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Ulm, Germany. September 24, 2007 It was an unseasonably warm fall day in Ulm. The sky was a cloudless crystal blue and the Ulm Minster’s towering Gothic steeple loomed over the city. Up the hill at the university I was attending the Intelligent Environments Conference. IE07 gathered together a wide collection of disciplines including information and computer science, architecture, material engineering, artificial intelligence, sociology and design. I had been invited to give a keynote on some work I’d been doing at the Intel Corporation. Standing in the middle of the crowded circular hall, I began my lecture titled: Do Digital Homes Dream of Electric Families. In the lecture I proposed that we could use science fiction as a design tool for the development of technology and new products. The idea was that we could write science fiction stories based on science fact to explore the human and cultural implications of that science. I recognized that some of the greatest scientists of the twentieth century were been inspired by science fiction. Similarly, science fiction authors routinely use emerging science and research to inspire stories, movies and comic books. But the difference I explained was the intent. Here the relationship between science fiction and science fact was specific, they were being used together as a way to develop a deeper understanding, explore the opportunities and examine the hazards. The combination of the two created a kind of science fiction prototype and could not only speed the development of the technology described in the stories but it could actually produce better results and more successful products.Read the full The Tomorrow Project.
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