Does Science Fiction Influence Technical & Social change?


Does Science Fiction Influence our Technical and Social changes?

Anything one man can imagine, other men can make real.” ― Jules Verne, Around the World in Eighty Days.  

Science Fiction fans point to examples of the similarity between Star Trek 's ‘communicators’ that seemed revolutionary when the programs first aired and the ever present ‘Cell Phones’ in our current culture as evidence of the influence of science fiction on our civilization’s technical directions. They point to how Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr dissuaded Nichelle Nichols (Lieutenant Uhura) from leaving the Star Trek cast because of the positive influence her presence was having on the culture of American audiences. (See her comments on:


The question we wish to pose is: “When looking at those times when science fiction has seemed to predict a change in technology or social behavior, are we witnessing a real effect, or only a coincidental alignment of circumstances?” Can 'Art,' in general, influence technology and society?

Did the Sinclair Lewis novel "It Can't Happen Here" prevent the rise of a demagogue in the USA in the 1930’s? Are we seeing George Orwell’s 1984 vision of “Big Brother is watching” in the NSA surveillance of our phone calls and email messages and in the rise of universal facial recognition software in China?

We have asked our keynote speaker and our panelists to consider this question and analyze it from several points of view:

Is the linkage real, or just a fanciful illusion?

If the effect is real, are the authors aware of any influence they may have?

Given the views of many possible futures, can Science Fiction help us change our future for the better?

And, what about ‘Magic’? Arthur C. Clarke, the brilliant futurist and writer said: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." What can we do with those phenomena that have been observed but not yet scientifically understood? Do we dismiss them, seek to bring them into the scientific discourse, or embrace the mysticism? 

Come join us: engage with our speakers and join in the panel discussions and networking sessions embedded in the schedule. We look forward to greeting you all and engaging in both serious discussions and flights of fancy.

 Park in Lot 'A' on the LTU Map (   Enter Building #3 (University Technology Learning Center) and proceed left down the hallways to Registration / Check-in at the Architecture Auditorium.  

  Date and Time




  • Lawrence Technological University
  • 21000 West Ten Mile Road
  • Southfield, Michigan
  • United States 48075-1058
  • Building: Architecture (#4 on LTU Map)
  • Room Number: Architecture Auditorium
  • Click here for Map

Staticmap?size=250x200&sensor=false&zoom=14&markers=42.2845589%2c 83
  • Karen Burnham: Karen.Burnham [at] is vocationally an engineer and avocationally a science fiction reviewer. She was nominated for the British Science Fiction Award for Non-Fiction in 2012 and 2014. She works as an electromagnetic engineer at Ford Motor Company in Dearborn, MI, where she lives with her husband and two sons.

    Kimball Williams: k.williams [at]

  • Co-sponsored by R40035 - Southeastern Michigan Section
  • Starts 01 September 2020 01:36 PM
  • Ends 03 October 2020 12:55 PM
  • All times are US/Michigan
  • Admission fee ?
  • Register


Lisa Nocks: Historian
Lisa Nocks: Historian of IEEE History Center





Dr. Nocks has a B.A. in Fine Arts from Montclair State University, an M.A. in Media Studies from The New school, and a Ph.D. in Modern History and Literature from Drew University.

Lisa is an authority on the history of robotics, and has long experience in teaching, researching, and disseminating the history of technology to a wide range of audiences. Most recently, she has been serving as a Senior University Lecturer in the Federated Department of History at the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

She has won numerous grants and awards for her research and teaching. Her popular book The Robot: The Life Story of a Technology (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), was named top academic title of the year by the American Library Association's Choice magazine.


Address:New Jersey, United States

Karen Burham

Karen Burham of IEEE SEM


Panel Moderator



Karen Burnham is vocationally an engineer and avocationally a science fiction reviewer. She writes for venues such as Locus Magazine, Strange Horizons, and Cascadia Subduction Zone. She was nominated for the British Science Fiction Award for Non-Fiction in 2012 and 2014. She works as an electromagnetic engineer at Ford Motor Company in Dearborn, MI, where she lives with her husband and two sons. 

Karen has participated in various science fiction conventions and conferences in different capacities. She served as the Vice President of the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts, which holds an academic and writers conference each Spring in Florida. She was the head of the Academic track of Programming at the 72nd World Science Fiction Convention in San Antonio, TX in 2013. She has also produced and hosted three podcasts: the Locus Roundtable, SF Crossing the Gulf with Karen Lord for, and Small Blue Planet with Cheryl Morgan al appearing at Locus Magazine’s website. In January 2017 she was the Science Guest of Honor at ConFusion in Michigan, and she continues to be involved with that awesome regional convention as a programming track head.


Address:16535 Park St, , Livonia, Michigan, United States, 48154-2209


9:30 Sign-in - Get Badge.  / Networking / Continental Breakfast

10:00 Keynote Address & Networking

11:00 1st Panel / Discussion "TOPIC 1"

Noon:  Lunch & Networking – LTU Cafeteria (Included in Registration)

12:30 2nd Panel / Discussion "TOPIC 2"

13:30 Afternoon Break / Networking & Snacks

14:00 3rd Panel / Discussion "TOPIC 3"

15:00 4th Panel / Discussion "TOPIC 4"

16:00 Drive home safely.  

We want to see you all here next year to expand the discussion.  

Sponsored by IEEE Southeastern Michigan Section - Chapter 8 (EMC)