We are trying with this blog to challenge the relevance of our imaginaries, among which science fiction (in our opinion, when defined loosely, imaginaries also encompasses art, advertisement and any other form of speculation). The rationale behind doing that is double :

  1. When people look at science fiction, they get a glimpse fo the future might look like. This thus shapes our vision of what the future could look like. By showing new usages or new technologies, science fiction also drives some tech developers of futurists to try to make it real, hence, slowly pushing science fiction into our daily life. It is then a particular place to observe how designers source their vision. And how this shaping drives and limits their creativity.
  2. When science fiction writers do their job of writing stuff, they do not do so out of the blue, but they often base their thinking on current technological developments. By doing that, they show us the opportunities and limits of what we are currently working on.

Regarding the first point, a huge amount of work has been done on the predictive power of SF, with a seminal work by Westfahl &al. They take a fairly critical stance on SF, explaining that, in the end, SF is not very good at predicting the future, which can look like the whole job we are undertaking here is useless. This is where the debate starts being interesting and why we underlined above the fact that SF shows us futures that might happen, and not futures that will happen. We feel that the whole job of compiling SF in order to work on our future is somehow different : instead of trying to predict anything, we are trying to discuss potential futures (even  they are totally improbable or at least slightly plausible). The reason for doing that is that we are actors of our futures : by using this object or working on this project, we are all shaping the future to come. So, by analyzing a movie excerpt, and discussing it, the whole point is to determine what is of interest in what is shown, and how to get ready for it (or even more, make it ourselves). In a way, it helps to emphasize implicit assumptions about futures. And make it more obvious and ready to be interpreted.

Regarding the second point, the most notorious example is the Minority Report one. In 2002, a researcher from the MIT lab,John Underkoffler who was a lifelong Philip K. Dick fan was experimenting on ways to manipulate data. He met with Alex McDowell, who was working for Steven Spielberg on Minority Report. The movie presents in an extremely visual way the prototype on which Underkoffler was working. It became such a hit that the UI team at Apple is said to have been inspired by it when they started working on the iPhone.

This feedback loop has been well detailed and analyzed in Lab Coats in Hollywood where Kirby clearly shows how Hollywood is taking advantage of researchers in order to make their movies as plausible as they can be (how do you justify the Hulk being green for example…). This shows what seems to be a kind of dominant future because, for a short period of time, a high density of memetic vision of futures, like interaction of the kind of Minority Report, is then something we can explain, understand, and domesticate.

The key point here is that there has historically been a gap between what people used to call « science facts versus science fiction ». Basically, science fiction shows us « potential worlds » that we can discuss and start building. This « world building » approach is at the basis of any good science fiction work and can be used in order to create preferable scenarios for companies by immersing clients, staff or competitors in one’s preferred vision for tomorrow. It is then part of the larger task to envsion futures beyond the realm of technical possibility. This is why some SF productions are less interesting than others : when they mimic science instead of providing alternate visions of it through world building.