Brainfood: Does Science Fiction have any role in thinking about the future?

75529_176293545895289_1361066324_nWhy bother with science fiction if we’re trying to think about impact of technology today and how it will develop in the future?

This is a perennial question that’s been around ages as both technology and sci-fi have developed. At one extreme some see the genre as providing predictions about our future especially when a volume of different works make similar predictions. At the other extreme, sci-fi is seen as just another genre of fantasy, seeing any coincidence between it and actual developments as that, coincidence rather than prediction.

On this site, we take the view that sci-fi does have a role to play in thinking about the future. Hence we feature pieces on sci-fi. To be clear, that does not mean holding stock in any particular works or specific sets of predictions. Sci-fi gives us a sandbox to play out scenarios of what may happen. The detail of specific predictions is less relevant than the broader questions posed. Big questions such as how do we cope with technology that is more intelligent than us, how will be live as more lives become virtual and so on. In that way sci-fi can have a practical role, just think of how Asimov’s rules for robots have crossed from fiction into design considerations for robots.

(science fiction) can help us not just come up with ideas for new gadgets, but anticipate their consequences

The quote above pretty much nails it and comes from a good article by Rebecca Rosen in The Atlantic on “Why Today’s Inventors Need to Read More Science Fiction“.

This clip below from Joe Hanson is a piece he did for PBS which covers how science fiction has crossed with reality. It was also part of a great piece on ‘why science fiction writers are so good at predicting the future‘ on Brain Pickings.

For a counter view that “sci-fi is dead” (the words of Ridley Scott) and why it’s no match for reality, click here.




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