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Rescooped by rolaelhadidey from Science Fiction Future!

Help Neal Stephenson Engineer Create a New World of Sci-Fi

Help Neal Stephenson Engineer Create a New World of Sci-Fi | rolaelhadidey |


Last week Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination, where I serve as director, officially launched the Hieroglyph Project, an effort to get science fiction writers talking with scientists and engineers about the future.  (Disclosure: Future Tense is a partnership of ASU,Slate, and the New America Foundation). The goal is to break out of our dystopian rut and get some ambitious new ideas on the table, and we need your help to do it.

Sci-fi great Neal Stephenson founded Hieroglyph with the idea that we need more optimistic visions of the future—visions that are still grounded in real science and technology. As Stephenson haspointed out, a good science fiction story can save us from hundreds of hours of meetings and PowerPoint presentations by immediately getting everyone on the same page about a potential breakthrough.


This sounds great in theory, but the entertainment landscape is crowded with evidence of what can go wrong when you try to substitute idealism for good storytelling. On the one hand, it would be a terrible mistake to try and impose optimism on every idea. That way lies the Kitchen of the Future, Brook Farm, and some of the creepier episodes of the Twilight Zone. At best, true utopias make for boring and implausible stories.


On the other undulating, Cthulhu-esque appendage, your standard-issue dystopia isn’t going to help much either. Survival narratives in the post-apocalyptic ashes like The Road generally reinforce the notion that the details of scientific progress are unimportant since the endgame is inevitable and wretched. The more nuanced genre of Orwellian nightmare scenarios (Children of Men, for example) is a little better, since it reminds us of everything we have to lose, but the moral of these stories usually suggests that no uplifting technology can match the destructive power of human folly.

How can we use Hieroglyph to create convincing stories about a better future, tales with conflict and resolution, with believable characters, with a compelling mixture of hope and irony? Well, while we have set of guidelines for our collaborators, there’s no expectation that every story will have a happy ending. A story where people make mistakes and things don’t work out exactly as planned—that’s pretty much every human story worth hearing. Some of the optimism in Hieroglyph might rely on the simple claim that we can build a better world if we set our minds to it, even if our hero dies or the mistakes along the way are painful ones.


Second, we aim to draw a few lessons from the golden age of science fiction without succumbing entirely to that worldview, which at its worst imagines every future problem can be solved by chisel-jawed white guys with engineering degrees wielding the weapons of Science. At their best, stories like “Requiem” by Robert Heinlein, and Isaac Asimov’s “It’s Such a Beautiful Day” were technologically optimistic without sacrificing a credible sense of humanity. The spirit of adventure, of boundless promise, was tempered with human conflicts that illustrated the importance of understanding our tools both technically and culturally.


A big part of what gives these stories their frisson, the fresh chill of a new future, is the gap between our world and the fictional universe in question. There’s a kind of intellectual vertigo at play: The author has made some kind of grand imaginative leap and asks us to follow along. What distinguishes Hieroglyph is that we seek to radically extend our idea of what is possible in the present, not a distant future, by drawing on real, cutting-edge research.

And we’re doing it online. Of course we’d really like to invite every writer and researcher involved to spend a few weeks at some serene resort with a well-stocked bar, but then we wouldn’t be able to invite the whole world to participate in these conversations. So instead we built, a site for social collaboration based on WordPress and Commons in a Box, a suite of tools designed for just this kind of work.


Hieroglyph is an experiment in mapping out the current field of human potential—stuff we could do if we just set our minds to it, but that is so alien to conventional wisdom that it creates that familiar science fiction vertigo.

Through the interactions these incredible thinkers will have on the Hieroglyph site, I hope we will also put a much larger group of people in conversation with different ideas about the future. And that’s where you come in: this experiment is only going to work if we use these ideas to start a bigger conversation. Come on over and help us build this thing.

Via James Keith
Fab GOUX-BAUDIMENT's curator insight, April 24, 2013 2:42 AM

please,if your ideas are really innovative, contribute!!! We are suffering such a failure of imagination, here, in old EU....

Rescooped by rolaelhadidey from Designer's Resources!

Design a Business Card That Won’t Get Thrown Away

Design a Business Card That Won’t Get Thrown Away | rolaelhadidey |

Sometimes the key to standing out can be having something different. With all of the business card options out there, it’s difficult to decide what will work best for you. So, what route to take?

Via Mark Strozier
kednert's curator insight, May 6, 2013 4:03 AM

Like me !

rita li's comment, May 21, 2013 8:50 PM
Jim Doyle's curator insight, June 8, 2013 6:30 AM
Design a Business Card That Won’t Get Thrown Away
Rescooped by rolaelhadidey from sustainable architecture!

Wooden Skyscrapers: A New Level of Sustainability?

Wooden Skyscrapers: A New Level of Sustainability? | rolaelhadidey |

A new breed of high-rise architecture is in the process of being born, thanks to the collaborative efforts of modern design pioneers. Envisioned as the best sustainable option for meeting world housing demands and decreasing global carbon emissions, wooden mega-structures are now one step closer to becoming a reality.

“Big Wood,” a conceptual project to the eVolo 2013 Skyscraper Competition, builds on the premise that wood, when harvested responsibly, is one of the best tools architects and engineers have for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and creating healthy communities. Aspiring to become one of the greenest skyscrapers in the world, Big Wood challenges the way we build our cities and promotes timber as a reliable platform to support tomorrow’s office and residential towers...

Via Lauren Moss
ParadigmGallery's curator insight, April 20, 2013 11:38 AM

The Case For Tall Wood                               Michael Green Architecture

I find this hard to truly picture, but the story is solid...."the last century there has been no reason to challenge steel and concrete as the essential structural materials of large buildings. Climate change now demands that we do.....Wood is the most significant building material we use today that is grown by the sun. When harvested responsibly, wood is arguably one of the best tools architects and engineers have for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and storing carbon in our buildings."


“I’d put my money on solar energy…I hope we don’t have to wait till oil and coal run out before we tackle that.”
~Thomas Edison, In conversation with Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone March 1931



“Known as the birthplace of the skyscraper, Chicago is an optimal location for a prototype in mass timber construction,” writes Carlos Arzate

Geovanni's curator insight, May 8, 2013 9:32 AM

Fascinating place. Must of been a lot of wood to be created.

Bubba Muntzer's comment, May 13, 2013 11:44 AM
It takes around 30 years for a seedling to grow into the kind of wood that can be used in construction. A little maintenance is required during that period. Meanwhile it's soaking up CO2 and making oxygen. The only industrial processes required are to cut it down and cut it into boards and 2 x 4s. If you stagger your planting you have an endless supply.