What Aliens Taught Me About Humans

by Karla Jackson

Today, most people don’t consider reading fiction particularly useful; better we spend our time trying to optimize ourselves. However, I believe fiction is good for us, and in the video below, I make a case not just for the benefits of fiction but for the unique ways of thinking the best science fiction can inspire.

Want to reduce stress, sleep better, slow your mental decline or increase your empathy? You could spend a lot of money on potions and other products — or you could just read a book.

Here are a few lessons that I learned from my favorite subsect of fiction—science fiction:

1. It Reflects What Preoccupied the Minds of Those From the Past.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro puts the reader in the mind of the protagonist, Katy, who was raised as a clone to eventually be an organ donor. This book gave readers insight into this perspective during a time in history when there were many questions surrounding organ donation and what that may look like in their everyday lives.

2. It Prepares Us to Deal With Change.

New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson takes place in the year 2140 in New York, which is now filled with water due to immense climate change that has taken place over the years. As we as a society battle this environmental threat, New York 2140 prepares us for the kind of world that could be in store for us down the line if changes are not made today.

3. It Lets Us Experience Other Ways to Live.

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin places the reader in a world where everyone is a hermaphrodite and unravels what life would be like without gender. By giving readers insight into another way to live, this book provides understanding and empathy that can help tackle things that come up in our own lives and in our future.

And as an extra nudge, I’ve compiled the 3 most important steps toward harnessing fiction:

  1. Get a book. Consider the library (which has audio and ebooks too) or the free Kindle books that come with a Prime membership. Or Project Gutenburg for classics. 
  2. Find a comfy spot and read it. Got 15 minutes while you wait for soccer practice to finish? Or consider ending your day with a few minutes of fiction instead of the fiction that is social media. 
  3. Enjoy it. Remember -- a good book is self-care. 

Read, rinse, repeat!

Watch my 10-minute talk above!

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