Post Tagged with: "science fiction"

Mindful Cyborgs: Perverse Intimacy with Our Machines

Mindful Cyborgs: Perverse Intimacy with Our Machines

This week on Mindful Cyborgs, Alex Williams, Chris Dancy and I talked about Hollywood’s obsession with “freakish AI killing off humanity or making love to it”:

We’re just becoming more and more intimate with our machines all the time and I think that’s where that fear of AI’s and that – that’s where those plots are coming from.

On the other hand, a lot of this stuff has been – a lot of these ideas have been around for a long time. I’ve just been reading some of Isaac Asimov’s old stories. I just read his first robot story, Robbie, and it’s all about a parent being afraid that her daughter is spending too much time with a robot companion, which you could totally transfer that to modern days; worried that my kid is spending too much time with her cell phone.

CD: Or on her Xbox, yeah. Insert Gadget X.

KF: Yeah. He also wrote a story – so Robbie was his first robot story. I think it was 1939. He also wrote a story in, I think, 1956 called The Last Question that was essentially a story about the singularity; about the hive mind, artificial intelligence thing that just lives in the – an alternative dimension of the galaxy after humans have become extinct, after humans have become immortal and then left their bodies and essentially just become some sort of thing. This is long before the word ‘singularity’ was on anyone’s lips. These fears and ideas and dreams have been with us for a long time.

Download and Full Transcript: Mindful Cyborgs: Automation for the Entitled and the Impending Data Revolution

February 28, 2014 Comments are Disabled
My Interview with Daemon And Influx Author Daniel Suarez

My Interview with Daemon And Influx Author Daniel Suarez

influx_web_sm

I interviewed Daniel Suarez, author of Daemon and the forthcoming Influx for TechCrunch:

TechCrunch: You wrote this book before the Edward Snowden NSA revelations, but you’ve said that the Snowden revelations weren’t that surprising given the leaks that had come before. Did you have the NSA in mind when you wrote the book?

Suarez: Well, it’s funny that I showed them in the book as sort of hapless victims in a way of the BTC. There was something appealing of course about seeing the NSA being tapped and helpless, trying to figure out how to resist a technologically superior foe. I thought that that was an interesting way to look at things. It’s not just the NSA, but any unseen and unaccountable concentration of power that I’m trying to portray in this story. And right now that might be the NSA, but over time it might change. And I wouldn’t really put a specific nationality on it. It’s a story about progress and an effort to try to retain advantage.

So, yes, it was partly about the NSA but then it’s also partly about the broader issues — the broader issues of control and transparency.

TechCrunch: It feels like the power imbalance isn’t just a political power imbalance but it’s also the lack of understanding and awareness on the part of the public as to how these things work.

Suarez: And possibly interest. It’s been mildly infuriating to me to speak with even friends and people I know who shrug and say “Well, you’re not doing anything wrong, why should you worry about surveillance?” And of course you and I would probably say well, actually, it’s not just people doing things wrong. For example somebody running for Congress 20 years from now I think is going to have a very detailed record to have to defend. “Why were you standing next to this person every day for five years and this person later turned out to be a criminal?”

I think that is why these revelations were powerful. I don’t think that many technology or IT people were surprised by this, but I think it became much more personal with Snowden. Now, it’s dying down again but I think there will be more revelations that hopefully wake people up. We can’t just be passive. Being a citizen in a democracy really does require some interest.

Full Story: TechCrunch: Daemon And Influx Author Daniel Suarez On Why Innovation Has Stalled

February 15, 2014 Comments are Disabled
My Short Story About Precarity and 3D Printed Drugs Now Available in Print

My Short Story About Precarity and 3D Printed Drugs Now Available in Print

Membrane cover

Last month Dreadful Cafe published my first short story, “The Faraday Bag,” in their anthology Membrane. Now the print edition is out. Amazon is selling it for $22.50 right now.

Read an excerpt of my story here.

You can also still buy the DRM-free electronic edition from Dreadful Cafe for just $5, or buy it for the Nook or Kindle for $6.

