CAN SCIENCE FICTION SAVE THE WORLD?

image courtesy BBC News

image courtesy BBC News

This was the title of a recent article in the BBC Magazine. It really got us thinking.

So much of modern fantasy and science fiction is depressing. I mean, think about all the dystopian, zombie apocalyptic, post nuclear apocalyptic, post climate change apocalyptic, and other ‘miserably ever after’ stuff there is out there. It seems like the central message of much of the entertainment industry is geared to the concept of ‘things are bad now, but wait! They’re going to be much worse!”

The keys to survival in the future appear to be distrust, isolationism, cloistering with a chosen few, retrenchment, violence, guns, criminal enterprise to fund the ongoing need for fortification materials and ammunition, and lastly (and perhaps most importantly) adapting and retasking old, outdated, technology.

I don’t know about you but I’m getting depressed just thinking about this. Whatever happened to the more inventive kind of science fiction and fantasy? Consider the genre from the late 19th to mid 20th century. The stories discuss the invention of new and wondrous technology. It was human innovation, inventiveness, and intellect that won the day. Not grim, grimy, hidebound determination.

Model and diagram of Nautilus as envisioned by the Disney Studios. Image courtesy of naturecoast.com

Model and diagram of Nautilus as envisioned by the Disney Studios. Image courtesy of naturecoast.com

Jules Verne envisioned a marvelous new energy source that powered his electrically lighted Nautilus.

Hugo Gernsback described the Telephot; a device which allowed you to see and speak to another person at a great distance. Edward Bellamy envisioned the credit card. Arthur C. Clarke posited both digital media and the immediacy of news reporting. Ray Bradbury talked of personal audio listening devices – aka the all pervasive earbuds. Mark Twain foresaw the Internet, or something very much like it, when he described his telectroscope. And who can forget Gene Roddenberry’s tricorders, communicators, voice activated and touch screen technology?

Gernback's telephot image courtesy of davidszondy.com

Gernback’s telephot image courtesy of davidszondy.com

All of these writers conceived of devices that lifted people up; helped them recover; saw them into a brighter, better future than the one that existed at that time. They packaged hope and innovation inside stories of high adventure and extreme adversity. Until the late 20th century and the opening days of the 21st, we have always thought of how we could use our intellect and innovative thinking to work our way out of problems and build a better tomorrow.

It seems that at least some writers like Neil Stevenson are trying to reverse that trend toward dystopian hopelessness. They have embarked on a bold venture called Project Hieroglyph. It is an effort to inspire innovation and invention through a collaboration of noted authors and progressive scientists.

Scientist and authors working for a better tomorrow from Amazon. com who also provided the photo.

Scientist and authors working for a better tomorrow from Amazon. com who also provided the photo.

This remarkable effort is available starting today, September 9th. We know, it hasn’t received anything like the hype surrounding the 1Phone 6 (ooh! It’s big claim to innovation is – it’s bigger! Even CNET doesn’t encourage you to rush right out and buy it unless your eyesight is failing you.)  But Hieroglyph may do more than let you post things to social media and admire your selfie on a larger screen. (Oh how I hate that term and the vain self centeredness it connotes)  It may stimulate your brain, cause you to think, and – dare we suggest it – hope for a better, brighter future.

As a side note, I encourage all of you to subscribe to another source of hope. I refer to a daily tech news letter out of Australia named Gizmag. It’s free and chock a block with interesting stories of innovation and scientific breakthroughs. Whether you’re interested in cars, motorcycles, space flight, technology, medicine, or just about anything else under the sun, Gizmag is going to have an article to inspire your imagination.

Gizmag for all the innovations under the sun. Image courtesy of ideum.com

Gizmag for all the innovations under the sun. Image courtesy of ideum.com

As we make our collective way toward a better and brighter future, whenever and wherever that may be, we encourage you to remember one of Gen. Colin Powell’s wise rules. “A positive outlook is a force multiplier.”

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