We never know coincidently what would happen in our own future. When it comes to you, you just have to accept it and find a way to figure out why and what to do next.
Take me as an example. I got my Master Degree by the end of 2010. At that time, I had a lack of money, so I decided to work in the industry and postponed my interest in PhD study. I returned home and got a job in three months after I was back. I found my job interesting but unfortunately I encountered a difficulty in my personal life and a fork in career. I got an offer from the university to study in a PhD program in Taiwan. I didn’t expect to do it at that time, but I still made the decision to try.
I spent two years working with Prof. Vic Callaghan on SFP research. Meanwhile I completed all the compulsory credits and passed the qualification. I received the Candidate in the third year. It sounds all fine, but actually it was already beyond my limit to continue my research. All of a sudden I lost my muse upon writing. That was a big strike!
I took a break working in a government funded research institute since July 2013. Meanwhile I received a funding from the Ministry of Science and Technology to do research in Manchester. I returned to Manchester in September 2014. I didn’t stay long as expected for a year. I got ill after a month and finished the journey in two and half months, going back home in November. What a life!
I started working back at the research institute in February 2015 until now. Time flies! Six years have passed since I completed my MSc study. During the time, I wavered between studying and working. That was hard mentally! I haven’t made up my mind. Now, I start writing this blog to explore myself and also to find the muse back. It is just the beginning. I look forwards to it…
I really enjoyed the time working at Essex University during the winter from November 2010 to January 2011. The photo was taken on the 29th of November 2010. I remember on that day, all of a sudden, I felt like eating outside, so we got a pizza and went out for fresh air! Eating pizza in the snow is definitely an experience! It was fun and unforgettable!
On 17th of August 2010, I visited Prof. Vic Callaghan in Essex University for a discussion on my MSc thesis. Asides from the thesis interview, he gave me a tour of the School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering. He showed me his little robot, the previous version of Marvino produced by the company, Fortito, later on in 2015. That was the day I first met Vic in his lab and it was also the day I started my journey for exploring more technologies and the futuristic world with his guidance! It has been six years and it is long enough to change a lot of things, but one thing is never changed, our friendship and contact for our mutual interests in science, technology, business and the love of life.
As anyone that has ever watched such films as “Sliding Doors” or “The Adjustment Bureau” will know, it is difficult to say what leads any of us to a particular situation in life!
So what led Vic and I to writing this SFP “The Spiritual Machine” together? Was it fate, chance or a mix of these?
Well, without having met during the early summer of 2010, this story would never have happened. A key element of that was the decision by me to come to the UK in the fall of 2009, to complete an MSc in Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship at Manchester Business School.
My thesis was based on the “Social Innovation of Living Labs” and one of my case studies was the “iSpace” at the University of Essex, run by Vic Callaghan. A chance discussion about films such as “Blade Runner”, “Cyborg She” and the “Thirteenth Floor” (to name but some) and a collaboration on reviewing Johnson’s book “Science Fiction prototyping: A Framework for Design” ended up in many hours of fascinating conversations and an instant and enduring friendship – the beginning of this SFP!
So that’s how I met Vic and how we became friends, but where did the story form? It was actually my idea, and draws on a number of inspirations. Firstly, I have long been motivated by, and drawn to, understanding how to balance the material and spiritual life to achieve human and social well-being. Secondly, from my unique research background in technology, business, and innovation studies, I argue that the driving force of modern technology is taking people into a new era where there are hidden risks for long-term mental health. In part, this view is inspired from my own experience of suffering from over-exposure to information technologies, where the pace and volume of social and business activities, enabled by these new technologies can easily overwhelm the senses.
This SFP sought to combine my ideas with Vic’s technology research to write this imaginative and speculative story, ‘The Spiritual Machine’, which we hope readers will find enjoyable, thought provoking and bring forth introspection and reflections on their lives.
As an early adopter in the area of Science Fiction Prototyping (SFP), I have published two SFPs (‘The Spiritual Machine’ & ‘The Programmer and the Widow’) plus a journal paper in Futures (Imagination Workshops: An Empirical Exploration of SFP for Technology based Business Innovation) which proposed an evolutionary model for the SFP creation process that improved its performance as a business innovation tool with hard deliverables. The deliverables arising from SFP are future scenarios, and the associated R&D and business model specifications etc.
Talking about the origin of SFP, we must meet Brian David Johnson. He was Intel’s Futurist when he proposed the methodology SFP for use by scientists and engineers to support product innovation in Intel Labs. This method was released to the public in 2010 via a workshop labelled Creative Science and published as a book in 2011. From my point of view, SFP has the potential to play a strategic role in promoting creative thinking and innovation by enabling people from different areas of business and society to co-create their visions of the future. An example can be given. I organised a workshop (Future City Innovation Workshop) with Prof. Vic Callaghan and Dr. Gary Graham in Leeds University in 2015. In this workshop, SFP was used to understand the changing needs and problems facing communities as cities evolve in response to technological change. There were 20+ attendees from universities and local communities. From brainstorming the future cities with SFP method, several micro-SFPs were created and a short session hosted by Dr. Ping Zheng taking the attendees from the ideas of SFPs to planning their actions from the dimensions of idea, market, product, opportunity, resources and technology. This practice brings SFP to a next level of making ideas to actions.
I would like to conclude the post today with a quote from Brian, “Science fiction is the playground of the imagination. If you are interested in science or fascinated with the future then science fiction is where you explore new ideas and let your dreams and nightmares duke it out on the safety of the page or screen. But what if we could use science fiction to do more than that? What if we could use science fiction based on science fact to not only imagine our future but develop new technologies and products? What if we could use stories, movies and comics as a kind of tool to explore the real world implications and uses of future technologies today?”. SFP is exactly what you need to implement your Sci-Fi ideas to reality. Enjoy it and stay tune with us on the events of Creative Science Foundation.