Last week, MIT researcher Sophia Brueckner told me that "reading science fiction is like an ethics class for inventors."
That's the short of it, but the long was a bit deeper. In an interview, Bruckner and her colleague Dan Novy explained and elaborated on their belief that today's inventors need to be reading more science fiction -- not for its ability to inspire new innovations, but for the space it provides for testing how people will use those innovations. As Brueckner said, "These authors do more than merely prophesy modern technologies -- they also consider the consequences of their fictional inventions in great detail." That's important for today's inventors, because, as Novy put it, "it is our job as technologists not to avoid creating the automobile, but to look at the traffic jam and design so that doesn’t happen. Thinking about these things at the beginning and iteratively throughout the process allows us to create better technology."
In response to that interview, a friend sent along the above video (disclosure: my friend works for a partner institution of the Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network, the group responsible for the video), which takes place in the future -- exactly how far in the future is not clear -- and features a docent lecturing museum-goers on the history of invisibility cloaks. The docent begins with the early history of such cloaks (a time when they were "prohibitively expensive and available only to the wealthiest members of society"), and moves on to a period of immense popularity, and, finally, to their banning.