technology and society, terraforming, futurism, space exploration

How Does Science Fiction Influence Society

Read Time: 5 minutes

HG Wells, a man of particular tastes and utopian dreams, shocked future readers with his ability to predict social movements and imagine the future of science. Wells remains the most recognized among science fiction authors for this uncanny talent, but one woman initiated this standout genre.

Never forget Mary Shelley, the Mother of Science Fiction — and no, there’s no father — she wrote a mother of a book called “Frankenstein” that created the genre.

January 1, 2018, marked the 200th anniversary of the text’s publication. It still holds relevance as world ethics boards elect regulations so science doesn’t play with life and death but rather improves upon the experience of what it means to be human. As technology increasingly enters the fold of everyday life, what being human means gets called into question.

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How Science Fiction Inspires Technology

150 years after birth, HG Wells is known for several modern technology predictions, such as the atomic bomb, space travel, the worldwide web, tanks and airplanes. His most famous one was the establishment of a “world state,” where each individual would have a high education, satisfying work and freedom to enjoy their private lives. Modern society’s still tinkering with that due to character flaws and all, but we’re getting there, HG!

HG Wells held an interest in technology and society and the interworkings of society. His “In Anticipations” (1900) predicted the abolishment of distance like the railway where residents of various regions and nations could conveniently travel to see each other and collaborate in peace.

The impact of science fiction on technology and society only increases as time goes by, a study from the University of Hawaii found. The research team scoured papers published since 1982 for terms related to science fiction, and most of the connections lay in theoretical design research, human-computer interaction and human body modification.

Researchers believe that science fiction films and books increasingly shape human-computer interaction. These mediums question the ethics of digital afterlife and implants, for example. The researchers also found how science fiction serves technology and society is now changing. Today’s scientists mention it more than researchers before them decades ago.

How Science Fiction Motivates Protecting the World

Remember the scene where the Death Star shoots this alien-green laser at the planet Alderaan and “POOF!” Princess Leia’s home gets demolished in the way ’80s kids like to blow things up. Remember how closely her home planet resembled Earth? Watch it again, and feel the feels.

Didn’t feel anything? Then, you may be worse than a stormtrooper. Even they had feelings about killing innocent folks and blowing up Princess Leia’s home planet. That’s why the stormtroopers prefer wearing their helmets — doing so made them feel safe from the regulations and rules the Empire demanded of them. Ultimately, was the destruction of Alderaan a necessary evil?

NASA and other similar space exploration organizations have launched stations, satellites and now fixer-robots out into space. When will spacecrafts get equipped with weapons? Humans may feel special on a rare little blue-green planet in the Goldilocks zone, but humans also like explosions.

Death exists as a part of life, and one day, that little blue-green rock of ours will go the way of the dodo — but with likely more violence. Science fiction authors like Mary Shelley and HG Wells remind humans of the risks of technology and science and the importance of retaining ethics. They stress the importance of protecting the precious gift of life and what gives humanity its vitality.

A more pressing reality is the need for environmental conservation and preservation. Modern science fiction titles on the market expound obsessively upon various incarnations of apocalyptic events and government encroachment. Hi, “Hunger Games” fans!

Also interestingly, science fiction loves providing a bounty of habitable planets for the character-citizens in various books and movies. With the ability to “terraform” coupled with enhanced psychic powers, a la ye olde Earth lobotomy style — yes, think River’s adventures in “Firefly” — space is humanity’s new oyster, in theory. Even Princess Leia gets a shiny new planet to lead a happy life. Is there a Space Oprah, too?

“And you get a planet! You get a planet! You, too!” says Space Oprah. Someone, please write this. It should be a space opera, but you already know that.

Back to the topic — migration has remained an essential component in evolution and human survival throughout the ages. What could be more human?

Does Science Fiction Have a Common Theme?

Degraded climatic and environmental conditions, as seen in “Interstellar” and “Mad Max,” provide insight into what may happen to humanity if they decide to favor concrete over the plants that allow them to breathe. Common sense escapes many. Evolution is the real character development. Unfortunately, it’s slow. Yet, Space Balls proves infinitely faster thanks to the Schwartz.

Okay, bad metaphor, but remember how Lord Dark Helmet attempts to steal the air from planet Druidia? Survival’s at stake, and no princess wants to marry a guy called Prince Vallum. The film contains 1980s contemporary buildings and vehicles, such as the Winnebago, adding another layer of familiarity.

Science fiction lends insight into the choices of the human condition and what it means to hold onto one’s morals. When the going gets tough, don’t hate — innovate, but specific “choose your own adventures” beg to differ. Science fiction investigates the possibility that results in uncanny reality.

Can science fiction boil down to a common theme? Humanity may reach its melting point when the sun decides to eat the planet thanks to our personal blunders. Curse those character flaws!

Humans rush through life like there’s no tomorrow without valuing the true beauty of what that can mean. Light and dark exist in the world, especially as common themes of science fiction and other plots. They exist in our governments and ourselves, and we humans want to do right by each other and our planet — but we also like things that go “boom.”

Science-fiction innovations on the page and screen inspire new technology and science, yet humans remain afraid to recognize their potential and celebrate their short turns around the sun. Immortality comes in many forms, and science fiction reminds humanity that true immortality means doing right by one another and warns us what happens when we don’t.

 

Image By: rudolfgetel, CC BY-NC 4.0 

Category: In Fiction

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Article by: Megan Ray Nichols

Megan Ray Nichols is a freelance science writer and science enthusiast. Her favorite subjects include astronomy and the environment. Megan is also a regular contributor to The Naked Scientists, Thomas Insights, and Real Clear Science. When she isn't writing, Megan loves watching movies, hiking, and stargazing.