Science Fiction And The Imagination of Technologists

Jason Pontin, editor in chief and publisher of MIT's Technology Review, had an interesting editorial last week.

He writes:

science fiction continues to influence me. To this day, my tastes and choices as an editor and journalist are bluntly science fictional: I look for technologies that are in themselves ingenious and that have the potential to change our established ways of doing things. Best of all, I like technologies that expand our sense of what it might mean to be human...

He also discusses the question of whether science fiction has been successful in predicting what will happen, or creating devices or ideas that are later implemented by engineers and scientists.

Discerning a causal relationship between what science fiction has predicted and what technologists have created might be an instance of the logical fallacy post hoc ergo propter hoc ("after this, therefore because of this"), except for a curious fact: SF writers not only describe current research and extrapolate its likely development but also prescribe cool things that enthralled technologists later make or try to make. In short, life imitates art.

He mentions some specific predictions, which should be familiar to regular readers of Technovelgy:

...consider the influence of science fiction on the development of the personal computer and the Internet. It is often said that SF missed both, but that isn't really true. The "cyberpunks" and their precursors began dreaming of the Net in the late 1970s. Algis Budrys's highly literate 1977 novel, Michaelmas, describes a worldwide web of telecommunications and computer data. Vernor Vinge, in 1981's True Names, anticipated a cyberspace that is recognizably our own. Most notably, ­William ­Gibson invented the "consensual hallucination" of the Matrix in ­Neuromancer, published in 1984.

(Obviously, I [or we] have got some work to do ... Michaelmas not on Technovelgy.com? Readers?) He missed a couple of important items in that paragraph. Damien Broderick was probably the first person to use the word "matrix" in his 1982 novel The Judas Mandala (see virtual matrix). And John Brunner very clearly described a nationwide data network that could be accessed by anyone in his 1975 masterpiece Shockwave Rider.

Read the editorial at Technology Review.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 3/17/2007)

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 ( 0 )

Related News Stories - (" Culture ")

We Could Downgrade Puerto Rico - And Thereby Save It
'It was cheaper to pay the refugees to go without up-to-the-minute equipment.' - John Brunner, 1976.

The Neuroon Open Sleep Tracker For Lucid Dreaming
'Leads trail away from insertion points on her face and wrist... to a lucid dreamer on the bedside shelf.' - Peter Watts, 1999.

'Do Not Pay' Chatbots To Replace Law Firm Associates?
'I want my lawyer program.' - David Brin, 1990.

Translate One2One From IBM's Watson Your Communication Solution
'It then excretes into the mind of its carrier a telepathic matrix...' - Douglas Adams, 1979.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

Orwell's Memory Hole Looms Larger Thanks To Nvidia
'All history was a palimpsest, scraped clean and reinscribed exactly as often as was necessary.'

Pipefish Robot Checks Pipes Cheap
Just like capsule endoscopy, but for bigger pipes. That go underground.

Nifty New SDS Space Debris Sensor For ISS
'Their radars... could easily pinpoint the debris of the early Space Age.'

NanoRacks Space Station Module Concept Validated
Space junk into space architecture.

Nuclear Drones Could Fly For Years
'I sent my eyes on their rounds and tended my gallery of one hundred-thirty changing pictures...'

SciFiQ Science Fiction Writing Aid
'Books were just a commodity that had to be produced, like jam or bootlaces.'

Robot Only Faster, Not Better, At Recycling
'Whenever a robot finds something it can't identify straight off... it puts whatever it is in the hopper outside your window.'

Poland Starts With 1000 Warmate 'Suicide Drones'
'Royal Security had told the pods to electrocute you or blast you into chum.'

Dream Of Building Your Own Rocket?
Fiorello Bodoni, you inspire all of us.

Zero Mass 'Vaporators' Pull Drinking Water From The Air
Did you think of Star Wars?

Elon Musk Fears A 'Fleet-Wide Hack' Of Autonomous Vehicles
'Khan grinned. 'It's alive! Bu-wahhahahah!''

China Melts Tibetan Permafrost To Plant Forest
'Can you give us a microwave spotlight?'

iFlytek Doctor Robot First To Pass Medical Exams
Doctor shortage? No problem, we'll just use the autodoc.

Slaughterbot AI KIller Quadcopter Drones
'The real border was defended by... a swarm of quasi-independent aerostats.'

Do We Really Want Backflipping Robots?
Also includes wonderful blooper reel.

RNA-Based Biocomputing Device
Living things can sense and analyze complex signals in living cells.

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.