The book Films from the Future touches on many themes associated with emerging trends in science and technology, and their socially responsible and ethical development, and provides a great starting point for book clubs and reading groups to begin exploring these topics. Plus, it can be combined with some great movie nights!
The guide below is just one possible way for book clubs and reading groups to combine reading the book with watching the movies, and using seed questions to prompt discussion.
SUGGESTED WEEK-BY-WEEK READING/VIEWING GUIDE
Read chapter 1
- What are some of the ways in which new technologies are people’s lives today?
- How does the current speed of technology innovation present unique challenges?
- Should tech companies and scientists be doing more to innovate ethically and responsibly?
- Can art – including movies – really provide insights into the ethical development and use of new technologies?
Watch Jurassic Park (1993)
Read chapter 2
- Is using genetic engineering to bring extinct species back a good idea?
- Should scientists be allowed to experiment with altering the genetic code of humans?
- Can experts ever completely predict the consequences of a new technology?
- Who should decide what scientists can and cannot do?
- Are rich entrepreneurs with grandiose ideas good for society?
Watch Never Let Me Go (2010)
Read chapter 3
- How realistic is the story that evolves in Never let Me Go?
- What are the pros and cons of cloning humans?
- What makes someone genuinely “human”?
- Are there technologies that exist now that are so useful that they are too big to be allowed to fail?
Watch Minority Report (2002)
Read chapter 4
- If scientists could develop ways of spotting potential criminals, how should they use the technology?
- Could artificial intelligence one day predict what people are going to do?
- Can machines and algorithms reflect the biases of their creators? And if so, how do we ensure that these don’t adversely affect people?
- how important is personal privacy in a world where everything’s being recorded?
Watch Limitless (2011)
Read chapter 5
- What is “intelligence?”
- Would you (or do you) use “smart drugs?” And if so, why?
- Do you think there are times and places where smart drugs should not be used?
- Who should decide who gets access to medications that can improve mental performance, and who doesn’t?
Watch Elysium (2013)
Read chapter 6
- If we could one day 3D print replacement body parts, how big of a game-changer would this be?
- How realistic is the division between rich and poor as it’s portrayed in Elysium?
- Is it better to create more jobs with some being in dangerous workplaces, or to improve workplace safety but as a result reduce the number of jobs available?
- How do you think automation will affect your life over the next 10 years?
Watch Ghost in the Shell (1995)
Read chapter 7
- If you could enhance your body with technological implants, would you?
- Do you think we’ll ever have wireless brain-computer interfaces, and if so, is it a good idea?
- Is there a point at which replacing body parts with machines might affect how “human” someone is?
- If you have a machine in your body that you depend on, who’s responsible for keeping it going?
Watch Ex Machina (2014)
Read chapter 8
What are some of the pros and cons of innovating without permission?
- Are “superintelligent” machines likely to emerge in the future?
- What are the most exciting and most scary aspects of artificial intelligence to you?
- What does “intelligence” mean when it applies to a machine?
Watch Transcendence (2014)
Read chapter 9
- What does “technological convergence” mean?
- How important is it for everyone to ask tough questions about the impacts of new technologies?
- Is terrorism in the name of halting dangerous technologies ever justified?
- How can people sift out realistic expectations of science and technology from the hype?
Watch The Man in the White Suit (1951)
Read chapter 10
- How could engineering materials atom by atom change the world as we know it?
- Should scientists be taught to better-understand how people and society operate?
- Are good intentions good enough in science and technology?
- How involved should members of the public be in what science is done, and how it’s used?
Watch Inferno (2016)
Read chapter 11
- Can bad movies still be useful in making sense of emerging technologies and what they might do?
- Should scientists be allowed to create deadly pathogens in the lab, and tell others how to do it?
- Do the ends ever justify the means when attempting to create a better future using science and technology?
- How can scientists be advocates and activists? Should they be?
Watch The Day After Tomorrow (2004)
Read chapter 12
- How fragile is the current state of the Earth’s climate?
- What does it mean to be a responsible citizen in the “anthropocene?”
- Is it better to try and maintain the Earth as it is, or ensure it is resilient to change?
- Should we use geoengineering to intentionally manipulate the Earth’s climate?
Watch Contact (1997)
Read chapter 13
- Are religious beliefs and science mutually incompatible?
- How important is belief important in science, and why?
- Is Occam’s Razor a useful concept for separating out likely possibilities around emerging technologies from improbable ones?
- How are people likely to react if we we discover life on another world?
Read chapter 14
- Is technology innovation a force for good or bad in society?
- Who’s responsible for ensuring science and technology benefit as many people as possible?
- What can you do to ensure that science and technology are used to create a better future?
- What emerging technologies most excite you
- What emerging technologies most concern you?