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Visualizing the future

Chase Damiano
13 min read
Visualizing the future

It’s a little known fact that I read a lot of science fiction.

I reached a point not long ago where I felt I had become saturated in business and leadership books. It was all I had been reading for a long time. Most of this reading was directed toward learning some new skill, hearing another founder’s story of “how they did it,” or gaining perspective on a difficult challenge (like leading people).

And business and leadership books are amazing in themselves. It’s a gift to be able to read such a condensed nugget of wisdom and experience in a mere 200-400 pages (or so). Lessons learned from Randy Komisar, Jim Collins, Brené Brown, Phil Knight, John Doerr, Bill Campbell and countless others have fundamentally shifted my perspectives on entrepreneurship, leadership, and people.

Yet, I suspect the creativity, innovation, and vision these authors have likely wasn’t sourced from them reading more business and leadership books. What gave them the opportunity, wisdom, and experience was likely sourced entirely from somewhere else.

This is where science fiction comes in for me. Maybe for them too.

What I love most about sci-fi is that it’s an exploration into what could be possible, instead of what currently is. It feels like pure artistry—a source of creativity and novelty beyond the realm of today.

Personally, I’m attracted to the following science fiction themes (plus, references for the connoisseur):

  • Humanity unifying and dividing among new lines and how it could shape politics and influence. (A Memory Called Empire, Foundation, Dune, Ghost Fleet)
  • A new species is discovered to have consciousness or intelligence and how to adapt communication styles (Children of Time, Semiosis, Starship Troopers)
  • An impending event far in the future catalyzes changes for multiple generations into the future (Three Body Problem, Seveneves, Rendevous with Rama)
  • An apocalyptic (or utopic) event, a new technology, or a new discovery radically transforms our every day life (Brave New World, Girl with all the Gifts, World War Z, The Power, The Gone World, Dark Matter)
  • Society shifts to be heavily digital-focused as the “real world” devolves into chaos or anarchy (Snow Crash, Ready Player One, Neuromancer)

Reading sci-fi started as a hobby, but I believe it’s influenced my work in notable ways.

  • Expanding creative vision. Shifting from a viewpoint of “what is” into “what could be.”
  • Shifting perspectives. Jumping into a fictional experience of a character, informed by the real world experiences of an author, I find myself asking questions like: What could happen if women had 10x the physical power of men? (The Power); What could the next global conflict look like? (Ghost Fleet); What factors could influence geopolitics as our species moves interplanetary? (A Memory Called Empire, Dune)
  • Appreciating the positives and negatives of change. A knowing that, all changes from the minor-ly technological to the major-ly cataclysmic, will produce stories on both sides of the same coin. All are true and valid.
  • Innovating and creating something new. Asking, with a completely blank canvas, and an unlimited capacity to create, what could be possible?
  • Storytelling and analogizing. Using stories and metaphors to better articulate core concepts and growing an ability to paint a picture and inspire others.
  • Planning for the zombie apocalypse (okay, just kidding).

The definition of a polymath is “an individual whose knowledge spans a substantial number of subjects, known to draw on complex bodies of knowledge to solve specific problems.” I wonder how our next generation of polymaths will be formed, what experiences they may have, and interests they may explore, and how it might shape the next waves of technological innovation, politics, wellbeing, and humanity as a whole.

I’m excited to find out.

Read on, and enjoy the journey.

P.S. My favorite science fiction reads:

  • The Three Body Problem. Humanity learns that an advanced alien civilization will invade and take over Earth… but not for another several centuries. Read all three books in the trilogy. Hands down, three of the most jaw-dropping, mind-boggling books I’ve ever read.
  • Children of Time. Earth is dead and a newly terraformed-Earth awaits colonists. Explores the idea of consciousness as a transmissible virus.
  • A Memory Called Empire. An ambassador from an independent colony visits the Teixcalaanli Empire, negotiates against empirical expansion, and protects coveted technology. Explores geopolitical influence at a galactic scale.
  • Snow Crash. Explores what the Metaverse could look like and how it could impact the physical world.

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