The Symbiosis of Science and Science Fiction
Last modified: June 22, 2006
The best science fiction attempts to speculate realistically about possible future scientific and technological developments and how they might affect human life in the future. In turn, it can inspire young readers to pursue scientific careers and suggest directions for future research. A physicist now working as a science fiction writer and editor discusses aspects of this mutual relationship including ways science and science fiction use and benefit from each other, similarities and differences in how scientists and science fiction writers (who are sometimes the same people) can and should approach and use science, and major types of speculation used by science fiction writers. While the earliest science fiction commonly dealt with a single, relatively simple speculation, much newer work looks at possible interactions of interrelated developments in such complex systems as computer networks, atmospheres, ecosystems, and large-scale political and social systems. Thus a story typically serves as an analog simulation of a possible future, and a “virtual laboratory” for considering how the subjects of this conference might shape humanity’s future.