January 6, 2014 0 comments
Remember Who the Enemy Is

Remember Who the Enemy Is

Capitalist Realism author Mark “K-Punk” Fisher on The Hunger Games: Catching Fire:

There’s something so uncannily timely about The Hunger Games: Catching Fire that it’s almost disturbing. In the UK over the past few weeks, there’s been a palpable sense that the dominant reality system is juddering, that things are starting to give. There’s an awakening from hedonic depressive slumber, and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is not merely in tune with that, it’s amplifying it. Explosion in the heart of the commodity? Yes, and fire causes more fire …

I over-use the word ‘delirium’, but watching Catching Fire last week was a genuinely delirious experience. More than once I thought: How can I be watching this? How can this be allowed? One of the services Suzanne Collins has performed is to reveal the poverty, narrowness, and decadence of the ‘freedoms’ we enjoy in late, late capitalism. The mode of capture is hedonic conservatism. You can comment on anything (and your tweets may even be read out on TV), you can watch as much pornography as you like, but your ability to control your own life is minimal. Capital has insinuated itself everywhere, into our pleasures and our dreams as much as our work. You are kept hooked first with media circuses, then, if they fail, they send in the stormtrooper cops. The TV feed cuts out just before the cops start shooting.

Ideology is a story more than it is a set of ideas, and Suzanne Collins deserves immense credit for producing what is nothing less than a counter-narrative to capitalist realism. Many of the 21st century’s analyses of late capitalist capture – The Wire, The Thick Of It, Capitalist Realism itself – are in danger of offering a bad immanence, a realism about capitalist realism that can engender only a paralysing sense of the system’s total closure. Collins gives us a way out, and someone to identify with/as – the revolutionary warrior-woman, Katniss.

Full Story: K-Punk: Remember Who the Enemy Is

(via Laurie Penny)

Previously: Dystopia Now and Time Wars.

January 2, 2014 0 comments
Collision Detection: A Tale of Surgically Enhanced Long Distance Love

Collision Detection: A Tale of Surgically Enhanced Long Distance Love

Here’s a new short story by Tim Maughan — a tale of surgically enhanced long distance love between two neoreactionary seasteaders:

Timo waves at him one last time, as he pulls down the garage door entrance to his studio-slash-operating room. It’s not quite what he’d envisioned a backstreet grinder clinic would look like, and?—?despite his subtly animated tattoos and achingly faux-scruffy beard?—?neither is Timo. What the drop-out med student turned artist has just done to him is technically illegal, yes, but then the Amsterdam authorities have a penchant for turning their eyes away from such things, hence Timo is able to operate out of this prime location overlooking the Singel. Just across the water from the flower market. Lovely. A certain clientele expects a certain standard of surroundings, he tells himself.

He takes the tram home, Timo advising him it’s best not to drive. It makes him uncomfortable, itchy, sitting here amongst the unwashed, unchosen. Even through his face mask, the stench of untweaked, un-perfumed sweat and fried-food flatulence scalds his nerve endings. He touches fingertips to his cheek, feels a numbness there that he knows is caused by more than the December air, that recalls childhood memories of dentist’s anaesthetic, feels a sickly tumour like solidity under his skin where the gel’s excesses are still dissolving into his blood. It reminds him of touching his mother’s heavily botoxed face as he wiped confused, angry tears from her dying eyes.

Full Story: Futures Exchange: Collision Detection

December 17, 2013 0 comments
3D Printed Drugs, Precarity and Out of Control Student Loan Debt in My First Published Fiction

3D Printed Drugs, Precarity and Out of Control Student Loan Debt in My First Published Fiction

Membrane cover

I had two goals for the year. One was to learn how to spell restaurant without checking. That one I actually managed pretty quick, once I set my mind to it.

The other was to finish and sell at least one short story. That was harder, but I pulled it off. Today my first short story “The Faraday Bag,” was published in an anthology called Membrane. It’s a sci-fi/crime story set in the near future, where the economy has collapsed and student loan debtors are hunted in the streets.

It also includes nine other stories stories, each with a full-color illustration, about “android cannibals, a clown plague, Nazi zombies, alien cancer, killer nuns, and more, as well as original and vintage art and photography.”

Buy it in print or for the Kindle from Amazon, or for the Nook.

You can also buy the electronic edition from the publisher for just $5, DRM free.

