|Tucked away on the top shelf of my study is|
my battered (mostly) high school sci-fi collection
"Set aside the aliens and the spaceships," the Economist says, "and much contemporary science fiction is concerned with themes such as the impact of artificial intelligence, the danger of ecological collapse, the misuse of corporate power and the legacy of imperialism."
American sci-fi authors are unafraid to tackle subjects such as gender politics, while Chinese authors provide a window into the cultural dynamics of that nation. Microsoft, Google, and Apple have all employed sci-fi writers as consultants to stretch the thinking of their executives.
If you want to get started, here's Amazon's 100 sci-fi and fantasy books to read in a lifetime. If this list seems overwhelming, start with this recent profile in The New Yorker, "How William Gibson Keeps His Science Fiction Real."
Dan Wang is a technology analyst with Gavekal who maintains a personal blog and writes a superb year-end letter.
His 2019 edition tackles the question of China's technology efforts, which look spectacular from certain perspectives but about which he is unimpressed. Yes, China leads on mobile payments and infrastructure projects such as high-speed rail, but "much of China's technology stack is built on American components, especially semiconductors. Failure to develop more foundational technologies," Wang writes, "has meant that the US has had an at-will ability to kneecap major firms."
Discussions that focus on speculative Chinese leadership in AI, quantum computing, and biotech--initiatives which remain more "science projects than real, commercial industries"--distract from the country's weakness in established technologies, Wang concludes.
However, where China may lag in product innovation, it is surging ahead in process innovation. China's domination of manufacturing allows it to capture "marginal process knowledge" which will put the nation in "a better place to develop the next technological advancements."