Many of the short stories published in our anthology ‘One day in 2070’ warn us about how new technology can be used for good and bad. We sat down with Laura Hack, author of the highly commended short story ‘What a Wonderous World’ to talk about what questions should ask ourselves and the human qualities that can help to create a better world.
UN: Your story ‘What a Wonderous World’ is a story about a young person that gets to interview someone from the future. What inspired your story?
LH: There wasn’t a specific thing that inspired me. Rather, I started writing on the impulse of an idea and the story wrote itself, it grew and developed as I was writing it. One thing I can say is that while I was writing, a convenient memory came to my head about reading in an article that scientists have been able to grow a lamb embryo in a plastic bag, stimulating a womb. This sprung the idea within me that in a few years’ time we could perhaps also have human babies made in plastic bags.
UN: Whilst it feels like your story is set in a utopia, we quickly find out that things may not be as good as they seem. What key message would you like readers to take away?
LH: Be aware and cautious. Being perceptive and not believing everything anybody tells you or you see on the internet is, as I see it, one of the most important qualities to have in our modern society. The internet has a lot of resources. However, not all are completely accurate. We have our own minds and I think it’s important we use them to make our own perception of situations.
The internet has a lot of resources. However, not all are completely accurate. We have our own minds and I think it’s important we use them to make our own perception of situations.
UN: What tips would you give young people who want to write a science fiction story but don’t know where to start?
LH: You can make a story out of anything! Want to start with a tree, no problem! Make it grow in the field of a graveyard from an ancient (or not so ancient) cyber war. Or start with a caterpillar crawling up a tree branch just as it gets eaten by a squirrel. But wait, the squirrel has an evil looking red cyborg eye! What I am trying to say is go with your first impulses and see where it leads you! The possibilities are endless, you can make a post-apocalyptic or science fiction story out of anything! (Just go for it!)
UN: Was there anything you learned from being a part of the Utopia Now project?
LH: There are so many opportunities out there for young writers. Many of which carry you forward and teach you along the way, things you would never expect. I, for example, learnt that your first draft doesn’t have to be perfect. It can be messy and does not need to make sense. All these things are made up for in editing, which takes patience and may be exhausting, but truly it is worth it!!! It may even take you several times of revision to create your ‘perfect’ version of your manuscript. But please don’t give up!
UN: At the Utopia Now launch event you spoke about how certain technologies like Biobags, an artificial womb to grow babies, or genetically altered embryos might seem like a promising idea. But in your story, you also hinted that that perhaps they can also be used for bad reasons by some. Why do you think it’s important for scientists to consider ethical reasons behind developing new technologies?
LH: We do not know the extent of the consequences we may be exposed to if we release such new technologies. DNA is complex and even just one wrong alteration can completely break it. If something was to go wrong, for example while growing or modifying an embryo, who would take responsibility? It is a complicated issue, one which I myself alone may not be able to answer at this time. However, I believe it is always a good idea as scientists (who do experiment with all things animate/ that contain DNA) to ask themselves if what they are doing is or will be beneficial for the future. Will it help people? What negatives may this research bring to the world? And is it worth it?
However, I believe it is always a good idea as scientists (who do experiment with all things animate/ that contain DNA) to ask themselves if what they are doing is or will be beneficial for the future. Will it help people? What negatives may this research bring to the world? And is it worth it?
UN: What three things do you think can help to make the world a better place?
LH: Empathy/Sympathy- trying to understand other people and their thoughts/ emotions can really help not only with communication but also with growing meaningful relationships. If we were to just sometimes pause and place ourselves in other people’s shoes, we would be able to create an understanding society, one in which no one is shunned for their emotions or things they cannot control. Overall people would be happier.
Kindness- even if it is just small acts of kindness like holding the door for someone or saying thank you in return, these acts can go a long way, to make people more happy, open and therefore also more welcoming. It would create a more harmonious environment, in which we can all feel appreciated.
Curiosity- the spark to learn how things work, or the limits of another. Curiosity and the drive to know more is what I think can bring us to new technologies. However, with less scepticism as we all would have at least some knowledge on the theme to make us understand the properties of this new technology better.
These are by no means the only things to make the world a better place, there are countless more. But I do believe that these three core human qualities can solve so many of our other problems!
Laura Sophia Hack is a young person that loves to write and dream about all her fantastical ideas that swirl in her mind at times.