SF and innovation – what happened?
Returning here after a pause, in case anyone wonders what happened to the promised piece for NESTA on SF and innovation.
As is the way of these things, some of the futures think pieces they commissioned (not mine – old journos do deadlines) took longer to produce than originally planned. So we are having a meeting to discuss them tomorrow, and think about what it all means.
Intriguingly, I learn that the SF and Innovation commission ended up doubled. That is, another contractor got some money to examine the same question. Neither of us, I think, knew the other (the other team in their case) was at work.
That means we both spent time reviewing the same literature, which may or may not be beneficial, but also (and better) that if our conclusions are similar they may gain force from independent verification. We may talk about that tomorrow as well.
The whole set of projects will be published, I believe, as NESTA working papers, but not until some time next year. All the folk who helped me do mine will be properly acknowledged then, but thanks to all now as well – and especially to Cheryl Morgan for advice on science fiction and authors.
Meantime, and in advance of the meeting, here is a 12 point version of the quite long (15,000 word) paper I’ve ended up with.
Science fiction and technological innovation -
1. Science fiction and innovation influence each other
(although that could just be ‘cos “everything influences everything else”)
2. Technology, at the design stage, is a kind of story-telling
(a point I’ve taken from David Nye, among others)
3. SF is a characteristic mode of story-telling of industrial society
(or “the dreamtime of industrial society – W Gibson)
4. This affinity promotes their mutual influence
5. SF’s treatment of technology has a history
(and that is a story itself)
6. Most (but not all) simple stories of SF inspiring, or even influencing technology fall apart on close examination
7. Past influence has been largely positive
(though not because the balance of depictions is positive – but cheerleading works better than doomsaying and awful warnings)
8. Mass exposure to SF has now moved into the cinema, where some depictions of technology have qualities which lend them particular influence
9. Contemporary SF authors neither predict nor, in the main, attempt to influence technology
(they said, when asked)
10. Nevertheless, a growing self-consciousness about SF and technologies mutual influences has arisen
(among media, critics, corporations, and all)
11. One of its most striking manifestations is design fiction
(which comes under various other names, but all are trying to open up a conversation about possible futures)
12. This approach might be developed to deepen relations between fiction and technology, and enrich public debate about technological futures.
If anyone wants to see the whole thing now in late draft, for comment or just for interest, or nab the references (the bibliography is quite long, too) email me and I’ll let you have a not-for-distribution PDF.
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