Smithsonian: ‘The Future is Here’ and the nerds won

WASHINGTON — Science and science fiction is no longer the province of geeks and overachievers. The future has arrived, and Smithsonian Magazine is bringing it to D.C. this spring.

Named after a quote by the famous sci-fi author William Gibson, “The Future is Here” conference is “a totally wild event” that brings “some of the smartest people in America to D.C.,” says Smithsonian Magazine Editor-in-Chief Michael Caruso.

Now in its second year, the three-day festival features a who’s who of science and technology’s heaviest hitters. This year’s speakers include cosmologist Brian Greene, former space shuttle flight controller Joshua Moskowitz, “The Mythbusters” and Star Trek alumni Sir Patrick Stewart and George Takei.

Panelists will talk about everything from space colonization to using technology in medicine.

“We live in a science-fiction world,” Caruso says. “The future is already here. It’s just unevenly distributed.”

Take the tricorder device from “Star Trek” that scans aliens for foreign antibodies, for example. A similar tool will soon be used in remote parts of the world such as the Amazon to diagnose disease.

And then there is the Oculus Rift, a virtual reality headset recently purchased by Facebook for $2 billion.

“Those things that seemed so crazy, and that science-fiction writers were so ahead of us in imagining these possible worlds, they are actually becoming more and more true,” Caruso says.

The conference is a way for the Smithsonian to break out of its shell and look toward the future instead of always revisiting the past, Caruso says. And let’s face it — science is officially cool these days.

“The nerds won,” he says. “We are in a nerd world right now.”

“The Future is Here” runs May 16 to May 18 in various locations near the National Mall. Tickets are now on sale.

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