Monday, June 4, 2007

The Future?

As a science fiction writer, not to mention as a computer programmer, I find the future to be a topic of great interest. Most futurists are concerned with grand depictions of planet colonization, advanced AI, robots, et cetera -- and while I do find these topics of interest, they seem a little distant to me. I don't realistically expect to see extreme advances in any of the preceding areas within my lifetime. I mean, don't get me wrong -- I'd love to see major advances in those fields, but I just have a hard time really believing I will.

This cynicism regarding technological advancement is what makes Hugo award winner Charlie Stross's predictions for the near future so compelling to me. In his predictions, Charlie intentionally doesn't account for the emergence of any new technologies, or for major breakthroughs in any of the leading-edge fields of today (genetics, nanotechnology, et cetera). Instead he focuses on following existing trends with existing technologies, such as computers and the Internet.

Part of his conclusion:

Meet your descendants. They don't know what it's like to be involuntarily lost, don't understand what we mean by the word "privacy", and will have access (sooner or later) to a historical representation of our species that defies understanding. They live in a world where history has a sharply-drawn start line, and everything they individually do or say will sooner or later be visible to everyone who comes after them, forever. They are incredibly alien to us.

Is anyone else reminded of the Hive Queen from ENDER's GAME? As alien as the lives of modern humans would be to world citizens from even a few hundred years ago, that's how alien the lives of our descendants are likely to be -- with or without hover cars and relativistic space flight. I've never thought of the evolution of our society in quite these terms before, but if Charlie Stross is right, the future might just be closer than we think (and different than we expect, as always).


Stephen Parrish said...

Chris, there are about 643 technological things I've wanted to ask of you (including computer art, mapping, BLOGGING) but I've refrained because I consider you a fellow writer rather than my geek-mentor-slave-person-thing. But the layman in me has to shout, in response to this post . . . HOLOGRAPHIC AI, GODDAMMIT!

And solar energy, too.

Christopher M. Park said...

I really appreciate and admire your restraint. Most people just ask, not realizing what a demand it can place on the askee when everyone is doing that. Trust me, I've been there--I'm not giving up my nights and weekends to do other people's basic computer work any more. Now I just tell them I don't do freelance work anymore (which is true). But I've also been on your side, and really had to bite my tongue when I meet people who have knowledge that I want but don't have (like published or agented writers).

That said, if anyone has technology-related questions that I might be able to shed some light on, feel free to ask. This blog has mostly been writing-focused thus far, but I've already been branching out little by little into my other interests. Technology is certainly one of those interests, and something I intend to blog about quasi-regularly over time.

Also... lots of laughs at "holographic AI." I'm a huge Dilbert fan, and you brought to mind one of my favorites:

Boss: "We need to build a relational database."

Dilbert (thinking): Does he really know what he's asking for, or is this just something he read in a trade magazine?

Dilbert: "Okay. What color do you want it in?"

Boss: "I think mauve has the most RAM."