The Outpost

Sci-fi Pushes Science
By testing Potratz
Published July 23, 2019

To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe. – Anatole France 

Batting around the concept of needing to dream as well as act, I am reminded of the importance of narratives in influencing the actions of others. Story shapes us, defines us — gives us examples to emulate and create. Unpacking this more, it’s stories that fix our eyes on what’s possible. It’s actual storytellers propelling science and technology. 

Science fiction allows authors to approach pain points we all face and create novel solutions. Those solutions inspire inventors, who figure out ways to reach into the fictitious universe and create. Take babel fish, for example. In Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, there is a creature inserted into the main character’s ear. This slug looking alien slides right into the ear absorbing the sounds of alien languages and spits out the translations in native tongues.  

Listen to the O-Neb Fam talk creativity and time travel.

Now, several companies have created headsets to solve this problem. Speakers can hand off a headset and have a conversation with others while not knowing the language. The device listens in, translates it, and then plays it into the listener’s ear. While reviews suggest the translation services require continued refinement and waiting for machines to translate slows conversation speeds, the fact the technology exists is mind-blowing! Even more incredible is the prices of these pieces of tech allow the average person to buy them. 

The implications of these devices revolutionize travel and business. Douglas Adams had no way of knowing his story would push against the language barriers in the modern world – he needed a way for Arthur Dent to hear the atrocities of Vogon poetry.

Thinking about how sci-fi pushes science, a group of researchers searched for sci-fi terms in scientific papers published since 1982 not only are those terms present, the frequency at which they are occurring is increasing. While the link I included goes to where I retrieved these nuggets of information, I am left without many of the answers. Suddenly, I want to know trending keywords. Which sci-fi terms are gathering momentum? How *exactly* is that informing technological advancements?! Attempting to answer this, I dove into EBSCOhost databases looking for the original piece, the closest thing I found was an article by another Phillip Jordan titled, “Transcriptional and Translational Differences of Microglia from Male and Female Brains,” which is not the same at all.

Are you a regular Sci-Fi reader? How often do you check out short stories?

While we can all agree, the links to narratives and science are incredible. For a person to build anything, they first need to understand it’s possible. 

This use of dreaming appears again with Lexus, the car company’s spokesperson saying, “Back to the Future messed my whole generation up.” A movie inspired an entire generation craving for a hoverboard. So, as a promotional event to plug a new car – they created this hella cool (I’m Californian, you’re stuck with my slang. Get over it) hoverboard emitting steam from liquid nitrogen and the whole nine yards.

Recognizing the genre’s ability to influence people, Oculus Rift, requires new employees to read Ready Player One. Think about your company, what book should be required reading causing employees to elevate the team to success? Would a work a fiction inspire more than the latest self-help piece? 

Listen, Outpost Community, by virtue of reading this you’re committing to “geek culture.” You think and dream on a regular basis. You don’t accept the status quo. You walk into board meetings equipped in your finest battle armor prepared to roll nat 20s. We see you. You read about retina tracking technology and can imagine how that can be actualized. You inspire us. You inspire scientists. You use sci-fi to push science even when you don’t realize it.

Find opportunities to practice creativity

When you see this on social share with us which sci-fi pieces inspire you. Let’s push each other (and science) to new heights through creating.