Project Hieroglyph: Helping turn Science Fiction toward Utopia
Project Hieroglyph is “a global collective of writers and researchers” whose aim is to turn the dystopian tide of recent science fiction toward creative inspiration.
Born in 2011 from a Neal Stephenson article entitled “Innovation Starvation,” in which he called for “a return to inspiration in contemporary science fiction” the project now includes some of best writers, thinkers, and minds on the planet and its first publication, Hieroglyph, is about to hit the shelves.
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.
How’s this for starters – One of their projects is to develop a concept for the tallest tower on earth. If built, the 12.4 mile high (20 km) skyscraper would be 24 times as tall as the world’s tallest skyscraper and could become the cheapest way to launch objects into outer space.
Project Hieroglyph currently resides at Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination.
Project Heiroglyph website
BBC: Project Hieroglyph: Fighting society’s dystopian future