All proceeds will go to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.

Here are the first few paragraphs of my story:

I knocked out Brock’s front left tooth the day I met him. He and Colton tried to mug me during my first delivery to the Complex. They were just a couple of scrawny teenagers, but I’m not a big girl and they had knives. So I hit Brock in the mouth with my bike lock. Colton’s older brother, Connor, broke-up the fight before it got any worse.

Two years later I still had nightmares about it and still hated doing deliveries at the Complex. My heart pounded as I approached their perch on the picnic table in the center of the courtyard. They didn’t even glance up from their phones.

“Going to see Carl,” I said, handing them a couple of warm energy drinks from my bag. “Keep an eye on my bike, yeah?”

“Si, senorita,” Brock said with a big toothless grin. I hated him calling me “senorita.” I didn’t even speak Spanish.
And seeing his missing tooth always made me feel like shit.

The Complex was a block of six withered apartment buildings on the edge of Seattle. They were supposed to have been condos, but construction had halted on the neighboring light rail line during the Iran War and it was never completed–so the Complex ended up as low-income housing instead. It bordered an abandoned shopping center full of junkies with a habit of breaking into people’s cars and apartments. Brock and Colton were like the Complex’s immune system. I guess they decided I was non-harmful.

I jogged up the stairs to Carl’s apartment. He answered the door as out of breath as I was and, dragging his oxygen tank, went into the kitchen to make me a cup of instant coffee. He never let me help, so I took my customary place on the spine-mangling papasan.

“The apartment next to mine just opened up, Juana,” Carl said, handing me my coffee. “We could be neighbors.”

“I haven’t saved enough for a deposit yet,” I said. “And I couldn’t rent an apartment in my own name, even if I could afford it. Loan Enforcement would pick me up, throw me in a restitution camp.”

As if I’d wanted to live there anyway. But hey, at least it would be my own place.

I set his pills on the coffee table. A month’s worth of black market Avastin, a cancer drug, fresh from the pharmaceutical printer in Landon’s basement. A year’s supply would have cost him about $100,000 if he bought them from the pharmacy.

“I never should have gone to college in the first place. It’s not like I ever wanted to work in an office or anything,” I said.

“At least you had the opportunity,” Carl said. “Those boys out there probably never will.”

I hadn’t thought about that. Colton’s mom had been serving cocktails at a strip club ever since self-driving trucks went online and all the truck stops closed down. I had no idea what Brock’s parents did, or whether they were even around, but I was pretty sure they wouldn’t be co-signing on any loans.

“I wonder where they’re going to end up,” I said. “These days you can’t even get a job as a dishwasher without a degree. Hell, I have a degree and I can’t get a job as a dishwasher.”

Carl tapped his phone to confirm the purchase. I always felt like letting the clients keep my cut. Carl barely scraped by on his Social Security check.

My phone rang on the way out of the building, and my stomach did a backflip when I saw the caller ID. I almost let it go to message, but answered at the last second.

“I thought you didn’t want to talk to me anymore,” I said.

“I never said that,” Nicole said. “I just wanted to give it some time, after what happened.”

“Yeah, so why now? It’s been, like, six months.”

Seven months and 12 days, but who’s counting?

“I need someone I can trust,” she said. “Can you meet me at Bar Nuit in an hour?”

I wanted to say no. Wanted to tell her to find someone else to be her puppy dog. But of course I said yes.

December 12, 2013 1 comment
Watch for my fiction debut next week in Membrane from Dreadful Cafe

Watch for my fiction debut next week in Membrane from Dreadful Cafe

Membrane cover

My first short story, “The Faraday Bag,” will debut next week in the Membrane art and fiction anthology from Dreadful Cafe on Thursday December 12. My contribution is a near-future sci-fi story about the precariat, 3D printed pharmaceuticals and student loan debt. It also includes nine other stories stories on “android cannibals, a clown plague, Nazi zombies, alien cancer, killer nuns, and more, as well as original and vintage art and photography.” Every story includes a full-color illustration.

Membrane will be released initially as an e-book only, but a print version will follow sometime next year. All proceeds will go to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.

