How science fiction continues to shape real technology today

If you ever watch Star Trek, you’ll notice something very interesting: the wristwatch they used in the show has many remarkable similarities to today’s smartphones and smart watches. This isn’t the only instance where science fiction later became science fact. In 1945, long before the first satellite orbited Earth, Arthur C. Clarke famously described how radio signals could bounce off satellites for long-distance communication. Today, communications satellites are common.

It’s no secret that science fiction has played a role in the creation of new technologies, but quantifying the impact is hard to quantify. Indeed, technologists would love to better understand the way fiction influences the development of new technologies. Today, that is beginning to look possible thanks to the work of Philipp Jordan at the University of Hawaii in the US and a few colleagues. These folks have studied the way researchers involved in human-computer interaction use science fiction in their work. And they find not only that science fiction plays a significant role, but that its impact is on the increase. So, in what areas of science will science fiction play a role in development?

According to the researchers, one is for theoretical design research. Another is to refer to and explore new forms of human-computer interaction, which researchers increasingly think is shaped by science fiction books and films. And there is the study of human body modification, which is perhaps best explored via the medium of fiction.

To get a more detailed look into the intertwining relationship between science and science fiction, check out the research right here.

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