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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.

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Wicked (3)

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Forget about wicked problems--what about complex ones?

Last summer I wrote a guest article on Charlie Stross's blog about wicked problems.  Some of the characteristics of wicked problems are:There is no definitive formulation of a wicked problem (defining wicked problems is itself a wicked problem).

  1. There is no definitive formulation of a wicked problem (defining wicked problems is itself a wicked problem).
  2. Wicked problems have no stopping rule.
  3. Solutions to wicked problems are not true-or-false, but better or worse.
  4. There is no immediate and no ultimate test of a solution to a wicked problem.
  5. Every solution to a wicked problem is a "one-shot operation"; because there is no opportunity to learn by trial and error, every attempt counts significantly.
  6. Wicked problems do not have an enumerable (or an exhaustively describable) set of potential solutions, nor is there a well-described set of permissible operations that may be incorporated into the plan.
  7. Every wicked problem is essentially unique.
  8. Every wicked problem can be considered to be a symptom of another problem.
  9. The existence of a discrepancy representing a wicked problem can be explained in numerous ways. The choice of explanation determines the nature of the problem's resolution.
  10. The social planner who tackles a wicked problem has no right to be wrong (planners are liable for the consequences of the actions they generate).

Now Chris Smith has introduced me to a great article on How Complex Systems Fail by Richard I. Cook, MD. It's a very similar summary, but wickedly (if I can use that word) clever and, for anybody who's actually dealt with complex systems, so utterly true. Some of Cook's observations on the failure of complex systems include:

1.  Complex systems are intrinsically hazardous systems.

3.  Catastrophe requires multiple failures - single point failures are not enough.

4.  Complex systems contain changing mixtures of failures latent within them.

and one of my personally favourites:

5. Complex systems run in degraded mode.

For any of us who watched the Fukushima fiasco last summer, some of these will have an uncanny familiarity:

7.  Post-accident attribution of accidents to a 'root cause' is fundamentally wrong.

8.  Hindsight biases post-accident assessments of human performance.

15.  Views of 'cause' limit the effectiveness of defenses against future events.

16.  Safety is a characteristic of systems and not of their components.

...and finally, 

18. Failure free operations require experience with failure.

It's a sobering list and every single item on it bears a great deal of thinking. The article as a whole is brief, but each of the items is explained in enough detail to make the ideas understandable and to provoke some thought.  Everything in here is applicable in many different contexts, from Fukushima and Chernobyl to the Eurozone meltdown, to current electoral issues and the unintended consequences of urban planning decisions anywhere in the world.  Check out the article.

...And stop thinking in terms of root causes, damnit!

 

Document Actions

oversight

Posted by Matt Leach at Feb 07, 2012 04:08 PM
What does it say about oversight?

I tend to think that the really big problem with this kind of shit, is that either we drastically underestimate the external factors messing with the system or we don't, and just throw our hands in the air and say "it's a systemic problem, so we're fucked". It isn't that the problems are insoluble, it's that no-one has the ability or the authority to consider the whole system.
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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