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Downloads

I've made my first novel, Ventus, available as a free download, as well as excerpts from two of the Virga books.  I am looking forward to putting up a number of short stories in the near future.

Complete novel:  Ventus

 

To celebrate the August, 2007 publication of Queen of Candesce, I decided to re-release my first novel as an eBook. You can download it from this page. Ventus was first published by Tor Books in 2000, and and you can still buy it; to everyone who would just like to sample my work, I hope you enjoy this version.

I've released this book under a Creative Commons license, which means you can read it and distribute it freely, but not make derivative works or sell it.

Book Excerpts:  Sun of Suns and Pirate Sun

I've made large tracts of these two Virga books available.  If you want to find out what the Virga universe is all about, you can check it out here:

Major Foresight Project:  Crisis in Zefra

In spring 2005, the Directorate of Land Strategic Concepts of National Defense Canada (that is to say, the army) hired me to write a dramatized future military scenario.  The book-length work, Crisis in Zefra, was set in a mythical African city-state, about 20 years in the future, and concerned a group of Canadian peacekeepers who are trying to ready the city for its first democratic vote while fighting an insurgency.  The project ran to 27,000 words and was published by the army as a bound paperback book.

If you'd like to read Crisis in Zefra, you can download it in PDF form.

Personal tools

If I had a Billion Dollars: Holiday Edition

My occasional game of speculation about how best to fund the future

I've played this game before--and I will again. I find it clears the mind wonderfully to wonder what you'd do for the world if you had a billion dollars to spend. Build a secret volcanic island lair? Check. Cure necrotizing phlombosis? Check. Oh, there's all kinds of stuff you could do. 

--There's one rule, though: whatever you spend your billion on, it has to be something nobody else is doing--and something that's worthwhile in a completely game-changing way.

After all, in today's market a billion dollars will get you a few miles of subway, or a new sports stadium. Yay. But it can get you so much more, as Elon Musk has demonstrated with his reinvention of the space launch business (and he hasn't spent more than a fifth of a billion on that). In fact, a billion is enough to solve more than one problem, if it's properly distributed. 

I play this game regularly because the world keeps changing, and what's important keeps changing. Some items remain from previous lists; some are new. Here's today's list:

  1. $200 million to studying and developing new systems of governance. --No, I don't mean e-voting, or even e-democracy. I'm talking about a systematic study of how humans govern themselves, and how our cognitive biases and interactions at different scales scuttle effective problem-solving among groups. Think this is fringe science? I happen to think it's the most important problem in the world, the only one that counts. Because if we reinvented governance (on the level of individual self-control and choice, on the level of small-group interactions, and all the way up to how millions of people make collective decisions) then every other problem facing us now would become tractable. So I'd be exploring cognitive science, promise theory, structured dialogic design and a lot else besides.  $200 is really far too little to spend on this, but it's a start.
  2. $200 million to develop efficient and economical carbon air capture and sequestration. Carbon air capture is the only potentially feasible method of returning Earth's atmospheric CO2 balance to pre-industrial levels in less than a hundred years. Emissions controls won't do it, neither will renewable energy, or even the complete disappearance of human civilization. The CO2's there. It has to actually be removed from the atmosphere. Currently, far less than $1 million is spent per year on how to do this. And that's just crazy.
  3. $200 million to develop a microwave space launch system. --Again, this sounds wacky. But the physical resources of the solar system are effectively infinite; and the world looks like a very different place if you play the game of imagining that access to space was really cheap. All sorts of currently impossible problems fall like dominoes if it costs as little to get to space as it does to fly across the Atlantic. And, in space development, there is only one problem, and that's the cost of going the first 100 miles. Literally every other issue becomes tractable if you solve that one. So let's stop dicking around with incredibly expensive launch systems and solve it.  (Why microwave launch and not laser launch? Because microwaves are more energy efficient, and can be done now; and because I think laser launch is a political non-starter, because accidental or deliberate straying of a laser launch beam could blind or fry anything in the sky, including airliners or other nations' satellites.)
  4. $200 million to finally realize the dream of nuclear fusion energy. We are that close. Most of the money would be divided up between the chronically-underfunded research projects that are getting close: IEC fusion, magnetized-target fusion, and several others. I'd fund General Fusion's steampunk pneumatic-fusion system, for instance. But I'd also fund one method that nobody's trying right now, but may be the best of all: levitating dipole fusion. 
  5. $200 million to prototype the business models, supply chains and build a first-generation Vertical Farm. Because sane governance, free energy, a solution to global warming and unlimited material resources aren't enough if half the planet's starving, which will be the case in forty years if we don't act now. This one seems like a no-brainer, if it can be properly optimized.

An odd set of priorities? But, what if they all worked? Simultaneous breakthroughs in energy, resource access including food, removal of the threat of global warming, remediation of the natural environment destroyed by intensive agrivulture and, most importantly, a Renaissance in collective problem-solving would literally mean the world to us. 

The point of all this should be clear. Even in a global recession, money's not the scarce commodity. Audacity is. 

What can you do with a billion dollars? 

You can build a new sports stadium.

Or, maybe, you can save the world.

Document Actions

A Billion Dollars?

