Where in human history have poets and novelists predicted modern technological breakthroughs with their art? A book I plan to purchase, Proust Was a Neuroscientist, makes the case for relevance of poetry and prose to science.
Similarly, in a March editorial Jason Pontin, editor of MIT's Technology Review, described the influence of science fiction on science fact this way:
Most of us came to technology through science fiction; our imaginations remain secretly moved by science-fictional ideas. Only the very exalted are honest about their debt. In his collection of lectures on the future of technology, Imagined Worlds, the great theoretical physicist Freeman Dyson writes, "Science is my territory, but science fiction is the landscape of my dreams...."
Fans decry any emphasis on their favored genre's predictive power (science fiction, they say, is really about the present day); but nonetheless, the accurate predictions of many science fiction writers are justly famous. Geostationary telecommunications satellites were first proposed by Arthur C. Clarke in a paper titled "Extra-Terrestrial Relays: Can Rocket Stations Give World-Wide Radio Coverage?" published in Wireless World in October 1945. Space travel has been a staple of science fiction since Jules Verne published De la Terre à la Lune in 1865. Robots first appeared in Karel C˘apek's play R.U.R. in 1921. Indeed, it is more useful to ask, What hasn't SF predicted?
And while I'm on the theme, artists and designers can draw inspiration from science as well. One designer finds common ground between microbiology and graphic design in an October 16 editorial at Design Observer.