Science Fiction Dictionary
A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z

 

Sigma: SF Writers Advise Homeland Security

Homeland Security has finally hit the motherlode on futuristic thinking. A group of science fiction writers including Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle and Greg Bear have been asked to provide input based on their imaginative qualifications. The "Sigma" group was put together about fifteen years ago.


(SF writer Sigma group
Back: Jerry Pournelle, Arlan Andrews, Greg Bear, Front: Sage Walker, Larry Niven
)

I'm guessing that the participants are given particular problems, and then asked for science-fictional ideas that may be usable in the near future.

"Fifty years ago, science fiction writers told us about flying cars and a wireless handheld communicator," Christopher Kelly, a spokesman for Homeland Security's Science and Technology division, told USA Today.

"Although flying cars have not evolved, cellphones today are a way of life. We need to look everywhere for ideas, and science fiction writers clearly inform the debate."

This is not the first time science fiction authors have been consulted by the government. in 1980, group of science-fiction writers including Pournelle, Bear, Poul Anderson and Robert Heinlein, astronauts including Buzz Aldrin, Pete Conrad and Philip K. Chapman, space scientists and engineers, aerospace industry executives, computer scientists, military officers and others, met at Larry Niven's house in California. They formed an ad hoc group called Citizen's Advisory Council on National Space Policy. They provided most of the background for the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), presented by Reagan in 1983. In later meetings, Heinlein's friend Arthur C. Clarke had a falling out with Heinlein over his support of SDI; Clarke was adamantly opposed to the system, which he regarded as doomed to failure and potentially destabilizing.

Homeland Security might be surprised about which writers are potentially the most useful in predicting future weapons or military situations. For example, Philip K. Dick would clearly not fit into a government think-tank, but the weapons that he suggests in his 1965 novel The Zap Gun have all since been implemented (or at least tried). In the novel, a weapons designer in a drug-enduced trance thinks of new ideas. Take a look at the articles on the Civic Notification Distorter, the Garbage-can Banger and the Sheep Dip Isolator to see what I mean.

Niven and Pournelle made use of the idea of sf writers advising the government in their excellent 1985 novel Footfall, in which herd aliens invade the solar system and the government asks for help.

The government creates a special think tank of science fiction writers who try to understand the aliens and extrapolate their capabilities. Eventually, they even invited a captured member of the aliens to join their "herd" - the Dreamer Fithp. The military called them the Threat Team.

They took their places in the lecture room, but they tended to sit for a moment, then get up and gather in clumps. Most of them talked at once. Working with the science-fiction people was an educational experience. They had no reverence for anything or anyone...

"Admiral Carrell has assembled an intelligence group to advise the National Security Council. You are part of it."

"Makes sense. Who else knows about aliens?"

She looked at her seating chart. Curtis. She nodded. "...You are the Threat Team. The others will assume the aliens are friendly. Our group will examine the possibility they are hostile..."

As one character says in the book, you might as well listen to science fiction writers because, in some areas, "they're the only experts we have."

Thanks to Vik for the tip and the push to write the story (and to Occam for help); via Wired.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 6/4/2007)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 3 )

Related News Stories - (" Misc ")

Is There A Subterranean Ocean?
'A vast, limitless expanse of water, the end of a lake if not of an ocean, spread before us, until it was lost in the distance.'- Jules Verne, 1864.

The Robotic Shopping Cart Of The Future
'...the machine would carry his bag in its soft plastic jaws and follow him as faithfully as a well-trained hound.'- John Brunner, 1975.

Arctic Resource Jackpot An Old Wish
By inducing climate change, new resources are revealed.

Marie Curie's Papers Still Radioactive
And the half-life of radium's most common isotope is 1,601 years.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

Science Fiction Timeline
1600-1899
1900-1939
1940's   1950's
1960's   1970's
1980's   1990's
2000's   2010's

Current News

Ulm Sleep Pods For The Homeless
'The lid lifted and she crawled inside...'

Prophetic Offers Lucid Dreaming Halo With Morpheus-1 AI
''Leads trail away from insertion points on her face and wrist... to a lucid dreamer...'

More Like A Tumblebug Than A Motorcycle
'It is about the size and shape of a kitchen stool, gyro-stabilized on a single wheel...'

Tesla Camera-Only Vision Predicted In 1930's SF
'By its means, the machine can see.'

First Ever Proof Of Water On Asteroids
'Yes, strangely enough there was still sufficient water beneath the surface of Vesta.'

Aptera Solar EV More Stylish Than Heinlein Steel Tortoise
'When confronted by hills, or rough terrain, it did not stop, but simply slowed until the task demanded equaled its steady power output.'

Gigantic Space Sunshade Would Fight Global Warming
'...the light of the sun had been polarized by two crossed fields so that no radiation could pass.'

Untethered Spacewalk's 50th Anniversary
'But that space walk of mine wasn't so very amazing.'

ESA Designs Huge Inflatable Moonbase
'It was like being inside a balloon; indeed, that was exactly where he was.'

AlphaGarden Robot Cares For Gardens Better Than Humans
'...a simple clock-set servok with pipe and hose arms.'

Let's Make Slaver Sunflowers! Engineering Plants To Reflect Light
'The mirror-blossom was a terrible weapon.'

TeslaBot Uber Driver (2024) And The Automatic Motorist (1911)
'Robots have worse problems than anybody'

DiffuseBot Uses Generative AI To Invent New Soft Robots
'It embodies several small-scale multiple stampers, apparently for dealing with sheet metal.'

Philips Smart Palm Recognition Smart Deadbolt
'A palm lock must be keyed to one individual's hand shape...'

BMind Smart Mirror from Baracoda
Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who has the greatest wellness of all?

Ballie Your AI Robot Companion From Samsung
Projects your content anywhere you like.

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.