The Applied Sci-Fi Project
How can we apply science fiction storytelling as a tool for imagining and shaping the future of technology?
The Applied Sci-Fi Project, made possible by support from the Sloan Foundation, is an event series and research project that brings together science fiction writers, futurists, scholars, and technologists to survey how science fiction narratives can shape the development of real-world technologies. We will examine the general influence of sci-fi on technology and the people who develop it, as well as the specific ways that sci-fi storytelling is being applied as a tool for innovation and foresight.
There’s little question that the imaginary futures of science fiction have influenced the direction of technology, from space travel to cell phones to cyberspace.
Recognizing this “Sci-Fi Feedback Loop” between speculative visions and real-world innovations, a growing multi-disciplinary field of practitioners is using science fiction as a tool for thinking about, preparing for, and perhaps even shaping our increasingly uncertain future.
This loosely connected but rapidly expanding field, which we’re calling Applied Sci-Fi, includes:
- strategic foresight consultants who partner with sci-fi writers to develop potential future scenarios for their corporate and government clients;
- designers and engineers using design fiction, sci-fi prototyping, and worldbuilding techniques to ideate new technologies and environments;
- policy think tanks commissioning sci-fi to envision creative solutions to societal challenges;
- professors using sci-fi to educate engineers, lawyers, and other professionals about tech ethics;
- venture firms and startup founders mining the latest sci-fi for product ideas;
- technical consultants working to ensure that visions of the future in TV and film reflect real science and technology;
- and much more.
The Applied Sci-Fi Project will bring together this emerging community of experts and practitioners in a series of public conversations and private workshops to examine different aspects of its history and practice. These events will inform a series of papers that will serve as a practical introduction to the Applied Sci-Fi field, its practitioners, and their tools: an Applied Sci-Fi Sourcebook surveying the history of sci-fi as both an unintentional influence on, and intentional tool for, technological innovation.
This project has been made possible by a generous grant from the Technology Program of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.