We might best define science fiction by discussing it within the broader category of literary fiction. Fiction is unique in that it allows the reader to be temporarily transported into another place and time, escaping the “real world”. The reader might even have a paradigm shift by experiencing life through another person’s eyes, having access to their thoughts and the internal architecture that directs their decisions in each moment. Often, fiction accomplishes the latter by carefully weaving in deep questions about the human experience, in the form of philosophy, that the reader might not otherwise be exposed to (or interested in exploring) in another context.

Science fiction has the same potential to change the way the reader views the world, by subtly positing philosophical questions, but it is unique in its ability to imbue a sense of wonder. This is because science fiction so often utilizes ‘the future’ and ‘worlds yet unknown’ as its setting. The setting is extremely relevant here because it accomplishes two things, simultaneously.

First, it makes any difficult ethical conversations more palatable. Since their window dressing is so far removed from everyday life, these conversations can sneak past the reader’s conscious mind, undetected, while they are being entertained. In this way, science fiction stories often function as a metaphor. Second, and most importantly, it can help us completely re-design the future, by providing examples. Everything from lasers to cell phones to crypto-currencies first appeared in science fiction, long before they were properly invented and implemented here on earth. In this way, science fiction can function as a thought experiment, or prototype reality. This genre can not be overlooked for its significance in the technological transformation of our world and the desire to explore the unknown.