Thursday, May 1, 2008

Science Fiction becomes science fact

I tend to read a variety of books: business (management, marketing, trends), historical fiction, biographies, and science fiction. Over the last few years, I've made sure that M and G (my phunkidz) get a taste of the latter. Many of the classics by Philip Dick, Larry Niven, David Brin, and newer ones by John Wright are exciting looks at the future. Often the author will take a premise (like making physical copies of yourself in Kiln People) and extrapolate the effects on society. The premises themselves are usually based on stretching some aspect of today's technology in some way. 

That fact alone is why I believe Phunkidz need to get a good grounding in first-class Science Fiction. We need to dream about what is possible, how we can stand on the shoulders of the giants that have come before, and leap over that next technology hurdle. Imagination is one of the greatest tools that we as humans have. Synthesizing: taking what is now and mixing, matching, and extending into new ideas is what science is all about. Discovery and invention are not processes done in a vacuum. Science fiction is a good example of that process that Phunkidz can learn from.

Many of the problems that we have (e.g. limited energy, limited real estate, limited food supply) will continue to become greater and greater problems as our overall world population grows and we become increasingly globalized. Technological progression is not the only solution to the issues we will face but it is a necessary part of the solution.

With that, I would like to pass on to you a recommended reading list of Science Fiction that I found particularly fascinating (something for you to do this summer):
  • Ringworld series by Larry Niven--Engineering and space technology
  • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K Dick--Can robots feel like people?
  • The Golden Age series by John C Wright--Nano technology and virtual realities
  • Kiln People by David Brin--What happens when you make copies of yourself?
  • Uplift Saga by David Brin--Intelligent beings are cultivated by superior species not evolved
  • Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson--Hacking the brain
  • Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C Clarke--First contact with aliens
  • Enders Game by Orson Scott Card--Video gamers save the human race
  • Uglies by Simon Pulse--Bodyscaping as a right of passage

Feel free to drop a comment on the blog about other classics that you think are stimulating!

A note to any parents reading this blog. You should always have discretion when giving a book to your kidz. Read it beforehand and make sure you're fine with the content. 

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