Over at Dave Langford's wonderful SF news site Ansible, he reported last week that Greg Bear and other sf authors -- Arlan Andrews, Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle and Sage Walker -- were asked to a US Homeland Security conference to provide anti-terrorism advice as "deviant thinkers".
Together, the group makes up a group called Sigma, whose motto is "Science Fiction in the National Interest was formed 15 years ago by to advise government officials. The last time the group gathered was in the late 1990s, when members met with government scientists to discuss what a post-nuclear age might look like.
To join the group, you have to have at least one technical doctorate degree.
"Fifty years ago, science-fiction writers told us about flying cars and a wireless handheld communicator," Christopher Kelly, spokesman for Homeland Security's Science and Technology division told USA Today. "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."
Andrews says America's anti-terorists "need people to think of crazy ideas," while Pournelle admits "We're well-qualified nuts."
"We talk to a lot of strange people and read a lot of weird things," Bear says. That research prompts all sorts of ideas the group would rather offer the government as a public service rather than work for some private think tank.
Dave Langford points out that once again sf proves eerily prophetic: wasn't there just such an ego-boosting think tank in the Niven/Pournelle novel Footfall?