On the surface, it might be easy to make the argument that the farthest thing from business operations is science fiction. Star Trek and IPOs aren’t known for having any kind of direct correlation, and unless you’re making futuristic video games, there doesn’t seem to be any explicit reason to study Ray Bradbury or Isaac Assimov.
In Ari Popper’s world, “Science Fiction” is “Business Future.”
CEO of SciFutures (after a position as US President of Market Research BrainJuicer), Ari works with companies to help them grasp how their mission, product, and/or services will translate and adapt to the technological and market pace of the future. “I’ve been working in innovation for a long time, and I’ve found that it’s very difficult for corporations to understand exponentiality… and the potentialities available to them.” Ari’s job is to paint a realistic and appealing future picture for the companies he works with using science fiction themes, but based in science fact – in order the help companies better envision a positive future that clarifies their mission and goals.
“Warren Ellis says that we’re living in the Science Fiction condition,” Ari says. Science fiction is becoming a reality all around us – from augmented reality to medical technologies. Corporations planning to stick around all have a desire to know how they fit into that future, not just out of interest or curiosity, but for the survival and adaptation of their business. “What science fiction really does is it creates a seamless world – and emotion and real world… and what gets an organization to buy into it.” For this job, Ari brings in teams of true-blue science fiction writers to build a compelling and positive future story that companies and employees are eager to become part of.
His position, however, is not merely “picture painting,” but “implementation.” His second company, A2O Technologies, builds and implements the visions that SciFutures and their clients create. Ari mentions one client who was aiming to revolutionize interior design and home design, and A2O helped build out many of the augmented reality components of the vision, implementing a series of prototypes for the company to test and explore.
The idea begs the question: Can every company benefit from bringing on sci-fi writers? As a consulting service, it seems that many organizations do see the benefits. It wasn’t that long ago that Intel named Brian David Johnson their “resident futurist,” helping them make a change in their engineering culture to be more honed-in on future processor applications. It will be interesting to see what science fiction’s role will be in the future of business, but we might estimate – as I imagine Ari Popper does – that it’ll only be more prevalent as the pace of change continues to climb. Today is looking more like tomorrow than it ever has in human history, and for Ari, that might mean that business isn’t slowing down anytime soon.