Episode #1529

Will Sci-Fi Save Us?

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Friday, July 18, 2014

A still from SimCity: Cities of Tomorrow. A still from SimCity: Cities of Tomorrow. (Courtesy of EA Games)

What does today’s sci-fi mean for our real-life future?  Cyberpunk author Neal Stephenson argues that it’s time to get over our love of dystopia. A class at MIT searches sci-fi classics for technologies they can invent right now, although maybe they shouldn’t. Geoengineers take a tip from Carl Sagan – who saw a green future for Mars – to see if we can save Earth.  And we meet some scientists who think that if we ever want to see the stars, we’d better start building the starship.  

The Power of Positive Sci-Fi

Has our fiction grown too fond of dystopia? Sci-fi great Neal Stephenson thinks so. He’s building a community of writers who are willing to start from a truly far-fetched premise: what if humans actually have a chance?

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At MIT, an Ethics Class for Inventors

A class led by two researchers at MIT’s Media Lab asks students to take imaginary technologies from sci-fi classics and turn them into real inventions. Will they miss the point of cautionary tales like Blade Runner or Neuromancer?


The SimCity of Tomorrow

One of the longest-running and most successful video game franchises, SimCity, draws on current trends to imagine life in a simulated future. In its latest iteration, gamers have a choice between building rich but polluting industry and investing in green technology. You might be surprised which one is more popular.

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Hacking the Climate

Geoengineering — tampering with the Earth’s climate — is a sci-fi idea that could very well become a reality. But it’s controversial, because it’s impossible to know the long-term effects of tampering with such a complex system.


How to Fly to Alpha Centauri

It’s a staple of sci-fi, but the realities of interstellar travel are grim: it would take tens of thousands of years to get to our nearest neighbor in the galaxy using current technology. But some scientists working on the problem think it can be cracked in about a century.

Slideshow: Starship Designs

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The Real Scientists of Hollywood

Every sci-fi film and TV show, no matter how cockamamie, needs a science advisor. Surprisingly, these scientists take the far-fetched scenarios cooked up by screenwriters seriously. Today’s real-life science, they point out, was yesterday’s laughable sci-fi.

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For a Black Writer, Sci-Fi Offers a Reboot of Society

African-American writers have been contributing to the development of science fiction from the beginning. Artist and writer Carl Hancock Rux says they’ve used the genre to think their way out of race relations as we know them.  


These Aren't the Droids

Neko Case, Kelly Hogan, and Ellie Kemper lament a future designed by and for teenage guys.


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