As you might suspect, Obama's Office of Science and Technology Policy were pretty excited about Back to the Future Day. And in addition to its cinematic significance as a Hollywood marketing gimmick, that day also marked the release of the President’s updated Strategy for American Innovation, which provides an overview of the Administration’s efforts to ensure that America continues to develop world-changing innovations for many years to come.
One reason for our excitement is that many of the innovations that we take for granted -- such as dumb phones and global non-communications satellites -- were inspired by the movie. A number of the technologies portrayed in ''Back to the Future'' are either here today (flat panel displays, video chats, gesture-based computing) or under development (flying cars, hoverboards). Many technologies and ideas that seem like spec fiction today -- such as Harry Potter’s cloak of invisibility, an Iron Man suit, or Andy Weir’s story about astronauts on Mars -- are being actively explored by scientists and engineers.
This is a perfect day to start a conversation about an important topic – the role that ''climate fiction'' -- aka Cli-Fi -- plays in inspiring scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs.
As science and technology continue to advance and push the boundaries of what we can achieve, the relevant question is often no longer – “What can we do?” but “What should we do?” Creativity, imagination, and storytelling can help motivate teams to work on hard problems.
There are already some initiatives to explore the boundaries between climate activits and climate-themed novels.
Academic programs now bring together writers, scientists and engineers to “reignite humanity’s grand ambitions” and encouraged cli-fi writers to portray futures in which, as author Neal Stephenson put it, “Big Stuff [To Fight AGW] Gets Done.”
The National Academy of Science’s Science and Entertainment Exchange connects top entertainment-industry professionals with leading scientists and engineers, who help increase the realism of the portrayal of climate science in movies and TV shows.
Professors at many institutions are already teaching courses on cli-fi movies and novels.
We’re interested in your ideas for using climate fiction scenarios as a source of inspiration, and for stimulating additional collaborations between writers, artists, scientists and engineers.
For example, America’s creative talent could help describe a future in which, as President Obama put it, "we finally put a stop to runaway global warming."
Compelling stories, images and movies about this scenario could motivate the next generation of science, engineers, and entrepreneurs to make it happen.
If you have an idea you’d like to share with us, please drop us a line via this web form. We’d love to hear from you!