Objective: Students will collaborate to write a one act futuristic play that explores an ethical issue, such as those involved with genetic engineering or artificial intelligence.
Purpose: The futuristic milieu of science fiction draws on the past to envision the future. In order to begin envisioning a better universe, or an apocalyptic one, students need to take a look at the one we’ve got. Basing their observations on fact, which may include historical events as well as budding technologies, students can create fiction by projecting the past and present into the future. In so doing, they can remedy the ills of history or determine the destruction to come if we don’t change our ways.
Presentation: Several articles from various magazines will be given to students for their perusal: The Next Hundred Years (The New York Times Magazine, September 29, 1996); The Power of Invention (Newsweek Extra, A New Millennium, Winter, 1997-98); Making Sense of The Millennium (National Geographic, January 1998); Reinventing Life Discover, May 1998); The Darwin Chip (Discover, June, 1998); Is Ours The Only Universe? (U.S. News & World Report, July 20, 1998). We will then discuss the articles and particular pieces of information that the students found interesting. Afterward, we will brainstorm ideas for futuristic scenarios.
Application & Method: In creating a science fiction story, existing science plays a key role in the credibility of the piece. Students will work in groups of three to four students to select a topic, research actual historical events and existing technology that relate to it, further brainstorm ideas, and finally, write the piece. All the skills they have learned thus far with regard to plot lines and characterization should be evident in their final works.
Evaluation: Work in progress will be evaluated along the way. Student groups will share their ideas, research, and writing with the class for comments and suggestions. The groups will continue to fine-tune their pieces and will rehearse the work in order to give a final runthrough for the class (on book; using their scripts if necessary). Each one-act will be judged for its credibility, the validity of the ethical dilemma it proposes, and its ability to evoke an emotional response from the audience.
In the year 2001, with the convergence of quantum, bimolecular and computer revolutions, the human race may begin to approach its adolescent phase. In our early childhood, we began to realize the dangers of natural and unnatural disasters from ice ages to nuclear proliferation. Hopefully, we have averted blowing ourselves to bits and are beginning to take responsibility for global ecology. The marriage of biology and computer is quickly unraveling the DNA code, which may give us the knowledge and technology to cure disease and feed the world. In Sandia Nation Laboratories in New Mexico, a fusion research accelerator (producing ten times the power of the world’s electrical generating systems combined) may help to solve to our world’s energy problems. These technological advances along with other centripetal forces the rise of a global economy and an international middle class, ~and the development of a global language (English is the lingua franca for business, science and the internet) have the capability of bringing our world together.
In this year of 1998, as we approach the new millennium, it might be well to remember Carl Sagan’s words that we are made of stardust, and as such are capable of pulling together to create a universe of possibilities.