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What tech hasn’t learnt from science fiction
APRIL 3, 2019 | Financial Times | Elaine Moore.

Never mind the future: where are the books tackling Silicon Valley’s current challenges?

There is a myth that Silicon Valley is stuffed full of nerds who have never picked up a book in their lives. Like a lot of tales about the Valley, it is not true. The tech industry is acutely aware of the value of storytelling.......Whenever a tech founder is asked about their favourite novel it is usually worth paying attention. Uber founder Travis Kalanick’s admires Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead.....Jeff Bezos’s is taken by the quiet despair of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Remains of the Day......and Theranos' Elizabeth Holme is attached to Moby-Dick.

It’s true that reading lists on the West Coast tend to skew towards science fiction.......For Silicon Valley, the genre seems to offer both inspiration and validation. .......But the connection between tech companies and sci-fi novels runs deeper. To make their futuristic projects reality, some seek the help of the authors themselves......Less is made of its focus on the downside of humanity interacting with a virtual world (jk: sci fi doesn't pay enough attention to the the downside of humanity interacting with a virtual world). .....The affection tech founders feel for sci-fi often seems to lack this dimension.....If founders are not paying too much attention to cautionary sci-fi themes, at least some people are. Amazon Go shops can feel like a vision of the future as you pick up milk and walk away, without scanning anything. But cities such as San Francisco have begun to wonder whether cashless shops will end up marginalising the country’s poorest citizens, who do not have access to online bank accounts......does any sci-fi novel offers a way to think about Silicon Valley’s present, as well as its future? The singularity and inter-planetary travel are well covered in literature..... are there book out there that address privacy scandals, electric scooters and $100bn IPOs?
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* Counting Heads' (2005) by David Marusek is a novel set in 2134.
* Mars trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson.
* Idoru" by William Gibson.
* Count Zero" by William Gibson.
* "Black Mirror" TV series Charlie Brooker.
* The Circle by Dave Eggers.
* ‘Minority Report’ Phil K Dick.
* Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson
* Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson.

People who don't read science fiction (SF) are handicapped in today's world really, because usually they form part of the 99% of humans who are unable to look ahead more than a few months or so and see where society is going. ......Or the people that think Elon Musk is a visionary. He is not a visionary! He is just a smart person, which necessarily includes reading SF, and taking things from there. People who do not read SF think that Musk is the only person on the planet thinking about and developing our future society on Mars...  But there are millions - it's just that he is one of a few billionaires working concretely on it. For example, if you read the Mars trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson, you'd realise that one of the reasons that Elon Musk now has a tunnel boring company is that we will NEED tunnels on Mars... You'd also realise that the TV rights of the trip to Mars will pay for (most of) the cost of the trip... etc. etc. etc.
Amazon_Go  augmented_reality  Ayn_Rand  authors  books  cautionary_tales  Elon_Musk  entrepreneur  fiction  founders  future  futurists  novels  pay_attention  reading_lists  San_Francisco  science_fiction  Silicon_Valley  start_ups  storytelling  virtual_reality  William_Gibson 
april 2019 by jerryking
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