Innovation, between science and science fiction

Imagination is a key element of innovation in techno-scientific societies. The debate about the prophetic function of science fiction is discussed in this book. The histories of techno-sciences and science fiction are closely interconnected, so much that some sectors, like the space industry, IT and ICT openly accept theur relationship with a kind of imagination that has been, however, morally condemned by the greatest thinkers and philosophers. Science fiction is known for its descriptions of the future. Innovating means creating the future. It is why several organizations are interested by this imaginary.

The first part of this book presents a short history of science fiction, with a specific interest on utopic technologies. Authors like Mary Shelley, H. G. Wells, Jules Verne, Albert Robida, Hugo Gernsback, or writers of hard science fiction, cyberpunk or biopunk are presented to evaluate what is the function of their fictions on actors of the different stages of the process of innovation.

The fact that organizations make use of science fiction is becoming more and more familiar to the extent that the issue of the legal value of utopic technologies has arisen. Should we implement a patent system to protect them and ensure that artists who have predicted innovative technological processes are remunerated ?

Several examples of the organizations’ use of science fiction are presented. Design fiction and Science fiction prototyping use the technological imagination to innovate. Microsoft, Orange, Chinese programs, but also the ESA, the NASA, and multiple think tanks realize the interest to stimulate creativity with science fiction. This book is an occasion to present the imaginary of several sectors, like converging technologies, robotics, the space industry (the conquest of Mars for example), and to ask the question of the ideological function of an imaginary more and more influent on business, and scientific discoveries. Science fiction is often mentioned in the most ambitious scientific projects. Marsism, for example is a neologism created to describe the ideology of the colonization of Mars. It is particularly influenced by science fiction movies and novels.

To what extent is science fiction the discursive matrix of innovation ? Is it a danger for the society, and is it necessary to control it to avoid it leads to dangerous discoveries ? A method to filter imagination in organizations to optimize its strategic virtues is presented in the first part. The theory of the impact of technological fictions on innovation is inspired by authors like Gaston Bachelard, Gilbert Durand and Lucien Sfez. The question of the imaginary origin of science is crucial to understand and stimulate R&D policies. Gilbert Durand explains that the symbolic imagination is at the root of scientific discoveries. The theory of archetypes of Jung developed too this initial intuition. From this perspective, the hypothesis of a basic imagination at the root of science is presented. Technological innovations initially appear in a prophetic unconscious. In the face of new living conditions, humankind gains access to new utopic and archetypal technologies, which are represented as potential technological innovations that encourage scientists and innovators.

Societies and organizations, even the most rational ones, must pay attention to their types of imagination, their religions and their ideologies, since these elements justify their social organization. Technological utopianism and science fiction are key elements for innovation in industrial societies. Innovative organizations are challenged by the necessity to develop their science fictional imagination to remain leaders and anticipate new economic cycles.

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