It often surprises me the way in which Science Fiction is regarded when compared to the hard sciences of Physics, Chemistry, Biology etc The subject of 'Science Fiction' somehow seems to stand in the shadow of facts and figures and is often disregarded as a Science at all. But this clear line dividing Fiction and Fact is of coarse only exists in the narrow vision of the moment. As one days fiction is another days fact and it only depends at what point on the time line you choose to examine. For example, if we look at the majority of common technological devices in use today, its relatively easy to tie it back to the ideas conception. At which point the notion was probably regarded as Fiction or just a dreamers fantasy.
However the influence of Science Fiction has powered us to the moon and stars, built the international space station and given us personal computing in our pockets. AI and Robotics are mere babies but they will grow powered by the seeds of Asimov, Clarke and Heinlein and all the other fore thinking Science fictionalists in the world since. Who have taken those seeds and planted them in the soil of the common imagination.
Therefore excluding the 'when', the majority of Science Fiction is not Fiction at all but the vision before the fact and the genesis of discovery. In essence it is one of the drivers that has pulled us out of the slow traditional avenue of progress. Its concepts and ideas catapult us as a civilisation into directions that we would have never considered. Naturally this revelation and discovery can be used for good and evil. Never the less it cannot be ignored.
This spurns an interesting question then.
"Does fact drive fiction or does fiction drive the birth of new facts. "For example
If I were faced with a discovery of immense magnitude that took my breath away would inspire and fire the creative spirit.
Or does the creative spark drawn from the mind of a man or woman fashion something new, outside the tangent of previous human knowledge and thus drive us to new discovery.
The Answer in my humble opinion is that both Fiction and Fact form the creative circle that continually turns. Some time slowly , some times at breathtaking speed. The moments of speed might be the Theory of relativity the Splitting of the Atom the discovery of the Gene and the first Semiconductor. The slower moments , when the friction of failure and frustration almost seems to halt all progress.
Only then, in steps the ever random creative mind of the Science Fictionalist who in the midst of turmoil, writes the future and inspires a new way around the problem and the wheel starts to race again. So Fiction or Fact , do either exist or is there just Science Faction. Keep on writing the future.