Science Fiction & the Future

Five megabyte hard drive 1956

A client’s email was down the other day. I had trouble sending to and receiving from them – there was no knowing if a message had arrived or would arrive, and several ‘missing’ emails sent to me suddenly arrived in a bundle ten hours after they were sent. It made communication and the transfer of documents difficult. For someone who works from home as I do (I offer writers and publishers creative services), it was frustrating. I had to keep sending texts and Facebook messages saying ‘did you get it’ and ‘just sent’, as did they.

It also reminded me of how lucky I am to do the work I do and that, without technology like a decent internet connection, email and computer, I couldn’t do it. These particular messages all involved an urgent book layout job too, a complicated layout with flowcharts and diagrams. Briefed in the night before, I had it done by 4pm that afternoon, but it was a technological struggle and a busy day. Still, twenty years ago I couldn’t have done it, not that fast and not from home. Do you remember dial-up internet? Here’s a reminder:

My bad email day made me realise and appreciate that, pre-internet and pre-email, working from home as I do now wasn’t even possible.

As a writer of speculative fiction, I also came to appreciate what science fiction does for society – it’s our job to imagine possible futures and the technology that will come with it, and then predict the effect of that on humanity, societies and individuals. I recently went to a speculative fiction festival and to a panel discussing the future of technology, AIs (artificial intelligence) and synthetic biology. The panelists asked: are humans creating the means of their own destruction? Their conclusions were ambiguous.

But it was a fascinating discussion because of all the new technological and scientific developments the panelists had researched and presented. I love learning about new developments! If you do too, here are my favourite websites for updates:

In ‘Towards White‘, my upcoming solo debut, I invent a future technology and explore how it might effect those around it. Here’s the front cover, how cool is that!

Really, of course, there’s no telling what the future might bring, which is why parents often worry (myself included) about their kids’ futures and in particular what jobs might be around. How do we educate and prepare them for a technologically uncertain future?

Looking at my own life, however, and the fact that I couldn’t have imagined my current lifestyle when I was at school, the answer becomes clearer. My skills were transferable enough to embrace the opportunity when it came along. So that’s what I tell my own kids and other young writers I tutor and mentor: focus on developing your personal skill set, and be prepared to embrace new opportunities.

Reading science fiction can help too! It can show us others facing new challenges set in the future, and ensure we’re prepared for anything!

Zena Shapter

I write from a castle in a flying city hidden by a thundercloud. #Ditmar Award-winning author. Movie buff. Traveller. Wine lover. Story nerd. Book Creator & Mentor. Founder & leader of the award-winning Northern Beaches Writers' Group / ZF Kingbolt.

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