Science fiction has provided plenty of inspiration for designers and engineers over the past century—that’s one of the reasons people are still working on invisibility cloaks and tricorders. Earlier this month, Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination launched something call the Hieroglyph Project, which aims to bring sci-fi writers together with scientists and engineers to generate optimistic visions of the future that are grounded in real science.
The goal: to both improve the vision of technology in fiction, and help scientists and engineers better communicate how their real-world innovations might enable these fantastic and not-too-far-off futures. According to the Hieroglyph site:
What science fiction stories—and the symbols that they engender—can do better than almost anything else is to provide not just an idea for some specific technical innovation, but also to supply a coherent picture of that innovation being integrated into a society, into an economy, and into people’s lives. Often, this is the missing element that scientists, mathematicians, engineers, and entrepreneurs need in order to actually take the first real steps towards realizing some novel idea.
The project was founded by writer Neal Stephenson, author of Snow Crash (1992) and advisor to Blue Origin, a company designing a manned, sub-orbital launch system. The University has set up a social collaboration website, hieroglyph.asu.edu, so that participants can hash out their ideas. The two projects currently being discussed on the site: 3D printing a lunar outpost, and a discussion about how tall we can actually make a structure.