Aug 05, 2016
This is the definitive one
Here's my final (-ish) schedule. Things can always change on the day-of, but you should note that I've got a few events on Friday, so make a particular note of that; if you want to see me, Friday's a good day. Here's the full schedule, including times and locations:
Reading: Karl Schroeder
Friday 10:00 - 11:00, 2203 (Readings) (Kansas City Convention Center)
An Idiot's Guide Revisited, circa 2000
Friday 13:00 - 14:00, 2208 (Kansas City Convention Center)
It's circa 2000 and authors Cory Doctorow and Karl Schroeder just published The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Science Fiction. Fast-forward 16 years later, and the world of publishing has evolved, but how much has it really changed? Cory and Karl take a look back and discuss what they got right, what they got wrong, and how things have changed over the years.
Karl Schroeder, Cory Doctorow, Patrick Nielsen Hayden
Literary Beer : Lawrence M. Schoen, Karl Schroeder
Friday 16:00 - 17:00, Literary Beer Space (Kansas City Convention Center)
Dr. Lawrence M. Schoen, Karl Schroeder. [Yay, Lawrence! You should sign up to talk to him, he's a fascinating guy and vastly entertaining. I can only promise to show up, myself.]
Futurism vs. SF
Friday 18:00 - 19:00, 2209 (Kansas City Convention Center)
Science Fiction explores the future. Futurism explores the future and tries to relate it to the real world. What causes someone to be a Futurist rather than a science fiction author? Where are the overlaps and the differences between the two practices?
S.B. Divya (M), Karl Schroeder, Andrea Phillips, David Brin
"Ellie's Last Line". Scriptwriting and Narrative for Videogames
Saturday 11:00 - 12:00, 2209 (Kansas City Convention Center)
Some of today's most popular video games are based upon narrative storytelling, but that's only part of conveying the tale implicit in a videogame. What does it take to develop a game script? Participants discuss the ins and outs of building a quality gaming script.
Seth Dickinson, Karl Schroeder (M), Carol Wolf, Brianna Spacekat Wu
Societal Aspects of Technology
Saturday 13:00 - 14:00, 2208 (Kansas City Convention Center)
If your cellphone died would you be late for work? When your power goes out, would you dispair for entertainment? In a world where people are digitally dependent, what will happen when energy fails us? Downton Abbey dramatized the advent of home electricity, the telephone and the radio. How did those advances change social lives? Instead of bringing us together, have phones increase our isolation? We discuss how technology changes the way people communicate and relate in society.
Mike Shepherd Moscoe, Andrea Phillips, Edward M. Lerner (M), Karl Schroeder, David Brin
The Future of Government
Saturday 17:00 - 18:00, 2208 (Kansas City Convention Center)
The world has seen many different forms of government over the centuries. What might governments be like in the next 10, 50, or 200 years, and how will changing technologies and world conditions (e.g. climate change) affect those forms? Are there forms of government that have been proposed that have never existed in the real world, but might?
Cat Greenberg (M), Matthew Johnson, Dr Jamie Metzl, Karl Schroeder, Ada Palmer
Autographing: David Boop, Ellen Datlow, Richard Hescox, Jack McDevitt, Karl Schroeder
Sunday 10:00 - 11:00, Autographing Space (Kansas City Convention Center)
David Boop, Ellen Datlow, Richard Hescox, Jack McDevitt, Karl Schroeder
Is Mining the Asteroids Feasible?
Sunday 11:00 - 12:00, 2204 (Kansas City Convention Center)
Once the province of science fictiion, asteroid mining is moving into the realm of venture capital, with startup efforts from here to Luxembourg. A number of approaches exist, none of them downselected by experience... yet. Does it make more sense to bring raw material back or process it in situ? What might the near term, mid term and far term of asteroid mining look like?
Karl Schroeder, Dr. Jordin Kare, Courtney Schafer, Les Johnson (M), Jennifer Brozek
Feb 20, 2014
I'll be one of the speakers at the Fields Institute's panel discussion
How does math influence science fiction? In my case, I'm functionally inumerate and yet have created hard-SF universes that others have written scientific papers about. How does that work? This Saturday myself, Suzanne Church and Tony Pi will be talking about the intersection point of math and imagination--and perhaps, about the idea that there's no real difference between the two.
See you there!
