Using science-fiction as a trigger for innovation

SciFiDI_Summit_postcard_web-02The “Design Intelligence for the Future Home” graphic book that illustrates the workshops’ outcomes is cool, yet not really convincing. The four stories lack complexity and sometimes, consistency. What’s interesting, though, is that the world in which the stories happen is almost dystopian, clearly contradicting the Singularity University’s usual positive outlook on a future where technology has solved “humanity’s most urgent, persistent challenges“.
However, workshop participants seemed to enjoy the experience and find it useful, as Alison Berman reports – and that is probably all that matters in the end. Her post also gives us a glimpse into the methodology used.

Car Wars: Cory Doctorow’s dystopian SF story about self-driving cars

33855195At the request of Melbourne’s Deakin University, in 2016, the Canadian writer and journalist Cory Doctorow wrote an interesting story on how the real-world development of self-driving cars could go really, really wrong.

As Doctorow himself puts it: “The story, Car Wars, takes the form of a series of vignettes that illustrate the problem with designing cars to control their drivers, interspersed with survey questions to spur discussion of the wider issues of governments and manufacturers being able to control the operation of devices we own and depend on.” (actually, the survey questions don’t really help “spurring discussions”, as Deakin professor Gleb Beliakov provides his own, unequivocal and somewhat laconic answer to all of them – you can, however, view the survey results here)

In the story, the interaction between highly intelligent self-driving software, rules and exceptions forced into the car systems by all kinds of authorities, and a well-planned act of behavorial hacking, forces most of the city’s car into behaving like a herd of frightened buffaloes driven over the edge of a cliff. All, but one cleverly (although illegally) software-hacked car. But of course, if you had the right to hack your car, and if everyone did it, the situation could get even worse. Or could it?


2312: An essay in world-building

2312_jacket-final-mechIn 2312, first published in 2012 (French translation to hit the shelves in May 2017), SF writer and ecologist Kim Stanley Robinson (aka KSR) imagines a world where, after having (almost) desperately messed up its planet of origin, humanity expands by colonizing and “terraforming” the whole solar system…

… What, another of those stories? Not quite.

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Prospective : l’avenir passe par la fiction

rtemagicc_aura_of_familiarity_cover_sml_01L’Institut pour le futur (IFTF, @iftf) n’en est pas à sa première tentative expérimentale dans le domaine de la prospective. Voilà quelque temps il avait ainsi participé à la création du jeu Superstruct. En 2013, l’Institut a décidé de recourir à la littérature. Dans le cadre de son projet sur l’Age de la matière connectée, afin de mieux explorer ce thème de recherche, il a commandé six nouvelles d’anticipation à des auteurs réputés (Bruce Sterling (Wikipédia, @bruces), Rudy Rucker (Wikipédia, @rudytheelder), Cory Doctorow (Wikipédia, @doctorow), Madeline Ashby(@madelineashby), Warren Ellis (fameux scénariste de comics, Wikipédia, @warrenellis) et Ramez Naam (Wikipédia, @ramez).

>> La suite de cet article de Rémi Sussan (2013) sur Internet Actu

Slow Catastrophes, Speculative Futures, Science & Imagination: Rewriting and Rethinking Sustainability

slow-catastrophes-uncertain-revivals-cover-525x600Slow Catastrophes, Uncertain Revivals (2016, free eBook) features 5 stories created by students in “Slow Catastrophes, Speculative Futures, Science & Imagination: Rewriting and Rethinking Sustainability”, a course by Michele Speitz at Furman University in South Carolina.

Taking inspiration from Project Hieroglyph‘s “visions for a better future” and an essay by Kim Stanley Robinson for the 2013 Worldwatch Institute Report (Is It Too Late?, .pdf), the course “challenged students to draw on multiple disciplines—across the sciences and the humanities—in order to create works of science fiction that might inspire us to address the multifarious complications bound up with climate change, that might embolden us to confront what some see as an impossibility: to be able to say ‘Yes, sustainability is still possible.’

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Reading African SF

African Science-Fiction is incredibly lively and often (not always!) looks at the future in ways European readers are not accustomed to – like living alongside aliens (as minor gods, friends and neighbors, symbiots, etc.) rather than defending our ground against them. Global warming is also very present in stories from a continent that knows first-hand about warmth, desired or forced migrations, the dearth of water and the importance of biodiversity.

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Yannick Rumpala : La science-fiction pour « habiter les mondes en préparation »

Dans un entretien avec l’équipe de Pop-Up Urbain, le chercheur en sciences politiques Yannick Rumpala décrit la manière dont il envisage la science-fiction comme “exercice de pensée” pour “réenclencher des réflexions éthiques et politiques à partir de représentations saisissantes poussées aux limite.”

“Cet imaginaire et les spéculations qu’il contient pourraient être un appui et un stimulant intéressants pour la réflexion collective. À condition de ne pas rester dans le registre catastrophiste et apocalyptique, qui peut avoir un intérêt critique (beaucoup ont probablement encore en tête le film Soleil vert), mais qui a eu tendance à écraser d’autres registres possibles. (…) Pour moi, les récits de science-fiction peuvent en proposer d’autres, mais dans le futur, sur le mode de l’expérience de pensée. (…) Ses constructions imaginaires sont l’un des rares endroits où l’on peut voir vivre, agir, s’organiser les « générations futures »”.

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