Technical Innovation critically depends on imaginative thinking. One approach to facilitating this for Science, Engineering and Business is a methodology called Science Fiction Prototyping (SFP) proposed by Brian David Johnson, Intel’s Futurist. The core idea is to use science fiction narratives as a means to explore, inform, and influence future scientific and business research and development. In this way fictional prototypes provide a powerful tool to enhance the traditional practices of research and design.
Imagination’14 is an activity that is defused into Intelligent Environments 2014, which works by inviting all the attendees to write a very short story, proposing a new type of product related to intelligent environments technology or something connected to the Intel “21st Century Robot” project. A challenging aspect is to motivate it in in a short story of 25 words, or less (a genre of SFP that called a Micro Science-Fiction Prototype or Micro-SFP for short). Generally there are three components to such a story; the technology, a simple action and a person. It is difficult to convey a technology idea in just 25 words, so don’t treat this like writing a paper, it’s supposed to be quick and fun (a little like brainstorming)! The top 10 Micro-SFPs (as judged by a panel) will receive as a prize a copy of the Intel book “The Tomorrow Project Anthology” plus a miniature 3D printed ‘Jimmy’s’ which will be awarded to the writers of the 3 best micro-SFP relating to Intel’s Jimmy crowd sourced robot (the “21st Century Robot“. All prizes will be presented at IE’14.. If you want to enter you should download the ‘Imagine’14 Micro-SFP entry form‘ (this is an editable PDF version) and email or submit to the IE’14 front desk by no later than midday on the 3rd of July 2014! or, alternatively, you can enter via our Twitter site by following us @CSciFoundation on Twitter, writing your ‘Micro-SFP’ and including the hashtag #IE14 in your tweet (note the deadline for Twitter entries is 2nd June 2014 (now CLOSED).
More information on writing Micro-SFPs is available from the Creative Science website.
Hsuan-Yi (Jen) Wu, the organizer of Imagine’14, is shown on the right presenting the results of the Intel sponsored micro-SFP competition; on the left she is pictured with the prizes (20 copies of the Intel book “The Tomorrow Project Anthology” plus 3 miniature 3D printed ‘Jimmy’s’ for the top three micro-SFPs).
The following 23 micro-SFPs were received representing a variety of interesting visions of the future (the top three were awarded special prizes).
- I have traced down all your respires: infant cries, juvenile smiles, elderly sights. Now you are (all) gone – leaving me to carry on and wonder why. – By Tiina Kymäläinen, VTT Technical Research Centre (Author’s comment: This micro-SFP was inspired by a literature finding for the intention awareness research: G.E.M Anscombe has argued in her 1957 work “intention“ that intentional action is coextensive with action of which one could ask “why were you doing that?”)
- “Jimmy, don’t do that!” shouted Lizzie. Jimmy’s emotochromic skin turned red through embarrassment. “I envy people, able to hide their feelings.” thought Jimmy, turning green with envy. – By Gordon Hunter, Kingston University (Authors note: This was an idea I had on “meeting” with Jimmy for the first time, incorporating ideas from “affective computing”. Jimmy changes colour, depending on his emotional state and contrary to the traditional view, thinks that people can better hide their feelings than he, as a robot, can.)
- Jimmy reflected in his mirror. A boy, eternal family and futures shone back. Memories of loved ones lived on within; dreaming, growing, guiding, and happily unaware. – By Simon Egerton, Monash University, Malaysia. (Author’s comment: Our brains contain one of the most powerful simulators we know. Most of us uncontrollably experience this when we dream. Vivid dreams show us that our memories are perfect enough to model the world, including people, realistically simulating both into new situations. What if this ability was part of Jimmy’s irrational AI? What if Jimmy could consciously access this simulator? What might his memories of us become? Might they/we turn on a real consciousness within him?)
