Chapter 13 of Films from the Future: The Technology and Morality of Sci-Fi movies, read by author Andrew Maynard
In this episode: Contact
An Awful Waste of Space | More than Science Alone | Occam’s Razor | What If We’re Not Alone
This chapter in the book Films from the Future almost didn’t make it. Of all the chapters, this is the one my editors couldn’t see the point of — the movie Contact was just too fantastical they thought for a book that was grounded in cutting edge but very real technological innovation.
I’m glad I dug my heels in, as I have a deep soft spot for this film. As a scientist, it’s frustrating when people erroneously boil science down to a method and a process, and to cold calculated facts — whereas the reality is a world of curiosity and creativity, of awe and wonder, and of the sheer majesty of the universe we live in.
To be a scientist is to be caught up in the incredible amazingness of not only experiencing the reality we live in, but being able to understand it and, in doing so, see even further and be even more awed.
Carl Sagan got this — and this heart of what it means to be immersed in science is captured beautifully in his movie Contact.
It is, very much, a love letter to science. And it’s one that is both humble and generous as it explores the interconnections between belief and science, all the while keeping a firm footing in critical enquiry.
I hope you enjoy the episode — and do yourself a favor and break out the movie afterward.
About Films from the Future: I started writing Films from the Future in 2017. The intent was to explore the deeply complex landscape around emerging technologies, the future, and socially responsible innovation, in a way that would be accessible to most readers, and at the same time provide nuanced and important insights that weren’t available anywhere else.
One of the challenges with most books about tech and the future is that they take a polarized stance — we’re either all going to die unless we do something different, or technology is going to save the world. These sell — people love reading about extremes. But they’re not that helpful when it comes to navigating a deeply complex tech innovation landscape where there few right and wrong answers, where it’s important to weave together insights from many different areas of expertise — including the arts and humanities, and where dialogue and discussion are far more important than preaching.
And so I set out to write about emerging and converging technologies in as inclusive and accessible a way as I knew how, with the aim of taking readers on a compelling journey into the future where their thoughts and ideas were just as important as mine.
The result was a book that uses movies as a way to open up conversations about what responsible innovation means in a world that’s changing faster than ever before, and where new technologies are transforming how we think about the future and what it holds.
Of course some of the technologies it covers have moved on since I started writing the book. But at the end of the day this is not a book about science fiction movies, or about specific technologies, but about how all of us can think differently about our roles in ensuring the future we’re building is better than the past we leave behind.
I hope you enjoy these recordings of me narrating it — this is a book that reflects my voice quite deeply in the writing, and so it only made sense for me to one day actually read it aloud!
For more information on the book, visit https://andrewmaynard.net/films-from-the-future/