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Accepted Paper:

What responsibilities does a speculative fiction writer have to the societies of the present and the future?  
Stephen Oram

Paper short abstract:

Does speculative fiction influence scientists and technologists in what and how they research, discover and invent? Does its predictions affect the future? If so, does it have a responsibility to be accurate, not sensational? To inspire not demoralise? Or is fiction simply there for entertainment?

Paper long abstract:

As an author of speculative fiction, who often works alongside scientists and technologists on projects to explore the ethical implications of their work through near-future science fiction stories, I am fascinated by the question of how this work influences them, their publics, and by implication, the future. If at all.

There is a place for stories that provide us with warnings, but there is a danger that they focus our attention on the wrong things. For example, AI is going to become sentient, take over and wipe out humanity. As opposed to, AI could entrench existing prejudice and inequality so deeply we cease to see it or be able to tackle it.

There is also a place for stories that inspire us by showing possible positive futures. Stories set in worlds where humans and AI work together and create more than the sum of their parts.

If speculative fiction does have an influence on the future, then does it also have a responsibility to be as accurate as it can when it extrapolates today’s science into the near-future? Or was Aurthur C Clarke correct when he said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

Speculative fiction’s role is primarily to entertain, and too much adherence to accuracy and the most probable future, can tend towards a dull story. Therefore, there is a dilemma for the writer – how to entertain and engage the imagination without causing ripples that create futures we most certainly do not want.

Panel P04
Speculative fiction in relation to prediction, innovation, and futures and the 'applied' role it can play in the social and technological transformations of AI, and in shaping future history.
  Session 1 Friday 10 June, 2022, -