Economic Development

Science fiction and Economic development

Science fiction is my favorite genre, regardless if it’s books, movies or TV shows. I enjoy reading about Isaac Asimov‘s worlds and galactic empires, and I usually don’t breathe while watching movies like Inception and Arrival, or TV shows like Dark and famous Star Trek.

Who wouldn’t be interested in topics like space traveling and discovering new populated planets with their own specific way of life, psychohistory, learning how to communicate with alien species, ability to control your (or others’) dreams, etc.

It was during this year’s Istanbul Innovation Days (#NextGenGov) when I realized how much more potential science fiction provides when combined with topics of economic development. I had the privilege to listen to a few sci-fi writers, from which Malka Older and Alex Levene left the biggest impression on me.

I’m sure many people will agree that this link (sci-fi & econ. development) is very interesting, but what I found intriguing was how to introduce sci-fi mindset to our workflow or how to be more sci-fi friendly?

At one point, Malka Older gave us a tip on writing sci-fi which I liked very much. I’m not sure if it was a tip on writing general sci-fi or economic sci-fi, but at this point it doesn’t matter since I’m focused on economic sci-fi anyway and find this helpful.

I can’t remember the exact words, but it was something like this:

  1. Think about things that frustrate you;
  2. Think of something wild and crazy that will fix the frustrations;
  3. Plug the holes – Get acquainted with the literature and think of newly formed interactions.

The first part I see as a trigger that will start you thinking.

The second part is the start of a journey to a parallel world where anything is possible, with no obstacles and frames. It’s a call to very creative solutions that can solve current frustrations.

The third part is a comeback to reality. I see it as a process of separating what is possible and what is not. But in the process, it should be double checked if something really is not possible, because…

After getting acquainted with the literature and (double)checking and filtering what’s possible, these new elements are linked to other elements (or actors) that already exist. This is where, for me personally, a charm of sci-fi is. For example, how does the invention of near-lightspeed spaceships and livable planets in our part of the Universe affect the global economy, how does the invention of realistic virtual reality (which is able to activate all our senses) affect tourism, or how does advancement of AI affect social relations (e.g. Her)?

Some of the previously mentioned things are still impossible since technology still doesn’t enable them, but some other things are not only possible but they exist nowadays and their inventors got the inspiration from sci-fi. Check this link for examples.
As technology and our knowledge of things around us rise, more and more things will be possible. For example these things.
So, sci-fi, besides being interesting, has also been useful and is inspiring creativity.

Some people and organizations, like the United Nations Development Program (organizer of Istanbul Innovation Days), acknowledge this. I also want to mention Malka Older’s tweet that I liked:

I can see how hiring a writer might be a problem for smaller organizations due to limited funds, potential lack of writers, or simply lack of willingness for such a move. But I believe that doesn’t mean that some of the sci-fi creativity can’t be embedded into an organization.
Brainstorming and group thinking in various forms are quite common in our organization, I believe in others too. Putting some effort into experimenting with Malka’s tips for writing sci-fi and brainstorming sessions seem promising.

Sci-fi -Economic Development Brainstorming Form (in .docx):
sci-fi-economic development brainstorming

Featured image was taken from and was made by Ryan He.

One Commnet on “Science fiction and Economic development

  1. Interesting text. Indeed, how will life change in near future? Technology is advancing, society is changing, and most of all individuals change. The ways of doing things change and will certainly keep changing. It is only hard, but fun, to imagine how. How will, for instance, tourism change. In playing with scenarios, some influential factors should be taken into account, as a basis for thinking. For me, it helps if I make a step back and observe wider picture, entire process, from its beginning to the end. So, what is tourism about? It is about experiences and afterwards memories. To get those experiences people construct buildings, cars and planes, bags and accessories for travel… It takes quite some effort and requires significant energy, while energy usually means pollution, or at least some alternative possible use. It brings to the question is it possible to get the experience without all this, in fact will this be possible soon? It may happen that VR or some other more advanced technology enables that or even a step forward – creating directly memories, which is an idea already seen. Maybe this will be cheaper and only the rich will really travel while most will not be able to afford real travel, and will satisfy with virtual tours, experiences and memories. Will this be one of ways technology influences society? For now, it still seems a little far from reality. But is it really? Some time ago, I was making coffee in the morning. It was instant coffee, sweetener – so not sugar, and powder as a replacement for milk. So, coffee was not coffee, sugar was not sugar and milk was not milk. Yet, I had all sensations of drinking coffee. This is sensation caused by chemical substances, but it may be possible also with electric impulses, in fact it is not far at all from how human brain functions. Some things that are common today were seen in SF movies some years ago. And now they are reality. It has happened so many times that an idea that looked quiet crazy at the beginning, became reality. We could think – in near future tourism will not require leaving home and will be cheaper, more nature friendly, more energy efficient, but perhaps more questionable from human point of view, because it will be in fact a deception. Reaction to that may be questions about “deception” part, is it ethical, and so on. But is it really a deception? Isn’t it just another way our senses respond to stimuli? After all, what is the light, what is the sound, from the point of view of human senses? A sensation, no more, no less. And another reaction may be the opinion that it is just too crazy to happen. Right, crazy ideas never become reality. Or they do?

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