Prophets of Progress? Predicting the Future of Science and Technology from H. G. Wells to Isaac Asimov
The first half of the twentieth century saw the emergence of science fiction as a recognised genre, but popular science writers also sought to imagine what the next developments would be, especially in areas with immediate practical applications. This talk will explore a number of issues relating to how we can understand the role played by science in popular culture through these predictions. What were the interactions between popular science writing and works of fiction ranging from science fiction to the many pessimistic novels of the period? How were public expectations aroused and used to create hopes of major improvements in everyday life, or fears of war and other calamities? How were rival technologies promoted by those who hoped to benefit from their introduction? The talk concludes by taking debates about the future of aviation during the inter-war years as a case study.