Faster-than-light travel or communication, A.I., humanoid android companions, time travel, force fields, and teleportation all continue to elude real-world scientists and engineers, despite what we were promised as 20th century readers of science fiction. (As for cyborgs and cloaking devices, we seem to be getting there.)
Brian Clegg's Ten Billion Tomorrows (St. Martin's) is subtitled How Science Fiction Technology Became Reality and Shapes the Future, but it ends up being more about how reality frequently fails to catch up to science fiction's core concepts.
Clegg's breezy, newspaper-column style only scratches the surface on both the science and the science fiction. But it delivers a fun contemplation of our attempts to model the inherently unpredictable future, and it suggests that even escapist fiction has independent value beyond preparing us for the actual future.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Future Foreseen".