December 5, 2013 1 comment
The Silent History: The strange novel that makes you travel to read it

The Silent History: The strange novel that makes you travel to read it

The Week reports, back in October 2012:

An ambitious new e-book pushes the boundaries of interactive fiction by requiring readers to visit specific locations to unlock new parts of its story
If you want the full experience of The Silent History — a new e-book available on the iPhone and iPad — you’d better get ready to do some traveling. The Silent History is “part medical case study, part mystery novel, and part-real-life scavenger hunt,” says Sarah Hotchkiss at KQED, and the e-book aims to personalize its narrative for each reader. (Watch a trailer for The Silent History below.) The Silent History is divided into two parts: Testimonials and field reports. The testimonials, which are divided into six volumes of 20 chapters each, are automatically unlocked as the story unfolds each day. But the field reports require an unprecedented level of interaction: They can only be read by traveling to specific locations, and readers are encouraged to write and contribute their own localized installments.

Full Story: Yahoo News: The Silent History: The strange new e-book that makes you travel to read it

(Thanks Skry)

November 11, 2013 0 comments
Chased by Google X

Chased by Google X

Fiction (?) from Adam Rothstein:

They explained the manifesto. Any device that was known to be approaching release, they would fabricate and wield in public. Their devices were seen in blurry street photos, profiled in gadget magazines of the highest order, spotted in the wild when by rights, they should never have been. They intentionally subverted the release cycle paradigm, and in doing so redirected the entire gray market of development, hype, and design. “Permanent beta techno-anarchism by the deed,” was the phrase I remember best, though this commodity insurgency was certainly permeated by the occult as much as any politics. Perhaps it was something in the incense smoke affecting my powers of reason, but there was a dark magic implied in these counterfeit devices.

Their work displayed the usual anti-corporate merit badges, measured in leftist buzz words and culture jamming cache. Every counterfeit device they made and used in public was a lobbed stick of dynamite at the Silicon Valley scabs, who had commodified the spirit of invention and delivered it up to the bosses. But there was a deeper symbolism at play. The devices they produced in this pseudo-lab were hexes, a transubstantiation of the spirit of consumption, simultaneously capturing the specter and setting it upon others. The market of gadget futures was a field of energy, invisible to anyone who wasn’t ensconced in this culture. And the Group played with this metaphysics as if it was their own personal toy. There was an incredible amount of power invested in the development of the newest, the most cutting edge, the most must-have consumer devices. The Group was blackening it, stealing this occult knowledge for their own purposes, hijacking it into unholy loops that they were attempting to channel. Also, sabotaging and rupturing the rights-of-way that railroaded this energy back to its supposed owners. And if the Group were throwing these bombs into the market square, then there were definitely Pinkertons out there, looking for them.

Full Story: The State: Chased by Google X

November 6, 2013 0 comments
Zero Hours: Precariat Design Fiction

Zero Hours: Precariat Design Fiction

Tim Maughan uses design fiction to sketch a vision of our precarious future:

Nicki is awake even before her mum calls her from the other side of the door. She’s sat up in bed, crackly FM radio ebbing from tiny supermarket grade speakers, her fingers flicking across her charity shop grade tablet’s touchscreen. She’s close to shutting down two auctions when a third pushes itself across her screen with it’s familiar white and green branded arrogance. Starbucks. Oxford Circus. 4 hour shift from 1415.

She sighs, dismisses it. She’s not even sure why she still keeps that notification running. Starbucks, the holy fucking grail. But she can’t go there, can’t even try, without that elusive Barista badge.

Which is why she’s been betting like mad on this Pret a Manger auction, dropping her hourly down to near pointless levels. It says it’s in back of house food prep, but she’s seen the forum stories, the other z-contractors who always say take any job where they serve coffee, just in case. That’s how I did it, they say, forced my way in, all bright faces and make up and flirting and ‘this coffee machine looks AMAZING how does it work?’ and then pow, Barista badge.

Full Story: Medium: Zero Hours

Bram E. Gieben’s “Search Engine” is sort of a journalist/blogger’s version of this scenario.

See also:

Homeless, Unemployed, and Surviving on Bitcoins

Willing to Work But Too Tired to Hussle

Sociologist Zygmunt Bauman Talks About the Precariat

September 20, 2013 0 comments