How ‘Ender’s Game’ Predicted Drone Warfare and iPads

Movie Talk
Ender's Game
Ender's Game

It is sheer coincidence that the ethics of drone warfare is this week's hot button issue — and that the U.S. continues to deploy such strikes in Pakistan and Somalia — as a sci-fi film about the military tactic is hitting the big screen.

"It predicted drone warfare and its use," Harrison Ford tells Yahoo Movies of the book on which the film is based. Yes, "Ender's Game," published in 1985, has proved to be prophetic.

Its description of "computer-controlled fighters" infiltrated bookshelves a whole 17 years before the CIA deployed the first-ever predator drone, striking an Afghanistan province. The futuristic story follows an elite group of youths in battle school, training for alien warfare with the highest tech gadgets available — ones that didn't exist in reality when the book was written.

Watch 'Ender's Game' Insider Access:

"Ender's Game" author Orson Scott Card saw into the future with almost eerie accuracy. "It was a spectacular act of imagination," Ford says. "It predicted the Internet 28 years ago."

Indeed, sophisticated computers are at the center of ace student Ender Wiggins's world. He and his fellow students study remote warfare through the use of high-level simulators that function like today's most immersive video games.

"The boys who had been so trained by the computer that even when they played against each other they each tried to emulate the computer," the book reads. "Think like a machine instead of a boy."

[Related: Box Office: 'Ender's Game' Opens to Solid $1.4 Million Thursday Night]

Like the Internet, the systems described in "Ender's Game" are connected to a web of data and instant communications capabilities.

"[Ender] was telling his desk to keep sending a message… The message was to everyone, and it was short and to the point." That's essentially Card's description of instant messaging several years before it existed. "Everybody knows that the system automatically puts on the name of the sender," one student says.

The "Ender's Game" battle school "desks" are powerful, and portable, computing systems. An excerpt reads: "Ender doodled on his desk, drawing contour maps of mountainous islands and then telling his desk to display them in three dimensions in every angle."

Ender's interactive "desk" even detaches, and he's able to play a unique game on it as he holds the device in his lap. In the film, the device looks uncannily similar to an iPad.

"…Ender was doing Free Play. It was a shifting, crazy kind of game in which the school computer kept bringing up new things, building a maze that you could explore." It's described in the book as a smart game, displaying signs of artificial intelligence with "millions of possible scenarios in its memory."

Other sci-fi films like "2001 Space Odyssey," with its talking Hal computer (similar to Apple's Siri), and "War Games" have been recognized for their future visions. But "Ender's" arguably racks up the most wins when it comes to the number of predictions come true.

"I thought there were a lot of important, complex themes that were addressed in this imaginary world that are very much important in the world we're living in right now." Indeed, Harrison Ford. Indeed.

Watch 'Ender's Game' Clip — Ice Battle:

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