Ray Bradbury: The man who saw into the future
Author is now dead but his legacy lives on. Many of his predictions have come true
The birth of sensationalist news and a diet of gossip
Bradbury foresaw a move in the public's interest from the dry form of news in the 1950s to the more sensationalist types of papers and magazines on news stands today. He said no-one would mourn the passing of long-form journalism because they were all more interested in tittle-tattle. He wrote: "I remember the newspapers dying like huge moths. No one wanted them back. No one missed them."
Rolling 24-hour TV news
A factor always present in Ray Bradbury's work was the prospect of constant news being thrown at the inhabitants of his futuristic societies – similar to today's 24-hour TV news. Channels such as Fox and Sky News now bombard us as heavily as the organisations in Bradbury's world.
In perhaps his most celebrated work, Fahrenheit 451, Bradbury imagined "thimble radios" – which bear a remarkable resemblance to modern earphones. He imagines the character of Mildred as lost, swimming in an "electronic ocean of sound as she wore the seashells."
The omnipresent flat-screen television
"Parlor walls", flat-screen TVs which occupy entire walls in Fahrenheit 451. Montag, the book's main character, says it "is an environment as real as the world. It becomes and is the truth". His wife, Mildred, wants a fourth parlor wall (they have only three) for total immersion.
He may not have been the first author to sound the alarm – George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four is an earlier and perhaps more notorious warning – but Bradbury's work addressed the coming dangers that he associated with constant surveillance.
The butterfly effect
The ability to travel through time has been predicted since HG Wells' The Time Machine. Ray Bradbury's time-travelling theory, which he expounded in Sound of Thunder, was that changing something – however minor – in the past could have some massive consequences in the future. It has become known as the Butterfly Effect and is still being referred to today.
TV star David Hasselhoff may have got there before Google in the 1980s show Knight Rider, but Ray Bradbury succeeded in trumping both of them. In The Pedestrian a self-driving car roves around arresting people. And Ray Bradbury's love of artificial intelligence went even further. In I Sing the Body Electric!, the author explored the idea of sentient machines.
Ray Bradbury's novels were littered with several early references to automated bank machines. These machines helped to keep their users up-to-date with the state of their finances, much like today's modern cash-dispensing machines.
Twitter and bitesize news
A theme he explored was the influx of information snippets. "Give the people contests they win by remembering the words to more popular songs ... chock them so damned full of 'facts' they feel stuffed, but absolutely 'brilliant' with information. Then they'll feel they're thinking," he wrote in Fahrenheit 451.
Social networking sites
The themes of Ray Bradbury's novel, The Wall – through which people are able to talk to friends – would be recognisable to many of the millions of people who today use the Facebook website.
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