4 reasons to take Science Fiction seriously

science fiction innovationScience fiction shows and movies seem to be gaining popularity. For many people, however, science fiction remains something for ‘nerds’ and not something to take seriously. And certainly not something to concern yourself with during work time. We disagree. We believe that futurists, foresight experts, strategists, researchers and others who have an interest in reflecting on the future NEED to take science ficion seriously. And we will tell you why:

What if?

Science fiction – the name says it all – is based on scientific findings and questions these findings and possible implications. Science fiction stories help us think about ‘What if this would happen? What impact would it have on our society? On us personally?’ In a way, science fiction stories are ready-made scenarios to help you think about what is possible, to broaden your horizon and start imagining. As with many foresight methods, this helps us learning to deal with change, uncertainty, and we are better prepared for when change actually occurs.

Attractive

Science fiction is a form of storytelling. And storytelling is a fantastic way to reach a wide audience and to convey a message. In the last few years the scenario methodology has been under a lot of criticism in the field of future studies. Many scenarios are written in a unattractive, formal tone of voice and are hard to understand for people who have not contributed to creating the scenarios. Science fiction can help here: science fiction is a way of storytelling that is close related to foresight and futurism. Using science fiction (or science fiction prototyping) helps making the results of your foresight projects attractive. Writing science fiction stories rather than scenarios or to illustrate scenarios may very well contribute to the communication of the results of a foresight exercise.

Even without the context of a foresight project, it is worthwhile to use science fiction in innovation processes or a strategic discussion. Often it is more comfortable for people to read or watch a science fiction story than to delve into scientific literature. So if you want colleagues or clients involved in a discussion on the possible impacts of new technologies such as nanobots or Mars colonization, chances are that you involve more people and get the creativity flow easily going based on examples from science fiction than with a stack of scientific publications.

Science Fiction becomes Science Fact

There are many examples of ideas from science fiction which have been realized. For example the Star Trek replicator and the 3D printer, the Star Trek Padd and the iPad, or the idea of ​​paying with cards in Edward Bellamy’s Utopia (from 1888!) and our contemporary use of credit and debit cards. Ideas from science fiction can have a huge impact on how we design new technology or which technologies we want to realise. Therefore it is important to keep updated on new ideas in (recent) science fiction. What is fiction today may already be reality tomorrow ..

Shared language

Many science fiction stories are popular among the general public and known worldwide. Referring to ‘the world of George Orwell’s 1984, ‘ ‘the scanning device of the doctor in Star Trek’ or ‘Princes Leia’s hologram in Star Wars’ often says more than a scenario study of 100 pages does. In other words: science fiction offers us a common language about the future, both in words and images. For future studies and foresight projects, it is crucial that a group of stakeholders creates a shared language about the future. Why not link up with a language that is already known to everyone?

In short: science fiction can make a serious contribution to strategy and innovation. IBM is an example of a company that has been working with science fiction for some time now and even the US Department of Defence regularly collaborates with science fiction writers. As part of a foresight project or stand-alone discussion, you can write science fiction stories yourself or use existing science fiction stories to help prepare for the future and shape it.

 

This post was also published in Dutch on our website School voor Toekomstverkennen

Tuesday, October 13 is the first instalment of our Science Fiction Book Club, and in the spring of 2016 we start our course Get Real with Science Fiction. Email us for more information

About Silke de Wilde

I am a foresight-expert and practitioner. As a freelancer, I help organisations think about the future and how to get there, for example by trendanalysis and scenarioplanning. As a facilitator I give workshops to inspire and help people think out of the box. I'm one of the co-founders of the Dutch Future Society. I also organise training in foresight at the School for Foresight. And in the time that's left I like getting into science fiction and working on my phd-research: Cities constructing futures. Yes, you might say I'm a future-fanatic, and I'm grateful that I'm able to make a living out of doing what I love. Thank you for visiting Futurista and please don't be a stranger!
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