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William Gibson Gives Up on the Future

CmdrTaco posted more than 6 years ago | from the what-chance-do-the-rest-of-us-have dept.

Sci-Fi 352

Tinkle writes "Sci-fi novelist William Gibson has given up trying to predict the future — because he says it's become far too difficult. In an interview with silicon.com, Gibson explains why his latest book is set in the recent past. 'We hit a point somewhere in the mid-18th century where we started doing what we think of technology today and it started changing things for us, changing society. Since World War II it's going literally exponential and what we are experiencing now is the real vertigo of that — we have no idea at all now where we are going." "Will global warming catch up with us? Is that irreparable? Will technological civilization collapse? There seems to be some possibility of that over the next 30 or 40 years or will we do some Verner Vinge singularity trick and suddenly become capable of everything and everything will be cool and the geek rapture will arrive? That's a possibility too.'"

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352 comments

Well, crap! (4, Funny)

monkeyboythom (796957) | more than 6 years ago | (#20134373)

there goes my investments in learning Chinese, buying slums in Tokyo and building a crappy AI called Wintermute.

Re:Well, crap! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20134391)

> there goes my investments in learning Chinese, buying slums in Tokyo and building a crappy AI called Wintermute.

No Molly to see here. You'll move along.

Re:Well, crap! (1)

smallfries (601545) | more than 6 years ago | (#20134683)

I had the exact same plan... although I was going to call the AI Rio. We should really get together sometime...

I.J. Good & The Suspension of Disbelief (5, Interesting)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 6 years ago | (#20134377)

There's two things I'd like to mention after reading this interview. First, let's give the original credit of a technology explosion or singularity to I. J. Good [wikipedia.org] and his quote:

Let an ultraintelligent machine be defined as a machine that can far surpass all the intellectual activities of any man however clever. Since the design of machines is one of these intellectual activities, an ultraintelligent machine could design even better machines; there would then unquestionably be an 'intelligence explosion,' and the intelligence of man would be left far behind. Thus the first ultraintelligent machine is the last invention that man need ever make.
I think that predates Verner Vinge but he certainly never built it into a story like Vinge.

Second, I would like to point out that every non-fiction book or movie I have read requires some degree of suspension of disbelief. Whether I'm watching Remains of the Day or Demolition Man, I need to look past illogical or non-scientific aspects of the movies. Does this detract from the story? Some would say yes, I would say only a little bit. I am very forgiving in literature. I have read many old Stanislaw Lem novels and the complex emotions the robots display is impossible--the physics of the robots are even more impossible. But Lem's stories are still great, given I can get past a robot with no energy input survives millions of years in space.

So although I have not read William Gibson's works, I ask him not to give up on writing. You will have another good idea and you will write another book about it. Just wait for it to come.

As for this idea of technology actually achieving this event horizon described by Good or Gibson or Vinge, I don't think that it's achievable. I can't prove it won't happen just like you can't prove it will happen. All I will say is that I don't even know where to begin. I would start with digesting the world wide web & developing a logic and reasoning engine to decide which statements are true and which are fact and which are neither. When it would be done, it may be 'more intelligent' than I but not 'more intelligent' than the sum of all human knowledge.

I think there will always be a "???" in the game plan to make an artificially intelligent robot that functions intelligently on a human level or higher. I just don't see a way around it. That doesn't mean we should ever stop writing about it though.

Sci-fi is fun, not something that is completely scientifically accurate--it just is a lot more fun when you explore the gray areas we don't understand or theorize about. Enjoy it while you can!

Re:I.J. Good & The Suspension of Disbelief (2, Interesting)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#20134459)

Seriously. Were it not for willing suspension of disbelief, the entire genre of sci-fi would not even be viable. What's scientifically accurate about sci-fi universes like Star Trek, Star Wars, Stargate, B5, or even Eureka? Nothing. The point is, who cares? Sci-fi is about the story, not about the science.

