Science fiction clichés are becoming more and more important to us, not only because they shape our ideas of how to craft universes in science fiction, but because the culture of the past fifty years has given many people a deep-seated desire to live in The Future, to experience culture and inventions that are “futuristic.”

Many science fiction archetypes have come and gone as scientific progress shows that they’re not really feasible, or even supersedes them. Many still remain in our fiction. Many have even bled into real life, either by the happenstance of a sci-fi author coming up with something that really gets invented later, or by the simple fact that most people in our culture are acquainted with these archetypes, if only to some small degree, and work them into their thoughts and design for new products and fashion. Have you taken a good look at the stuff that Apple is making these days? There's a stylishness to it that's informed not only by generalized tastes, but also from our ingrained expectations about how technology should look.

My favorite example of this phenomenon is in The Fifth Element, where the future is heavily influenced by our pop-culture ideas of what the future will be like: architecture, fashion, and technology have strong overtones of Star Wars and other popular sci-fi.

Here’s a small listing of famous clichés, both obsolete and timeless. It’s fun to see which ones have had real-life influence and which haven’t. Sorted alphabetically to avoid prioritizing them.

See also technology inspired by science fiction, science fiction archetypical technology, and science fiction archetypical military technology.