A sense of science fiction

03.09.2012 18:52

You've probably seen this vintage job advertisement for Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the height of the space race. It has done a few rounds on the web a day or two ago.

When you were a kid, science fiction gave you a sense of wonder.

Image by fdecomite CC BY 2.0

While it was printed well over a decade before I was born I was still touched by it when I first saw it in the web browser. I have always been a fan of science fiction of all kinds and this form of art certainly played a big role in shaping my decision to pursue this meandering career in engineering and science.

Of course, I can't be sure about what the authors of the poster originally had in mind with the sense of wonder. They might have been simply thinking about curiosity and the pleasure of finding things out. Science fiction can certainly spur both, even though the answers it provides to what-ifs must usually be taken with a grain of salt. That's why the word fiction is there after all.

What started this train of thought was rather the possibility that they thought about another feeling. The one you get when you realize you're doing or witnessing something that you have already done or seen a number of times, except now it's for real and the other times were while day dreaming or exercising imagination, fueled by works of fiction.

In any case, I'm sure readers of the advertisement that actually got involved in the space program weren't disappointed in that respect, regardless of how they understood the phrase.

Thinking back, this kind of déjà-vu feeling is actually quite rare. As mundane as it might sound, my only experience of it I can currently recall happened sometime after I got a Kindle, the electronic book reader. Reading a book one evening in my bed, it dawned on me that here I have a device which has been present in the background of so many science fiction stories. I don't think I've charged its battery even once at that point, which added to the feeling of novelty. It was just there, day after day, a few shelves worth of books, casually in my hand. A device I would have placed firmly beside a light saber or a food replicator a decade and a half ago.

I guess the rarity of the feeling can be attributed to the fact that science fiction rarely manages to accurately predict future technological advances. Everyday computing, ubiquitous communications and Internet we have today were completely missed by the stories I used to read as a child. While the capabilities of devices we carry in our pockets are certainly impressive by the standards of several decades ago, they are also completely different from computers that appeared in stories.

Posted by Tomaž | Categories: Ideas


Deja vu is the sign something was altered from its prior state within the Matrix. :)

Posted by A B

Hamradio is the best scientific hobby of 21st century! I recently bought my first touch phone and played safely with Nokia Lumina with Windows. What a feeling having radio with powerful computer in the pocket. I saw first Kindle on Saturday evening. I was told, Fire is much better? No particular kick as I've given on the books and SF ages ago. Neil Armstrong is the hero of my cosmos era although the impact of the computers is larger.

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