“Wait, What?”: Our Team’s Thoughts on Science Fiction and the Future

What is the role of science fiction in the future? We discussed this one of our recent "Wait, What?" team sessions.

What is the connection between science fiction and the future?

Where do the ideas that make up science fiction come from? Are they arbitrary imaginary thoughts or predictions based on real fears and/or excitement about the future?

These are just some of the questions we discussed in one of our recent weekly “Wait, What?” team sessions, where we get together to talk about everything, and anything.

We started off by exploring the role of science fiction in society, as it’s not really a coincidence that Star Trek accurately predicted some of our existing technology, exactly 50 years ago. Some of these technologies include flip communicators, transparent aluminium, tablet computers, GPS and portable memory.

So really, this adds to a general consensus that imagination precedes technological development, and given the influence of popular culture, it’s not surprising that so many of these imagined inventions have come to life, and inspired so many scientists. This is just one example of how easy it is to debunk the myth of technological inevitability, the belief that things will “just be invented” when they need to be.

Actually, we precede the creation of all of these things with our thinking, and like the old (reworked) adage goes, there’s nothing stranger (or truer) than fiction.

Our team had a lot to share about all of this, so here goes:

Does science-fiction predict the future and create technology in society?

Our Partnership Manager Daphne Lopes weighed in with her thoughts:

“I read a lot of science fiction, and find it interesting how science fiction and popular culture shape the way things are created, like in Back to the Future for example. I find it funny how our predictions are always so over-technological though. We always seem to think that things will happen a lot sooner than they do.”

What George Orwell thought 1984 would look like didn’t happen, but we are faced with increased surveillance, online and everywhere we go with CCTV cameras, so maybe he wasn’t that far off?

What’s really interesting though is how much time we do spend thinking about the future, and how escaping into imaginative futuristic environments can also inspire us, like with Star Trek.

“My dad is obsessed with Star Trek. It’s his soap series”- Laura de la Court, Business Development Manager

So science fiction is influential, but what about the specifics?

So we all agreed that science fiction is influential, and it’s clear that there is a connection between what people have thought and imagined and what has come to pass in many ways, but there are still some things that haven’t happened yet, and are perhaps physically impossible. And if they are, there are existential consequences:

“So if you get ‘beamed up’, what does that involve? Is that breaking down your molecular structure and relocating it? And if so, are you the same person on the other end? Would it not be easier to clone yourself and then transplant your consciousness into your clone and avoid having to be relocated at all?”- Ivan Colic, Designer 

We couldn’t think of an answer to that question, but it did lead us onto another topic: dystopia.

Is science fiction a way of warning or preparing us for the dark side of the future?

In a series like Black Mirror, the darker dystopian side of science fiction comes out, concerns about mistrusting technology, and the downsides of living in a world with increased surveillance and the misguided power struggles that happen when technology falls into the wrong hands.

If we think about these kinds of science fiction, it’s all a bit pessimistic, but do these dystopian realities help us adjust so that we don’t end up in these situations? What would have happened if George Orwell hadn’t written 1984?

And then we got into some more examples.

Science fiction and ethical issues

Science fiction not only has the power to influence the future, like we mentioned above, it really shows the concerns of the society in which it was written, and highlights what people were worrying about- if that’s even really changed at all!

Movies like Gattacaraise the question of altering DNA for better human performance, and what that means for people who don’t have access to this kind of technology. Another consideration is: how much we’re interfering with nature by doing this?

Do we all want to be modified superhumans and live forever? Growing old would really only be fun if you were doing it along with everyone else who was important to you, wouldn’t it? A difficult, and controversial concept to grapple with is also how this fits into the theory of natural selection. What does gene mutation mean for our evolution?

Overall, we agreed that we could talk about science fiction forever, the good, authentic kind that is. Not Armageddon-style dramas where the plot lines are so far-fetched they’re ridiculous, or where the laws of physics haven’t been considered.

“Science fiction is a place where you can dream about how society can be organised, you can play around with how society functions and how it could function differently.” – Daphne

In the meantime, we’ll be reading more Philip K. Dick, and thinking about Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 prediction of media distorting reality- eerily similar to all that fake news we’ve been reading about…

Interested in learning more about the future, and our team? Follow us on Twitter, Linkedin and Facebook for more updates.

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