If Science Fiction Is Just Fantasy, Why Does MIT Teach Courses on It?

A look through the cannon of science fiction will surprise the reader not so much for how fantastic the gadgets and machines are, but for how familiar they are. The liquid-fueled rocket, the cell phone, the submarine — all of these inventions that are ho-hum to us today were once mere fantasies from some science fiction author’s imagination. Inventor Elon Musk was an avid science fiction reader in his youth and said that it continues to influence him to this day.

Digital strategist, business owner and science fiction author, Katherine R. Dollar says, “Science fiction writers are not setting out to predict an accurate future; what they want to explain are our current traumas.” To do this, they invite you to suspend disbelief by presenting their work as fantasy so that you can open your mind to their messages. According to Dollar, science fiction is about exploring change and the possibilities directions in which that change might take us.

Dollar spoke about the science fiction courses taught at MIT, including one called “Science Fiction to Science Fabrication,” where students actually study the inventions in science fiction and build them out in real life.

Dollar is a science nerd who loves to talk about the latest stories in science innovation. She spoke to the crowd during Ignite DFW about a group of researchers at Georgia Tech who built robots with brains and uploaded their favorite stories into them so that the robots could learn ethics from them. Dollar said that when she tweeted this story, someone responded, “Better not show them video games.” Duly noted.

Check out the video above to learn more.

R.D. Danes