Michael Rundle Headshot

Ray Bradbury Dead: Five Tech Predictions The Sci-Fi Author Got Right

Posted: Updated:
Print Article

It is slightly unfair when science fiction writers are judged by how 'accurately' they manage to predict the future.

Few such writers - including Ray Bradbury, author of Farenheit 451, who died on Wednesday aged 91 - ever set out to 'predict' anything.

"I'm not afraid of machines," Bradbury told Writer's Digest in 1976. "I don't think the robots are taking over. I think the men who play with toys have taken over. And if we don't take the toys out of their hands, we're fools."

Still, the sheer range of correct predictions made by some sci-fi writers can be spooky.

HG Wells, for instance, predicted nuclear weapons, the Moon landing, the second World War and lasers.

And although Wells also predicted (or imagined) time travel and invisibility, neither of which came true, it is often the hits that register more than the misses.

So how accurate were the predictions Bradbury made in his most famous novel, Fahrenheit 451?

News: The Death Of Newspapers

Prediction: In Fahrenheit 451 Bradbury describes newspapers dying after public appetite moves to shorter, headline-news stations which mainly report on gossip and violence.

"I remember the newspapers dying like huge moths. No one wanted them back. No one missed them. And the Government, seeing how advantageous it was to have people reading only about passionate lips and the fist in the stomach, circled the situation with your fire-eaters."

Result: The Leveson inquiry seems to suggest Bradbury may have a point here. And anyone who heard about his death on Twitter and didn't click through to the story may have proven his point.

Entertainment: The Obsession With Media

Prediction: In Fahrenheit 451 Bradbury describes an America where people are addicted to electronic media for information and entertainment.

Result: According to recent research, Americans spend on average 5.2 hours per day watching TV, 3 hours per day online and another hour with their mobile phones.

TV Screens: Everything, Everywhere

Prediction: In the novel Fanreheit 451 television screens are ubiquitous - the very walls are made up of screens, and it is hard to find a place where TVs do not reach.

Result: Hard to say this is anything but another tick - especially given Panasonic's 152-inch mega TV announced in 2010 which could literally fill many walls.

Fact: The Death Of Context

Prediction: Bradbury said in the (his) future, the obsession with bitesize factoids would take away all sense of context from news and information.

"Give the people contests they win by remembering the words to more popular songs or the names of state capitals or how much corn Iowa grew last year. Cram them full of non-combustible data, chock them so damned full of 'facts' they feel stuffed, but absolutely `brilliant' with information. Then they'll feel they're thinking."

Result: Wikipedia?

Earphones: What Are You Listening To?

Prediction: Bradbury describes a world where people wear what are essentially headphones, constantly piping-in music and chat at all hours of the day.

"And in her ears the little Seashells, the thimble radios tamped tight, and an electronic ocean of sound, of music and talk and music and talk coming in, coming in on the shore of her unsleeping mind."

Result: Any quite glance around the Tube confirms this has come true.

Of course (and to editorialise again) for all Bradbury anticipated the future, there were other themes he missed.

But as we mentioned, Bradbury's skill - and intention - was never to predict what would occur, but to reveal truths about the world as it already was - and is.

That his work still reveals those truths despite the decades since Fahrenheit 451's publication, is a testament to his skill as a writer, not a prophet.

Around the Web

Daughter says author Ray Bradbury has died in California

Ray Bradbury, author of 'Fahrenheit 451,' dies

R.I.P. Ray Bradbury: 1920-2012

Ray Bradbury, 91, dies

Author Ray Bradbury dies at 91