TED Conversations

Eric Henry

Director, Software Quality, Medtronic, Inc

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Is science fiction a laboratory for new ideas, or is the relationship purely coincidental?

Hannah Fry's talk is reminiscent of the idea of psychohistory proposed by Isaac Asimov in his 1950s "Foundation" series. Some of Frank Herbert's later "Dune" books discussed human capabilities for parallel processing (i.e. conscious multitasking), which has been the subject of some research in past years.

Are there other connections out there? Is there are cause / effect relationship between science fiction and new ideas? If so, in which direction does it flow?


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    Aug 8 2012: I think the ideas feed eachother. Science fiction writers come up with new ideas that are subsequently developed in science. But the writers also draw on science for inspiration.

    One of the most known science fiction writers is Jules Verne. He predicted space exploration and deep sea submersibles 100 years before science caught up with him.

    My personal belief is that if anyone can think of an idea, sooner or later it will be realized. Creation happens in our minds, the rest is "just" a matter of development.
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      Aug 9 2012: Do you think we are in an era of experiment overload? so many papers are being submitted that there is not enough people to review each one properly?
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        Aug 9 2012: I worked in nuclear science for 10 years and every year 1000's of papers were published on all sorts of exotic subjects. It was a little overwhelming and made me feel very small. Until I realized that papers are scientific currency, much as dollars are business currency. The quality of a scientist os measured, literally, by the number of papers he or she has published. I don't know the exact number but my guess is that 90% of papers are incremental knowledge. A scientist wants to go to this cool conference in Hawaii and must publish to go there. So he takes his last paper and adds a new statistic.

        Only a small number of papers are worth reading. They concern real progress and they are the one's that need to be reviewed. Obviously, if you are a scientist who specializes in the changing patterns of veins in the top left corner of the wings of common flies, then you will probably be a critical reader of all papers on that subject but otherwise, we should stay at a high level and only read that which is relevant.
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          Aug 9 2012: Thanks Henk

          I had read this in articles somewhere and your post brought it back out of the closet,thanks

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