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I have mixed feelings about when science fiction becomes real

3 mins read

By LEE SCOTT

My friends were all talking about the new Downton Abbey movie that has been released. Evidently it had a wonderful opening weekend. 

I expressed interest in seeing the movie because I did like the television series, but I am more interested in seeing the new movie Ad Astra. This is one of those science fiction movies and has to do with a daring mission to Neptune. 

None of my friends seemed interested in going, but that is OK, because I am used to that response. I have been a lonely science fiction lover for years.

It started as a child when I found the first author I really liked, Jules Verne. He wrote Journey to the Center of the Earth, Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea, and The Mysterious Island, which all had me captivated.

He wrote more than 60 novels, and what is fascinating about these books is they were written in the 1860s and 1870s and described things that had not been invented yet. Things like solar sails, lunar modules, sky writing and tasers. I loved his imagination.

After reading the Jules Verne books, I started to go to science fiction movies like Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days. And I loved to watch the sci-fi television shows. It was so interesting to hear about a future that included communication devices (cell phones), video conferencing (Facetime) and voice activated digital assistants.

I wonder how Jules Verne would feel about “Alexa” and “Hey Google.” With just a command from our voice they can turn on lights in our house, wake us up in the morning, describe our day’s appointments, and tell us if the traffic on our commuter route is blocked. 

Once again, science fiction becomes realty and with it, I confess, my hidden fears about artificial intelligence and software. After all, my generation was exposed to movies like 2001, A Space Odyssey where a digital assistant named Hal killed the astronauts on the spaceship.

I realize the voice-activated digital assistants must be very helpful for working parents with busy schedules. 

“Johnny has practice at 5 p.m.; Little Joanie has piano practice at 6; the heat in your home has just been turned up to 72 degrees at 4 p.m.”

But at what point, like Hal, does Alexa find a conflict between relaying information accurately and mission objectives. When does the science fiction turn into reality?

Yet, despite my fears regarding some of the science fiction predictions, I still love it.

And so, as my friends get ready to watch Lady Mary welcome the King and Queen of England to Downton Abbey, I will be the one heading over to Auditorium No. 11 to watch Brad Pitt rocket off to Neptune.

 

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