The180

Does science fiction belong in political science classrooms?

Carleton University colleagues Stephen Saideman and Stephanie Carvin debate the pros and cons of using science fiction as an analogy to talk about international politics and conflicts.
Vintage action figures of Star Wars characters Darth Vader (L) and Luke Skywalker stand on a table ahead of an auction of Star Wars and film related toys at the Vectis auction house in Stockton-on-Tees, Britain November 23, 2015. "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" opens in December to a global wave of fan fervour and merchandising, but an auctioneers in northeast England is already in a galaxy far, far away, having sold a vintage "Star Wars" toy for a colossal 18,000 pounds ($27,000). (Phil Noble/Reuters)

Carleton University professor Stephen Saideman is fond of using science fiction scenes as allegories for real life events. He argues using science fiction to talk about war and ethnic conflict frees students' imaginations and makes it easier for them to discuss complex ideas. 

A lot of the analogies I use are about a very visceral present, and trying to get people out of that present, because it's hard to talk about genocide in a way that doesn't trigger emotions. If we move it from the earth to some other planet, some of those things become a little easier to talk about. - Stephen Saideman

But his colleague at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs Stephanie Carvin says it's time to put away the space ships and phasers. She believes relying too heavily on science fiction metaphors distorts important debates.  

[For] lethal autonomous weapons, chances are they're not going to look anything like The Terminator. So the overuse of some of these sci fi shortcuts like Terminator or The Matrix... have hindered the debate surrounding lethal autonomous weapons and what the actual serious issues are. - Stephanie Carvin

Click the blue button above to listen to the interview.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?

now