Five years ago, catalyzed by a conversation with science fiction luminary Neal Stephenson, we assembled a team of fiction authors, researchers, and scholars to create hopeful, technically grounded visions of the near future. Together, we created Hieroglyph: Stories and Visions for a Better Future, a collection of stories based on pathbreaking technologies and moonshot ideas that are inspirational and accessible. The accessibility part is especially important to us, because while white papers and research briefs are fine tools for understanding the future, stories give us the unique ability to inhabit imagined worlds, engage our emotions and empathy, and deliberate on what lies ahead.
Furthermore, our collaborator Zach Berkson posits that the genre’s power lies not in the hands of authors, scholars, or publishers, but with the readers:
“Reading science fiction enables us to reflect on the ways people interact with each other, with technology, with our environment … [and] invites us to consider the complex ways our choices and interactions contribute to generating the future. The collective and individual decisions we make every day—the careers we choose, the ideas we propagate, the ways we educate each other—lead us into the future. Science fiction gives us a venue to consider the futures that we want, and those we don’t, and how our actions contribute to one or the other.”
Crowd Futures is a new experiment in collaborative storytelling that crystallizes these notions of choice and thoughtful reflection. Throughout fall 2017, author Elizabeth Bear, artist Melissa Gay, and the Crowd Futures team will provide a platform for curious readers to propose scenarios, share ideas, weigh options, and navigate the uncertainties of our looming scientific and technological discoveries by participating in the creative process.
Twice a month, you’ll be asked to read, comment, query, and choose directions for an unfolding, original science fiction tale to be published (and available for free) in spring 2018. And while this project doesn’t aim to be predictive, we believe that contributing to an imagined future is the first step toward building a better one for real.