The dawn of a “predictive” era?

MSFHelp crowd-fund the new Museum of Science Fiction — to be established in Washington D.C. The new museum plans to have interactive exhibits that explore the history and ideas of science fiction — and the intersection of science and the imagination. Right now they are raising money through Indiegogo for a preview location as a first step toward the MSF. Take a look at their video — and help fund this worthy project.

Then, some big news: The Chinese Science Fiction Congress in Chengdu will, in a couple of weeks, honor me with a Galaxy Award for “most popular foreign author” among SF readers in China. My thanks go out to all the voters, readers, authors and professionals in the burgeoning Chinese science fiction fandom who participated in this selection, “uplifting” me to this honor.  I am thrilled and deeply moved.

7536692935.01._SX140_SY224_SCLZZZZZZZ_Indeed, nothing gives me greater optimism about the human future  than the rapid rise of science fiction in China! You will see why, next year, when Ken Liu’s excellent English language translation appears for Liu Cixin’s spectacular three-part novel, “The Three Body Problem,” which was a tremendous leap forward for Chinese SF.  And more thrills are coming. The winner of the Best Novel category in this year’s China’s Xingyun (Nebula) Awards is a book that paints a pessimistic, dark view of a corrupt near-future China.  The Waste Tide by Chen Qiufan takes place in the 2020s, and depicts a dystopian future — the kind of literary exploration that shows a nation self-confident enough to relish and benefit from dark criticism.

== A new era of “smart mobs”? ==

AGEAMATEURSReaders have seen a number of my tales feature a rising “Age of Amateurs” in which ad hoc associations of citizens have the right, ability and initiative to make as much difference in human affairs as corporations and government agencies.  Now ponder this. The First AAAI Conference on Human Computation and Crowdsourcing (HCOMP-2013) will be held November 6-9, 2013 in Palm Springs, California.  How I wish I could attend! (I’ll instead be an a European Union conference on the future of the Information Age in Vilnius, Lithuania. ) The Palm Springs conclave will appraise “systems that rely on programmatic access to human intellect to perform some aspect of computation, or where human perception, knowledge, reasoning, or physical activity and coordination contributes to the operation of larger computational systems, applications, and services.”

In other words, how networked problem solving systems can make use of human beings as intelligent nodes, sensors, actuators and solvers of sub-problems, empowering a dispersed system to crowd-source overall solutions…  pretty much as I depict happening in our near future, in EXISTENCE.

I hope someone will report in from the event in the desert and let us all know how it goes. Let’s hope this trend will bode well for us all.

== A Helvetian War? ==

HelvetianWarHordes of bankrupt French invade Switzerland to get their hands on their “stolen” money — such is the imaginary scenario cooked up by the Swiss military in simulation exercises recently.

Sound familiar? In my novel EARTH (1989) people of the year 2038 look back upon the horrific “Helvetian War” of the 2020s, when 30 developing nations declared hostilities with Switzerland and other banking havens, in order to track down the trillions stolen by former kleptocratic lords.  What started as a legalistic “phony war” allowing the beligerants to seize property quickly turned violent and eventually neighbors in Europe joined in…. turning the Glarus Alps into radioactive slag.  An unusual scenario(!) that fans found both fascinating and unlikely.

Unlikely?  Hm. So much so the Swiss Army is taking it seriously, it seems.  Indeed, let me go farther. Something like it is starting to look (alas) unavoidable.

== Other pred–brin-ictions ==

Then there’s this. One fan wrote in “Hey Dr. Brin, chalk up another one for your predictions registry! #2 of Cracked.com mentions that Sweden is “designing toilets that will extract the precious phosphorus from our [urine].”  All right.  That one was from Existence.  In that novel I portrayed denizens of our near future using the “Phosphorus-recovery Urinal” or P.U. Heck, I thought that up mostly for fun! Eep. Even slightly off color tech humor is coming true, now!

StarshipCenturyAnd speaking of bold predictions: Forbes presents Three Scenarios for funding Interstellar Travel, in a review of  Starship Century: Toward the Grandest Horizon, the fascinating anthology of essays and stories about interstellar flight, edited by the Benford Boys, with contributions by Stephen Hawking, Freeman Dyson, Peter Schwartz, and me… among others….

== Predictions from other sci fi ==

My friend Dr. Erik Virre is interviewed about the latest X Prize competition to build an honest-to-gosh Star Trek Medical Tricorder.  The devices are going to measure vital signs, assess medical conditions, and wrap all the systems into a useable mobile platform, and the winners announced in the summer of 2015.

And see: How Science Fiction gave birth to UAVs and GPS.

== Troubles with Quibbles ==

IndianaJones-RaidersOfTheLostArkOn “The Raiders Minimization” episode of The Big Bang Theory, Amy Farrah Fowler watches Raiders of the Lost Ark for the first time with Sheldon Cooper. Afterward, Amy explains, “If Indiana Jones weren’t in the movie, the Nazis would have still found the Ark, taken it to the island, opened it up, and all died, just like they did.”  Hence the show’s smartass writers proclaim a “gotcha” on Steven Spielberg.

Actually, this is entirely wrong.  Because Indiana Jones had proved to be a doughty adversary he was brought to the island so the Nazis could gloat, as he was forced to witness their triumph.  This resulted in:

1) a qualified witness to the power and glory of the Lord, and

2) the provision of a new home for the Ark. The very last scene makes clear that  America is morally deserving to keep it… but not mature enough to be trusted to use it.  Hence it “vanishes” into the storehouse catacombs.  Jones was instrumental and key to achieving that end, his purpose. My only quibble is that he should have had a touch of gray in his hair after that close brush with The Light.  It was a cool effect in The Ten Commandments.  Hey Raiders was a great film! From back when George Lucas actually cared about story. (Anything touched by Spielberg is gonna be just fine, anyway.)

== Speaking of Quibbles… or Tribbles… ==

… sign up for the World Science Fiction Convention in Spokane WA in August 2015, with Guests of Honor David Gerrold and Vonda M. McIntyre.

There will be a bonus “Train-Con” for those using Amtrak to get to Spokane, from either Seattle or Chicago.

4130XXin3OL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_== And Sci Fi Miscellany ==

In the Guardian: Why Science Fiction isn’t just for geeky boys.

In this moving interview on NPR, Terry Pratchett, who suffers from Alzheimer’s, describes how he used dictation software to revisit and revise a new edition of his very first novel, Carpet People (first published in 1971!).

John Ringo has off-color fun leading you through his “proof” that a zombie apocalypse is inevitable.

== And finally ==

Some excellent advice for J.J. Abrams before he locks in his plan for the renewed Star Wars universe.  And I agree with the points in this lovely little video!

Still, as you all probably know, my quibbles run a whole lot deeper, down at the level where the prequels actually betrayed the fundamental moral elements of the earlier trilogy!  Where they actually started conveying some truly vile messages. Or at least, that was my case as “prosecutor” in the fantastically fun (and wise!) volume STAR WARS ON TRIAL.

And yes.  I have long promised you that extensive essay on James Cameron’s wonderful epic Avatar… and how it does not preach the things that Mr. Cameron thinks it preaches, alas.  The essay is finished.  Looking for the right venue.

Suggestions?

1 Comment

Filed under media, society, space

One response to “The dawn of a “predictive” era?

  1. David Stigant

    >> Because Indiana Jones had proved to be a doughty adversary he was brought to the island so the Nazis could gloat, as he was forced to witness their triumph.

    But the Nazis didn’t realize he was on the submarine… Katanga told them he had killed Indy. Indy then sneaks onto the sub and hides. They go to the island to make sure of their prize.

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