Wednesday, October 15, 2014

​The io9 Manifesto: Science Is Political

Damn. Straight. This is from last April (2014), but this is the first I have seen of it.

​The io9 Manifesto: Science Is Political

Annalee Newitz

io9 started out in 2007 as the germ of an idea for a site about futurism, with a name that was a joke about brain implants. Six and a half years later, we've grown in size — but we've also grown up. Our 2008 manifesto still holds true, but in 2014 we've got some amendments. Here they are.

* * * *

Last month, for the first time, io9 had over 10 million unique readers in the United States alone; globally, we had 15 million. We had a staff of three when we launched in 2008; now we've got 14. Our mission has grown too.

Speculative Pop Culture

When I first conceived io9 back in 2007, I had one goal: to give readers a vision of the future that was based in scientific reality as well as science fiction. To do it, I needed to build a publication that would bring science journalism together with cultural criticism and futurist ideas. No one strand of thought would be dominant. To understand where we're headed as a civilization, we cannot privilege science over culture, nor can we afford to ignore even the most speculative predictions.

Often, the weirdest notions about the future turn out to be right.

Over time, io9 has expanded beyond its roots in science fiction. We're fascinated by any story, in any medium, that inspires people to look beyond the narrow confines of everyday life and contemplate an alternate world. I think these kinds of stories are crucial thought experiments, whether they are set in our reality or Westeros. They keep us sharp, preparing us for the day when things change so much that we'll need an education in alternate realities just to cope with this one.

Fighting for Science

Our science coverage has also changed. At this point in history, when science is under attack from many political and religious institutions, we can no longer afford to report on the latest research and call it a job well done. To advocate for science is to advocate for a political position, whether we like it or not.

Pro-science politics don't divide easily into conservative and liberal. Imagine, if you will, that people from all positions on the political spectrum came together to advocate for scientific research and education. Conservatives advocating for defense and agricultural innovations would rub shoulders with liberals pursuing sustainable energy and environmental reforms. But all would be united under the banner of rational inquiry. (And probably they would all want to go to space, too.)

Who knows what kinds of civilizational progress might come out of that crucible, where people with many political backgrounds could join forces to assure humanity's continued survival, using science?

Illustration from Destiny

A Better Future

Now I want you to stretch your imagination even further, and think about how our group of politically-mixed science advocates could include cultural and ethical issues on their agenda too. What if we finally admitted that the scientific project has always been a wider cultural movement, full of guiding myths and useful fictions and passionate believers?

What if, in short, political change could be as astounding as scientific discovery and as mind-expanding as the best pop culture?

Here at io9, we aim to find out. The point of futurism isn't just to describe what comes next — it's to change it. Come with us, on our quest to build a better tomorrow.

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