind.
Some of humankind’s greatest achievements have been in medicine. We now use all the technologies at our disposal to diagnose, treat, and prevent illnesses — from pills and vaccines to X-rays and MRIs. From a device as simple as a stethoscope to one as complex as microscope, we’ve made wellness possible in ways that couldn’t have been imagined a few hundred years ago. What is yet to come? How will health care change in the future? Will we walk through a machine that scans our bodies to detect any possible ailment? Will there be a heal-all pill? And for each advance we make, will another new devastating disease rear its head?
Advances in travel are awe-inspiring. There was a time when humans were limited to travel by foot. Then came the wheel, which made the cart possible. Later, ships carried people across oceans. Eventually, trains made high-speed, long-distance travel possible. Next, the airplane. Then, spaceships took us higher and submarines took us deeper. Where will we go next? Will intergalactic travel ever be possible? What about teleportation? Time travel? A thousand years ago, it’s doubtful most people believed traveling to the moon was possible. Where will we go a thousand years from now?
Technology has grown rampantly in the past few decades. Since the 1970s, almost all households in developed countries are equipped with more than one television, stereo, and computer. We can store an entire library of books, movies, and music on a device that fits in the palms of our hands. Two hundred years ago, if you wanted to talk to someone, you had to go to their house. Fifty years ago, you had to find a phone and dial their number. Today, you reach into your pocket, pull out your device, and say their name. How will personal technology advance in the next 100 years?
It’s not easy for everyone to imagine things that don’t exist yet. It might help if you can summon your old history lessons. If you can conceptualize where we’ve been and contrast it with where we are now, you might start getting ideas about where we’ll be at some point in the future.
Run with your ideas, even if they seem crazy, absurd, or impossible. The goal is to let your imagination run wild and to have fun with it.
Once you’re done, come back and tell us what inspired you. What did you write? Was it fun to explore the future? Will you keep writing?