Unleash your inner Asimov

October 28, 2012


Writing science-fiction stories about encounters with imaginary worlds and futuristic devices could have a decisive influence on innovation, G. Pascal Zachary, writer and professor at Arizona State University, suggests in IEEE Spectrum.

David Brian Johnson, Intel’s staff futurist, even insists in a recent book, Science Fiction Prototyping, that by writing stories about future products, engineers can do a better job of actually making them, he says.

“Recall that, in 1988, Apple made a promotional video that introduced an imagined tablet computer called the Knowledge Navigator, which even possessed a talking virtual assistant uncannily similar to the iPhone’s Siri. Twenty‑two years later — when the key components became small, cheap, fast, and smart enough — the fictional Knowledge Navigator morphed into the iPad.”

Also, human values are sometimes not reflected in new gadgets and systems and that engineers can better account for the “human dimension” in their work if they imagine what the world would be like — and what adaptations people would have to make — if their inventions came into widespread use, he says.

He recommends three easy steps to getting started in the article.