There seems to a lot of discussion about the relationship between science fiction and the actual development of science of technology going the internet rounds at the moment. This relationship is not easily defined and is very complex.
There are basically two methods that technology developments. The first is by honing what you’ve got to make it bigger, smaller, more compact, whatever, but in the end more user-friendly. Then there is the discovery by serendipity. This is when someone has an insight to what s/he sees. It’s like the apple being the inspiration for Newton’s theory of gravity.
The gradual honing is controllable. The serendipity isn’t. You just can’t force it. But you can help it along. And this is where science fiction can be useful. It encourages the examining of how technology and science works. Which in turn can produce that invention through what I call the ‘blip moment’. Notice the word encourage. Serendipity cannot be forced.
But at the end of the day, you don’t need science fiction. There are other methods of making people interested in rummaging around science and technology.
Science fiction on the other hand uses the extrapolations of the honing process. Think of the miniaturisation of computers. They get smaller and smaller in size, or bigger and bigger in capability. Eventually we will have the Asimovian robots with their ‘positronic’ brains. A far cry from Leonardo da Vinci’s programmable mechanical lion, built for the French King.
Science fiction can also encourage the development of science, by warning of impending societal problems. This gives science and technology a driver to think up solutions.
The above are only a few aspects of science fiction’s relationship with science and technology development. Maybe one day I’ll get round to doing a blobogram of it all….