Re:I.J. Good & The Suspension of Disbelief (5, Informative)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 6 years ago | (#20134877)

Seriously. Were it not for willing suspension of disbelief, the entire genre of sci-fi would not even be viable. What's scientifically accurate about sci-fi universes like Star Trek, Star Wars, Stargate, B5, or even Eureka? Nothing. The point is, who cares? Sci-fi is about the story, not about the science.
Those are all space operas [wikipedia.org], which, depending on who you're talking to, are either a subgenre of sci-fi or not sci-fi at all. Gibson writes a lot of hard science fiction [wikipedia.org], along with authors like David Brin, Charles Stross, Vernor Vinge, and (to an extent) Arthur C. Clarke. In hard sci-fi most of the emphasis is on the scientific details/accuracy, with the story often just being a path the author takes you through their scientifically rigorous vision.

Re:I.J. Good & The Suspension of Disbelief (4, Interesting)

Lemmy Caution (8378) | more than 6 years ago | (#20134993)

In that case, it could be said that hard science fiction has become almost impossible. Conjectures about future technologies are as hard as WG says, and any given writer is going to have to face the likelihood that their conjectures get shown as flawed very quickly. Scientific accuracy is hard enough for scientists now: a physicist will probably not have the ability to recognize biological impossibilities; a geneticist will botch sociology and economics. Yet a comprlling story will have value even if the science is flawed.

True, but not unique to SF though. (2, Insightful)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 6 years ago | (#20134971)

Were it not for willing suspension of disbelief, the entire genre of fiction would not even be viable.

Fixed that for you. Suspension of disbelief is just as much a requirement for other fiction subgenres as it is for SF, in greater or lesser amounts. In some ways I think 'hard' SF requires less than other types of fiction, because it gives you plausible arguments for setting aside your disbelief.

But were it not for people's willingness to set aside their disbelief in order to be entertained, we wouldn't have a whole lot of art. (Certainly there would be very little theater; how do you cope with some of the tortured plotlines common in classical theater, or for that matter, why people are standing in front of you and paying no attention to the fact that they're on stage?)

Eh. (1)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 6 years ago | (#20134567)

I think for Gibson-as-sci-fi-writer the ability to concretely visualize emergent trends is critical for him to be able to write about them...If he's sitting down in front of the keyboard and thinking, "Welll crap, from where we're standing, we could go anywhere" that's not really going to allow him to really develop details and a distinct feel.

That being said, I read Pattern Recognition (his last novel) and it was an excellent book, even though it wasn't very futuristic at all. I think he's selling himself short; there is more to sci-fi than futurism.

If anyone hasn't read William Gibson, I recommend him...He's a seminal sci-fi author...Pretty much created the cyberpunk subgenre.

always be a "???" (4, Interesting)

wurp (51446) | more than 6 years ago | (#20134583)

1. Use a combination of surgical examination, dissection of dead tissue, and MRI and other dynamic techniques to produce a model of the physics of a human brain
2. Wait until Moore's law puts a computer within your price range that is capable of running that model at faster than 1 model second per real second
3. Implement it

You now have a machine that is slightly more intelligent than a human. Add in the fact that you can fully oxygenate all tissues, remove waste products, control neurochemicals, and dissipate (virtual) heat with no regard for physical laws, and I'd say it's quite a bit beyond human intelligence.

Re:always be a "???" (2, Informative)

Surt (22457) | more than 6 years ago | (#20134695)

This will be a while. A current generation processor can simulate in the range of 10 neurons with pretty good accuracy in real time.
A human brain has ~100 billion neurons.

Re:always be a "???" (1)

Anon-Admin (443764) | more than 6 years ago | (#20134885)

So, taking your 10 and applying Moore's law we should have in it about 11 years.

It sure does not seem that far off.

Re:always be a "???" (5, Insightful)

nuzak (959558) | more than 6 years ago | (#20134985)

Yes, and in 50 years, they'll calculate more information than is contained in the universe in less than Planck time.

Moore's "law" as you understand it is already plateauing.

Re:always be a "???" (1)

wurp (51446) | more than 6 years ago | (#20134967)

Wow, I would love to see a reference on that. You're saying that it takes *800 million* cpu cycles to simulate one second worth of one neuron's activities? (Assuming a dual core 4 ghz processor).

Of course, if Moore's law holds...
a factor of 10 billion takes about (lemme see, 10^10 =~ 2^33, implies 33 * 1.5 years) 50 years. Yeah, that's a while, but not outside our lifetime, to get a household computer with the processing power of the human brain.

