Watch CBS News

How well did "Star Trek" do in predicting the future of medicine?

"Star Trek" and medicine
"Star Trek" franchise and the future of medicine 02:43

There is something the "Star Trek" franchise predicted: the future of medicine. 

"I was able to put a scope in and biopsy the pancreas which was unheard of 50 years ago," said NYU Langone's Dr. Mark Pochapin. That's unless you were watching "Star Trek," as Pochapin did when he was a boy.

"Star Trek predicted the way you would scan someone is through a non-invasive way without really touching them," Pochapin said. 

CBS News

"Star Trek'"s tricorder? Today we have CT scans, MRIs and ultrasounds.

What else has come true?

"Where Captain Kirk would talk to someone on the flat screen TV, I can talk to a patient now, see their image, see their scans remotely," Pochapin said. 

Dr. Mark Pochapin explains how "Star Trek" predicted modern medicine. CBS News

Dr. McCoy's hypospray helped inspire needle-free injectors. The visor that let Geordi see? We now have glasses that beam light to a chip implanted in the retina -- so the blind can see.

What about sick bay?

"They'd get on their bed and all the monitors would go on like the monitors we have here," Pochapin said. "And that has come true. We have wireless telemetry."

We got a sneak preview of modern medicine from a Starship sick bay. But "Star Trek" was about more than fancy gadgets.

CBS News chief medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook. CBS News

It foresaw a world of inclusiveness, with doctors of color, male and female. And in the new series, "Star Trek: Discovery" -- a physician who is openly gay.

We consulted a specialist in "Star Trek"-style medicine. Bob Picardo played the emergency medical hologram on the Voyager series.

"And then I would appear and I would say, 'Please state the nature of the medical emergency,'" Picardo said. 

Picardo said "it's possible" a computer algorithm could entirely replace a physician in the future.  

"Ultimately, that artificial intelligence physician will be created from the personal experiences of a large group of doctors," Picardo said. "So, yes, I believe the day will come when you will be obsolete."

Until we reach that final frontier... 

A special broadcast premiere of "Star Trek: Discovery" will air Sunday, Sept. 24 at 8:30 p.m. ET, 7:30 p.m. CT on CBS. After premiere night, all new episodes will be available on CBS All Access.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.