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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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Retro replays: embodied economics

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Another in my series of retro replays... an entry from my now-defunct Age of Embodiment blog

I've been thinking again about the idea that we need a web application that contrasts the daily content of our newsfeeds with aggregated statistics pertaining to the news's topics.  For instance, we're inundated with news items about violence and crime, while in fact most forms of crime have been dropping (at least in Canada) for several decades.  People perceive that the world is getting steadily worse, where in fact by most measures (such as democracy, literacy, childhood mortality etc.) globally things are getting better.  I should have proposed such an application at the recent SciBarCamp; in any case, it reminded me of the following blog entry I wrote into Age of Embodiment a couple of years back.

Embodied Economics

There's an interesting article by Craig Lambert at Harvard Magazine, called The Marketplace of Perceptions. Lambert examines the (relatively) new science of behavioral economics, which is predicated on the now-obvious idea that when making economic decisions, human beings are not rational actors. It turns out, in fact, that our decisions--even life-changing ones--are influenced by a host of completely non-rational quirks of human nature. Taking these quirks into account is essential for accurately modeling human economic activity.

In the context of this weblog, the idea of behavioral economics is simply another instance of theory-driven practices being replaced by empirically-derived ones. The assumption that humans act rationally in economic exchanges rests on a piece of 17th-century metaphysics: namely, the idea of the "rational mind" which maximizes benefits and minimizes risks. Humans were supposed to possess such minds (which were, of course, constantly battling against the irrational subconscious and evil desires for instant gratification). And you could misinterpret behavioral economics and related disciplines as being extensions of classical economics that take into account the presence of the irrational mind and human lusts. This would be a mistake.

At stake is actually the idea of the rational actor itself. As a metaphysical entity disconnected from the actual, physical world, the rational actor perpetuates the separation of those qualities we consider human from those we consider animalistic, base, and 'merely' physical. We may want that candy, but the rational mind, safe in its aloof tower, can command us not to take it.

What behavioral economists are showing is not that our rational decision-making processes are frequently interrupted or circumvented by irrational decisions, but that the rational actor doesn't exist. What do exist are multiple competing agendas inside each human being, some of which have been labeled as rational in the past, but none of which has primacy over the others.

Which doesn't mean we're doomed--quite the contrary. Knowing how we actually work when we make economic (and political) decisions is the first step to learning to actually control ourselves. In the case of economics, it starts with recognizing that regardless of how we style ourselves as the heirs of a rationalist tradition, we make decisions using a cognitive apparatus that was designed to maximize short-term benefits for hunter-gatherers.

The Harvard artitle talks about the implications this new science has for policy makers and people designing public programs. But what about the implications for the individual? After all, we're the ones who are going to be controlled to an increasingly accurate degree by those programs. We should have some ability to monitor the process.

This is where the open-source community can help. What we need is an application that uses a combination of software tools and the aggregation of human responses to analyze our inputs--the news stories, ads, and ideas that are presented to us, the information consumers, every day. Think of it as Slashdot-for-subliminal-advertising. It might work like this: I turn my browser to the CNN home page. The page pops up in the main pane of the window, but along the side of the browser, a list of biases is recorded--the assumptions and agendas that have been read off the home page by the app. As well as a list of probable responses people will have (in terms of buying patterns or voting patterns, say) to the various major news items.

It's time our unconscious minds started reporting to us in terms that our conscious minds can use. As behavioral economics progresses, I hope people in the online community will keep up--and develop tools that let the individual participate in the process of controlling his or herself.

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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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    Coming on June 18, 2019

    "Science fiction at its best."

    --Kim Stanley Robinson

    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."

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

    "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."