One of the things that first drew to me to science fiction was its exploration of technology. I was a child when we first got dial up Internet…and then Ethernet…and then wifi. I saved up for a long time to buy my first portable CD player…and then an iPod…and then a smartphone. And now I’m at the pinnacle of my relationship with technology: feeling unfocused, anxious, and exposed, I desperately want to go backward. I preordered the Light Phone, I deactivated my personal Facebook and Twitter, and I limit the data I allow into any kind of cloud. I am warier of technology than many in my generation, and yet, in my view, not nearly as wary as I should be.
A lot of science fiction approaches technology with the same wariness I feel—the surveillance state of 1984, the soothing soma of Brave New World—but it’s not a given. A classic example of a more optimistic approach is I, Robot, Isaac Asimov’s collection of related stories about problems with artificial intelligence that are far more curious than alarmed. I crave that perspective as much as I do the suspicious one that mirrors my own, and maybe that’s why my own short stories in The End and Other Beginnings, many of which explore the introduction of new pieces of technology to a teenager’s life, are about how that technology might make us more empathetic, thoughtful, and open. I want to challenge my own perspective. I want to believe paranoia isn’t the only mindset worth embracing.
When it comes to thinking about technology, though, I think we need all kinds of perspectives in our fiction, from the fearful to the optimistic to everything in between. Here are five stories that explore a piece of futuristic technology—for better, worse, or a mix of both.