As fantastical as science fiction seems, there is often something familiar about the incredible concepts dreamt up by its writers. In fact, not only familiar at times but eerily accurate about future advances. Is this some kind of scientific prophesy? Is there something sinister going on? Or is there another explanation? And should we be worried about how science fiction authors are shaping our future?
Although thankfully not all science fiction comes to fruition – I for one, would not be keen to come across Frankenstein’s monster on a dark and lonely night!- the ideas of science fiction writers are often seized by the reader, who is inspired by them to pursue a scientific path developing cutting edge inventions. This is the experience of so many inventors that projects such as ‘Hieroglyph’ promote and offer science fiction stories, inviting readers to use them to spur innovation in science and technology. Backed by Universities such as ‘Arizona’s state University for science and the imagination’, this project is a serious undertaking, highlighting the value of the science fiction genre. Apple have also hired science fiction writers to create ‘design fiction’, with the aim of forming ideas for potentially marketable products.
And the proof in the pudding are advancements in science and technology such as cloning, artificial intelligence, wireless internet, and even rockets – all stuff of previous science fiction fantasy. Indeed, just as a scientist germinates the tiniest seed of an idea, and grows this into a powerful scientific or technological advancement, so the ideas of the science fiction writer can become reality.
But what of science fiction that presents dystopian society and culture? Is this some kind of prediction that is also fated to come true? Not neccessarily. Although science fiction at times makes accurate predictions, there are as many that remain in the realms of fantasy. Furthermore, they can actually serve as a warning rather than foreshadowing. By holding up a mirror to society, science fiction can heighten awareness of technological and scientific issues, allowing unbiased perception not affected by the influences of living in the reality.
Science fiction no doubt has great influence in shaping our future. However, how it is shaped in reality is down to us. Splitting the atom harnessed previously unimagined power and energy, but the human race used it for death and destruction. Will we use the fantastic ideas of the science fiction writer for good, or for evil?