Simon Bisson (sbisson) wrote,
Simon Bisson

Crossing the Streams

Sometimes you get the chance to bring several interests together. One of those was when one of our editors asked us to cover a panel at January's Consumer Electronics Show. Most people imagine CES to be nothing but halls full of teh shiny, and to be honest, that's a goodly part of the show. It's not the whole thing though - CES is so big that it manages to run two or three normal sized conferences alongside the various keynotes and special events.

This panel was particularly interesting. Inventor/entrepreneur Dean Kamen, actress Lucy Lawless, author Neal Stephenson and columnist Walter Mossberg would be discussing the influence of science fiction on technology. It was a fascinating panel, with Kamen and Stephenson providing an interesting counterpoint around their shared engineering backgrounds. It also turned out to be one that allowed us to write a piece that brought in an email interview with Charlie Stross and a brief look at one of my favourite novels.
The Consumer Electronics Show's (CES) myriad strands of conference sessions sometimes throw up the most unusual panels. One such event brought together a journalist, a science fiction writer, an inventor and an actress to talk about the influence of science fiction on the world of technology. The conversation ranged from the optimistic to the dystopian, and from the flying car to the handheld communicator.

Dean Kamen, the inventor of the Segway, was sceptical about the role of science fiction. "The subtlety of the real world and nature and the surprising things in real science generally are even more exciting than the other stuff." But he also saw it "as a very valuable tool that will bring people to the table."

One influence kept coming back - Robert A. Heinlein's novels. Science fiction writer Neal Stephenson reminisced: "When I was a kid I read all of the usual suspects - the golden age writers - the one who stuck with me was Heinlein. I don't know why that is, but he stuck with me more than the others did."
Read on at IT Pro to see what Charlie thought...
Tags: gadgets, it pro, science fiction, writing
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