Sci-fi Startup

I was was originally going to discuss the intersection of easy-to-fix spacecraft and human-robot task differentiation: the story of HAL 9000.  But then it went somewhere entirely different:

I just realized that science fiction has a striking similarity to startups. Most Sci-Fi predictions look ridiculous and dated in retrospect. ‘How could anybody have thought that is what the future would be like’ we think. Just look at most of the images from the 50’s of the year 2000. The exact same situation holds true for new companies – most of them end up failing, leaving the question ‘how could anybody ever have thought that would make money?’ But those crazy ideas – companies or fiction – that survive the test of time bring a lot of value to the world.

Successful companies add value in an obvious way – making our lives better through improved products or services.   Science fiction does it more subtly by providing a framework for thinking about a world that does not yet exist. Just as startups often ‘pivot’ away from their original market while maintaining their core idea, sci-fi never predicts the future exactly.  Instead, the ‘successful’ sci-fi (for this axis of success) predicts the essence of a future technological or societal change even if it doesn’t happen exactly the way the author imagined.

Of course, sometimes science fiction is just successful because it’s a damn good story. Nothing wrong with that.

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