According to BusinessWeek, "we're living in a science fiction world," but there are still some very smart reasons to explore the genre — "otherworldly fantasies can evoke solutions to real problems":
To mine not-yet-practical ideas.
To learn the lexicon of the future: Robot. Cyberpunk. Medichines and ansibles?
To explore social consequences.
To inspire young minds:
In a world where science and engineering can begin to tackle almost as many challenges as the mind can imagine, we need science fiction to bridge the gaps, bedazzle us, and make the future real.
The article's worth a look if only for the specific examples and reading suggestions.
(Link via SFSignal.)
Technovelgy.com, where science meets fiction, exploring 650 inventions and ideas from writers.
The Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame.
I'll be hunting down The World as It Shall Be, a historical curiosity, by Emile Souvestre, reviewed in passing this weekend.
Through a series of biting vignettes, accompanied by his own illustrations, Souvestre (1806-54) scores points against the naive utopians of his own day by recounting the follies of the self-absorbed citizens of the Republic of United Interests in the year 3000.