To be honest, the fact that Intel is hiring science-fiction writers to help shape its future technologies makes sense. Why? Because ultimately Intel is about making money, and to do that it must sell technologies to demanding consumers. Demanding people. So while it's meeting the physical needs of today, it also needs guidance for the demands of tomorrow. This is where science-fiction writers come in.
Look at it this way: authors create stories about people. George Lucas' Star Wars wasn't about speeding across the desert in a landspeeder or speeding down a Death Star trench in an X-Wing fighter, it was a about a boy who yearned to be like his father, who saved a girl and gathered enough guts to take on a regime that thrived on killing millions of innocent people. Science-fiction writers create their protagonists, their antagonists and the situation surrounding the two. They write about people and the secondary technology required to accomplish their journey.
So in essence, Intel is signing on science-fiction writers so that they can conjure up characters existing five, ten years down the road and using the Intel-designed tools that they will need to get things done. To get the creative juices going, Intel created "The Tomorrow Project" which shows "the important effects that contemporary research will have on our future and the relevance that this research has for each of us." So far Intel has released four stories which can be read individually here or together as a complete ebook here in PDF format.
"All four stories in this collection are based on technologies Intel is currently developing in our labs," the company states. "What is striking about them is that even though they are all science fiction stories they are all first and foremost, stories about people. Each story is unique in its own vision and portrayal of life in the future, but each of them is extraordinarily good at capturing the human drama of the future. These stories are not about technology, they are about the complex and fascinating lives of their characters. Technology is simply a part of the drama."
Spearheading Intel's campaign to see into the future is resident futurist (and "future caster") Brian David Johnson. According to Intel, his mission is to develop an actionable vision for computing in 2020. To accomplish this, he's using ethnographic field studies, technology research, trend data, and even science fiction to provide Intel with a pragmatic vision of consumers and computing.
"Along with reinventing TV, Johnson has been pioneering development in artificial intelligence, robotics, and using science fiction as a design tool," Intel says. "He speaks and writes extensively about future technologies in articles and scientific papers as well as science fiction short stories and novels."
"What science-fiction does is gives us a way to think about the future," he explains in the video seen below. "It gives us a way to think about the implications of the technologies that we're building on the people who are actually using them."
So what's in store for us in the next five to ten years? Servant robots that will massage our tired feet after a long day of typing? Laser-based swords that will accidentally lop off a few fingers when trimming the hedges? No. Sensors. Lots of them. Hardware-based and even software-based that will learn what you like, what you don't like, and will give you recommendations. So much for hopes of a replicator. Guess that will stay within the Star Trek universe for another few decades or more? Probably.
From simplified user interfaces (avoiding/hiding menus in applications and OS etc.) to increasing amount of less technical news on the tech sites.
*** a (sarcastic) peek into the future: ***
No, no it's not technology, it's sparkly & shiny magic! What did you say?! You are asking details on your citizenPad's CPU and memory? Well buddy I'm afraid we'll gonna have to kill you, you don't fit the generic consumer profile.
I want a transporter and warp drive and time travel and a quantum computer, but it doesn't mean they're all possible...
Almost accurate, but you won't die.
Freedom is irrelevant, Self-determination is irrelevant, you will be assimilated, resistance is futile, we are Apple.
Intel is far ahead of any other computer chip makers. They already came out and said that they are working towards making computer chips as small as atoms. So far, they have processing chips as small as the tip of a pin. I applaud Intel for funding a project like Morrow.
I know there is research going on with most of those things, but it's scientists, engineers and the next Einstein who are going to make those happen, not science fiction writers.
It seems like a total waste of money for a writer to have his whole job be just to think of something for the Intel guys to work on.
My point is, that since writers are good at writing fiction and Intel is good at making electronics then Intel should just learn how to read and keep the writers doing what they do best.
Hell, with Asimov, P.K. Dick, Star Trek, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, Orson Scott Card, 2001: A Space Odyssey, etc. they already have a road map for the future.
If you want to picture the future of society who are you going to ask? The technical guy who doesn't have visualization resources about how man and society acts, needs and think or the writer who does that for living?