What Entrepreneurs Can Learn from Sci-Fi: Previewing CU Law’s Event

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in the same enterprise. Science fiction is about intentionally constructing worlds that could plausibly occur, yet need to be created by someone in order to exist. It is a fascinating mix of research, creation, and storytelling. This process—i.e., conceiving of a new state of the world, and somehow sharing that vision with others—strikes me as fundamentally entrepreneurial. My hypothesis is that entrepreneurs have a lot to learn from sci-fi authors.

X: What do you think will be some highlights of the conference?

BB: I can’t wait to hear some of the national voices who are involved with Silicon Flatirons for the first time. John Underkoffler is the technologist, visionary and founder of the startup, Oblong Industries in California.

Oblong’s work with real-time computer graphics and visualization techniques has been popularized in movies such as Iron Man or Minority Report. I’m midway through science fiction author William Hertling’s new book, Avogadro Corp: The Singularity Is Closer Than It Appears. People who know artificial intelligence respect his thoughts on the singularity. Hertling’s discussion with Brad Feld should be terrific.

MIT researchers Dan Novy and Sophia Brueckner teach a course on sci-fi and entrepreneurship at MIT. That should be fascinating. Other great minds are involved, too. The lineup is better than I ever imagined it would be.

Overall, my aspiration is that the conference adds a layer of insight about ways to unlock creativity. Unusual juxtapositions dislocate our typical patterns of thought. Such juxtapositions either, one, yield insights and memorable discussions, or two, massively fail because people talk past each other. We’ll see how this breaks on Friday.

X: Finally, the big question: Is resistance futile?

BB: Sci-fi is a medium of “what if.” In addition to fostering creativity, “what if” also allows us to think through scenarios that suggest caution and ethical reflection. A large chasm between entrepreneurs and sci-fi relates to this. Entrepreneurs often have a faith in technological progress. They believe things will work themselves out.

Sci-fi posits that technological progress creates novel problems worthy of a book’s dramatic tension. Looking back, going back to Orwell, Huxley, and others, sci-fi authors probably have the better of this argument. Our third panel is well situated to take on the question of what privacy and surveillance will look like ahead and, equally important, what that will mean for our understanding of how humans intersect with technology and create meaning in the world.

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