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Some Thoughts on Science and Speculative Fiction

"The most tragic form of loss isn't the loss of security; it's the loss of the capacity to imagine that things could be different." Ernst Bloch

Image: "Whose Scalpel" by artist Yen Tzu Chang, is the outcome of the first "STEAM Imaging" residence. The performance is an imagination of the future and presents the issues in the relationship between human and machine in heart surgery, Copyright Fraunhofer ICT Group.

The "literature of ideas," the special genre of speculative and science fiction, does precisely that: imagine how things could be different, including possible consequences of scientific, social, and technological innovations. These include futuristic concepts, more advanced science and tech, time travel, extraterrestrial life, or sentient artificial intelligence. Opportunities, risks, and ethical questions of research and innovation can be conveyed through such stories.

What are truly innovative medical developments? What are their social effects and ethical consequences? Which tasks and ethical questions do individual scientists themselves face? Science Fiction not only entertains and amazes but also explores the impact of technologies on society and possible alternative developments.The negotiation of values and incomplete knowledge – how do we want to live together, what decisions do we have to make even though we can only partially assess the effects - are central. That is what makes science fiction so valuable. Stories that deal directly or indirectly with science and technologies allow us to experience these discussions "up close and personal" through a heroine, a hero.

New scientific findings and resulting technologies can be assessed differently regarding their impact on society and the individual. How do we create spaces where discussions on values can be held together early to influence technological developments as citizens? The challenge is to understand new methods and their effects and, in the best case, to be able to help shape them; the question is not only what technologies could be used for in the future, but who will be involved in developing new procedures, that is, who will we empower to find answers to questions they consider important.

We address these questions within a school internal evening event, "Is this Science Fiction Or Already Reality?" on the 12th of July 2022. Scientists, school students, their parents, and an artist are exploring how film, art, and medical research inspire each other.The evening is part of the artist residence program STEAM Imaging IV (ongoing) within the series – Art Meets Digital Medicine – in the context of the main goal of the "STEAM Imaging" initiative; to bring young generations in touch with active researchers and artists, cutting-edge technologies, and the various STEM disciplines that are crucial for future innovation in digital medicine.


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