Posted by Anonymous User at Dec 28, 2011 06:14 PM
Power and cheap access to Space are the pressing problems of our world.

I like the microwave launch system idea.

I also think developing solar to microwave power from orbit to ground will get us off fossil fuels for good.

A few comments

Posted by Anonymous User at Dec 30, 2011 02:33 PM
I don't think number 1 is a good idea, since even if you produce countless studies showing that governance is better if you adopt X, it will never be adopted. Or if it will, it will take centuries and centuries (e.g. the singularity will come long before widespread adoption). Take single-transferable-vote for example.

I'm skeptical about number two too. It will be too expensive to be seriously adopted. I don't think it's rational to start doing CO2 capture at this point. It will get exponentially cheaper as technology progresses. You might look into spreading a vegan diet though, according to Vegan Outreach, a few dollars have a huge effect (and a vegan diet is very good way to limit CO2 emissions). This essay ( www.utilitarian-essays.com/dollar-worth.pdf )is about minimizing animal suffering, but it's as good for reducing emissions.

I'm entirely skeptical about the microwave launch system. Traditional systems like what SpaceX can be reduced in price a lot. There's also a lot of simple, proven technologies to make traditional rocketry cheaper. Microwave launch system is way to risky. For example, switching to aerospike engines and using composite tanks will make rockets a lot more efficient (using those two technologies a single-stage rocket to orbit will be feasible). They're also pretty safe technologies.

Nuclear thorium fission power would be a better choice than nuclear fusion (thorium is a lot easier and proven technology also).

I don't see the benefits of vertical farming. It's cheaper to convert more land into farmable land than trying to do vertical farming.

I'd use the money something like this:

1. $200 million to develop a safe molecular assembler. It's one of the last inventions we need to do ever, but there's considerable risks too.

2. $200 million to researching how to build a friendly strong AI.

3. $200 million to develop in-vitro meat. The best way to reduce animal suffering, bring down meat prices, reduce emissions and land use and generally increase well-being of everyone.

4. $200 million to develop thorium power.

5. $200 million to research life extension technologies.

- Panu Horsmalahti

Education, education, education

Posted by Matt Leach at Feb 07, 2012 04:17 PM
I think a billion dollars could make a decent dent in providing a formalised system of free online teaching and accreditation to whoever wants access to it. Especially given the tremendous good will and ability that could be harnessed here.

Make university quality education, AND the ability to certify that (which I realise is a none trivial problem), freely available beyond the tiny minority that can currently afford it, and you have to be able to shake up the world for the better, right?

Alternatively...

Posted by Matt Leach at Feb 07, 2012 04:19 PM
Design a computer system that can automatically detect, highlight and reject logical fallacies, build it into every word processor and internet browser in the world. Sit back and enjoy Utopia...
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About Me

I'm a member of the Association of Professional Futurists with my own consultancy, and am also currently Chair of the Canadian node of the Millennium Project, a private/public foresight consultancy active in 50 nations. As well, I am an award-winning author with ten published novels translated into as many languages. I write, give talks, and conduct workshops on numerous topics related to the future, including:

  • Future of government
  • Bitcoin and digital currencies
  • The workplace in 2030
  • The Internet of Things
  • Augmented cognition

For a complete bio, go here. To contact me, email karl at kschroeder dot com

Example: The Future of Governance

I use Science Fiction to communicate the results of actual futures studies. Some of my recent research relates to how we'll govern ourselves in the future. I've worked with a few clients on this and published some results.

Here are two examples--and you can read the first for free:

The Canadian army commissioned me to write Crisis in Urlia, a fictionalized study of the future of military command-and-control. You can download a PDF of the book here:


Crisis in Urlia

For the "optimistic Science Fiction" anthology Hieroglyph, I wrote "Degrees of Freedom," set in Haida Gwaii. "Degrees of Freedom" is about an attempt to develop new governing systems by Canadian First Nations people.


I'm continuing to research this exciting area and would be happy to share my findings.

 
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    A Young Adult Scifi Saga

    "Lean and hugely engaging ... and highly recommended."

    --Open Letters Monthly, an Arts and Literature Review

    Sheer Fun: The Virga Series

    (Sun of Suns and Queen of Candesce are combined in Cities of the Air)


     β€œAn adventure-filled tale of sword fights and naval battles... the real fun of this coming-of-age tale includes a pirate treasure hunt and grand scale naval invasions set in the cold, far reaches of space. ”
    β€”Kirkus Reviews (listed in top 10 SF novels for 2006)

    "With Queen of Candesce, [Schroeder] has achieved a clockwork balance of deftly paced adventure and humour, set against an intriguing and unique vision of humanity's far future.
    --The Globe and Mail

    "[Pirate Sun] is fun in the same league as the best SF ever has had to offer, fully as exciting and full of cool science as work from the golden age of SF, but with characterization and plot layering equal to the scrutiny of critical appraisers."
    --SFRevu.com


    "...A rollicking good read... fun, bookish, and full of insane air battles"
    --io9.com


    "A grand flying-pirate-ship-chases-and-escapes-and-meetings-with-monsters adventure, and it ends not with a debate or a seminar but with a gigantic zero-gee battle around Candesce, a climactic unmasking and showdown, just desserts, and other satisfying stuff."
    --Locus