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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

The implications of Wolfram|Alpha

Filed Under:

It's a real-world test of the proposition that complex answers do not require a complex agency

Wolfram's Alpha is not a competitor to Google.  I've been playing with it since it went live the other night, and its limitations are glaring and clear.  It has trouble answering even the simplest and most intuitive query, which makes it seem like it's a spectacularly stupid system.  But what's impressive is that it is able to answer any questions at all.

If I understand Stephen Wolfram's description of the system (and others') correctly, Alpha is an attempt to create a knowledge engine out of a very large library of fairly small algorithms.  Its database is vast; but the code that operates on it is not necessarily complex.  In other words, Alpha's not a monolithic "thought engine" but a collection of heterogenous mini-engines that Wolfram hopes will interact in unpredictable but creative ways.  As Stephen Wolfram puts it in a recent blog entry on the subject:

There is an immensely complex web of systematizable knowledge out there in the world. And before NKS [Wolfram's book A New Kind of Science --K], I would have assumed that to handle something of this complexity would have required building a system that is somehow correspondingly complex—and in practice completely out of reach.

But from NKS we have learned that even highly complex things can have their origins in simple rules and simple programs.

This last statement is the important one--it speaks to what I've been saying for a while now, that the vision of a 'technological singularity' that comes as a result of increasing complexity of information processing systems, is mistaken.  (It is, in fact, an example of the erroneous theory of Intelligent Design.)  Creativity is not correlated to complexity; and as well as being a potentially useful tool, Alpha is an attempt to prove this very non-intuitive idea.

As Wolfram goes on to say in his blog post:

Today, Wolfram|Alpha uses existing models from science and other areas, then does computations based on these models.

But what if it could find new models? What if it could invent on the fly? Do science on the fly?

That is precisely what NKS suggests should be possible. Exploring the computational universe on request, and finding things out there that are useful for some particular specified purpose.

Stephen Wolfram expects Alpha to be more than a data regurgitator or formatter.  He expects it to be creative.  And, he expects this creativity to emerge, not from complexity, but from simplicity

These are very interesting ideas.  The next year of Alpha's growth should be interesting to watch.

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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)


     “An 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. ”
    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