Lately I've seen some interesting discussion about the qualitative value of science fiction to inform our understanding of the future. For example, check out this thread:
Now, news comes from Germany about an ambitious effort at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology to "complete a first draft of the Neandertal genome within the next two years."
Reading this account, I couldn't help but think about the excellent Hominids/Humans/Hybrids trilogy by Robert Sawyer, as well as Neanderthal by John Darnton (only so-so), and, to a lesser extent, Relic by Doug Preston and Lincoln Child (good but not great). Of course, the idea of deciphering (and revivifying!) a genome of an extinct animal was probably best realized in fiction by Michael Crichton in Jurassic Park.
I'm not suggesting, naturally, that the scientists in Germany have any intention of making a test tube Neandertal baby, but if I were a novelist.....
Anyway, it's my belief that good science fiction -- in fact, any kind of good story-telling -- can be very helpful in expanding and clarifying our concepts of what is possible and what we should try to prepare for. We're still waiting for the first really illuminating novel about the introduction and proliferation of personal nanofactories, although Neal Stephenson's superb Diamond Age does have a lot to offer.