lighting, Diplomacy

Science fiction meets policy | Policy meets science fiction

15 January 2019 -

Geneva, Switzerland

Event description

What can sci-fi teach us about digital politics and its future?

What was once considered science fiction is becoming a reality at an accelerated pace. What can sci-fi teach us about the future of digital politics? Can it inform better policies? If so, how?


What can sci-fi teach us about digital politics and its future? is part of the series Geneva Digital Talks. With this event, we want bring two very different constituencies together: Sci-fi authors and sci-fi enthusiasts on the one side, and policy makers, diplomats, and international relations professionals dealing with digital politics on the other. What discussions emerge and what lessons can be learned at the intersection of the two? What happens when science fiction and policy meet?


This event will create a safe and fertile place for thought experiments by social scientists, policy makers, and diplomats inspired by the imagination of sci-fi authors and by the meeting of different professional cultures and mind-sets. It will allow us to take a moment in our busy lives for thinking through technological developments and their impact on the way we work, live, and organise our world.


Sci-fi can be escapist or critical about our potential future, often in reaction to our present reality. It can provide dystopian or utopian visions of what is to come, but also, many alternative universes in between. Which of these universes becomes our reality will depend on our collective human agency, including our digital policy and its governance. Like with the butterfly-effect, the measures that we take, or not take, right now, will steer our common destiny in the direction of one of these potential futures.

What? Exploring topics of critical importance in a highly interactive setting:

  • Introductory remarks by Prof Jovan Kurbalija (Executive Director and Co-Lead UN SG High Level Panel on Digital Cooperation) and Ambassador Farukh Amil (Permanent Representative of Pakistan)
  • Concluding thoughts on ‘Hang all the fortune-tellers’ by Cory Doctorow (science fiction author and digital rights activist)

Topics and contributors in detail:

  • ‘Designing fiction: domesticating the science’ (James Auger, Professor in design at RMIT Europe)
  • Augmented Corporation (Dejan Dinčić, Digital Transformation and Online Learning Specialist)
  • The sci-fi take on robots and the future of work (Richard Hill, President, Association for Proper Internet Governance) – Further material can be found here and here.
  • Expanding the limits of our knowledge through sci-fi (Katharina Höne, Researcher and lecturer diplomacy and digital politics, DiploFoundation)
  • Hello, Dave. The sci-fi take on artificial intelligence (Djordje Jančić, Head of Data Team, DiploFoundation)
  • To ‘science-fiction’ policy or to not ‘science-fiction’ policy? (Dimitri Konstantas, Professor, University of Geneva)
  • Science fiction as a tool for critique and (improving?) policy: What can we learn from Afrofuturism? (Darija Medić, Digital Art Project Coordinator, DiploFoundation)

Further reading:

In preparation for the event, we have put together a curated reading list. The list serves as inspiration and to extend the discussion. You will find some of the classics written by authors like Isaac Asimov, Arthur C Clarke, Philip K Dick, William Gibson, Ursula Le Guin, and Neal Stephenson. You will also find a younger generation of authors including Ted Chiang, Cory Doctorow, and Liu Cixin. We have also included a list of interviews and reflections on sci-fi by authors such as Octavia E Butler, Ursula Le Guin, Donna Haraway, and Ytasha Womack.

You can find our curated reading list for the event here.


  • 12:30 Speculative lunch cinema: A selection of science fiction shorts and light lunch
  • 13:15 Welcome: When sci-fi meets policy 
  • 13:30 Panel discussion: Thinking things differently: by exploring the human condition, thinking through the future of work, and designing things differently
  • 14:15 Coffee break
  • 14:30 Overview of discussion groups: Zooming in on sci-fi and digital politics
  • 14:45 Brainstorming and exchange in discussion groups: Operating at the intersection of sci-fi and policy
  • 15:30 Concluding discussion: ‘Hang all the fortune-tellers’ and ‘Where do we go from here?’

Where and when:

15 January  |  12:30 – 16:00 CET  |  Geneva, WMO building, 2nd floor

Join the Geneva Internet Platform for this half-day event, which forms part of our Geneva Digital Talks.