Do you want to read a document that neatly specs out the future of personal drones — including the weird, fun, and creepy ways they’ll change society? I’ve got a book for you to read.
It was written in 1974. It was a sci-fi novel aimed at teenage kids. It is: Danny Dunn, Invisible Boy.
Forty years ago, it nailed everything we’re arguing today about personal drones, privacy, and the danger of government overreach.
The Danny Dunn series started in the 1950s, written by Raymond Abrashkin and Jay Williams. They covered the adventures of the eponymous teenager — who was obsessed with science and engineering — and his friends Irene (herself a physics and biology prodigy) and comic-relief Joe, an artsy type. Danny’s father was dead, so Danny lived with his mother at the home of Professor Bullfinch, a kindly Ben-Franklin-esque scientist whose inventions Danny and his friends inevitably messed with: Antigravity paint, a time machine, a heat ray. A cheesy premise, but Abrashkin and Williams were superb writers who deeply respected the intelligence of the kids reading their books. Much of their basic science was rock solid, and they frequently wove in a liberal moral message: Be curious, fight for fair play and justice, and think for yourself.
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Wow! I had a similar thought a few months ago when I started “project purge” to clear out old crap. My coach and I fought over this ragged book in my collection before I simply put my foot down. This book (as well as my other Danny Dunn books) and “The Runaway Robot” by Lester Del Ray were exempted.