Tag Archives: 3d printer

The Problem With Technology in Science Fiction

I love science fiction. I love seeing how authors view the future and how far we’ve advanced technologically and as a society.  I’ve seen some amazing things in science fiction. But there’s a problem. Some of it is already obsolete.

Take a look at the original Star Trek. Knobs and levers, cathode ray tube displays, and horribly outdated decor. It looks old. But looking at each device they use shows how far we’ve advanced in the past fifty years. The best example is the communicator. The designers of it very accurately predicted cell phones, especially flip phones. However, those cell phones developed more than a simple LCD which showed the phone number, they actually had full colour screens capable of video. That was only about ten to fifteen years ago. I remember my first cell phone in Japan. It had TV, radio, compass, internet, web browser (although archaic), and camera. It was incredibly advanced, I thought.  Fast forward ten years, and I have an iPhone, which is not actually a cell phone, but a handheld computer with wireless communications capabilities. It has completely blown Star Trek’s communicators out of the water. Cell phones of today are more powerful than the computers that ran the space shuttles in the 1980s, and for a much lower price and compact form.

It seems a lot of our technology outpaces what we predict in science fiction. We already have ion propulsion in spacecraft.  Star Trek said it was more advanced than anything Starfleet had, including the warp engine.  Of course, now we know that ion propulsion is a fairly simple concept, while warp is beyond our reach for now.  Replicators exist now in the form of 3D printers, and they’re getting better all the time. We’re even on the verge of making food 3D printers (or food replicators). We could even be close to achieving the technology seen in the Holodeck. Star Trek: The Next Generation had the PADD, which is now a modern device called the tablet computer.  Teleportation exists today, though only for energy and information.  Quantum computers are being developed now, and that’s something never envisioned by Star Trek.

In my writing, I find it difficult to predict what we will use 150 years in the future. I imagine things like 3D printers will have evolved into some kind of fabrication system that is quick and efficient. It could mean a complete change in the way we manufacture, or even do construction. Transportation is another difficult thing to predict. Will mass transportation be through the air or by maglev trains? Who knows? How will our spacecraft look? How fast will they go? How about agriculture? Will we still have fields or will we be using vertical farming?

It’s difficult to imagine the future, but it’s fun. I’ve already worked on the spacecraft that take the colonists to Ariadne, and I have an advanced version of the 3D printer in mind. And nuclear fusion is a reality.

What do you predict for technology in the future?

3D Printer in Space

The most recent SpaceX commercial resupply mission has something interesting on it for the International Space Station, a 3D Printer.  They’re going to use it to make replacement parts, so they don’t have to wait for them to arrive on later resupply missions.

But I have a question.  Is this really a printer?  To me, printers print text or pictures onto paper.  A 3D printer doesn’t print ink or use lasers to create images on paper.  It actually uses a material that is chosen for the object and thin slices are laid on top additively to create the object.  This technology has been around for around 30 years and uses a CAD software to create the objects.  But is this printing?

It’s more like assembling or manufacturing, actually.  But in a way it’s replicating existing objects based on a plan stored in a computer.  Doesn’t that sound familiar?  In Star Trek, replicators have been used since The Next Generation, and they’ve been replicating things using a similar principle, except they do it atom by atom.  This does it in a more crude way, layer by layer.  But still, I think this is a rudimentary replicator.  So why keep calling it a 3D Printer?  Let’s call it a Replicator!  Who’s with me?