Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Future concern: cleaning up

Many recent posts have been spawned from the "some science fiction future" reference by Tony Blair such as this article: link. The answer, however, to solving the warming problem could be to get very aggressive about solving the efficient hydrogen production problem. This conundrum: producing hydrogen efficiently enough to use it economically, is at the crux of non-adoption of hydrogen fuels. How to solve the problem?

In Darwin's Orphans, I recommend a solution dubbed: the Brooklyn Project. As was done with the Manhattan Project, the great science minds of our age need to be put together in a room to quickly solve this problem. We did it to create the nuclear bomb. Can't we do the same thing to end the scourge of dirty fuels?

The Manhattan Project was pushed by the government to solve a problem. Perhaps with the obviously shifting political sands that are afoot, a leader to this charge will emerge. We can only hope.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Commentary on the future of computing

I read this article recently that takes a very sober look at computing and its advancement wherein the author comments on fictional views of the subject. There is one key disagreement from my point of view: only select fictional views pitted runaway artificial intelligence against man: the computer getting out of hand.

Many authors have taken a very practical view like I did in Darwin's Orphans. For an even more obvious future view on computers, look at the old Star Treks -- the ones with Shatner. The computer is always there, uses voice recognition to receive commands (possible today yet far more cludgy), and manages practical details (chart a course for ...). It seems as though most writers, myself included, see the computer as a tool that will simply get more elegant, more powerful, and far more ubiquitous (available everywhere without searching for hot spots). The histrionics of computers taking over is handy stuff for story creation. I don't think that most of us really expect this to happen.

Feel free to post your opinions on the subject.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Silicon Trail: online creativity posts

Silicon Trail just posted a mention about my book and I just reviewed their latest posts. If you're living in the now and you live online, bookmark this blog and check back often for insights into the latest and greatest emerging creative in the online world.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Food for future thought

I just read an article in Discover magazine by John Horgan entitled The Final Frontier. The end of it discusses the underlying principle of my book Darwin's Orphans: how can we move away from an acceptance of armed conflict as a society? Most of his article takes on very specific scientific questions but I was pleased to read him asking the very same question that fuels my curiosity.

We waste a lot of money and energy blowing each other up -- the lunacy of it makes good fodder for fictional musings. So, it was an easy subject to pick as the backdrop to my story. However, reading a serious scientific author posing the same question was very reassuring. More authors should challenge how we can move ahead as human beings and escape the atavistic tendency we have to go to blows whenever we have issues to resolve.


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Funny future vision analysis

This is funny stuff...on how we size up the accuracy of future fiction. Kudos to David Neal. It would be interesting to get his take on Darwin's Orphans. I love the clever take on MSN becoming the standard for Internet searches...yeah right, the leader in this race has changed every couple of years since the Internet took off -- it's not likely to be any current player years into the future.

Check it out!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

A look at education through future fiction

David Warlick has an interesting story that looks at how our education system might function in the future. This story originally appeared in March 2004 but it's worth checking out. In this prognostication, the excerpt that's published online is set in 2014 -- a mere 8 years from now -- so it won't take long to see how close to the mark Mr. Warlick comes with his shot at the future.

There are a few similarities to Darwin's Orphan in the application of current audio-visual trends of today being expanded in future use. I agree with Mr. Warlick that there are many technologies that are currently not leveraged in the education realm that should be very soon. It's a good story and really makes one think about how the world of education should (or may) be in the future.

I like the challenge that he makes in the header of Technology Connection...we should all take on the challenge of mustering up courage to make changes that we oftentimes don't.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Technorati Profile

Political Winds...Future Tidings

The political winds are blowing strong again with another election about a month away. In future fiction writing pursuits, authors often leverage the trends and personalities of today in their writing as they imagine future scenarios of socio-politics. There are three examples of this in Darwin's Orphans: the question of how far can the ever-advancing media take political spin? A look at political figures as new ones emerge and the state of public forums whether collegiate, debates or presidential addresses.

Political spin gets lots of attention since it is posited as the key to making a big social change by the mentor character Francisco. (The chapter in Darwin's Orphans with the program "Spinning out of Control" focuses on this aspect.) With the emergence over the past decades of online news sources (whether well-informed or not) and satellite/cable news networks specializing in every niche imaginable (music, sports, finances and, well....politics) -- it's interesting to consider how far spin could advance. With the increasing interactive component of media, will there be a broader base of public opinion? Hard to say...feel free to share your opinion on the subject.

With regard to political figures, there are a couple of interesting archetypes: the entertainer-turned-president for one. In Darwin's Orphans, the pop star Bobby Joe Peak becomes president. Like Ronald Reagan, he is reluctant at first and did not set out to be president. His popularity makes him a likely candidate, however, and events sweep him into politics. A second archetype is the rise-to-the-top figure whose integrity and hard work get him/her into a powerful position. The character in the book: Hakim Mbeke takes ascendant steps that are similar to those of Barak Obama. His personality and moves, however, are only lightly touched upon and were actually based on non-political people that I've known. Another fascinating subject to watch in our future: what will be the next trend? CEOs running for president?

Finally, the public forum: how will political debates play out in future media? What is the next mode for college idealists to reach the public? Will the president keep wearing those same suits to eternity and will they find a more personal way to reach the people beyond the pulpit? Personally, when I consider the former point, I wonder why Steve Jobs can wear his blue jeans and black mock-turleneck when he addresses the public yet politicians don't branch out? Is there a study that shows that a politician will lose credibility if they dress down a bit? CEOs dress down...don't they lose credibility when they do? Apparently not...Jobs is still at the helm and continues to garner great respect. These are the kinds of things that come to mind to explore in future fiction. On the other questions above, I explore them in Darwin's Orphans and continue to mull them over.

As far as what's going to happen next?...what trends are taking hold?...we'll get our next big indicators this November. I'll be watching and commenting. Hopefully, you'll do the same.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Future Fiction with a Unique Twist

Future fiction is entertainment with a unique twist. All fiction needs to have colorful characters…people that say interesting things, act in ways that set them apart and make people think about what they’ve said and done. All that these characters do must take place in a set of events that tell an interesting tale. After all, people want a story that sweeps their imagination up and takes it for a ride. The twist, however, with future fiction is where it takes the situation today and tells what it might mean for the future. Whether it’s scientific or sociopolitical in nature, an aspect of the world we live in is subject to creative prognostication.

It is this predictive component that made 1984 so fascinating when it was read by its first readers. Orwell looked at the bleak circumstances that arose from Joseph Goebbel’s propaganda machine: an entire, albeit desperate nation, was completely mind-controlled by the Nazi spin-machine and the populace accepted (at least the bulk of it) complete control and believed in the sordid mission of its leaders. Orwell took this recent occurrence and wrote in 1949 about how far this scenario could go if such public manipulation could be executed to completion and with absolute public control. His story is fascinating, his characters are nuanced and he takes you on a dark journey through a fascinating set of events.

More authors in Orwell’s era: Ayn Rand (Anthem, 1938), Aldous Huxley (Brave New World, 1932) and others tried their hands as well at future fiction. Later, Harlan Ellison published anthologies of future fiction with his Dangerous Visions books (first, Dangerous Visions in 1967 and Again, Dangerous Visions in 1972). In all of these cases, there is this consistent imaginative push by the story authors: what might things be like based on where we (society, science, the universe) seem to be going.

That's the focus of Darwin's Orphans and this blog: future fiction. Please weigh in with your thoughts on the subject or my book's treatment of it -- Mark Salow