Applied Sci-Fi | Ep. 2: Designing the Future with Applied Sci-Fi

The Applied Sci-Fi Project at Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination is an event series and research project that brings together science fiction writers, futurists, scholars, and technologists to survey how science fiction narratives can shape the development of real-world technologies.

In this second panel in the series, held on September 29, 2022, we explore how the tools of sci-fi narrative are used in the field of design to better imagine, experience, and shape possible futures.

Whether these emerging design practices are categorized as design fiction, sci-fi prototyping, useful fiction, experiential futures, or worldbuilding, there is a growing field of futurists and design professionals applying these science-fictional techniques to advise companies, governments, and nonprofits on how to prepare for the opportunities and challenges that the future will bring.

To learn more about the Applied Sci-Fi Project, visit

Our panelists:

Bruce Sterling (@bruces) is an internationally bestselling author, journalist, editor, columnist, and critic. He is perhaps best known for his ten visionary science fiction novels, as a founder of the cyberpunk movement, and as the editor of the quintessential cyberpunk anthology “Mirrorshades.” His much-heralded nonfiction includes “The Hacker Crackdown: Law and Disorder on the Electronic Frontier” and “The Epic Struggle of the Internet of Things.”

Julian Bleecker (@darthjulian) is the co-founder of Near Future Laboratory and CEO of OMATA. He is a multidisciplinary engineer, product designer, creative technologist, and strategy-oriented futurist. He looks at the world a bit sideways, seeking opportunities to create digital products that are unanticipated, unexpected, and beautiful alternatives to the status quo.

Anab Jain (@anabjain) is a filmmaker, designer, and futurist. She is co-founder of Superflux, a pioneering speculative design and experiential futures studio, working for clients and commissioners such as V&A, Google, Red Cross, UNDP, IKEA, and Deepmind. She has delivered keynotes at TED, Skoll, House of Lords and House of Commons UK, and shown work at MoMA New York, V&A London, National Museum of China, and Museum of the Future Dubai. She serves as professor for design investigations at the University of Applied Arts, Vienna.

Alex McDowell (@worldbldg) is a narrative designer. He served as a production designer for more than 30 years of feature films by David Fincher, Terry Gilliam, Tim Burton, Steven Spielberg, and others, and he is the originator of world building as a disruptive design system. He is now creative director at Experimental Design Studio, designing storytelling for change in media, education, industry, and institutions. He is a professor at USC Media Arts + Practice, and director of the World Building Media Lab and Institute.

Radha Mistry (@radha_mistry) has a background in architecture, narrative environments, and strategic foresight. She leads the Americas Region Foresight business at Arup, teaches speculative design at the MFA Transdisciplinary Design program at The New School (Parsons), and strategic foresight at the Design MBA program at the California College of the Arts. She spends most of her time exploring the impact of emerging signals of change and how they’ll change the way we design and make things in the future. Her foresight career also includes time at organizations such as Autodesk and Steelcase.

Brian David Johnson (@BDJFuturist) has made the future his business. From 2009 to 2016, he was Intel Corporation’s first-ever futurist. Currently, he is a professor at Arizona State University’s Global Futures Laboratory and School for the Future of Innovation in Society. He also works in a private practice with a broad range of groups, including governments, militaries, corporations, nonprofits, and start-ups, to help them envision their future. He holds more than 40 patents and is the bestselling author of books of science fiction and fact (“Threatcasting,” “The Future You,” “WaR: Wizards and Robots,” and “21st Century Robot”).

Kevin Bankston (@KevinBankston) is a fellow at ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination, where he researches the relationship between sci-fi and real-world innovation. Kevin is also an accomplished executive leader in the arena of technology law and policy, having spent nearly 20 years working in the public interest sector as an attorney and advocate at organizations like the ACLU, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the Center for Democracy & Technology, most recently serving as the Director of the Open Technology Institute at New America. He is now a Director of Privacy Policy at Meta Platforms, Inc., where he leads Meta’s AI Policy Team in developing policies and processes for ensuring responsible AI development.