Welcome to Perimeter Events If you need AV or Facilities Services, don't forget to create an Event! Note: you cannot request services in Room Booking!

Jun 18 – 20, 2024
Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics
America/Toronto timezone

Cohort Pitch 3 - Simulating the Future through Science Fiction

Jun 20, 2024, 2:00 PM
PI/1-100 - Theatre (Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics)

PI/1-100 - Theatre

Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics



Anna Brandenberger (MIT) Anna Knörr (ETH Zurich) Astha Jain (Indian Institute of Technology (BHU) Varanasi) Jaime Redondo Yuste (Niels Bohr Institute) Matthew Fox (Univ of Colorado) Shawn Skelton (Leibniz University Hannover)


Authors from PSI 2022 & 2023:

Anna Knörr, Anna Brandenberger, Astha Jain, Jaime Redondo-Yuste, Matthew Fox, and
Shawn Skelton

The technological and social reverberations of theoretical research, and especially theoretical physics, have long been an object of public speculation and imagination. This is reflected strongly at Perimeter - in the institute‘s founding, ethos, and architecture. Residents at PI regularly pass under a reminder that „today‘s theoretical physics is tomorrow‘s technology“.

The paradox of story, as a mechanism of both truth-telling and escapism, can be used to navigate the otherwise tricky path of discussing prospective scientific advances. HG Wells' trip to the Moon and Ursula K. Leguin’s socio-philosophical explorations in the Hainish cycle novels are both paradigmatic examples of science fiction enacting social analogies. Starting from emerging theoretical physics, we use the narrative medium to explore its possible ramifications into the future.

We incorporate multi-perspective storytelling in order to explore several possible future
scenarios while including diverse voices and backgrounds. Such perspective shifts allow us to go beyond a reductive manichaeist framing of scientific advances, and instead emphasize the sometimes contradictory social gains and losses of technological shifts. Finally, our literary approach helps us ask the question: Can the language and metaphors underlying 21st century theoretical physics help give rise to technologies and movements that nurture care-based societies and relationships to our environments?

Examples will be drawn from our collective expertise in AI, ethics, quantum technology,
environmental issues, the physics of toys and public outreach. Our primary focus will be on exploring how emerging disciplines such as artificial intelligence and quantum computing can enlarge technological capabilities and transform our collective social imaginations, or, contrastingly, increase existing socioeconomic inequalities, environmental harm and geopolitical Tensions.

Within the Reunion we will further develop the literary voices and lenses to be included in the full text. We anticipate presenting a short reading from our work, along with a discussion of our motivations, at the closure of the conference. After the Reunion we will further develop the text, with the aim of making it public in several online and traditional formats. We target our text at a general public level, and strive to fulfill two interconnected aims: supporting public curiosity about 21st century physics and sparking new social imaginaries about where "purely academic" science may lead us.


Presentation materials

External references