Striving For Better Living Through Science Fiction
While it's not the first attempt to bring writers and researchers together for brainstorming, the Hieroglyph project's focus is on producing aspirational outcomes at a time when darker fictional futures are in the spotlight.
This month, Hieroglyph, a collaboration between science fiction author Neal Stephenson and the Center for Science and the Imagination at Arizona State University, launched a Web platform that invites participants to work together on the kinds of future visions last commonly seen in the 1950s, when “techno-optimism” was in vogue. Other authors have been brought in to create ideas that speak to humanity’s higher ideals and achievements. One of these, from Stephenson and structural engineering professor Keith Hjelmstad, involves the building of a 20-kilometer steel tower that could be used as a refueling station for planes.
What’s the Big Idea?
The idea for Hieroglyph came as a response to what Stephenson says is the spread of books and movies that envision the future through various dystopic lenses. The project focuses on concepts that steer clear of magic as well as any situation “where technology becomes the obstacle to happier human existence.” Currently, the only plans for materials produced by the project involve inclusion in a future anthology, but ASU president Michael Crow says, “Already, people [are] interested in this as a model for other kinds of publications and collaborations.”