What Role Does Sci-Fi Play For Global Scientific Advancements?

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Sci-fi has never failed to astonish us, even as we grow older. After all, it’s always cool to see some futuristic scientific advancements, such as lightsabers swinging during action. However, did it ever cross your mind about its true essence and purpose? Surely, there must be more to sci-fi than just zap guns and spaceships, right?  This article will find out if sci-fi has a purpose or is it limited to just being a form of entertainment and escapism.

What is Sci-Fi?

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While there’s no true definition of ‘Sci-Fi,’ it usually deals with alternative worlds as a result of different social systems, new scientific techs, and discoveries before looking at their consequences. Because of its broad nature, sci-fi can be used to consider other questions about sociology, philosophy, politics, and science, as well as any futuristic-related questions.

Since there’s no true definition of ‘Sci-Fi,’ there’s no way in tracing back the first sci-fi story. Even religious texts share some elements with sci-fi when it comes to the creation and destruction of the universe, especially the utilization of “godly” powers. Plato’s The Republic discussed realms that our senses couldn’t grasp.

The Brief History Of Sci-Fi

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Throughout human history, society didn’t change significantly enough for people to imagine a “parallel world” different from their own. At the same time, many parts of the world remain undiscovered, that’s why sci-fi stories usually revolve around the present-day. Sci-fi during this time is more on the social aspect rather than scientific, primarily because there was less science to utilize. Aside from that, sci-fi also offered some safe ground to make social comments which can never be considered as a fact.

So far, the first literature to feature some rocket-powered outer space travel was written by Cyrano de Bergerac, during the 17th century. Afterwards, Voltaire discussed the Earth from an alien’s perspective. The next century saw Mary Shelley warned about the risks involving science; and H.G. Wells used sci-fi to predict the future.

Wells also created a prophetic sci-fi called The World Set Free. It spoke of a type of bomb fueled by nuclear energy. He predicted that it would be first detonated in the year 1956. Leo Szilard, an American physicist, bought the idea and patented it. Later on, he was one of those responsible in the creation of the two nukes being dropped Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

During the first half of the 20th century, George Orwell, Yevgeny Zamyatin, and Aldous Huxley developed the first dystopian sci-fi based on the World Wars and the Russian Revolution. While in the last half of the century, sci-fi authors such as William Gibson, Greg Egan, Arthur Clarke, and Philip K. Dick explored topics involving the human mind and reality, thru artificial and synthetic realities.

The Current Trend In Scientific Advancements

Zombie apocalypses are currently the trend when it comes to sci-fi because it exhibits the collapse and restoration of human society.  This seems worthy enough, considering that many people during this time, are protesting against their governments. There’s also this wide gap between rich and poor, making us prone to some global recession.

Why Is Sci-Fi Important In Scientific Advancements?

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Having sci-fi is important because of three main reasons. Firstly, sci-fi can be used to explore the universe and other philosophies related to the nature of mind and reality. Some of the related works of literature include Ubik, Flatland, and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Sci-fi was even described as the only genuine consciousness drug.

Secondly, sci-fi can influence and inspire people to become scientists and astronomers. One of the famous astronomers is Edwin Hubble, who provided strong evidence about the ‘Big Bang Theory.’ He’s the first person to prove that there are many more galaxies out there, other than those in our Milky Way. Hubble’s passion for exploring space started after reading Jules Verne’s novels. Carl Sagan was also influenced by Robert A. Heinlein’s works. While Michio Kaku’s passion was ignited by watching Flash Gordon during his childhood.

Thirdly, sci-fi is the only genre that can exhibit the consequences if the society were to function differently. This is the first step towards progress because it makes us imagine what the future holds, and provides ways on achieving it. It also makes us aware of the not-so-good future paths to avoid them in the first place.

Perhaps the most famous beneficial example is the multiracial cast of Star Trek. One time, Nichelle Nichols plans on leaving the series. Upon hearing this, Martin Luther King convinces her to stay. He argued that her role in the television series is crucial because she helped represent the black race population.

Shortly after, she criticized NASA for only choosing white male candidates. Later on, she was invited to the NASA HQ to help convince the former applicants to reapply. This led to Guion Bluford and Sally Ride being the first black American and female in space, respectively.

Final Thoughts About Sci-Fi In Scientific Advancements

Sci-Fi Short Film: The Black Hole

Society has changed dramatically ever since the first Star Trek was aired in 1966. Many things that were once sci-fi, are now part of our daily lives: we have created synthetic life, we have walked the Moon, we have created synthetic clones, and many people are now using this high-tech machine that fits in their pocket anytime, anywhere. Technology is so fast, that it brings our society with it, leading to more scientific discoveries and challenges. This means that sci-fi plays a huge role in our society.

Furthermore, sci-fi can tackle some long-term global problems, like global warming. It can also accelerate the advancement of space explorations to prepare us to become interplanetary species. One day, genetic engineering involving humans, teleportation, time travel may happen. We might communicate with other interplanetary life forms, build intelligent robots, and develop simulated realities. When this time comes, we’d better be prepared for these things and the potential dilemmas that come with them.

Sci-fi may look trivial to some people, but its core and essence will be crucial when it comes to our salvation and advancements in the future. If only by the fact that it gives us the possibility to freely take a look into an alternative and in the end possible future. Not to forget that scientist are heavily inspired by it and that it might lead their future research to try and reproduce or explore things that they saw as ‘futuristic scientific advancements’ for instance warp technology.

Like sci-fi topics related to science in this article? Try the first of this series:

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