Cause & Effect
I've been reading sci-fi and thinking about sci-fi's relationship to technology innovation. I posted last week about Twitter and the Metaverse and noted that Neal Stephenson had imagined things in the early 90s that happened almost twenty years later.
But of course it is possible that many of the things that are built by technologists are reactions to reading sci-fi and wanting to realize the fertile imaginations of sci-fi authors.
So it's not entirely clear exactly who is inspiring who. Like most things, it is likely a bit of both. Technologists create new things. Writers are inspired and create stories that reflect these emerging new technologies. Technologists read those stories and are inspired by them.
It's a virtuous circle. Technology innovation doesn't occur in a vacuum. It happens in a dialog with society. And sci-fi writers are but one example of the way society impacts technology.
I think that's one of the reasons that many of the most interesting bay area startups are choosing to locate themselves in the city. And it is one of the reasons that NYC is developing a vibrant technology community. Society is at its most dense in rich urban environments where society and technology can inspire each other on a daily basis. Steven Johnson wrote about this phenomenon in his excellent Where Good Ideas Come From.
So if you want to know what is going to happen next in the world of technology, you need to be thinking about society and where it is going, how it is interacting with technology, and how it is inspiring technologists. Which is why I am reading a lot of sci-fi this summer.