Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Forward thinking

The problem with modern science fiction? Too much doom and gloom, and not enough excited optimism. At least that's the view of author Neal Stephenson, the figurehead of Project Hieroglyph, which finds sci-fi authors turning their backs on bleak dystopian visions and teaming up with prominent scientists to develop and explore more positive visions of the future that could become reality. Might the long, long wait for hoverboards finally be nearing an end?

The project has arisen from a conference at which Stephenson spoke of "our society's inability to execute on big stuff". As wonderful an invention as the internet is, he suggests, a great deal of time and effort is squandered on essentially trivial achievements (such as grappling with and developing algorithms for search engines) that could be put to much better use advancing knowledge and technology in other spheres. "I saw the best minds of my generation writing spam filters", he notes wryly. As someone frequently distracted from the serious task at hand and falling into a YouTube binge, I understand exactly where he's coming from...

(Thanks to Simon for the links.)

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