Given the recent death of best-selling author and sci-fi pioneer Michael Crichton, we thought it was the perfect time to reflect on some of his most innovative and fascinating ideas…that just happened to have come true.
5. Talking Gorillas: Congo (1980) was more than just another notch into the decent-book-cum-awful-movie belt. It also highlighted what was once a novel concept: that apes could use human language to communicate. Cute little Amy, with her sign language glove (which appeared in the movie but not the book), was loosely based on Koko the gorilla, whose actual linguistic abilities continue to be debated.
Since then, there’s been Kanzi, a bonobo who “apparently has learned more than 3,000 spoken English words and can produce (by means of lexigrams) novel English sentences and comprehend English sentences he has never heard before.” Granted, those who doubted before remain unconvinced.
4. Self-Replicating Robots: In Prey (2002), Crichton created a world of self-replicating nanorobots with rudimentary intelligence and predatory instincts, who spend several hundred pages running amok and causing all sorts of mayhem.
Today, researchers have developed robots that can physically self assemble, and even produce copies of themselves. Granted, getting to that next stage—manufacturing more of themselves from raw materials—is substantially harder.
3. Superbugs from Space: Crichton’s debut novel, The Andromeda Strain (1969), terrified readers with the ultimate biohazard: a deadly extraterrestrial microorganism that infects human blood and mutates like wildfire to defy containment.
Lucky for us, the chances of the next pandemic hurling in from space are slim to none. But the book brought the concept of bio-safety levels to far more advanced heights. As for the next great bug, not only have we created antibiotic-resistant superbugs here on Earth, we’ve also discovered that some strains become more virulent when sent into space. (Though fear not: They become far less deadly once they’ve made the journey home.)