- Jimmy, please write me a micro-SFP and while you are at it, a business model too! Jimmy says “Science Fiction does not compute!” – By Davy Preuveneers, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Comment: This micro-SFP cleverly wraps the challenge relating to the creation of human-like intelligence but presenting a mono-directional recursion; human intelligence created a SFP that lead to the design of Jimmy but could that AI (Jimmy) write a similar SFP?)
- Hi Tom, could you deliver a pork hamburger to me? No, since you have eaten too much meat recently, the i-food module showing. Oh I was naked in front of IoT. – By Shumei Zhang, Shijia Zhueng University (Comment: This micro-SFP raises the possibility that our relationship with a super-AI might be akin to that of concerned parents regarding us as naive children that need to me managed for their own good with a level of monitoring that compromises our privacy – would the singularity beckon a return to an eternal childhood?)
- You joining me today, Mic? Yes, Jon. High UV index and rain. Let’s go! Mic pops open and hovers above Jon. His personal micro climate control shield. – By James Frazee, San Diego State University (Author’s comment: Mic is a robot that provides the individual with customized protection against sun, rain, heat and cold. It hovers above like a cloud umbrella, can adjust temperature, too.)
- Since the destruction of the world and human being, the robots have ruled the world only “Jimmy” kept a sample of human DNA. He wants to do something… – By Kang Shi-Yong, Shanghai Jiao Tong University (Authors comment: a story of human renaissance)
- The singularity is within reach in less than 5 years! Let us all become very stupid. Oh wait…– By Davy Preuveneers, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Comment: a double perspective on the singularity that suggests we may be doomed to relatively stupidity; either the stupidity of letting the singularity happen or the relative stupidity after it happens!)
- Truly intelligent environments are those that do not need everything spelled out for them by humans. Unfortunately the same goes for dumb environments. – By Evy Preuveneers (Comment: a new type of duality; from a human perspective dumb and smart environments aim to be simple!)
- If debugging is twice as hard as writing the code in the first place, who will fix the singularity if it ever gets it wrong? – By Davy Preuveneers, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Comment: Could the singularity suffer from the same bugs and viruses’ that plague current computers? How will they manifest themselves and who will fix them. Perhaps robot doctors and psychiatrists will as widespread as they are in human life as they struggle to deal with complexities that remain tantalizing out of reach?)
- No simultaneous interpreter? Don’t worry. Let Jimmy be the one! In the industry forum held by Jiao Tong University, I interpreted the speeches and saved them a big problem! – Hong Yuan, Shanghai International Studies University (Comment: OK, for IE’20 we will come back to Shanghai and try one of these interpreting robots so, SISU students, get building this clever robot!)
- The sun is burning. I call Jimmy to give my flowers in garden an extra watering and show their beauty though his eye on my phone. – By Zhao Tiecheng, Shanghai Dong Du Data Services Co. Ltd (Comment: People should interact with nature rather than live in an all-in-control building so making your flowers live in a green house is also wrong. If you cannot take care of your garden, a robot in behalf of human is more natural. In the SFP, I can say I am taking care of my flowers with help of a robot and I would feel an achievement if those flowers grew healthy.)
- Computers with a sense of humor making a joke once in a while. Wouldn’t that be a lot more fun? – By Davy Preuveneers, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Comment: This micro-SFP seems to allude questioning the qualities that an advanced more human-like AI should have. Are our seemingly frivolous jokes actually a more complex mirror into the subtleties of the underlying human psycho and condition; would a test for robots involve their reaction to jokes (ranging from subtle to slapstick)?
- Hey robot can you see the every need in me, my mood, my pain, my need to gain, a confidant, a friend, one to help me mend? – By Lorah Bodie, San Diego State University (Comment: The ultimate challenge for a human-like companion robot would to be indistinguishable from your best friend. This micro-SFP cleverly exposes some of the essential qualities that such a robot would need to possess to take the role of a true friend. Interestingly most of these are emotional needs. The existence of irrational mechanisms in people has long puzzled researchers and this clever micro-SFP, whilst not answering that riddle, leaves readers in no doubt that those are key attributes of our human condition).
