A few weeks ago I was listening to a program on NPR about how science fiction novels, movies and kids' cartoons have inspired this generation's engineers to take out-of-this world ideas and produce mainstream products and services.
One invention the story referred to was Skype, inspired by Jetsons video-chat. I remember debating with friends growing up whether we would want our friends and family to be able to see us with messy hair in pajamas during a phone call. Of course, Skype gives us the option - we may use a phone instead - whereas Jetsons cartoons did not allow the user to select audio/video vs. video-only.
Unfortunately, I am unable to locate the exact transcript or podcast, but NPR affiliate WBUR in Boston does have a related post, Sci-Fi Inspires Engineers To Build Our Future,
which includes a quote from technology forecaster Paul Saffo: "Basically, what happens is, teenagers read these things, they fall in love with the novel, they get inspired by the technology and they keep [it] in the back of their minds till they're about 30, and then they build it."
Other inventions purportedly inspired by books and film (my list, not NPR's): Microsoft's new motion technology for computers, Wii by Nintendo, Segway scooters that use physical cues to pick up on which way your brain wants you to move. Airplanes and space shuttles inspired by early artwork and fiction about flying machines. Even genetically modified foods and alternative energy may relate in some way to a piece of fiction, a seed that a novelist or screenwriter planted in a young scientist's mind at just the right time to allow it to grow and blossom into a full-blown invention.
Pop culture trends can be inspired by science fiction as well - think 1980's Madonna cone bras or the exaggerated shoulders worn by Lady Gaga and Fergie today.
Today's writercize focuses on the power of the writer's mind to engage in freethinking "What If...?" questions. How far can your imagination take you? How many generations could we be from making your mind's quest into the impossible a reality? You don't have to be a science fiction writer to benefit from such an exercise. I believe a writer should imagine first, edit later.
writing exercise: Pick one (or more) of the following "Imagine If" scenarios and freewrite about it. You may talk about the environmental impact, the human factor, inventions that could be necessary - you're only limited by your imagination!
- Imagine if ... the earth itself expanded with the birth of each human.
- Imagine if ... we had a third eye on the back of our head.
- Imagine if ... a highly reputable Harvard research study was released indicating we are naturally nocturnal creatures.
(Click "read more" for writercizer sample response.)writercizer response:
(I wrote questions to be pondered, but feel free to imagine an actual story or scene instead! It may be much more interesting!)
If the earth itself expanded with the birth of each human ... imagine the scuffle of trying to locate where the earth expanded. Would parents lay claim to that new property as inherently propietary of the child, given that without that child's existence the earth would not have grown? Individual property lines, political borders would be thrown off; maps would be rendered inaccurate within milliseconds of their creation. Would satellite images update instantly? Would land be fertile, allowing for additional farming and cultivation to support our growing society, or would land be dry? Would we be more prone to earthquakes because of the constant change, or would the earth be more elastic, accustomed to growing and changing, in a state of constant shifts and movement? Could buildings expand with the earth, perhaps with gel-like or rubbery materials in the place of wood, stone and steel? The gravitational pull to the sun itself would shift as the earth became heavier, or perhaps we'd float further away from the sun if the earth expanded but became lighter, as a balloon filled with helium, expanding from the air within. Would seasons change, years grow longer as the circumference of the earth expanded and it took more time to spin on its axis? Car travel would likely become extinct, as roads and geography would be in constant change. Would we rely more on virtual technology to meet and contact one another? Would we create the Star Trek technology to move our molecules from one place to another? If the world became too large and out of balance of the solar system, could we find a way to shrink it? Would we work more towards a move to the moon or to Mars? Would humans take responsibility to limit reproduction? What would happen if the world expanded with every human birth???