Sci-Fi Prototyping and Critical Optimism

Since 2011, I've taught courses at MIT, Rhode Island School of Design, Brown University, and University of Michigan combining science fiction, speculative futures, and prototyping as a means to encourage the ethical and thoughtful design of new technologies. This work has received international recognition and has been featured by Smithsonian Magazine, The Atlantic, NPR, Scientific American, Wired, Fast Company, and more. I also give talks and facilitate workshops on sci-fi prototyping and critical optimism.

Reading science fiction is like ethics class for inventors.

Reading science fiction is like ethics class for inventors, designers, and engineers. For decades, science fiction authors have explored both our wildest dreams and greatest fears for where technology might lead us. Science fiction looks at current technological and social trends and extrapolates them into the future. It speculates on the consequences of these trends, both good and bad, if they continue unchecked.

People’s ability to envision the future tends to fall between two unhealthy and unconstructive extremes. On one side, there are those who are blindly optimistic about technology. This attitude is sometimes termed “technosolutionism”, the naïve idea that every problem can be solved with technology. At the other extreme are those so critical of technology that they adopt an unrealistic Luddite attitude, avoiding technology altogether; or they assume that a dystopian future is inevitable and, as a result, become passive. Critical optimism navigates between these two extremes, encouraging an earnest hopefulness that also incorporates a healthy dose of criticality. What futures are possible, which are probable, and, most importantly, which might be preferred?

Want me to speak at your event? Please get in touch!

Penny Stamps Lecture Series: Sci-Fi Prototyping and Critical Optimism

TEDxUofM: Critical Optimism

SciFi-preneurship Podcast: Snow Crash

CAA Conversations: Sophia Brueckner and Byron Rich on Sci-Fi, Design, and Innovation
Smithsonian Magazine, How America's Leading Science Fiction Authors Are Shaping Your Future
Los Angeles Times, The MIT Media Lab Class That Makes Science Fiction Real
Scientific American, Students Combine Arts and Science While Exploring "Transhumanism"
Fast Company, Take Note, Facebook: How Colleges Are Training Designers To Treat Users Like More Than Lab Rats
The Atlantic, Why Today's Inventors Need to Read More Science Fiction
Studio 360, WNYC, NPR, At MIT, An Ethics Class for Inventors
Digital Culture, KPFK 90.7 FM Digital Village Radio, Sci-Fi to Sci-Fab: Bringing Science Fiction to Inventors
The Atlantic, The History of Invisibility Cloaks, as Told by People in the Future
io9, At MIT, engineers are taught that scifi is crucial to do good science
The Creators Project, Brown, MIT, And RISD Are Implanting Art Into Their Transhumanist Experiments
Fast Company, Mad Scientist 101: A New MIT Class Aims To Turn Science Fiction Tech Into The Real Thing
Wired, Science Fiction to Science Fabrication
Fast Company, From MIT, An Interactive Book That Makes You Feel Characters' Pain
MIT Spectrum, Why Should Inventors Read Science Fiction?
Boston Magazine, What If Books Physically Replicated the Protagonist's Emotions?
Providence Business News, R.I., Mass. students collaborate on STEAM
Sci-Fi to Sci-Fab TV interview, Sky News, UK
The Shift, CKNW, Vancouver
WGN Radio, Chicago
Newstalk Radio Ireland
Wisconsin Radio News, WTMJ
Ripley's Believe It or Not
Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me, NPR