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Interview: Technology and the need for social connection with Janice Ho

In our short story competition, 'One Day in 2070', we asked budding science fiction writers to imagine the world fifty years from now. Unsurprisingly, technology plays an important part in these future worlds for good and bad. We sat down with highly commended author Janice Ho to talk about her story 'Inside the Future' and the potential consequences of living in a world dependent on technology.

UN: Your story ‘Inside the Future’ tells the tale of someone who wakes up in the future to find people disconnected from each other because of technology. What inspired your story?

J: I think as a young child with no real idea of our society, I thought that our going to be a futuristic world with pods, robots and lots of drones. The inspiration came from my imaginative brain and my dreams. I had a dream once about a fun fair in the future and it was basically VR in real life. There were robots as staff and pods everywhere. It was so bizarre, but it was the cliché thought of the future from a 12-year-olds perspective.

UN: There are lots of warnings in this world about the future. What key message would you like readers to take away?

J: During Lockdown, I stayed in contact with a lot of my friends. But it didn’t feel very real to me, and I felt annoyed at the current situation. Because as a 11–12-year-old child, the only things I cared about was seeing my friends and socialising with others. And my mum and dad were very keen to stick to the covid guidelines. So, me and my family ended up staying at home for many months without going out to breathe some fresh air. Since everyone was stuck at home, the only thing to entertain young children was technology. And we all know how addicting the internet can be. So, i had this fear that when everyone came out from lockdown, there would be a lack of communication. And to be honest, that kind of happened! Everyone became a tiny bit more addicted to their devices and as a 12-year-old I thought about the lack of communication there would be in 50 years if this carried on. So, I mainly wrote this story as a warning to our current generation to let them know that they should maybe go out and talk to their friends face to face rather than looking at some letters on their screen that had been formulated by their friends!

"I quickly rushed out of the café store and continued walking down the streets. But, as I walked, I started to see that many people were addicted to technology. Everywhere I looked, everyone was on their phones, laptops or some type of device."

UN: What tips would you give young people who want to write a science fiction story but don’t know where to start?

Science fiction is a very broad genre. It can be taken in many directions, whether it’s linked to robots and drones or whether it’s linked to more scientific things like sperm and egg cells. I think that when writing a science fiction story, there may be pressure to write a story that has really complicated words and that is linked to science. But in reality, it doesn’t have to be that complicated! If you want to write something more imaginative and unrealistic, you should do it. If you think that someone wouldn’t like your concept, you should still do it, because if you think about it, there are 7.8 billion people in this world who each have unique minds. And there’s bound to be millions of people out there who are interested in stories that are either more scientific or imaginative. So, my tip would be to write what’s from your imagination. That’s where the beauty of science fiction comes from. The imagination of a young child.

UN: Was there anything you learned from being a part of the Utopia Now project?

J: Yes! I learnt many things from this project. I learnt the process of editing a story and I also learnt how to project my voice in a performance and how much practice can make perfect. I suggest when performing a piece, you should say the whole piece as many times as you can, to get familiar of the words as it can make the biggest different ever. I’ve learnt many other things too which will be very helpful for the upcoming future.

UN: At the Utopia Now launch event you asked scientists about building a future where people aren’t so reliant on technology. Why do you think it’s important for scientists to think about what role technology plays in our lives?

J: I personally think that technology obviously plays a huge part in our lives. And I’m very thankful for that. And I think that the technology is so complex and is amazing when you think about how much time has been put into designing a product that works and functions perfectly. But I think that scientists should keep in mind that technology can also damage someone’s mental health. Whether it’s from cyber bullying or comparing yourself to a photoshopped photo on Instagram. I think that technology can be so helpful in our lives but it’s so advanced that what else can you do to it. Unnecessary things will just be made. So, I think that people should focus more on ways to help people with their mental health as technology can be harmful.

But I think that scientists should keep in mind that technology can also damage someone’s mental health. Whether it’s from cyber bullying or comparing yourself to a photoshopped photo on Instagram.

UN: What three things do you think can help to make the world a better place?

This may seem cliché but thinking more about the environment. Climate change is already so bad right now and I know that many people know about it but don’t understand it. I recommend people go search up the actual process about climate change and greenhouse gases and then they will realise how harmful it is to our environment. Our future children and grandchildren are going to have to live through our actions to the environment. Do you really want to leave them a toxic environment to live in?

My second point is nothing related to sci-fi. But it’s just to respect everyone no matter the race, culture, or size. If you think about it, we are all human. We have insecurities and things we don’t want to be picked apart about. You may be the most perfect human ever, but you still have insecurities. There are just tiny “imperfections” in our DNA that make us look different from each other. So why slander other people for things that they can’t necessarily control? People just need to understand that we are all human and we all have valid feelings, so to criticise someone for their physical appearance and to bully them for it, is so beyond harmful and can cause them to do things you never thought a little snide comment would cause someone to do.

My third point is very small. But can make a huge difference in our own personal lives. It’s to go out and speak to your friends and family and to cherish them. Technology is going to be there for our whole lives, but family and friends may not. Everyone only lives once and never take granted for someone else. You should spend as much time as you can with them and live life to your fullest.

Read Janice's story 'Inside the Future' and explore the rest of the anthology, 'One Day in 2070'.


Bio: My name is Janice and I’m 14 years old. I’m going into year 10 and have a massive passion for art, which has been something I’ve been interested since I was in year 2. So illustrating my short story was a very useful and a rewarding experience for me. I’m also very interested in chemistry and about our atmosphere and climate change, so giving my input on our world in the future was a very interesting experience, especially since I was able to hear other young people’s ideas on the future. I’m very thankful for this experience and I know that this will play a huge part in my future successes and the way I learn from my many mistakes!



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