Star Trek and the virtuous circle of product innovation
As a self-confessed and unashamed Trekkie, having watched every TV series and movie many times over, I’ll freely admit that I can probably be a bit of a bore on the subject. I eagerly anticipate and enjoy all the new output on the big screen, as well as the recently released Star Trek Discovery series on Netflix, and I’ll happily rewatch anything Trek related that turns up on the small screen. And let’s not forget the unofficial spin-offs that never quite found the funding to make the mainstream. It’s an impressive body of work that spans more than 50 years.
The news in the last few weeks that Patrick Stewart was going to reprise the role of Captain Jean Luc Picard after a 16 year break was a real surprise. This is not a return of Star Trek – The Next Generation, but rather a new set of tales that follow Picard’s post TNG life. Exciting stuff, not least because there’s a top notch team behind the project. All of which had me thinking again about the science of Star Trek, particularly when this very issue talks about projects such as the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod prototype competition. Hyperloop is SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s concept of electrically propelled transport pods travelling autonomously in near vacuum, achieving speeds comparable to aircraft.
Science of course inspires science fiction, but we can look at many of the products we take for granted today and clearly see that science fiction also inspires science. It all becomes a virtuous circle of innovation: the development inspires the dream inspires the development, and so the wheel turns. And no, it’s not just Star Trek. Just when we thought the touch screen HMI was state of the art, along came Tom Cruise in Minority Report with the virtual reality control panel. Modern VR may have been the inspiration of the advanced technology in the film, but it seems to me that the film has inspired developments that would appear to be just around the corner.
And that, to me, is what successful development is all about – not a series of disconnected jumps in random directions, but a cycle of mutually driven forward thinking. Alright, so necessity might be the mother of invention, but perhaps daring to dream is the father of true innovation.
Jean Luc Picard first pulled on the captain’s uniform on the Enterprise in September 1987. Coincidentally, that was the same month Industrial Technology was launched. In that time, in the publishing world, we’ve driven some innovations of our own, and we’ve always tried to deliver a magazine that shows you exactly what you can do today while hinting at what might be coming tomorrow. But I wonder what ideas you might have for the future, and whether we can build our own circle of innovation, where your thoughts could inspire our development. Let me know any ideas you might have and, in the time-honoured words of Captain Picard, let’s see if we can make it so.
Mark Simms Editor