Science or Fiction in 50 Years: Introduction

David Brin, in his foreword to the book Earth, shared the challenge he felt writing science fiction that takes place fifty years into our future. Within ten years real world events can turn an interesting read into a joke, as the author finds they took a left while the technology took a right. In this column we join David Brin in accepting the challenge of looking forward fifty years. In each column we will pick a technology from the world of science fiction and explore present day startups for clues to answer our question: Will it be science or fiction in fifty years?

As a founder and investor of technology companies, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some great entrepreneurs and investors in Silicon Valley and beyond. Since my time at MIT in the 90s, I’ve loved learning the origin of technology stories and the mechanics of new products. I’ve found that for every company I succeeded in building, like Clover, the point of sale system that now processes $135B a year on the countertops of small businesses, I’ve helmed many more that didn’t achieve escape velocity. I will try to share all of my experiences, the good, the bad and the buggy, as part of this column.

My column formula, for now, will start with a review of the themes authors followed through the decades as they introduced a new technology. Then, I’ll share the major categories of real science that might turn those ideas into reality. Last, I’ll look at the dynamics of bringing those ideas to market within our lifetimes and talk about the startups taking advantage of those tailwinds.

Here are a few examples of the technologies that might find a way into a future column: Computer Superintelligence, Ansibles, Androids, Mutants, Teleportation, Instant Learning, Portals Between Worlds, Emergent Behavior, Deep Freeze, Dyson Spheres, Uplift, Replication, Living Forever, and Terraforming. Do you have suggestions for others? Send them my way.


Leonard Speiser started several technology companies including Clover (sold to First Data) and Bix (sold to Yahoo!) and is an active investor in technology startups. Leonard has previously worked at eBay, Intuit, and CSFB. He graduated from MIT in 1996. Follow him on Twitter: @leonardspeiser or connect to him on LinkedIn: