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How does science fiction influence the real world? | The Economist

Steven Spielberg’s new film “Ready Player One” imagines a future where people live much of their lives in virtual reality. Do science fiction’s predictions of the future ever come true? Yes. And it’s no surprise, given that the tech industry is led by sci-fi fans turning their visions into reality.

If you’re watching this on your phone it is partly thanks to Captain Kirk.

In Star Trek, first broadcast in 1966 he used a pocket-sized device to communicate with his crew.

Martin Cooper, the man who invented the mobile phone says the show was the inspiration for his idea, which launched seven years later.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos based Alexa, the voice activated speaker on Star Trek’s talking computer.

Sci-fi fan, Elon Musk, is building rockets that he hopes will one day carry people to Mars.

Submarines, helicopters, rockets and touchscreens all appeared in science fiction before becoming science fact.

Sci-fi inspires real-world technology.

It also provides a way to explore the moral dilemmas that advanced technologies could pose.

Paul McAuley is a scientist turned science fiction writer.

Few films better encapsulate this than Ridley Scott’s 1982 cult classic, Blade Runner.
The film is set in a dystopian future where synthetic human workers are bioengineered by a corporate power.

In London, fans are arriving for a Blade Runner screening with a difference.

The film explores the ethical implications of creating highly intelligent robots that have thoughts, feelings and emotions.

Steven Spielberg’s latest movie “Ready Player One” explores another emerging technology, virtual reality.

The film imagines a future where overpopulation, pollution and climate change have forced most people to live in sprawling, slum-like cities.

To be compelling, science fiction has to be convincingso writers and film directors enlist the help of designers and engineers.

Syd Mead designed the look of some of Hollywood’s most seminal sci-fi films including Blade Runner, Star Trek the motion picture and Aliens.

In the real world, he’s designed cars for Ford and electronics for Philips.

Science fiction introduces people to real-world science and technology.

Some fans develop a life-long passion.

The tech-industry is led by sci-fi nerds who want to create the things they read about, or saw on screen.

We all stand to benefit, provided that is, they can avoid the ethical pitfalls depicted in science fiction.

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