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 |
you like to contribute a story tip?
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add
Comment/Join discussion ( 3 )
Related News Stories -
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.
'Bubble Galaxy' NGC 3521
This doesn't have to do with prediction, but I love what sf writers do with this idea.
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.
Haute Cuisine On International Space Station
'The gas gave sufficient heat for the culinary apparatus...'
Tongue Mouse Created By Valve Engineer
'He pressed hard with his tongue against his right upper first molar.'
K5 Autonomous Data Machine The Future Of Mall Security
''Halt!' A robot guard appeared...'
RF Safe-Stop Shuts Cars Off
'...a police control-override.'
Army's New Bird-Like Surveillance UAV
'The prototype blue-bellied, gray-backed tracer-bird with the wide-angle eye...'
Honda's Tumblebug - The UNI-CUB beta
'A tumblebug does not give a man dignity...'
NASA's LADEE Enters Lunar Orbit
'... dust normally on the surface picks up and keeps a charge.'
3D Printing An Entire Car
"... Almost as good as the original it was printed from."
Aldebaran Robot Talks Like C3PO - Almost
'See Vee Threepio - Vee for versatility - at your service...'
Google's Skin Tattoo Lie Detector
'Three and a half centimetres in diameter, permanently fixed in the centre of his forehead.'
inFORM Dynamic Shape Output Device
Like that pushpin device you remember, but supercharged.
Owlet Vitals, The Future Of Baby Monitoring
'In every diaper there is a fine copper wire...'
Robert Heinlein, Your Personal Electric Helicopter Will Be Ready In 2016
"They were half way home when a single flyer, hopping free in a copter harness, approached the little parade."
WildCat Runs Faster Than You, Untethered
'...moving with such drifting ease that it was like a single solid cloud of black-grey smoke blown at him in silence.' Almost.
HiBot's ACM-R5H Robot Video Shows Graceful Terminator-Style Swimming
'No! No! Aaaaaaarrrrrrgh!'
tDCS Jumpstarts Your Future
'We invented a scanner that can change the labyrinthine neural connections of the brain by tiny electronic impulses...'.
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories