Science fiction becomes reality

Missing Link: When science fiction and reality cross paths

Madness, it's like in the cinema! The similarity of current events with the scenarios familiar from science fiction stories should have struck many people - and moved them. At the latest when the restrictions in connection with the worldwide spread of the corona virus also became noticeable in this country and the first police barriers in Europe could be seen on television, the parallels to the relevant epidemic thrillers could hardly be overlooked. This is deeply disturbing and unsettling, but at the same time fascinating and exciting.

The concern is obvious: if the events so far follow the descriptions that authors such as Stephen King, Michael Crichton or Sakyō Komatsu have come up with - the futile attempts to prevent the spread of the virus, roadblocks, empty supermarkets, excited television news - what else can we expect? One would rather not think about it. What once gave you goosebumps tingling while reading or watching, would now more likely cause sweat and panic to break out.

Science fiction meets reality

The fascination results from the fact that science fiction and reality rarely come so close. One of the few other examples is robotics, where the visions of fantastic literature and cinema have intersected with real developments for decades. At first, this went largely unnoticed: Hardly anyone noticed that the US warship "USS Vincennes", which protected shipping during the Iran-Iraq war in the Persian Gulf in 1988, was equipped with the Aegis and its automatic defense system aggressive behavior by the crews of other ships was called "RoboCop".

What was initially meant as a joke, became serious when the ship mistakenly identified an Iranian passenger plane with 290 people on board as an attacking fighter jet on July 3, 1988 and shot it down with two missiles. The frightening parallel to the film RoboCop, which was released in US cinemas a year earlier and shows a fighting robot in a legendary scene, went unnoticed for a long time. Nor was anyone interested in the fact that in February 1991, a few months before the release of Terminator 2: Judgment Day, real soldiers on the Kuwaiti island of Failaka had surrendered to a robot for the first time.

Reality vs. Science Fiction

However, since Honda publicly presented the first complete humanoid robot with the P2 in 1996 and with the RoboCup a stage was created on which the evolution of artificial intelligence can be followed practically in real time, reality in terms of tension can easily be compared with the fictional adventures on canvas and keep up between book covers. The relationship between reality and science fiction is now a topic that is regularly discussed at conferences. It is now also about life and death, an indispensable element of every thriller: armed robots (drones) have already killed several thousand people in a targeted manner since 2001. And the impending takeover of power by artificial intelligence is no longer a distant fantasy, but a tangible reality.