Links and Comments: Science and Science Fiction

Harvard Business Review: Why Business Leaders Need to Read More Science Fiction.

Science fiction can help. Maybe you associate it with spaceships and aliens, but science fiction offers more than escapism. By presenting plausible alternative realities, science fiction stories empower us to confront not just what we think but also how we think and why we think it. They reveal how fragile the status quo is, and how malleable the future can be.

Science fiction isn’t useful because it’s predictive. It’s useful because it reframes our perspective on the world. Like international travel or meditation, it creates space for us to question our assumptions. Assumptions locked top 19th-century minds into believing that cities were doomed to drown in horse manure. Assumptions toppled Kodak despite the fact that its engineers built the first digital camera in 1975. Assumptions are a luxury true leaders can’t afford.

With references to William Gibson, Kim Stanley Robinson, and others. This blog’s essential theme: science fiction is a way of thinking about reality, about identifying what exists outside the bubble of everything human.


Guardian: Dawkins sees off Darwin in vote for most influential science book, subtitled, “A public poll to mark 30 years of the Royal Society book prizes sees The Selfish Gene declared the most significant – with women authors left on the margins”.

Interesting that Richard Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene leads the list — ahead of any book by Darwin himself! Comments on the web about this poll suggest problems: it’s a ‘public poll’, popular vote, and therefore skewed most likely to what books the public has read, i.e. recently published books. Also, there was a predetermined shortlist for the public to vote on, apparently.

On the other hand, I’ve made the point before that old books, no matter how influential in their time, are not necessarily especially influential to readers now. No one reads Newton’s Principia these days for an understanding of physics; it’s an historical document. Similarly with Dawkins and Darwin — Darwin, for all the brilliance of his insight into natural selection, had no clue about genes, the very mechanism by which natural selection occurs, and the primary subject of Dawkins’ book.

I’m a bit curious about the inclusion of Bryson’s book, a good one, but more a popular summary by a non-scientist, than a science book. I do approve and endorse the books by Carl Sagan and David Deutsch.

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