I'm not all that old, and yet I grew up in a completely different world. The Internet was something we began to hear about as I neared my teenage years and even then it was not anything common. Computers still had floppy disks and monochrome monitors. Now you can see the rumblings of the first real cyberwar, cars that drive themselves, corporations going into space and planets outside of our solar system, and NASA is making announcements about finding new types of life based on arsenic. All of this makes me ask the question, is science fiction redundant? Has the world become the world from the old science fiction?
The examples of technology are everywhere and often mentioned but they are so common that we sometimes forget. We don't just have cell phones anymore we have computers in our pockets that let us talk to people and augmented reality won't be long. The Kinect from Microsoft is of course as close to science fiction as we have gotten so far and people are still working on improving it so that now it can actually recognize voices far better and see individual finger movements.
My real question though is where does this leave science fiction? There is of course plenty of things we have not done. Star Trek and Star Wars are still well out of our reach, but that does not seem to be the type of science fiction that is popular either. Shows like Fringe and Eureka for example are extrapolating technology and while they can sometimes be absurd the science is often thing that might happen and sooner than we would assume when you eliminate the magical elements that show up. And that is my question, have we began to advance so quickly that the enjoyment of imagining the future has been lost. After all if you can't keep up with today's technology what is the point of imagining tomorrows, which is what a lot of science fiction does and as shows like Fringe and Eureka show often the easiest way to do that now is to ignore the science and just do what you want which is effectively fantasy with technology rather than wands.
What science fiction does though is not just have weird adventures with laser guns or examine technology. This is setting and in that setting you can have any other genre and any story, but limiting it to that is a mistake as well because that setting lets you put humans into new situations and imagine how they might react and change and that will always be important, unless we are no longer human.