We get it. The point of science fiction is usually not to promote the use of shiny new tools, but to heed warning against their use. But we have to wonder: What if said shiny new tools are really, really cool? Here are nine sci-fi inventions that we sort of wish were real, in spite of their possibility to ruin humanity as we know it:
The nursery from Ray Bradbury's "The Veldt"
Similar to Montag's immersive living room in "Fahrenheit 451," the childrens' nursery in this short story is a virtual reality room - just one component of their automated "Happylife Home." Apparently, the technology is so enjoyable that it's possible to become reliant on it, as Peter and Wendy quickly do. Of course, the story is a statement on the dangers of losing one's self-sufficiency, but we must admit the concept of a virtual environment that brings your deepest desires to fruition is pretty appealing, so long as users proceeded with caution. Plus, imagine how much better 3D movies would become!
The tesseract from Madeleine L'Engle's "A Wrinkle in Time"
Engineers, beware. We are not talking about a basic cubic prism. In L'Engle's book, the tesseract is basically a wormhole, through which characters can hop around space by bending the structure of the space-time continuum. NASA budget cuts? No biggie! Intergalactic travel has never been easier!
The ansible from Ursula K. Le Guin's "Rocannon's World"
Once we're able to zip around the universe using a tesseract, we have to figure out how to communicate with those back home - a task easier said than done, unless you're in possession of an ansible. The tool is a lunchbox-sized communication device that allows for instantaneous transmission of messages. Writes Le Guin, "doesn't involve radio waves, or any form of energy. The principle it works on, the constant of simultaneity, is analogous in some ways to gravity ... One point has to be fixed, on a planet of certain mass, but the other end is portable."
The rhetorizer from Philip K. Dick's "The Penultimate Truth"
This machine, though mentioned only briefly, is a powerful one. Feed it any number of "semantic units" you'd like, and it will construct a story of essay surrounding those terms. A completely unethical tool that would dissuade students and authors alike from doing actual thinking? Probably. But it's be a fun conversation piece.
Babel fish from Douglas Adams's "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy"
The Babel fish may be slimy and disgusting, but inserting one into your ear allows you to instantly understand any language that is being spoken to you. So, how does it work? According to Adams, "It feeds on brain wave energy, absorbing all unconscious frequencies and then excreting telepathically a matrix formed from the conscious frequencies and nerve signals picked up from the speech centres of the brain." We'll take it!
Air-taxis from Isaac Asimov's "Prelude to Foundation"
In the same novel in which Asimov introduces us to psychohistory, or the idea of predicting future events based on a society's history and sociology, the characters jet around in air-taxis. These vehicles move at 350 kilometers per house, and, to reduce traffic, many roads snake under "the shallower extensions of the ocean." Think "The Jetsons," but quicker.
Anti-gerasone from Kurt Vonnegut's "Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow"
It's a magical, life-extending elixir à la "Tuck Everlasting," except it's made from dandelions and sawdust, and is therefore available to everyone. The invention has negative consequences in Vonnegut's short story - it forces the country into a panicked, overpopulated state - but perhaps we could proceed with caution?
Smart wallpaper from Margaret Atwood's "Oryx and Crake"
Margaret Atwood dreams up some fantastical inventions in her novels, but she, unlike most other sci-fi writers, has made a few come to fruition, such as the LongPen, which allows her to sign books remotely. We're still waiting on "smart wallpaper," which is essentially a mood ring for your entire home. The color of the walls adjust to how you're feeling, and operate on "Kirilian-energy-sensing algae embedded in [them], along with a sublayer of algae nutrients, but there were still some glitches to be fixed."
The time machine from H.G. Wells's "The Time Machine"
We'll round it out with an obvious one. Wells's book wasn't the first to tackle time travel, but it certainly popularized the concept, and spawned enough similar stories to comprise an entire sub-genre. We understand the time machine frenzy - who wouldn't want to experience the future (or alter the past)?