At the core of science fiction is the notion of extrapolation, of asking, “If this goes on, where will it lead?” And, unlike most scientists who think in relatively short time frames—getting to the next funding deadline, or readying a product to bring to market—we think on much longer scales: not just months and years, but decades and centuries.

That said, our job is not to predict the future. Rather, it’s to suggest all the possible futures—so that society can make informed decisions about where we want to go. George Orwell’s science-fiction classic Nineteen Eighty-Four wasn’t a failure because the future it predicted failed to come to pass. Rather, it was a resounding success because it helped us prevent that future. Those wishing to get in on the ground floor of discussing where technology is leading us would do well to heed Alvin Toffler’s advice by cracking open a good science-fiction book and joining the conversation.