If you want innovative ideas and crazy possibilities, consult the artists. That's just what the Department of Homeland Security has done by hiring a group of science-fiction writers to imagine extreme scenarios where terrorists might attack, reports USA Today.
"We spend our entire careers living in the future," says author Arlan Andrews, one the of writers the government brought to Washington this month to attend a Homeland Security conference on science and technology.
The writers group, called Sigma, actually has been around for about 15 years. Their raison d'être is to advise government officials on doomsday scenarios, such as what the post-nuclear age might hold for humanity. In fact, their group's motto is "Science Fiction in the National Interest."
Although it may run contrary to scientific thought, scientists know that the science-fiction writers can often predict the future.
"Fifty years ago, science-fiction writers told us about flying cars and a wireless handheld communicator," says Christopher Kelly, spokesman for Homeland Security's Science and Technology division. "Although flying cars haven't evolved, cellphones today are a way of life. We need to look everywhere for ideas, and science-fiction writers clearly inform the debate."
To be in the group, Andrews says, you have to have at least one technical doctorate degree.
"We're well-qualified nuts," says Jerry Pournelle, coauthor of the best sellers Footfall and Lucifer's Hammer and dozens of other books.