Posts tagged science fiction
Intelligence Everywhere

I was part of a talk about 'Sympathetic Machines' and the Internet of Things, together with my wife Sue, and John Aggs, at the User-Centred Design Conference 2015. The general theme of the talk was about three models of artificial intelligence that might link all our physical and digital things together in the near future. 

The concept behind the story was one of being able to forgive machines, and to let them into our personal space - mentally and physically. This model of AI would talk to you and react like a person, learning about you over time, but wouldn't try to appear more advanced than it actually is - perhaps presenting itself in a childlike manner, and thus being easily forgivable.

I'll blog more about it in my next post, but to set the stage, and the tone, here's the story that I wrote and read out at the conference.

Son of a Bit

Mike wound down the window, gagging slightly as the chill breeze brought in the smell of car fumes. The traffic was relentless, and in the back seat he could see Oliver’s judgmental eyes peering out from under the hood of his dinosaur onesie.

“Dad, we’re gonna be late.”

“Well, I can’t magic the traffic away.” Mike sighed and ran a hand through his thinning hair. “Look, I don’t know what’s gone on here. Some sort of accident maybe. Bit?”

The eyes on the little bobble-head air freshener that sat on the dashboard lit up, and it looked up at Mike. “No, I don’t think so, sir,” it said. “Traffic is always like this here at this time.”

Mike stared at the little robot. “What?”

“I said, traffic is-“

“I heard what you said. Why the hell would you bring us this way, then?”

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056 - Danger Ahead

I listen to podcast 'Stuff You Should Know' and it's awesome. They've got hundreds of episodes up there, spanning years of material, and it's always something interesting. They've blogged about The Singularity before (and honestly, if you don't know what the Singularity is, check out that podcast!) On a recent show someone sent in an email suggesting that maybe the Singularity (the moment when AI becomes sentient and self-aware) had already happened. Well, that sounds like a perfectly creepy story idea, and I've shamelessly borrowed it and written it up as a 100 themes.

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Deep in Thought - Part 1

Writing ‘Deep In Thought’ went the usual way my mind works, which was ‘Here is a theme. How can I twist the meaning of the sentence to make it about something oblique?’ It’s by far not the first time I’ve done it. Playing with words is a favourite pastime of mine, and I’m always looking for anagrams, codes, Spoonerisms, hidden meanings and words-written-backwards (pretty much any time I see a name, like Mr Radnor, I’ll read it backwards in case it’s important. 99% of the time it’s not.)

Deep In Thought is one of those. It’s about someone deep in thoughts... someone else’s thoughts.

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Noctis Point Timeline 3/3

Inspiration for this timeline came from a variety of sources. I've been reading a lot of Asimov and Arthur C Clarke recently; several nationalist parties enjoyed success in the recent European Parliament Elections; I read an essay on what the state of government might be in the near future; finally, I watched X-Men: Days of Future Past, which is awesome.


Mars Base 3, known as MB3 to all, became a hotbed of psychic training and research. Within ten years, the first psychs had developed into a society based around research. They developed cloning technology that worked, and used it to improve the calibre of their trainees. The facility was run by a dumb-AI that was incapable of attaining sentience. It was in charge of all mechanical aspects of MB3, the cloning, food production, weather control… everything. It was also live-storing everyone’s psyche in case of death, which was a realistic threat in psych training.

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Noctis Point Timeline 2/3

Again it was to be a scientist that provided the next step in the chain. Frederic Rawlins, an American by birth, finally succeeded in 2078 in doing what humans had been dreaming about for decades, creating the Halflight Drive. Designed to travel at half the speed of light, it suddenly made space travel en masse a possibility again. Terraforming robots were created, algae was redesigned and ships were constructed in space. The newly-completely space elevator, linking the defunct International Space Station to a small island in the Atlantic meant that materials could be taken up with increasing regularity. Within a year, with public fervour behind it, the first major mission to Mars left. Half an hour later, it arrived...

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Noctis Point Timeline 1/3

I've split the timeline into three parts because it became quite long and winding.

Starting from within the next ten years, this is a timeline for Noctis Point.

By 2045, most factories only had a small human contingent of engineers as robot workforces took over. Even the factories that made the robots had automated assembly lines. More than that, robots were used in mining operations, undersea oil drilling and farming. One of the major robot-creating countries was Russia, beginning by using cheap human workforces and then switching as soon as possible. Unemployment, steadily rising in all countries over the previous decades, hit an all-time high. With it came mass homelessness. 

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The Psy-Ops

These are all largely working titles for now. I might come up with something far better, probably will, and when that happens I'll track back through and edit things like this.

Anyway; the state of play on Earth, and on its colonies on Luna and Mars, is that the regular police force has been supplemented with specialised psychic troops whose main mission is to find awoken psychics.

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Universal Remote

This one's a bit silly, but I've put it up because it served as a writing exercise. This isn't a finished story, isn't something that I will edit, but it's an idea nonetheless.

Mum came in and snatched the remote.

“Hey!” I shouted, making a grab for it.

She kept it out of arm’s reach. “You shouldn’t watch so much, you know,” she fussed. “Rots the mind. There’s a world out there. You should get some fresh air.”

I turned and stared out of the window. It had been howling a gale all day and raindrops splattered onto the glass, giving everything a melted look. As I watched, one lonely passerby was battling to reach the bus shelter, clutching an inside-out umbrella.

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We went to Denmark over New Year and it was amazing! We were guests of two of Sue's work friends, Mads and Mette, and while it was incredibly inspirational in all sorts of ways, I didn't get any writing done.

Travelling back gave me plenty of thinking time, though, and Sue had been asking why I didn't write any sci-fi. We've been reading The Player of Games by Iain M Banks, one of my favourite books, and the world he wrote was so vivid and full; something that I aspire to.

Anyway, I wrote this, set about twenty years into the future, thinking about one logical conclusion for the Google Glass tech available today. I'm really interested that Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror has basically got this concept in it, but I saw that after I wrote this. Nice to know I'm thinking along similar lines!

Unedited, about 1 hour, while an episode of Star Trek Deep Space 9 played (not the greatest writing environment but I'll take what I can!)

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