As a trend researcher I read a lot of future oriented books written by present day visionaries and frontrunners. These provide a lot of inspiration and guidance to think about possible future scenarios. But once in awhile I like to read sci-fi too to get my future juices flowing. Want to know why this helps you in your trend research? Read on!
The most recent sci-fi story I read is ‘The Machine Stops’, a short story by writer E.M. Forster. He wrote it in 1909 and it is still surprisingly relevant in our day and age. The story is a bit dystopian, about a society which is controlled by an entity called ‘The Machine’. People live in underground pods, communicate via screens and hardly ever move or go above ground anymore to experience the real world. Well, doesn’t that sound a bit familiar…?
The story focuses on two persons, a mother and her son. The mother character represents the mindset of the masses who almost slavishly follow The Machine, whereas the character of the son represents the rebel who wants to live a real live full of sensory experiences.
I’ll won’t spoil the plot line but just show you a (slightly adjusted) quote from the book. This is the son talking to his mother via The Machine. This quote might give you some sense of the eerie predictive qualities of this short novel from 1909.
Son to mother: “I see something like you on this plate, but I do not see you. I hear something like you through this telephone, but I do not hear you. That is why I want you to come. Pay me a visit so we can meet face to face.”
Curious about the future envisioned in this story? You can download the story in pdf or epub format *for free* via GoodReads.
So, how does reading these type of sci-fi novels help you as trend researcher (or watching sci-fi movies and playing sci-fi games for that matter)? To me there are three reasons why consuming sci-fi improves your trend work.
> One: reading sci-fi, especially older novels, shows you that thinking about the future is not new, it has been around for ages. In the case of The Machine Stops, even someone living a hundred years ago could already envision something like the Internet and its possible effects on society. This always makes me feel more humble about my own capacities in thinking about the future.
> Two: reading different types of sci-fi novels also make you aware of different ways of looking at the future, from dystopian to utopian ways, from very fantasy driven to more realistic and down-to-earth ways. I love the stories with a more realistic twist, which shows me that I should be aware of my preferred way of looking at the future.
> Three: it’s just so much fun and you can do it for work/study purposes! Reading sci-fi gets you out of your daily grind and into a whole new realm with infinite possibilities. I really enjoy that this is also a part of my profession.
If you have any recommendations on sci-fi books that you loved, please share them. I’m looking for a new one to read. :)