Fictions about the future and present realities engage in a perpetual exchange. Many scientists and inventors recount being inspired by a particular Star Trek gadget or science fiction movie.
Here’s an intriguing example that suggests how tight these loops can get: the designers of the computer game Call of Duty: Black Ops II wanted to add some futuristic elements. They wisely consulted Peter W. Singer, a defense expert and author of Wired for War. One of the things he suggested was a small armed quadcopter drone, and this idea was incorporated into the game.
To promote the game, the company put up a simulated video showing what was supposed to be a real-life prototype of such an armed drone. Millions watched the video, including, Singer says, some people in the US Defense Department. According to Singer, the American officials
said “hold it; this crazy Russian guy has something better than what we have now – we want one”. Now the Pentagon is working on developing their own a fictional drone from a TV commercial. Essentially, in trying to be a projection of the future, the science fiction accelerated the future – we were saying this is what’s most likely to happen in the 2020s. Now it’s going to happen before then – largely because of the game.