Indeed, nothing says "hope" better than expressing a belief in our ability to solve problems.
==Alternate Visions of the Future==Can we imagine a brighter future? Science Fiction has frequently tried to do so...And now, Hieroglyph: Stories and Visions for a Better Future is an anthology that brings together "twenty of today’s leading thinkers, writers, and visionaries—among them Cory Doctorow, Gregory Benford, Elizabeth Bear, Bruce Sterling, Geoff Landis and Neal Stephenson (not to mention me)—to contribute works of “techno-optimism” that challenge us to dream and do Big Stuff. Engaging, mind-bending, provocative, and imaginative, Hieroglyph offers a forward-thinking approach to the intersection of art and technology that has the power to change our world. " Sample a free excerpt on Scribd.I've spoken elsewhere of the tedious obsession with dystopia that allows so many writers of producer/directors to be plot lazy. It also spreads a poison, undermining our confidence that dystopia can be avoided, through hard work, good will and innovation. Well, Hieroglyph brings back that can-do spirit that once filled science fiction with a sense of adventure and wonder!How did writers of the past imagine the future? "The Machine Stops" is a science fiction short story (12,300 words) by E. M. Forster. (November 1909) The story describes a world in which most of the human population has lost the ability to live on the surface of the Earth. Each individual now lives in isolation below ground in a standard 'cell', with all bodily and spiritual needs met by the omnipotent, global Machine. Travel is permitted but unpopular and rarely necessary. Communication is made via a kind of instant messaging/video conferencing machine called the speaking apparatus, with which people conduct their only activity, the sharing of ideas and what passes for knowledge. Read it here: http://archive.ncsa.illinois.edu/prajlich/forster.htmlIn a brilliantly cogent essay, the wondrous Nancy Kress explains why her novels so often deal with genetic engineering. And why she almost never does the reflex tech-loathing thing, but tries to show both the good and bad possibilities that have come from every technology since fire.Which SF books have had the most impact today? io9 offers one reviewer’s list of “21 of the most influential science fiction and fantasy books.”Another list: Ten (Potentially) Great Movies that Failed...with The Postman at the top!This Kickstarter aims at creating an anthology of age appropriate stories that all kids can identify with. “We have great stories, from a wide range of writers and a diverse set of characters – girls, boys, robots… everyone belongs here! Of the stories we've accepted so far, 80% have female main characters. We don't have girls who are prizes to be won, or waiting to be rescued. All of our heroines and heroes are on their own adventure, not a side note in someone else’s.”My story “Chrysalis” has appeared in the latest issue of ANALOG Magazine. It portrays a pair of Nobel winning biologists — once upon a time they had been married — exploring the “hidden genome” to find a bizarre discovery… traits that the ancestors of all mammals gave up - possibly for good reason (!) - 300 million years ago.If I had the self-copier from Kiln People, I would definitely play Civilization V and its coming new offshoot, Civilization: Beyond Earth! See the review on io9. Alas, limited lifespan! So, get thee behind me, Satan…Plug: For that long summer drive. The audio version of EXISTENCE used Audible’s three best narrators! I helped assign roles and transitions. It is one of the best audio books out there.Have you heard about Amazon's new e-book subscription service? If you subscribe, be sure to turn at least 10% of the pages of every book you get so that the author gets a royalty. Please SHARE to benefit your favorite writers! — (Passed along from Ransom Stephens)==The 'Rebel' Genre==Here’s a fascinating interview about the underpinnings of science fiction as a literary form. During George Slusser‘s 25-year curatorship, the Eaton Collection at the University of California, Riverside, became the greatest archive of science fiction and fantasy in the world. It contains more than 100,000 volumes, ranging from the 1517 edition of Thomas More’s Utopia to the most recently published titles in all languages. The collection also includes journals, comic books, and 300,000 fanzines.This interview elucidates many ways that SF remains a “rebel” genre in the halls of academia. Indeed, even in those places where SF is studied and appraised by scholars, it seems that just a few authors - maybe a dozen - are deemed acceptable.