On Science Fiction

Isaac Asimov said, “Science fiction can be defined as that branch of literature which deals with the reaction of human beings to changes in science and technology.”

Now, as an aspiring science teacher, I’ve had it expressed to me the concern that I may not understand the differences between reality and science fiction. Quite frankly, this is a goofy concern. The real beauty of sci-fi is that it can take a look at crucial issues without having to involve itself directly in the “reality” of present-day living which focuses on the so often blown up “real” lives of those characters. (I mean really, when was the last time that one of your life problems was tied together neatly in a bow within 22 minutes?)

Sci-fi can be anything from a space opera to a short story about the implication of a new smart phone app. We as teachers are constantly being driven to use technology and to help students integrate it into their lives, and while I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing, I would like to point out that very often the teachers don’t understand these implications themselves, let alone how to teach them to students. And I also won’t suggest that science fiction is the only means of doing so, but I’ll be darned if it isn’t a good means of opening up insight and discussion to a topic.

When someone else says that they don’t like Star Trek because they don’t like aliens, lasers, and robots, I can’t help but be a little saddened, because where they see aliens, I see a new take on the issue of racism. Where they see lasers, I see the implications of a new technology being explored. And where they see robots, I see the very real future where we as a culture will need to deal with the issue of artificial intelligence rights, and exactly the predicament that we’ll be in before too long.

I feel that any teacher worth their salt should partake in a good book every once in a while, and all I’d ask is that maybe one of those times, try picking up Earth is Room Enough by Asimov, and tell me what you think.