Foresight, Scenario Fictions
Sep 01, 2015
I'll be talking fiction as futurism
Wednesday, Sept. 30, I'll be speaking at the Foresight & Trends conference in Los Angeles. My topic? The same subject on which I wrote my Master's thesis: the use of fictional narratives in foresight studies. This time, though, I'll be getting recursive by reciting several possible "plotlines" that exemplify different aspects of the method. The full agenda description for my talk is:
Plotlines: Using Stories to Analyze the Future
Acclaimed science fiction writer and futurist Karl Schroeder will describe the plotlines of three possible novels. Each of the stories captures the complex essence of one emerging megatrend. Together, they reduce what might be a long, tedious analysis of demographics and drivers to something vital and easily memorable. The stories are, “Decapitation,” about blockchain technology and how Distributed Autonomous Corporations put a company’s CEO, CFO, and upper management out of work; “The Lady (almost) Vanishes,” about how emerging tech is making it impossible for people to disappear; and in “The Garbage Miners,” how a strike by workers who convert trash into feedstock for 3d printers nearly shuts down the country.
So, the talk serves a double purpose--to describe the technique, and to show it in action. I hope you can be there!
May 09, 2014
My latest "scenario fiction" for the Canadian military is out
Back in 2005, the Directorate of Land Strategic Concepts of National Defense Canada (that is to say, the army) hired me to write a short novel, which they named Crisis in Zefra, about future peacekeeping and the evolution of the military in the 21st century. Zefra did very well; you can learn more about it elsewhere on my site. In 2010, they commissioned a second project.
Crisis in Urlia is now published. You can read it online for free or download the PDF. Where Zefra concentrated on military evolution on the squad level, Urlia is about command-and-control, and includes a vision of a crowdsourced military that some might find downright shocking, as well as side forays into online nations and religions, post-agricultural food supplies, and 3d printed buildings.
These works view the future through a particular lens (that of the military) but include as broad (practically epic, in fact) synopsis as I could craft of all the changes facing humanity and our environment over the next thirty years or so. In terms of the rigour that went into them, they're probably my best science fiction.
Oct 10, 2012
My part starts about half an hour in
The video of the IDF2012 Zero-day panel on science fiction prototyping is now viewable online. The whole thing is 86 minutes long, but it's worth it because we cover a lot of ground.
The best quote is near the end, and it belongs to Madeline Ashby, who describes our current selves as being 'like hermit crabs' leaving behind the shells of our discarded technologies as we evolve.
It was great fun, and I'd like to thank Brian, Joe, Harlene and Christina for keeping us organized--and of course, the Intel researchers who actually came up with the real prototypes that we subsequently wrote our stories about.
Sep 15, 2012
Last Monday in San Francisco was a blast
Intel's resident futurist, Brian David Johnson, recently commissioned some science fiction stories from myself and others in support of his Tomorrow Project. On Day 0 of the 2012 Intel Developer's Forum, we all sat down for a panel discussion to talk about the new technologies Intel is exploring.
Mark Hachman has a good summary of the day over at ReadWriteWeb. We handed out copies of the books to all 200 or so attending journalists (most of whom had flown in from points around the country and abroad), and did a signing for an enthusiastic crowd afterward. The technologies themselves were being demoed in the room next to our auditorium, and they were spectacular.
My own contribution to this particular anthology was the story "After Science," which brings back my old (circa-year-2000) concept of Thalience, and explores some of the more out-there metaphysical possibilities of current computer science. There was an interesting confluence of ideas in this, since the tech I'd been commissioned to write about just happens to perfectly illustrate some of the key issues being explored by that new stream of philosophy known as Object Oriented Ontology. For instance, in Ian Bogost's new book, Alien Phenomenology: Or, What it's Like to be an Object, he asks the question of whether we can ever know what the 'experiences' of non-human things/beings are. "After Science" suggests some directions to go in experimentally answering that question, by using computing technology to blur the distinctions between subject and object.
Abstruse, maybe, but one of Brian Johnson's points is that within 10 years, we're going to be butting right up against questions like these in our day to day lives... and the people who build the systems that are going to do the, uh, butting, would benefit from knowing ahead of time a little of what they're getting us all into.
The day was an excellent piece of foresight, highlighting both theoretical and experimental approaches to foreseeing/designing the future. The addition of storytelling as an exploratory approach fits both with Johnson's own techniques, and with mine, as my Master's thesis was all about using fiction in foresight.
I hope Intel, and other companies, use this successful Day 0 event as a template for more explorations. We'll all benefit from our industry leaders giving some thought to what world we'll all want to live in, in 10 or 20 years.