Science Fiction: Shaping the Future

Flying Battleship Attacking Sci Fi City

It’s no secret that science fiction has been the inspiration for technology for decades. Star Trek gave us cellphones and tablets. Many speculate we’ll have much more of Star Treks technology in our grasps within the near future, such as the hypospray, tractor beams, and maybe even something akin to a warp drive (this one’s a little more farfetched, but hey, here’s hoping).

Tasers were inspired by Tom Swift and his Electric Rifle, a young adult science fiction novel published in 1911. Even H.G. Wells contributed to the world’s curiosity for science fiction; one of his lesser-known works fueled the hunt for atomic power.

Science fiction has become the gateway of invention. In Eileen Gunn’s article for Smithsonian Magazine titled “How America’s Leading Science Fiction Authors are Shaping Your Future,” she discusses the reason science fiction has garnered so much attention from the real world of science and society. While science fiction seems to have a predilection for predicting future events at times, it isn’t the whole point of the genre.

But the task of science fiction is not to predict the future. Rather, it contemplates possible futures. Writers may find the future appealing precisely because it can’t be known, a black box where “anything at all can be said to happen without fear of contradiction from a native,” says the renowned novelist and poet Ursula K. Le Guin. “The future is a safe, sterile laboratory for trying out ideas in,” she tells Smithsonian, “a means of thinking about reality, a method.”

The genre uses its voice as speculation of the question “What could happen?”

To read the rest of Gunn’s article, click here.