- Jimmy tastes and smells the food to analyze the ingredients of food and to judge whether the food is safe and healthy. – By Zhi Sun, Osaka University (Comment: In the past human agents (slaves) were often used to test food. This micro-SFP cleverly makes a connection between the agents (slaves) of the past and the future; the high-tech robots to come. It illustrates that while thousands of years pass and societies and technologies change, human instincts remain basic and relatively static connecting people and their societies through the centuries. It suggests that by taking such a primitive perspective we might gain important insights to the technologies that might be developed in the future)
- I am Jimmy. I have three cute babies. Can I give all of you a huge hug? We can live with each other peacefully. – By 張欣怡, 華東政法大學 (Comment: This micro-SFP seems to express they hope that unlike many of the prophecies for post–singularity conflicts between people and machines, that intelligence will provide a unifying bond as all conscious machines (including us) will conclude that our future becomes better where we mutually support each outher rather than compte against each other – a beautiful sentiment and hope for the future)
- Sir, may I help you with the bags? Sure! Sir, may I remind you that you need to pack or throw away the water bottle more than cool. – By Kevin Wang, University of Auckland (Authors comment: a porter/security robot)
- The toilet will automatically detect the excreta to analysis the health condition and show the deficiencies or excess of necessary nutrition. – By Zhi Sun, Osaka University (Comment: There is a saying “We are what we eat” and what we eat will ultimately be visible in a toilet. This micro-SFP suggests that a toilet could be a very important health facility tracking our weight, diet, nutrients and, given we all sit on a toilet for a few minutes every day, has the potential to be so much more than they currently area. A very interesting product idea!)
- Research shows that smart people are more likely to trust because they can better evaluate others. Can intelligent environments get along? – By Davy Preuveneers, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Comment: Perhaps the question is will smart people trust smart environments!)
- Intelligent environments for dummies! Buying off the shelf components in the future made easy by comparing IQ per buck? By Davy Preuveneers, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Comment: Assessing the IQ of Intelligent Environments or Devices might be an interesting challenge!)
- Madam, your travel document in your phone and your taxi will arrive in 5 minutes. I will see you at the destination in 2 hours. (Travel assistant avatar) – By Kevin Wang, University of Auckland (Comment: wish we had this product now, it would make our travels to IE’14 and around China so much easier! Kevin, get working on this so we can have it for IE’15!)
- Hi, I’d like to find book 301-A12, but it’s not on the shelf. Jimmy: No problem, I will detect the book location and bring it to you. – By Kevin Wang, University of Auckland (Author comment: a librarian robot).
- BlackBoxBot harnessed energy as it fell to earth, fuel for its rover engine. Splash!,robofish mode, broadcast “I’m alive”, search mode. Paul McCullagh University of Ulster (Comment: what a clever idea for energy harvesting)
- Sense and code brain impulses to provide on-the-fly encryption using thought pics, decrypt with pre-shared thoughts! – Mani Manivannan (Comment: interesting brain interface product idea!)
These micro-SFP were then assessed by a small panel of experts.resulting in the following three achieving an identical but marginally higher score than the rest of the micro-SFPs. The following pictures shows the top three micro-SFP writers receiving a certificate and and Intel Prize (a miniature ‘printed Jimmy’) from the organizer Hsuan-Yi (Jen) Wu (National Taiwan University, Taiwan) who is one of the Science-Fiction Prototyping pioneers.
In addition, the following participants were awarded the Creative Science Foundation’s ‘excellence in micro-SFP writing’ prize (a copy of the Intel book “The Tomorrow Project Anthology”).
You can also read a paper that provides an academic description of Micro-SFPs; see Micro-Futures.
Finally, you might find our sister event Creative-Science 2014, interesting to look over.