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?