Maggie Shiels

Trek power comes to Intel

  • Maggie Shiels
  • 25 Sep 09, 08:41 GMT

While Captain Kirk and the members of the Starship Enterprise were tasked with boldly going where no-one has ever gone before, those attending Intel's developer forum (IDF) were given an equally weighty mission.

"You developers are the dreamers in our culture. I encourage you not to be afraid to dream that big dream. What if? What if? What if?"

LeVar BurtonThese were the words of LeVar Burton who played Geordie la Forge on the TV series Star Trek: The Next Generation.

As the chief engineer constantly seen fixing machines or discovering new scientific phenomena, perhaps it was fitting that the actor came to IDF to inspire. And even more fitting that he made his comments during the company's big play for the future of television.

Mr Burton told the audience that he firmly believed early episodes of the programme helped encourage young viewers to take up science and to go out and invent and come up with new ideas.

Star Trek

He said that he was a geek thanks to literature and that, in his mother's house, "you read a book or got hit in the head."

As a youngster, Mr Burton told the audience that he was drawn to science fiction writing but that "it was rare for me to see heroes in the pages of those novels that looked like me, a person of colour". Gene Rodenberry, the creator of Star Trek, changed all that for him.

"When the future comes, there will be a place for you."

Mr Burton said that for him the two most influential and powerful words in the English language are "what if" and he encouraged the developers at IDF to go out and make the "link between what we imagine and what we manifest".

Levar watchig Star Trek with Intel exec Eric KimAnd he noted that "human beings manifest machines. It is what we are hard-wired to do."

Mr Burton wound up by posing the question:

"What are the contributions you are going to make in our present that will lead us to our future?"

He ended using the words of his friend and fellow actor Patrick Stewart in the role of Jean-Luc Picard: "make it so."

Update 1134: Apologies to all enraged Trekkers and appalled Trekkies. After carefully avoiding either of those divisive terms throughout this post, the last line contained a clanger, conflating Captains Picard and Clark. This has now been rectified.


  • Comment number 1.

    "He ended using the words of his friend and fellow actor Patrick Stewart in the role of James T Kirk: "make it so."

    [sarcasm mode on]
    Nice to see you did your research Maggie
    [sarcasm mode off]

    As we all know, Patrick Stewart played Captain Jean Luc Picard...

  • Comment number 2.

    Patrick Stewart actually played Captain Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation

  • Comment number 3.

    If you are gonna write a piece that involves using dialogue from Star Trek...get it right...or the Trekkies will come and get you :)

  • Comment number 4.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 5.

    Science fiction has only made one major contribution to society:


    Before science fiction invented the flying saucer, no one ever reported seeing one, strangely enough. However, the reports of angels fell a bit.

    Man has imagined beyond his own space for far longer than science fiction has been around. He has "looked to the heavens" both with awe, seeing gods ride Chariots across the sky, and with curiosity, and seen the wonders of space.

    Science fiction is influenced by the same questions and mysteries that influence scientists, but it is not the cause of their investigation.

    If anything, a notable thread running through science fiction, especially by those writers without some science background, is the ability to get things spectacularly wrong!

    Does Star Trek inspire youngsters to be scientists? I think it is probably popular amongst young people (especially boys) who are attracted to certain types of science anyway, but we have a couple of scientists in our family (one very notable one in the science community) and they are both far more likely to read Victor Hugo, or Umberto Echo, and watch Jane Ayre or Mississippi Burning that ever have seen an episode of Star Trek.

    I think it is often forgotten that the majority of scientists are not physicists or astronomers, but are in the fields of chemistry and medicine and biology, sciences that are less popular with your average science fiction writer (unless they invent a plague).

    I think it is certain that Geordie la Forge above was booked by the Intel Marketing Department rather than the head of computer science.


    By 2015 more than 12 billion devices will be capable of connecting to 500 billion hours of TV and video content

    I have to say that when I read this at the head of your article about Intel's vision of the future, my heart sunk. I kept thinking of my parent's predictions about a square eyed zombie-faced society that would follow the launch of Breakfast Television in the UK. They were right, of course, the amount of television hours watched by people in the UK has increased enormously, though still far, far away from those watched by our American cousins.

