Sci-fi Meets Future TechPosted: August 22, 2011
Intel recruits sci-fi writers to dream up future tech
Chip maker Intel has commissioned leading science fiction authors to pen short stories that imagine future uses for the firm’s technology.
The collection, called “The Tomorrow Project”, aims to capture the public’s imagination regarding the company’s current research.
Intel believes this can help anticipate consumer aspirations, and drive future adoption of its products.
The anthology has been made available online as a free download.
The Tomorrow Project is led by Intel futurist Brian David Johnson, who regards the scheme as an important way to assess future technology trends.
“When we design chips to go into your television, your computers, your phones – we need to do it about five or ten years in advance. We need to have an understanding of what people will want to do with those devices,” said Mr Johnson.
“What science fiction does is give us a way to think about the implications of the technologies that we’re building, for the people who will actually be using them.”
The concept is called “future casting” – and aims to drive future technology uses, rather than simply responding to market forces.
“If we can give people a vision of the future – and do it through science fiction – we can capture people’s imaginations,” said Mr Johnson.
The project features work from UK sci-fi author Ray Hammond, who took research in development at Intel’s labs and used it as the basis for “The Mercy Dash” – the story of a couple battling futuristic traffic technology in a race to save a mother’s life.
“I was more nervous approaching this than I have been with any of my full-length novels. I’ve never written short stories, so the form was new to me,” Mr Hammond told BBC News.
The author’s work has been made freely available for download from Intel’s site and Mr Hammond has been delighted by the reaction.
“I’ve had several hundred responses from people around the world who’ve read the story, and either want to read more of my books, or else ask specific questions on the content.”
The initiative suggests a cultural shift by the chip giant, which has had to adjust to sharp changes in the consumer tech landscape.
In previous decades, Intel was able to drive progress and profits through steady increments in processor speed. Yet in a post-PC world, firms like Apple have successfully used lifestyle innovations to frame future market appetites.
“Intel have owned the desktop and server market for a long time. As the world moves to mobile devices where they are not number one, what are they going to do?” said Mr Hammond.
The author believes narrative has an important role to play in future technology.
“Story telling is often under-appreciated in marketing and development. It can engender reactions you just don’t get if you show a bunch of slides. The best CEOs – like Apple’s Steve Jobs – are the most brilliant story tellers,” said Mr Hammond.