Scientific art or science fiction?
by Lubica Lacinova
Scientific fiction used to serve as a “bad conscience” of scientists. Sci-fi novels describe visions of future use of extended or yet non-existing technologies. Mostly, these visions are grim - Jules Verne belonging to rare exceptions. Suggesting “worst case scenarios” and showing them in a form accessible to lay public scientific fiction or scientific art used to warn about possible consequences of new technologies. During last 10-20 years this situation changed. Art started to adopt and embrace newly emerging technologies and use/apply them for their own aims. This way, scientific art contributes to creating positive public image of science and is actually serving to science as its PR-agent. Yet fast developing science does need negative feedback from people who are creative enough to envisage most wild future scenarios and to formulate them in a way, which is able to attract attention. If scientific art will fully resign on this role, we need to find adequate replacement and we do not have any yet.
In this respect the question if the imagination of scientist and sci-fi writer is the same is very relevant. I think it is not.
First, different people have different imagination. Part of it is probably inherited and part is influenced by family and formal education. This innate background does influence choice of career path – people opting for science are generally more practically oriented than people opting for art – like sci-fi writers. Of course, there are people engaged in both activities, occupying the middle ground between the two extremities – between pure scientists and pure artists. Yes, human nature creates a continuum rather than strictly / sharply defined groups.
Second, human brain is shaped by the way it is being used. Initial choice for science or for art is self-enforcing and if the brain of scientist and artist did differ slightly at the moment of choice, this difference is growing with the time. Not only people are formed by their everyday activities, their professional engagement influences also the choice of people with whom they interact and those people are again having an impact on the way they think and act. It influences the process in which they form their values and the scale of individual values creates a background for the way people are approaching the world, including the world of technologies. So, I think the imagination of scientist and sci-fi writer is different.