Apr 16, 2013
These will be taking place at Toronto Public Library branches in April; details below
Starting this week I'll be doing several talks and speed-forecasting exercises around the city of Toronto, to help Toronto Public Library celebrate Keep Toronto Reading 2013. Everybody's invited to come out and to participate. These are going to be short, focused sessions--an hour on average--so we won't have time for long debates or in-depth analyses. However, one thing I'll be hoping to do is an exercise I call 'speed forecasting.'
Scenario-based forecasting is a foresight methodology that goes back to the RAND Corporation and Hermann Kahn, the man who inspired the character of Dr. Strangelove. Generally, scenario design is a meticulous process that takes months and involves a research phase, consultations and often several rounds of workshops convened for experts in the field being analyzed.
We're going to do the whole thing in a half an hour.
While we'll be leaving the smoking wreckage of a decades-old methodology in our wake, I guarantee you we'll have fun and it'll be an interesting glimpse into the future. So, come on out on one of the following dates and places, and join in!
April 18, 2013: Spadina Road Branch
When: 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Where: 10 Spadina Road, Toronto
April 22: Pape Branch
When: 6:30 to 8:00 p.m.
Where: 701 Pape Avenue, Toronto
April 30: St. Lawrence Branch
When: 7:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Where: 171 Front Street East, Toronto
Oct 19, 2011
Something I'd promised my audience at Applied Brilliance. Here it is
I found the latest issue of Nature waiting for me when I got home from speaking at this year's Applied Brilliance conference in Jackson Hole. In this issue of Nature (October 2011, Vol. 478) there's a brief article by Jan Helge Solbakk in the News & Views section on "Persons versus Things." To quote:
Since the time of Roman law, legal thinking has operated with a fundamental distinction between person and thing. Even today, the entities subject to regulation are either persons or things, and there is no third option. This conceptual lacuna continues to generate regulatory paradoxes in the health and life sciences, because many of the entities subject to regulation--including bodies, body parts, organs and tissues, and sperm and oocytes--cannot be considered either persons or mere things.
How interesting. This is what I was talking about at Applied Brilliance--although on a more abstract level. More and more people are starting to realize that we need a third option; I talked about some of the lines of evidence from cognitive science that led this way, and mentioned some names, but I'm sure they flew by too quickly for most people in the audience to write them down. Here they are.
In her book Vibrant Matter, Jane Bennett reminds us that we've been dancing around this third option for centuries. She introduced me to an old English word, deodand, which I've started adapting for my own use. In old English law, a deodand was an object that had killed someone (an cartwheel that had rolled over somebody, or a bag of grain that had fallen on somebody's head). Deodands were neither objects nor people; they had a strange intermediary status. Like a shirt that we might happily put on, unless we found out that it had once been worn by a murderer during his crime.
Bennett's book deals with the 'new vitalism' strand of current philosophy. It's a part of the New Materialism or Speculative Realist school (there are various names for this new phenomenon in philosophy). This school or movement consists of a number of young thinkers who are determinedly steering away from the Continental philosophy of the last 25 years or so--avoiding Deleuze, abandoning Critique and eschewing postmodernism in favour of a return to a belief in the reality of the physical world. Materialism, but a kind of vital materialism in which the third option--of material as vital and self-powered--is being explored.
I ran out of time during my talk at Applied Brilliance to really describe this stuff; all I was really able to do was present an introduction, using the metaphor of the Copernican Revolution. There've been several such revolutions, I said:
- Newton introduced the idea of motion without a prime mover;
- Darwin presented evidence for design without a designer;
- computers show us thought without a thinker;
- and now, cognitive science is shaking up our fundamental ideas of who and what we are. It is presenting nothing less than a vision of spirit without a soul.
The best summary of this fundamental shift can be found in the works of Thomas Metzinger; The Ego Tunnel is a good place to start, and, for the not-faint-of-heart, the more thorough and daunting Being No One.
Andy Clark, in books such as Being There and Supersizing the Mind, presents the theory of Extended Cognition, which proposes that the human brain off-loads cognitive activities into the environment whenever possible, and that therefore the mind has to be seen as normally extended into the world around us. And in Cognition in the Wild, Edwin Hutchins presents the theory of distributed cognition, which suggests that what we think of as thought is often carried out by groups of people (and instruments) rather than occurring in the head of any one member of the group.
