Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I -- Imagination Inspires Invention

I had a teacher in high school who said that science fiction always precedes science. Always. What it boils down to is that the idea precedes the product. As writers we produce creative ideas by the ton. That doesn't mean that all of them are going to fly, but there is a chance that one will stick in the craw of the right scientist or inventor somewhere along the line.

For example, the Great Bird of the Galaxy, Gene Roddenberry, gave us the original Star Trek television series and within that the small, handheld communicator. Within 30 years we had them and called them and called them cell phones. In less than 50 years we have rocketed past mere communication devices and added music, videos, games, maps, Internet, books, and, well, we seem to be hot on the trail of fitting the entire bridge into a handheld device.

If H.G. Wells had not sent a man to the moon, would someone have become obsessed with actually doing it? If he hadn't created a time machine, would people still be trying to do it today?

The other half of this formula is believing that the impossible can be achieved. Many years ago I was working at IBM. A software engineer I worked with told me that personal computers couldn't go any further than where they had gone in the mid 1980s. This was because of the problem with the processor overheating. I could still see the future though and seriously doubted his negativity.

In case you hadn't noticed, we have gone far beyond those old dinosaur computers. So what happened? Just a little thing called superconductivity. Experiments in attempts to reach absolute zero achieved surprising results that led to technology solving the problem with the computers of the day.

Many writers also have a background in science. Kathy Reichs actually is a forensic anthropologist. Michael Crichton studied medicine and science at Harvard. Arthur C. Clarke was an inventor who won an award for creating a satellite communication system in the 1960s. Isaac Asimov was a professor of biochemistry.

The thought processes between writers and scientists seem to have a lot in common. We are the people who ask "what if?" and then spend time figuring out how that would work. We just have different levels of bringing these ideas to fruition.

As writers we are always creating -- even the future.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing a very thought provoking post...and you are spot on about the mobile phones and Star Trek, seems quite unbelievable really.