Frankenstein, Sci-Fi, Cli-Fi, and Business

MBS Science Fiction

Who said that business cannot be cool? Well, it is and it needs to be. As it needs to be relevant and to engage with the grand challenges of today.

MBS Professor Dr. Jose Alcaraz recently participated in the commemorative sessions around the 200 year celebration of “Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus” that took place at Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona on May 3rd. The novel, written by English author Mary Shelley – it tells the story of Victor Frankenstein, a young scientist who creates a grotesque but sapient creature in an unorthodox scientific experiment – is today an extremely relevant metaphor to think about technology, robotics, ethics, and the planetary boundaries named “novel entities” (e.g., anti-biotics, plastics, GMOs, etc).

Prof. Dr. Jose Alcaraz reported on the growing interest in the social and natural sciences (e.g., in the prestigious journal Nature) around Sci-Fiction, and the tremendous power of speculative, serious fiction. In his talk, he invited participants to examine the presence of narratives (heroes, victims, and villains on a plotline) that populate our daily life as citizens and business people (e.g., the myth of “growth for ever”!).

He referred to the power of the sub-genre Climate Fiction (Cli-Fi) to provide us with tools to critically reflect on business, and to “live in the skin of others” (e.g., how will it feel to be a displaced, climate change refugee in the coming years?), plus to “experience” the social-ecological complexities that will affect businesses in the near future, and to address radically important “wicked problems” and ethical dilemmas etc.

MBS Science Fiction

Beyond the anticipatory power of Sci-Fi… as intriguingly expressed by the Sci-Fi author, Kim Stanley Robinson, “Science fiction is the realism of our time. It describes the present in the way a skeet shooter targets a clay pigeon, aiming a bit ahead of the moment to reveal what is not yet present, but is already having an impact. This gives us metaphors and meaning-systems to help conceptualize our moment. So, as with any other realist art, you pluck just one strand out of the fabric of the total situation, and follow where it leads”.

This is certainly food for thought!