    However, one thing they did not predict was that the amount of television hours Broadcast, albeit often in the guise of a repeat, would increase even more rapidly and expotentially.

    The BBC, like its many independent rivals, produces no more television now that it did 20 years ago, though it may buy in a little more from other territories. To fill its 4 channels it simply repeats new and ancient programmes ad nausium. (I am discounting News 24, sorry, the "news channel" and the Parliament channel as they are odd cases)

    What will television be like in Intel's future? Who will pay for all the masses of programming that will be required?

    The BBC wont - the public would never stomach the VAST licence fee that would be required.

    The Advertisers wont - as the Commercials channels know (but wont admit because it hits share prices), the advertising pot is finite. If you double your channels you have to halve the cost of the media time or the advertisers wont pay, since the audience has just been split. And the internet has not helped as some TV sized advertisers are spending some of their budget online - they haven't increased their budgets, just spread them around more thinly.

    That leaves the general public filling the "airwaves" with a billion hours of YouTube style programming.

    When Steve Walker wrote about "Everyone Channel" in 21st Century Blues, a channel which allowed you to watch the life of anyone else in the world, I doubt he realised how close he would be. In the play/book this ultimate "Big Brother" scenario ended up with every one watching each other as they watched each other ....

    Technology can always offer endless possibilities, but currently we have forgotten to be choosy about what we actually want or need and are filling our world with technological trivia, and not to our enrichment.

  • Comment number 6.

    You, er, you did that on purpose to wind us up, didn't you?

  • Comment number 7.

    As has already been pointed out: epic fail.

  • Comment number 8.

    After carefully avoiding either of those divisive terms throughout this post, the last line contained a clanger, conflating Captains Picard and Clark. This has now been rectified.
    Captain Clark?? Are you inventing characters now or has the beeb gained wind of a new star trek series?
    or should the emboldened sentence read this has not been rectified

  • Comment number 9.

    Unfortunately, your update and apology and update is also wrong... who was Captain Clark????

  • Comment number 10.

    paulsharpe wrote:

    Unfortunately, your update and apology and update is also wrong... who was Captain Clark????


    This kind of proves my point - just because you are into technology does not mean you are into Science Fiction, or at least Star Trek

  • Comment number 11.

    Maggie, you are a fine correspondent, and worth every penny of my excellent value licence fee.

  • Comment number 12.

    Captain Clark - wasn't he the one with big ears and head of a totalitarian, surveillance-obsessed state?

  • Comment number 13.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 14.

    "5. At 09:55am on 25 Sep 2009, Gurubear wrote:

    Science fiction has only made one major contribution to society:"

    You should read some Arthur C Clarke. A lot of what he "predicted" has happened. And many scientists, including those in the US space programme have referred to him as a source of inspiration.

    I find the attitude that Sci-Fi contributes nothing to society other than UFOs rather narrow minded.

    As Mr Burton pointed out many people take up the sciences after growing up reading and watching Sci-Fi. Just because you don't know any trekkie fans who happen to be involved in the sciences does not make his statements any less valid. Of course he was booked by Intel marketing, who else would he have been booked by?

  • Comment number 15.

    Double Epic Fail, where's my camera, you couldn't make this up

  • Comment number 16.

    Ha ha ha, oh wow.

  • Comment number 17.

    Oh my god. I mean really! Even people who've never watched Trek in their whole life know the iconic name of Captain Kirk. Must be a wind-up, surely...

  • Comment number 18.

    Gurubear... so to inform you mate, but Science Fiction has contributed alot to society, many idea's from science fiction is in use in your house right now.

    Your mistake at the beginning of your extremely long post has rendered your essay a waste.

  • Comment number 19.

    Gurubear.. you seem to forget that other tenet of society.... for every one that is smart enough to understand things bigger than everyday life, there will always be 1000 that cannot, so they ridicule what they cannot understand....

    for reference, here is a list that is inspired by scifi!

    Transporter - there are hundreds of people trying to duplicate this, with a small degree of success (on the atomic scale! :D).

    They would have never thought then, that you would be able to talk to someone on the other side of the world, never mind using a matchbox sized thing, standing in the middle of a field...

    and the above was only thought of to simplify screenplay...

  • Comment number 20.

    Why was my witty comment about Captain Clarke deleted? :-(


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