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Is It Science Fiction or the Future?

November 7th, 2017

Author M.T. Anderson

At the next NIU STEM Café, join National Book Award winner M.T. Anderson and Dr. Tammy Batson, director of NIU’s Center for Economic Education, for a lively discussion on economics, technology and the invisible hands that control our lives.

The STEM Café will take place 6:30-8:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 16, at Fatty’s Pub and Grille in DeKalb. The event is free and open to the public. Food and drinks will be available for purchase.

In a recent interview, Anderson says he sees his role as a science fiction writer as “mixing elements of reality with strangeness” to help readers see reality more clearly and critically.

Anderson’s books, such as Landscape With Invisible Hand, The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing and Feed, use humor and satire to explore how people deal with societal disruptions. He turns a comedic and critical eye to everything, from history to social media.

Many of the stories that play out in his books and other works of science fiction relate to real concepts in economics.

“What will happen when part of the human race will get enhanced and most humans won’t be able to afford to get enhanced?” he asks. “And what are we going to do as humans (blue collar, then white collar) when jobs can be done by computers, but at the same time we have an economy based on the fact that you have to work to live? What will we do when there’s no labor needed?”

Batson is looking forward to offering an economist’s perspective during the discussion. “During this café, we’ll be discussing the impact of technological advance on existing markets,” she says. “How is it that some advances can lead to significant improvements in our society while at the same time are outdating or replacing some of the existing human capital?”

She hopes to provide a perspective on the issues faced by displaced workers from changes in technology and trade. “I hope the audience takes away that these types of changes in an economy are not new,” she says. “The timing of a change or which industry is impacted is unpredictable. But the idea that in the long run, changes are in a way ‘predictably unpredictable’ may help us prepare for our future.”

This event is part of NIU STEM Outreach’s series of monthly STEM Cafés, which are free and open to the public. The STEM Café series is just one of the many engaging events from STEM Outreach to increase public awareness of the critical role that STEM fields play in everyday lives. For more information, call 815-753-4751 or email jdymond@niu.edu.

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