9780062204691

Hieroglyph

I am the co-editor of Hieroglyph: Stories and Visions for a Better Future. The book is the product of a thriving community of science fiction writers, scientists, engineers and many others collaborating on ambitious, technically grounded visions of the near future.

About the Book

Inspired by New York Times bestselling author Neal Stephenson, an anthology of stories, set in the near future, from some of today’s leading writers, thinkers, and visionaries that reignites the iconic and optimistic visions of the golden age of science fiction.

In his 2011 article “Innovation Starvation,” Neal Stephenson argued that we—the society whose earlier scientists and engineers witnessed the airplane, the automobile, nuclear energy, the computer, and space exploration—must reignite our ambitions to think boldly and do Big Stuff. He also advanced the Hieroglyph Theory which illuminates the power of science fiction to inspire the inventive imagination: “Good SF supplies a plausible, fully thought-out picture of an alternate reality in which some sort of compelling innovation has taken place.”

In 2012, Arizona State University established the Center for Science and the Imagination to bring together writers, artists, and creative thinkers with scientists, engineers, and technologists to cultivate and expand on “moon shot ideas” that inspire the imagination and catalyze real-world innovations.

Now comes this remarkable anthology uniting twenty of today’s leading thinkers, writers, and visionaries—among them Cory Doctorow, Gregory Benford, Elizabeth Bear, Bruce Sterling, and Neal Stephenson—to contribute works of “techno-optimism” that challenge us to dream and do Big Stuff. Engaging, mind-bending, provocative, and imaginative, Hieroglyph offers a forward-thinking approach to the intersection of art and technology that has the power to change our world.

More about the Project

Inspiration is a small but essential part of innovation, and science fiction stories have been a seminal source of inspiration for innovators over many decades. In his article entitled “Innovation Starvation,” Neal Stephenson calls for a return to inspiration in contemporary science fiction. That call resonated with so many and so deeply that Project Hieroglyph was born shortly thereafter.

The name of Project Hieroglyph comes from the notion that certain iconic inventions in science fiction stories serve as modern “hieroglyphs” – Arthur Clarke’s communications satellite, Robert Heinlein’s rocket ship that lands on its fins, Issac Asimov’s robot, and so on. Jim Karkanias of Microsoft Research described hieroglyphs as simple, recognizable symbols on whose significance everyone agrees.

What science fiction stories—and the symbols that they engender—can do better than almost anything else is to provide not just an idea for some specific technical innovation, but also to supply a coherent picture of that innovation being integrated into a society, into an economy, and into people’s lives. Often, this is the missing element that scientists, mathematicians, engineers, and entrepreneurs need in order to actually take the first real steps towards realizing some novel idea.

While the mission of Project Hieroglyph begins with creative inspiration, our hope is that many of us will be genuinely inspired towards realization.