(Aside: at one point George suggests that “…writers like David Brin, Gregory Benford, Robert A. Heinlein are rejected on “politically correct” grounds.” Which I find amusing, since I have probably canceled Greg’s vote in sixteen out of the last twenty elections! (For the last few, Greg has seen the light and now rails against the party of Fox-n-Bush.) Indeed, my politics and overall zeitgeist coincide roughly with those of Kim Stanley Robinson! Though yes, I admit I throw in a Heinleinian libertarian zig and an anti-PC zag or two. As a contrarian, I don’t like polemical prescribers of any ilk. So yeah. That probably accounts for it.)If literary SF matters do interest you, and you feel centers of excellence like the Eaton Collection are important, then you might read with dismay what SF-author Nalo Hopkinson says about recent attempts to undermine the Eaton and possibly eliminate it.==SF and the Military==All three of the US Army’s competing prototypes for the replacement of the Humvee (the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle) bear striking resemblance to the design that our team came up with in one of the pilot episodes for the 48 hour design challenge show The Architechs… a great program that the History Channel gave a pass on, during their ill-fated transition to becoming the Bigfoot Channel.I wish you could see the “Humvee Episode” but that one never aired! (Perhaps some brash person will post it anyway — in this case, no one’s economic interests will be harmed.) Four star general Paul Kern (ret) took the episode with him, though, and I hear it was watched closely by all three current design teams.Our other pilot — coming up with a dozen new ways in and out of burning buildings, was even better!Ah, but the Army is already thinking science fiction for the next generation. They need … The Architechs!== Space is also for dreams ==A lot of the stuff on Daily Kos is — well — left-wing tendentious. But this story - if true - is worrisome: “Teacher Incarcerated For Writing Science Fiction.” Okay, his self-published novel was about a school shooting, 900 years from now. And the Kos story tells us nothing about the details: e.g. whether the scenes might be perverted enough to indicate an unbalanced mind. Still, on the face of it, this sure sounds like something truly silly is going on.I’ve written many varieties of super-short stories, e.g. those that are precisely 250 words. My six-worder was the lead story in WIRED’s spread of 6 word tales. (It had three scenes, action, conversation and pathos!)Now see a site offering chilling Two Sentence Horror Stories! (Here are the six-worders: http://www.davidbrin.com/shortstories.html.Watch out next year for DARK ORBIT by the up and coming talent Carolyn Ives Gilman.Another breakdown on Chicano and latino science fiction, and here's a look at Cuban Science Fiction.. . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/ (site feed URL: http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/atom.xml)
My latest Guardian column, Crypto wars redux: why the FBI's desire to unlock your private life must be resisted, explains why the US government's push to mandate insecure back-doors in all our devices is such a terrible idea -- the antithesis of "cyber-security."
As outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder invokes child kidnappers and terrorists, it's like a time-warp to the crypto-wars of the early 1990s, when the NSA tried to keep privacy technology out of civilian hands by classing it as a munition (no, seriously). Today, the need for the public to be able to thoroughly secure its data has never been more urgent, and the practicality of a back-door mandate has never been less plausible.
Because your phone isn’t just a tool for having the odd conversation with your friends – nor is it merely a tool for plotting crime – though it does duty in both cases. Your phone, and all the other computers in your life, they are your digital nervous system. They know everything about you. They have cameras, microphones, location sensors. You articulate your social graph to them, telling them about all the people you know and how you know them. They are privy to every conversation you have. They hold your logins and passwords for your bank and your solicitor’s website; they’re used to chat to your therapist and the STI clinic and your rabbi, priest or imam.
That device – tracker, confessor, memoir and ledger – should be designed so that it is as hard as possible to gain unauthorised access to. Because plumbing leaks at the seams, and houses leak at the doorframes, and lie-lows lose air through their valves. Making something airtight is much easier if it doesn’t have to also allow the air to all leak out under the right circumstances.
There is no such thing as a vulnerability in technology that can only be used by nice people doing the right thing in accord with the rule of law.
(Image: graffiti04, David Bleasdale, CC-BY)
God Does Not Regard the Fetus as a Soul: This article in Slate is an interesting attempt to grasp - historically - why the American right swung so avidly and passionately toward a zero-tolerance policy against abortion: "Ask most (white) evangelicals about the morality of abortion these days, and you’re certain to hear about its absolute immorality in most, if not all, circumstances. But this is a recent innovation in the history of evangelical belief, a product of political forces as well as new theological insight," writes Jamelle Bouie.
