My science writer friend, Jon Turney, has a very cool project underway. NESTA, an investment think tank, has commissioned him to examine the relationship between science fiction and technology. Basically they want to know whether science fiction has an influence on technological innovation, and if so how this works. My guess is that this project has its origins in Neil Gaiman’s comments about Chinese science fiction conventions at the British Library last year, and Damien Walter’s subsequent article here. I think Damien may have done a Guardian piece on the subject.
Anyway, Jon has asked me to help out. Some of you will have already heard from me, and I’m grateful to Farah and Edward for letting me browse their library while I was in London the other week. If this is of interest, please take a look at Jon’s blog and see what he is looking for. We do have some fairly specific requirements, and we do need evidence, not opinions.
If you have experience of working in an environment where science fiction has had an influence technological development then we’d love to hear from you. (And I know some of you work for people like Google, Linden Labs and NASA.)
I’m also looking for reading recommendations. Things like Francis Spufford’s The Backroom Boys, which examine the history of technology, come to mind. And of course we want specific examples of science fiction ideas that have influenced technology. We are making a particular case study of robots, and there are obvious examples such as satellites and space elevators. I’d like to find some other examples. And I’m looking for academic studies of robot stories.
If you are an SF writer you’ll probably be getting email from me in the coming months. I promise that answering it won’t be too onerous, unless you want to do more.
Please note that while this is a UK-based project we are not limiting ourselves to looking at the UK. Indeed, the question as to whether there are cultural differences that affect the way that SF and technology work together is one we may address.