Superman year 0, part 5 – “Impossible Technology”

Unveil Superman’s technological saga: Superman’s tech insights, crystal data storage, heat vision, and Brainiac AI.

 

“The future is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed.” – William Gibson

 

 

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Content in a flash:

 

1. Superman Technology – Echoes From The Future: How did Superman creators foresee advanced science before its time?

2. Superman Technology, “Heat Vision”: Preceding lasers? – Explore its origin and connections to emerging science and Kryptonian tech;

3. Super Data Storage and Crystals: How 1960s comics foreshadowed today’s data storage revolution through the incredibly futuristic power of Kryptonian crystals;

4. Explore Brainiac: Superman’s 1958 AI antagonist, a prophetic depiction of knowledge obsession and AI;

 

1. Superman Technology – Echoes From The Future

One the most intriguing enigmas in Superman’s incredible story are the examples of Cutting-edge scientific knowledge seemingly available to the two creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster as well as to the broader group of Jewish authors and artists who would later contribute to Superman comics.

How this was possible, we’ll probably never know. What remains is that despite Superman’s conception and first development occurred between the thirties and fifties, if we delve into its mythology and scrutinize the entire narrative context, we realize that the authors make reference to scientific concepts that would only become public knowledge much later.

Somehow, the authors had access to scientific insights that often were impossible or nearly impossible during that period. We’re talking about scientific knowledge considered cutting-edge at that time, not part of collective understanding but rather – there was no internet back then – exclusive domain of the scientific elites.

Let’s now take a closer look at what we mean; the perfect example to start with is Superman’s “laser vision.”

 

2. Superman Technology, “Heat Vision”: Preceding lasers?

 

Serie: Superman and Krypton “impossible” Technology

Superman and Krypton Technology

Superman Laser eyes. Silver Age of Comics

Superman’s Heat Vision, also known as “laser vision,” is the ability to emit concentrated energy beams from his eyes, like lasers. These beams can be used in various ways, from burning objects and melting materials to precise actions like writing or drawing.

Now, In 1949, for the first time, in Superman #59, Superman used the tremendous heat of his X-Ray vision to melt a glacier. This power was initially considered a subset of X-Ray vision.

So, theoretically, in 1949, there’s no explicit reference to laser technology, even though the storytelling style and illustrations evoke modern laser technology. This power, moreover, generates intense heat, a characteristic more aligned with what a laser does rather than X-ray technology.

 

Serie: Superman and Krypton “impossible” Technology

Superman and Krypton Technology

In 1949, for the first time, in Superman #59, Superman used the tremendous heat of his X-Ray vision to melt a glacier

 

Now, the inevitable question arises: How did the authors conceive this idea years before real lasers were invented in the 1960s? How did they foresee a technology that didn’t yet exist?

While its true that the idea of concentrated light beams or rays producing heat had been a part of speculative fiction and scientific imaginings long before their actual invention, it’s undeniable that the comic descriptions distinctly resemble the real modern lasers utilized as weapons today. This similarity is truly astonishing.

Interestingly, the first laser was invented in 1960 by Theodore H. Maiman, a physicist born in Los Angeles to a Jewish family. This first laser used crystals, and this is not a minor detail, because as we’ll shortly explore, in Superman’s mythology crystals form the basis of Kryptonian technology.

Did the authors have a unique insight, an inspiring vision, or were they guided by emerging scientific researches and discoveries during their times?

 

Superman, Man of Steel

3. Superman Technology: Super Data Storage and Crystals.

In Superman mythology, Kryptonian technology has been described as highly advanced and crystal-based.
Kryptonian Crystals were first introduced by Edmond Hamilton, Curt Swan, and George Klein in Action Comics #366, released in April 1966.

The parallels between Kryptonian technology and our world are truly extraordinary.

Today, in our real world, crystals are widely used in communication technology and beyond, in various ways. The most well-known are, for example, silicon crystals used in integrated circuits and microprocessors.

Now, the intriguing aspect lies in the portrayal of the Kryptonian technology in the 1960s, employing crystals in a manner that mirrors our current usage. It’s almost prophetic how their depiction foreshadowed the role of crystals in our present technological landscape.

In the comics, Kryptonian Crystals play a crucial role for Kryptonians, serving as highly advanced technological devices with many functions. They record videos, project holograms, and are generally described as high-capacity data storage devices, containing vast amounts of information, functioning for Kryptonians as repositories of knowledge.

These descriptions strikingly resemble our modern data storage devices, such as cloud servers, which hold large quantities of information – partly due to the use of crystals – accessible to virtually anyone from anywhere on the planet via the internet.

Moreover, today we’re developing new “miraculous” memory systems capable of storing hundreds of terabytes of data within small crystals, exactly like in Krypton. The “Quartz Glass” technique, for instance, is one of these innovations.

This wikipedia article even explains that this technique is also known as “Superman memory crystal”, referencing precisely the Kryptonian memory crystals from the series.

Today, concepts like data storage, networking, and shared knowledge are ingrained in our cultural background, so we all pretty much understand them. But, envisioning these concepts in the 1960s, and predicting elements of our present reality with such precision – see “quartz glass” technology – truly remains a baffling mystery.

In the ’60s these scientific concepts were completely absent, and the field of computer science as we know it today practically didn’t exist yet. In the ’60s, in far more places than we might imagine, people were still traveling by horse.

The authors, with a prophetic vision, foresaw technologies that are now established, raising questions about their advanced perspectives: where did Edmond Hamilton, Curt Swan, and George Klein draw these ideas from, in 1966?

 

Serie: Superman and Krypton “impossible” Technology

Superman and Krypton Technology

Microsoft Project Silica Revolutionizes Data Storage With Quartz Glass | SPARROWS NEWS

4.Superman Technology: AI

The book considered one of the oldest and most influential on artificial intelligence is Alan Turing’s “Computing Machinery and Intelligence,” published in 1950.

However, in Superman mythology, Brainiac already in 1958 appears to be described as a kind of advanced (and often hostile) Cyborg equipped with an extremely powerful artificial intelligence.
Brainiac is a supervillain created by writer Otto Binder and artist Al Plastino, and since 1958 has endured as one of Superman’s greatest enemies.

In his comic book appearances, Brainiac is commonly depicted as a superintelligent android or cyborg from the planet Colu who is obsessed with collecting all knowledge in the known universe. He travels the galaxy and shrinks cities to bottle size before destroying their source planets, believing the knowledge he acquires to be most valuable if he alone possesses it.

Though stories often end in Brainiac’s apparent destruction, the character’s artificial consciousness is resurrected in new physical forms, some robotic and others more organic-based in appearance.
Now, we must admit that the visionary ability of the authors was prophetic in this case as well, and we wonder how this was possible.

The emergence of Brainiac in Superman comics, embodying a superintelligent cyborg obsessed with knowledge, astonishingly aligns with our modern-day cyborgs equipped with artificial intelligence.

Again, today, it’s easy for us to conceive and understand concepts related to data, artificial intelligence, robotics, and even consciousness. In some way, we know what they are about or at least try to form an idea, and often, we succeed. But doing so in ’58, equipped with the intellectual prerequisites of that time, is truly unthinkable.

 

“The best way to predict the future is to create it.” – Peter Drucker

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