These days, it often seems like the entertainment industry just wants to keep monetizing the same handful of properties over and over, instead of taking more risks. That makes for a "warmed-over meatloaf" feeling — but in Slate, Hieroglyph co-editor Ed Finn argues it's also bad for innovation.

Top image: Thunderbirds

Finn writes:

It's tremendously important to nourish the feedback loop between popular imagination and technical innovation—but we can't keep shuffling the same ideas back and forth over the transom.... Right now, almost everyone is working from the same conceptual playbook. All of these engineers watched Star Trek (or grokked its core ideas through cultural osmosis), which is a big part of why Google engineers keep talking about building the Star Trek computer—everyone knows what they mean. It's why the X Prize Foundation wants someone to build a Tricorder.

The fact that we are all so steeped in the same shorthand of the future (intelligent robots; warp drive; retinal displays) is a hint that we've become complacent about our dreams. The stories we tell about the near future have become homogeneous and standardized.

Of course, as Finn himself notes, any story about robots will wind up being influenced by Asimov, just like any story about space exploration will nod to Star Trek. But it would be cool if the legion of designers and brilliant artists working in Hollywood right now were hard at work on imagining cool new space gadgets and awesome spaceship designs.

The whole essay is well worth reading. [Slate]

* Full disclosure: Annalee and I both have pieces in this anthology.

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