Sunday, 15 February 2015

Science Fiction Prototyping - Making it Real

I spent a day, last month, at Leeds University, participating in a joint FCCR Network and Creative Science Foundation Innovation Workshop. I have been associated with the FCCR network for a just over a year, now, and I always look forward to the buzz I get from their meetings. This is doing Science Fiction with a difference. Science Fiction Prototyping is not just fiction. SFP can, and does, make a difference in the real world.
The Future City Community Resilience Network (FCCR) was founded in 2013 by Dr Gary Graham, an academic at Leeds University, and has a mission to open up a conversation about smart cities, community resilience, and change, and I’m very proud to have been asked to play a part. Front and centre in their methodology is the use of SFP to understand the changing needs and problems facing communities as cities evolve in response to technological change.

Part of the workshop day was a live Skype presentation by Brian David Johnson, who has pioneered the use of SFP to design an open source 21st century robot, the Jimmy Project, that can be 3D printed and uses rudimentary AI code. Brian David Johnson is a Futurist with Intel, and his job is to look ten to fifteen years into the future and envision the problems and opportunities associated with tech that has yet to be fully realised. For this he uses SFP, whereby Science Fiction narratives are used to explore and work through the issues so the solutions may be in place in time for when the technology catches up. It is heady stuff.
In the afternoon session my role was to help guide and focus the workshop’s delegates through a short session of Science Fiction story outlining so that new future projects might be identified and developed before a follow-up session later in the year, where projects will be assessed by a panel of entrepreneurs, academics, political leaders and fund managers, and a small seed fund might be allocated to develop some of the ideas.

I love Science Fiction. I love writing, but when it starts to get real; when there is an opportunity to help drive change through ideas that might be little more than fantasy today, then it is hard to imagine being involved in anything so rewarding. Perhaps in a year or two some of the crazy, off-the-wall, but brilliant ideas the teams workshopped in Leeds might become as familiar as other mad ideas like Facebook, Twitter and Smart Phones. I can’t wait to find out.

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