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Simone Lackerbauer

Product Manager, M.A., Creator, ProSiebenSat.1 Games

TEDCRED 100+

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Change Through Imagination and Fiction: we need to communicate our ideas & visions to make them real.

I have been fascinated by the way how ideas and visions, especially related to new technologies, are communicated in real life (TED Talks, scientific conferences, academe) and in fiction (science fiction, cyberculture). I want to explore certain aspects of creativity, fiction, and technological utopia -- visions of the future, fuelled by innovation, new technologies, gadgets, visions, dreams, rumors related to high-tech and small-scale technologies.

One of my hypotheses is that we need imagination and fiction to communicate our visions in order to foster change; for better or worse. Every innvoation starts as pure fiction, so the more we imagine and envision, the more we will be able to innovate and to channel our imagination for positive change.

A commercial example: Steve Jobs had a very particular idea about personal computers and gadgets; the systems he built (as opposed to the ones Steve Wozniak favored) were (and are) "closed" systems, communicating a vision of completedness and a certain digital lifestyle.

A cultural example: TED Speakers use the TED platform -- and bend to the TED rules -- to communicate their ideas. Many Speakers have had special presentation training, many of them have stunning visualizations of their ideas -- impressive slides, fascinating computer animations to communicate their ideas and partly their fiction of what might be possible -- to share their visions and to help them become reality one day.

A scientific example: scientists come up with theories based on observations, then they try to make them real by experimenting, by observing, by comparing, by publishing papers, by talking to peers and eventually by finding evidence (at least in most cases).

Do you think fiction has the power to provoke change? Do you think we need fiction to give our visions more substance and to push them towards reality? Is fiction in everyday life settings powerful? Is fiction dangerous? Can fiction foster innovation and change?

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  • Oct 9 2011: Fiction is a thought of the possible, of what may be or can be or should be. Fifty years ago it was fiction tralking of colonies on the moon, this morning Nasa anounced the possibility of Titanium mining on our satellit. If we have vision of fictional possibilities we would still be in the stone age. The wheel was at one time fiction. The motorised car was fiction as little as hundred and fifty years ago. So I belief fiction is used to advance our lives, new idea are constantly being tested and advanced. Nano technology is being researched and has made huge advances in the last ten years. On a recent trip to a European University, the use of Telepathy was discusse. The brain give off low density electrons, it is now a drive to read these emission and transport them from brain to brain and thought to action by others. Will we see it in the future? Probably if not for sure, but twenty years ago who believed in 'Cloning', in Stemcell treatment? We have now robotics built into the bodies of accident survivors. Long time ago it was the six million dollar man, maybe he was an inspiration to Science. I for one look forward to the realisation of science fiction, or todays fiction to become reality.
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      Oct 18 2011: Thank you very much for your comment, Erich. I share your curiosity and eagerness to see certainfictional ideas become reality. But at the same time, we need to remain cautious: hasn't the A-bomb once been fiction as well? Or biological warfare? Robotic cyborg-esque prostheses for soldiers? I fear that the gap between industrialized societies and less developed countries will increase even more if we continue to innovate at the current speed. Not just because of money, but also because of the huge paradigm shifts people in such nations will have to adopt. Maybe reading science fiction might actually help to open their minds for these technologies, even though they may not have access to them?
      • Oct 24 2011: Simone, I am interested to hear why you fear that the gap between industrialized societies and less developed countries will increase even more if we continue to innovate at the current speed. I believe the opposite to be true. Innovation can help developing countries leap frog past issues that took developed countries years to overcome, e.g. bypassing wired adsl and going straight to mobile broadband. Innovations in the developed world always help eradicate problems in the developing world and thereby speed up the development of these countries (e.g. vaccines). And because developing economies have been typically growing faster than industrialised economies, surely the gap is decreasing?
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          Oct 24 2011: I agree that bypassing wired adsl and directly going to mobile broadband will be a huge and helpful innovation for developing countries and that other measures, such as bypassing traditional cellphones and going for smart phones or tablet computers, will also contribute to the technological literacy. But I think the paradigm shift from not being connected at all to being connected everywhere will be too big, which might incapacitate critical reflection. We have been working on global networks since the 1850s with the telegraph and we have had enough time to adopt new technologies and to research their impact from a sociological point of view. Even if we are only talking about personal computers and the internet: we have known about these things since the 1940s and we have witnessed their transformation from purely organizational devices related to working to personal objects of our "extended self". Even though digital natives may not be aware of this long history, their parents are and will contribute to shaping their childrens' position towards these devices (even though it may only be by saying "stop playing online, it's not good for your eyes and you'll get addicted!"). If we now flood developing countries with the technologies we possess today, I only see two options: total immersion or complete rejection. Older people may simply reject to deal with these alien objects they absolutely have no relation to, whereas younger generations may simply get consumed by the devices, because they don't have anyone telling them they should keep a critical distance. Of course there will be those who use these technologies in a productive way to make their living. But not even vaccines or clean water are available for people in some developing countries, so do you really thing there will be an egalitarian distribution of new technologies and training on how to use them? I don't quite think so.
      • Oct 24 2011: I didn't suggest that there would be egalitarian distribution of new technologies. I simply suggested that innovations help developing countries sidestep the need to go through the same pain that developed countries have been through in the past e.g. driving cars versus using horses, being vaccinated versus dying from diseases, democracy versus dictatorships, farming methods that work versus farming methods that don’t, etc. All of this shortcuts the path to development. In other words, innovation has shown a better way of doing things, meaning developing countries don’t have to spend time figuring out the best way to achieve a goal, it has already been defined through innovation.By having technology to access education and health services, we can achieve in 5 years what developed countries took 100 years to achieve. The end result of all this is that developing countries should become developed in a much shorter time than ever before in history, diminishing the gap between the rich and poor countries (e.g. Russia, India, China, Brazil, South Africa). In some cases, especially in sub Saharan Africa, the gap seems to be widening, but I think that without innovation the gap would be far wider than it is now.
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          Oct 24 2011: Setting aside the question of an egalitarian distribution, I still think the paradigm shift would be too significant if we just distributed innovations without accompanying the process. And I am not aware of a model or approach that explains how to do this.

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