How to Build Collective Visions of the Future Using Sci-Fi & Foresight Tools
What is the future of [X]?
Over the past decade, there has been a growing trend of projects from think tanks, companies, academics, and activists that use collections of science-fictional short stories, artwork, and nonfiction essays to help policymakers and the public better imagine a variety of potential futures on a particular topic.
At their best, these “Future of [X]” projects combine a range of the various “Applied Sci-Fi” techniques we’ve discussed in previous events, such as scenario planning and design fiction, to generate a diverse set of compelling visions of the future of a topic—whether it’s the future of warfare, work, cities, social justice, or climate change. But what makes for an effective “Future of [X]” project that can actually broaden society’s thinking and impact decision-making about our shared technological future?
Join Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination on Wednesday, June 14 at 9:00 am Arizona time (9:00 am Pacific, 12:00 pm Eastern) for a virtual conversation that brings together science fiction authors, editors, foresight practitioners and researchers to discuss how to build “Future of [X]” projects that can actually change how we approach the future.
We’ll be joined by our opening speaker, science fiction and nonfiction author Annalee Newitz (The Terraformers, Four Lost Cities) and four special guests: sci-fi author and futurist Tobias S. Buckell (Arctic Rising, “Zen and the Art of Starship Maintenance”); policy expert, foresight consultant and sci-fi author August Cole (Ghost Fleet, Burn-In); anthropologist Amy Johnson, who researches the use of speculative futures techniques at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center; and Tory Stephens, creative manager of climate fiction at Grist. The panel will be moderated by CSI’s managing editor Joey Eschrich, who will also share his perspective on CSI’s own “Future of X” book anthologies, contests, and other projects.
Together, these experts—who’ve personally contributed to a wide range of “Future of [X]” projects—will take a closer look at what makes for a compelling and constructive project, discuss emerging best practices and common challenges around organizing such efforts, and strategize around how to ensure that these imagined tomorrows can actually help us navigate our real future.
This is the fourth in a series of online events for the Applied Sci-Fi Project, which seeks to understand the influence of science fiction on technology and the people who build it and to study the specific ways that sci-fi storytelling can be applied as a tool for innovation and foresight. Video from our first three events, “The Sci-Fi Feedback Loop: Mapping Fiction’s Influence on Real World Tech,” “Designing the Future With Applied Sci-Fi,” and “Science Fictional Scenarios and Strategic Foresight: Planning for the Future with Applied Sci-Fi,” are archived here. This project, led by ASU CSI fellow Kevin Bankston, is possible thanks to generous support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.
This event is free and open to anyone. Register today!
Kevin Bankston is a fellow at ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination, where he researches the relationship between science fiction and real-world innovation. Kevin is an accomplished leader in the arena of technology law and policy, having spent nearly 20 years working in the public interest sector as an attorney and advocate at organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Center for Democracy & Technology, and New America’s Open Technology Institute. He is now AI Policy Director at Meta.
Annalee Newitz writes science fiction and nonfiction. They are the author of three novels including Autonomous, which won the Lambda Literary Award, and two books of science journalism including Scatter, Adapt and Remember, a finalist for the LA Times Book Prize in science. They have a monthly column in New Scientist and they co-host the Hugo Award–winning podcast Our Opinions Are Correct.
Tobias S. Buckell is a New York Times–bestselling and World Fantasy Award–winning author. His novels and almost one hundred stories have been translated into nineteen different languages. He has been nominated for the Hugo Award, Nebula Award, World Fantasy Award, and Astounding Award for Best New Science Fiction Author. Born in the Caribbean, he currently lives in Ohio.
August Cole is the author of the novels Ghost Fleet and Burn In, both with Peter W. Singer. He is a managing partner at Useful Fiction, a consultancy that works on futures projects. He is a nonresident fellow at the Brute Krulak Center for Innovation and Creativity a a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center on Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council.
Amy Johnson is a visiting research fellow at MIT’s Language & Technology Lab and a research affiliate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard, where she explores speculative approaches to technology and social change. She holds a PhD from MIT and is a member of SFWA and Codex; her stories and poetry have appeared in Lightspeed, Diabolical Plots, Escape Pod, and Fantasy Magazine, among others, and she edited the Drones & Dreams and Stories from (Un)Identified Worlds anthologies.
Tory Stephens creates opportunities that transform organizations and shift culture. He is a resource generator and community builder for social justice issues, people, and movements. He currently works at Grist Magazine as their climate fiction creative manager, and uses storytelling to champion climate justice and imagine green, clean, and just futures. In another life he owned a kick-butt streetwear company, and he would have gotten away with eating the last cookie too, if it weren’t for his three meddling kids.
Joey Eschrich is the managing editor for the Center for Science and the Imagination at Arizona State University, and an assistant director of Future Tense, a partnership of Slate, ASU, and New America that explores emerging technologies, policy, and society.