Accidental Prophets

September 17, 2013

from OMNI Reboot

“Well, you know, William Gibson was writing about that in 1984.”

It’s become a running joke, among my friends, that I say something like this every few months, usually when discussion turns to the increasingly science fictional resonances of our everyday world. Science fiction writers can be a prescient lot, by trade. But William Gibson, in particular, has a remarkable track record for what seems like genuine prophecy, starting with his very first short stories, published in—surprise—OMNI Magazine.

But science fiction writers can’t really predict the future. Can they?

Sure, it can seem that way. Gibson foresaw many aspects of the Internet—famously coining the term “cyberspace”—with the publication of his debut novel, Neuromancer, in 1984. His subsequent books have proffered improbably accurate cultural premonitions on everything from reality television to our current surveillance state concerns.

The latest technology item to prompt a Gibson invocation came by way of a New York Times article. The story concerns the development of so-called “stealth wear:” apparel and accessories designed to protect the wearer from modern surveillance technologies, including a line of hoodies using reflective fabric to block thermal imaging, along with accessories designed to thwart cameras and facial recognition software.

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