Science Fiction: Writing the Future

Look at the world around you—cell phones, submarines, space travel, computers—and consider how much of it was foretold by science fiction stories. How about the remarkable resemblance between Captain Kirk’s communicator and modern-day cell phones? It makes you wonder how much of our modern technology derived from the imagination of authors as much as scientists. The great thing is that science fiction authors are still influencing the future.

Not surprisingly, science fiction appeals to scientists (it’s that whole “science” thing). The ultimate collaboration might be this class offered at MIT—Science Fiction to Science Fabrication -or- Pulp to Prototype. Check out the class description:

For decades, science fiction authors have explored both our wildest dreams and greatest fears for where technology might lead us. Yet, science fiction is fueled by the concerns of today just as much as it is about fantastic imaginings of the future. This class ties science fiction with speculative/critical design as a means to encourage the ethical and thoughtful design of new technologies.

 With a focus on the creation of functional prototypes, this class combines the analysis of classic and modern science fiction texts and films with physical fabrication or code-based interpretations of the technologies they depict. Topics will include virtual/augmented reality; networks; artificial intelligence; nanotechnology; humanism and transhumanism; cyborgs and robotics; environmental issues; biology; utopias and dystopias; surveillance; music and art; interfaces; wearables; and/or religion, culture, and society. Guest lecturers and representatives from sponsor companies working in these areas will contribute to select project critiques. Requires regular reading, discussion, bi-weekly projects, and a final project.

 The syllabus includes novels and short stories from a veritable Who’s Who of science fiction authors such as Ray Bradbury, Philip K. Dick, Philip Jose Farmer, Issac Asimov, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Fredrick Pohl, as well as more recent authors such as Joe Haldeman, Elizabeth Bear and Daniel Suarez. These latter two authors were also scheduled as class speakers. How cool is that!

My previous blog considered the Sensory Fiction project. You can read about some other projects here. It gives you a whole new appreciation of the genre.

What technology or device from a science fiction book or movie would you like to see developed?

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