How does science fiction influence the real world? | The Economist


If you’re watching this on your phone, it’s partly thanks to Captain Kirk. In Star Trek, first broadcast in 1966, he used a pocket-sized device
to communicate with his crew. Martin Cooper, the man who
invented the mobile phone, says the show was the
inspiration for his idea, which launched seven years later. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos based Alexa, the voice-activated speaker on Star Trek’s talking computer. Transporters engaged. Welcome aboard. Sci-fi fan Elon Musk is building rockets that
he hopes will one day carry people to Mars. Submarines, helicopters,
rockets, and touch screens all appeared in science fiction before becoming science fact. Sci-fi inspires real world technology. It also provides a way to
explore the moral dilemmas that advanced technologies could pose. Paul McAuley is a scientist
turned science fiction writer. All science fiction is
basically about is presence, so it’s about a heightened
version of the present. It’s about anticipating where
technology is going to go and it’s about our fears of
where technology is going to go and what uses or misuses we
might make of that technology. Divers information paper’s ready and– Techno world, do you
need to buy a suitcase? Utopia, huh? You know they set up shop here, right? Few films better encapsulate this than Ridley Scott’s 1982 cult
classic Blade Runner. The film is set in a dystopian future where synthetic human
workers are bio engineered by a corporate power. In London, fans are
arriving for a Blade Runner screening with a difference. Keep moving, guys, come on. Let’s go, quickly scan. We are in World Terminus, checkpoint 4.C We’re in Los Angeles in 2019. Secret Cinema is a multilayer
physical experience. We build these physical sets, creating a world inspired by a film. So instead of just watching a film, you literally buy a ticket,
you become a character, and you become part of an
interactive theatrical experience. Hey you lot in there! You thirsty or what? I think the science fiction
genre allows us to dream about another world. We’ve taken the inspiration
from Blade Runner and built an entire world around it. The film explores the ethical implications of creating highly intelligent robots that have thoughts,
feelings, and emotions. My wife’s just back from
a convention about AI, artificial intelligence, in Cambridge. A lot of the AI people think
about what would happen if real AI came on very powerfully and what they’d do to us
and that’s one of the things that science fiction has been exploring for quite a long time now. Steven Spielberg’s latest movie, Ready Player One, explores
another emerging technology, virtual reality. The film imagines a future
where overpopulation, pollution, and climate change have forced most people to live in
sprawling, slum-like cities. Young people escape the
desolation by living much of their lives in virtual reality. Are you ready? Although there is a wide gap between the virtual
world shown in the film and the capabilities of
current VR technology, the idea that young people can get hooked on virtual fantasies is
a long-standing concern. No, no, no, no, no! To be compelling, science fiction has to be convincing. So writers and film
directors enlist the help of designers and engineers. Syd Mead designed the look
of some of Hollywood’s most seminal sci-fi films including Blade Runner, Star Trek The
Motion Picture, and Aliens. In the real world, he’s
designed cars for Ford and electronics for Philips. Because I’m a trained designer, I can imagine how things might be made. People always say that my stuff looks real even though it’s futuristic. The pods for Aliens that I designed were real mechanical articulations. When they opened, they
looked absolutely real for people to be in for
long duration space travel. I was hired to design the
vehicles for Blade Runner. Deckard’s vehicle was, in my mind, a decommissioned aerial limousine. It’s overlaying the
familiar with the weird and that’s a surefire formula for interesting things to look at. Science fiction introduces people to real world
science and technology. Some fans develop a lifelong passion. The tech industry is led by sci-fi nerds who are creating the
things they read about or saw on screen. We all stand to benefit
from their creations. Provided, that is, they can
avoid the ethical pitfalls depicted in science fiction.

26 Replies to “How does science fiction influence the real world? | The Economist

  1. The idea intelligent robots will serve us is laughable and even without widespread slums, most people will still opt for VR because they can't live without being entertained, most people are, in effect, just waiting to die.

  2. I want to live in a future where the sex robots become really sophostieted so that I won't need to try to hang out with actual humanbeings, istead, I just need to spend money buying a robot and live with her, get married with her.

  3. whatever it is I am against to artificial intelligence . it is a trash. fight guys . otherwise we need to pay a lot. great threat to humanity. i t should be minimum.

  4. its not just science fiction, its nature, religion, mythology, magic, basically our interpretative perception of the world.

  5. To build the future, you have to first think of creating it. It’s no coincidence that life imitates art.

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