My inspirations from science fiction

Glaskowsky responds to a CNET photo set.

I really enjoyed going through this image collection over on CNET's News.com. It lists ten influences from the world of science fiction on today's high-tech industries:

  • Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash
  • Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and Minority Report
  • William Gibson's Neuromancer
  • Bruce Sterling's Distraction
  • Robert A. Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
  • Arthur C. Clarke's 1945 invention of the geosynchronous communication satellite
  • Isaac Asimov's I, Robot
  • Star Trek
  • Karel Capek's R.U.R.

I'll go along with the Heinlein and Star Trek references, and add eight more references that inspired me personally:

  • Heinlein's 1956 The Door Into Summer, in which the the protagonist is an electrical engineer and inventor; among many other great ideas, the book predicts a sort of computer-aided design system
  • Larry Niven's Known Space series, which probably has more high-tech content per chapter than any other work of its kind
  • Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle's 1974 The Mote in God's Eye, in which the authors described in practical terms how pocket computers could work-- one character "took out his pocket computer and wrote quickly with the attached stylus"...
  • Niven and Pournelle's 1981 Oath of Fealty, which makes many challenging and inspiring predictions about the role of technology in society
  • The Instrumentality series by Cordwainer Smith (Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger), which feels to me like it was actually written in the future and sent back to the 20th century by time machine
  • Jules Verne, who first established science fiction as a legitimate literary genre
  • Vernor Vinge's 1984 True Names, which gave me my first full understanding of the potential of the Internet
  • H.G. Wells, who took over the leadership of the field of science fiction toward the end of Verne's career

And one bonus entry: I'd like to offer my personal thanks to Jerry Pournelle, engineer and friend. I don't think I'd be blogging here if not for Jerry. His work as a science fiction writer has been all the more influential to me because of his many decades as a columnist for Byte Magazine and his own websites, JerryPournelle.com and Chaos Manor Reviews. Jerry has also made substantial personal contributions to this nation's space program, strategic defense, and political discourse. Although Jerry himself would probably deny it, I think it's possible none of us would be here if not for his work in these areas.

Incidentally, I'd like to give a shout out to another great website I probably should have mentioned in my recent blog on the subject-- Technovelgy is all about the connections between the worlds of science fiction and high technology. For example, here is their page showing notable examples of engineering content in sf. It's a great place to spend a few hours.

Feel free to add a comment naming your own inspirations from the world of science fiction. I'd love to see them.

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Tech Culture
About the author

    Peter N. Glaskowsky is a computer architect in Silicon Valley and a technology analyst for the Envisioneering Group. He has designed chip- and board-level products in the defense and computer industries, managed design teams, and served as editor in chief of the industry newsletter "Microprocessor Report." He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. Disclosure.

     

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