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Seventeen years later, in , the Telestar 1 communications satellite relayed the first transatlantic television signal.

Science Fiction and Fantasy Creators Who Became Their Own Genres

One year earlier, in , Clarke also published Dial F for Frankenstein , a short story of an interconnected telephone network that spontaneously acts like a newborn baby and leads to global chaos as it takes over financial, transportation, and military systems. According to a New York Times feature he recalls from the short story the "crossing the critical threshold of number of neurons," about "the point where enough computers get connected together," that the whole system "started to breathe, think, react autonomously.

Even today, many of today's greatest innovators reference Snow Crash as inspiration for their work. Google co-founder Sergey Brin named the book as one of his favorite novels. But despite his intent, he and other popularized science fiction writers are playing a big part in shaping the future.

When it comes to technology and innovation, reality seems to be constantly playing catch-up to the visions of the world that are painted in science fiction narratives. So it should come as no surprise that science fiction novelists are playing a more direct role in Silicon Valley. In fact, Magic Leap isn't the only forward-thinking company to reel in world-class imaginations.

Microsoft, Google, and Apple have also hired science fiction writers to do "design fiction"--to narrate stories about new technology that can lead to the ideation of potentially marketable products. It's worth considering the influence science fiction has on our futures, and even more so, how cautious we should be in how we consume or create it.

That said, nothing makes me feel quite as anxious as when I watch or read a futuristic sci-fi about a dystopian future of an abandoned society crumbled by technology. Wells uses his time machine to take the reader to the far future to witness the calamitous destiny of the human race. Jules Verne proposed the idea of light-propelled spaceships in his novel, From the Earth to the Moon. Today, technologists all over the world are actively working on solar sails.

A New Science Fiction to Understand What is Coming

Jordin Kare, an astrophysicist at the Seattle-based tech company LaserMotive, who has done important practical and theoretical work on lasers, space elevators and light-sail propulsion, cheerfully acknowledges the effect science fiction has had on his life and career. Microsoft, Google, Apple and other firms have sponsored lecture series in which science fiction writers give talks to employees and then meet privately with developers and research departments.

Some corporations hire authors to create what-if stories about potentially marketable products. In the early part of the 20th century, American science fiction tended to present a positive image of a future in which scientific progress had made the world a better place. By mid-century, after several horrific wars and the invention of the atomic bomb, the mood of science fiction had changed. The stories grew dark, and science was no longer necessarily the hero.

The tilt toward dystopian futures became even more pronounced in recent decades, partly because of a belief that most of society has not yet reaped the benefits of technological progress. People felt the future would be better, one way or another. Rich people take nine-tenths of everything and force the rest of us to fight over the remaining tenth, and if we object to that, we are told we are espousing class warfare and are crushed.

They toy with us for their entertainment, and they live in ridiculous luxury while we starve and fight each other. This is what The Hunger Games embodies in a narrative, and so the response to it has been tremendous, as it should be.

Science fiction

That actually seemed unrealistic to many intelligent people at the time. The distinction between dystopian and utopian may often seem to hinge on whether the author personally has hope for a better future. Robinson, for instance, consistently has taken on big, serious, potentially dystopian topics, such as nuclear war, ecological disaster and climate change. He does not, however, succumb to despair, and he works out his solutions in complex, realistic, well-researched scientific detail.

Neal Stephenson—author of Anathem , Reamde and a dozen or so other wide-ranging novels—has had enough of dystopias. He has issued a call to action for writers to create more stories that foresee optimistic, achievable futures. That is the thing that we really need to get away from. The same goes for readers. Finn sees the core audience for Hieroglyph as people who have never thought about the issues these authors address.

3. Gulf futurism

An underlying challenge to this approach is that not all problems lend themselves to tangible solutions—not to mention briskly paced storytelling. They may simply not have had time to read, beyond required humanities assignments.


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The students were charged with creating functional prototypes inspired by their reading and then considering the social context of the technologies they were devising. The young engineers suggested real-world applications for their prototype, such as physical therapists helping stroke victims to recover use of their limbs. But, Novy says, there was also deep discussion among the class about the ethical implications of their device.

Brueckner laments that researchers whose work deals with emerging technologies are often unfamiliar with science fiction. Science fiction, at its best, engenders the sort of flexible thinking that not only inspires us, but compels us to consider the myriad potential consequences of our actions.

Adam Savage Explores the Science-Fiction Spacesuits of FBFX!

Samuel R. Delany, one of the most wide-ranging and masterful writers in the field, sees it as a countermeasure to the future shock that will become more intense with the passing years. It helps us avoid feeling quite so gob-smacked. Continue or Give a Gift. Privacy Policy , Terms of Use Sign up. SmartNews History.

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