Similar changes are echoing through other disciplines. For instance, in Where Mathematics Comes From, George Lakoff and Rafael Nunez claim that cognitive science shows exactly how we think when we do math, and those thought processes don't just operate without recourse to some separate realm of mathematical reality--how we actually do math precludes the possibility that a distinct mathematical reality exists. And, after more than twenty years of study into computers and computation, Dean of Information Sciences at the University of Toronto, Brian Cantwell Smith, concludes, in his essay "God, Approximately,"
We will never have a theory of computing, I claim, because there is nothing there to have a theory of. Computers aren’t sufficiently special. They involve an interplay of meaning and mechanism—period. That’s all there is to say. They’re the whole thing, in other words. A computer is anything we can build that exemplifies that dialectical interplay.
I said during my talk that 'this is the point where some people start to panic.' With this phase of the Copernican revolutions, all agency has been removed from the world. Nothing is left of the spirit that was thought to move material reality, not even our own minds. If there is no special agency (mover, designer, thinker, or spirit) behind the material world, isn't reality left barren and empty? Yet, there is an alternative interpretation to this final step of creative destruction; Jane Bennett's 'enchanted materialism' provides a hint of what that could be.
The new materialists (or speculative realists, or new vitalists) see that what we've done by proving that there is no special agency (mover, designer, thinker, or spirit) behind the material world, is on the contrary to show that material reality itself is its own mover, is its own designer, that thought and thinker are identical, and that material reality is spirit. 'Enchanted materialism' indeed.
I've mentioned Bennett. Other respected scientists and philosophers who are going down this road include:
- Ursula Goodenough, in The Sacred Depths of Nature;
- Timothy Morton, in Ecology without Nature;
- Graham Harman, in books such as The Quadruple Object;
- Stuart A. Kauffman, in Reinventing the Sacred;
- and, most importantly, Quentin Meillassoux, in his groundbreaking new work of speculative realist philosophy, After Finitude. In this (highly technical) book he claims to have solved the problem of knowledge that Kant raised 200 years ago in the Critique of Pure Reason, and if he has, then Meillassoux has breathed new life into the entire project of Western philosophy.
These thinkers all come at the problem from different directions, and their conclusions may seem to be divergent as well. But what they all share is that they are taking the extra step, from the facts of the final Copernican upheaval, to new and positive interpretations of what it means. It's good that their ideas are divergent--this is a creative period. What is important is they all see new vistas of possibility for our self-definition as human beings alive in a vibrant and essentially living universe; and they do this without resorting to mystification, new age formulas, or any turning-away from reality to some soothing metaphysics.
I tried to express all of this in half an hour at Applied Brilliance; I don't think I succeeded. Follow this trail of breadcrumbs, though; you'd be amazed where it leads.
May 31, 2010
I'm giving a speech this friday, June 4, 2010 at Innis Town Hall
As part of the 13th annual Subtle Technologies Festival here in Toronto, I will be giving a talk on Friday, June 4 on the subject of Rewilding Humanity. Those of you who followed my old blog, "Age of Embodiment," will have some inkling of what this stuff is about; as will those who may have caught my OsCon speech last summer (which you can catch on YouTube here).
Here's the precis of the talk from the Subtle Technologies website:
Economic sustainability is not enough if human civilization is going to have a long presence on Earth. We need to not only reform our institutions but redefine what they are and how they operate; and we need a new vision of what it means to be human in a world where neither transcendence or apocalypse are viable options. One possibility is “rewilding”–bringing our constructed environments in line with our instinctive and cognitive needs.
This is a good description; but there's a lot more to it than that. If you can make it to the festival, come to the event and we can discuss these and, hopefully, many related ideas.
Mar 04, 2010
... at the Metro reference library here in Toronto, starting at 7:00 pm.
Here's the full itinerary from the TPL website, along with a little teaser on my next event, coming up on March 24, that you might want to participate in:
Science Fiction and Foresight: Is it true that science fiction is about predicting the future? Karl Schroeder discusses when science fiction and foresight are the same and when they are different.
Saturday, March 6, 7-8:15 pm
Toronto Reference Library
Live Online Chat
Chat online with Karl Schroeder - a Book Buzz event.
Wednesday, March 24, 7-8 pm
So come on down on Saturday for the talk! It's supposed to be a glorious spring-like day, so why not visit the library then take a stroll down Yonge?