As recently as the late seventies, even the Southern Baptist Convention declared it to be morally acceptable in all borderline cases (e.g. rape, incest or threatened health of the mother and the first couple of months. Even theologians in the "biblical inerrancy" movement (the Bible is 100% accurate) cited “[A]ccording to Exodus 21:22–24, the destruction of the fetus is not a capital offense. … Clearly, then, in contrast to the mother, the fetus is not reckoned as a soul.”By 1982, however, all had changed and the passionate declarations of "baby-killing in all cases, even contraception" became standard as the most perfect litmus test of an increasingly rigid American right wing…. even as the decline and later fall of communism sapped most similar dogmatic purity out of the far-left.
So whence came this purist passion, that has absolutely no bearing on the hoary and simplistic so-called "left-right axis"? Randall Balmer, in his book about Jimmy Carter "Redeemer," roots this evolution in the 1970s push to change federal tax laws, removing tax-exemption from segregationist schools that barred pupils because of race. This change -- which even most republicans would today call justified -- was first proposed by Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, but was blamed on Carter by furious southern whites. Knowing they could not actually make an issue over such an immoral stance, they needed another purist issue, says Balmer.
Very clearly, one aspect to all of this is the effectiveness of the abortion issue at delivering the biggest (and most destructive) "drug high" in American life, repeated, heavy doses of pleasurable self-righteous indignation, poisoning our national genius at pragmatic problem-solving and negotiation with our neighbors. I explain this in a TedX talk: Indignation, Addiction and Hope: Does it help to be "Mad as Hell?" that shows how it is not only the American right, wallowing in this filthy habit of self-doped dudgeon. Many on the left... and even you moderate liberals... indulge in this addiction, shamelessly.
But no. Sometimes -- and especially regarding abortion -- it goes much, much deeper than that.
== The deepest underlying reason ==Envision you are a woman who has discovered she is carrying an anencephalic fetus… without cranium or brain, that will not survive outside the womb — absolutely zero chance — and that cannot experience any sort of life. (It has nothing to experience life with!) Will purists actually insist she must continue to carry it for five more months?Then there is the problem of purism vs incrementalism. States like Colorado, that offer teens free contraceptives, would appear to be encouraging promiscuity. Yet, Colorado (and other blues) have LOWER teen sex, teen pregnancy, STD and — yes — abortion rates than states like Mississippi, in which “sex education” consists only of berating kids toward total abstinence -- a goal that they achieve less well than blue states do.Faced with facts like these, the Confederate Philosophy must be purist. Just reducing the number and percentage of abortions is a non-issue; indeed, pushing for pragmatic, incremental reduction is seen as a sign of moral fault!
As in Ursula LeGuin’s famous story “Those who walk away from Omelas,” no pragmatic weighing of numbers can stand up to the pure villainy of the state sanctioning even one innocent death. (Never mind that state laws against abortion never succeed and always increase the number of botched procedures and deaths.)But none of that explains the purity of the right’s current obsession. So what gives?All right, as you'd expect... I have a theory: the "Jesus Effect."It's quite simple. Just look at any image of Jesus -- beard, long-hair, sandals, beads, wandering around the desert with a bunch of guys, preaching folks to give up their possessions, "the meek shall inherit" and all that… while also proclaiming you should pay your taxes without complaint. Now squint and imagine him returning and walking amongst us today, teaching the same things.Um, to whatever extent he endorses a U.S. political party, which can you envision the hippie socialist choosing?
No no. This won't do. This will not do at all!
What conservatives needed was a single issue that would make the crucial difference, like an on-off switch. Something so pure and absolute that Jesus would have to switch sides, holding his nose and saying: "I disagree with you right-wingers on every social and economic and general moral point, and yet... I must still side with you against the goll-durn lib’ruls. Bcause I can't abide baby-killers."
If you had to come up with such an all-or-nothing test, "baby-killing" would pretty much be it. Just by defining humanity at conception, you eliminate any need to consider Jesus's wishes on other matters, like economic fairness, or pacifism, or inheritance by the meek, or… You get it; nothing else need be considered! Truly, can you think of any better reason, to explain the volcanic fury of this movement?Why no compromise is permissible, even steadily-incrementally reducing the rate and numbers of abortions?
Otherwise, we'd long ago have found common ground, uniting on a shared goal ----- that strenuous efforts should be undertaken to ensure that abortion will be safe, legal, and very rare.
. . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/ (site feed URL: http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/atom.xml)