The references I've seen state that the power for the human brain will be available in a household computer between 10 and 30 years from now. (Search for human brain at http://www.foresight.org/updates/Update36/Update36 .4.html [foresight.org] for estimates from Moravec & Kurzweil.)

Re:always be a "???" (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | more than 6 years ago | (#20134761)

> 1. Use a combination of surgical examination, dissection of dead tissue, and MRI
> and other dynamic techniques to produce a model of the physics of a human brain
> 2. Wait until Moore's law puts a computer within your price range that is capable
> of running that model at faster than 1 model second per real second
> 3. Implement it
>
> You now have a machine that is slightly more intelligent than a human.

No you don't. You have a buffoon who wants to watch 30 episodes per second of Big Brother.

Re:I.J. Good & The Suspension of Disbelief (4, Interesting)

scribblej (195445) | more than 6 years ago | (#20134627)

Your post was thoughtful and well-written, as well as insightful. I'm almost embarassed to be replying with humor.

So although I have not read William Gibson's works, I ask him not to give up on writing. You will have another good idea and you will write another book about it. Just wait for it to come.

I'd like to suggest that if you HAD read his books, you'd ask him to please put down the pen and do something else.

He had one great idea, and when he was younger, his writing style was beautiful and articulate, like some crazy poetry. But as time has worn on, he has moved further from brilliant concepts and fantastic conceptualizations, and closer to being "just another sci-fi author."

Neuromancer was an excellent read. The stories in Burning Chrome, genius. I'd even give im points on Count Zero and Mona Lisa Overdrive.

After that, he went to crap. I still give him credit for being a brilliant man, a good writer, whom a lot of people enjoy. But I don't think that anyone, even his current fans, would argue that after his first set of books, "something changed."

I Can't Ask an Author to Stop Doing What He Loves (4, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 6 years ago | (#20134867)

I'd like to suggest that if you HAD read his books, you'd ask him to please put down the pen and do something else.
I'm sorry, I can't ask anyone to stop writing a book. I can ask people to stop acting or directing movies but for some reason another book on earth can only be good.

I don't know why. I think it's because the millions paid to make Kangaroo Jack could feed an entire African nation for quite some time. And that writing a book usually costs a person just enough to live and get by while it's in the process. I see books as more of a pure form of free speech also and I never want to see a book censored or banned regardless of its content. Purist, idealist view I know but if I had a religion it would be centered around that.

Maybe it's because the world wanted James Joyce to stop writing. Maybe it's because the world wanted Anthony Burgess to stop writing. If they had succeeded, we wouldn't have Ulysses or A Clockwork Orange. Two monumental masterpieces in my mind.

Don't ask him to stop writing, I'm sure someone somewhere still enjoys the works, you don't have to keep reading them. I no longer read Crichton or Stephen King even though I read everything by them in eighth grade. Is it because I've grown up or they've changed? I cannot say but I still hope they author novels until their dying day so that others may enjoy them.

What does a bad book by an author you once loved hurt you? Let them publish, read the reviews and pick carefully. I think that deep down inside you'd still read them and get some enjoyment even if it's just discussing them with your friends.

Re:I.J. Good & The Suspension of Disbelief (1)

Shky (703024) | more than 6 years ago | (#20135043)

I really couldn't possibly disagree more. Neuromancer was very well written, but utterly short-sighted (as all futurism is. Like Cory Doctorow said, futurists only create the present, just more of it). The world he created felt fake, plastic, and surreal. His Bridge trilogy, though, is where he hit his stride. Sure, the nano-tech stuff is pointless (again, futurism), but his ability to accurately create and represent subcultures is incredible here. Plus, his idea that culture revolves around nodal points has translated well to the web, and will likely continue to, as we start to move all our applications and information sources to the Net. And Pattern Recognition was the culmination of everything. Sci-fi set in the present, giving us the familiarity of our world, but making it feel otherworldy in its depictions of our own weirdness. Plus he gets a lot of computer/Internet references correct, which is more than can be said for basically every other book/movie/TV show. Word is that Spook Country is his best yet, so I can't wait to get my hands on that, as his writing has only gotten better since Neuromancer.

Re:I.J. Good & The Suspension of Disbelief (1)

puto (533470) | more than 6 years ago | (#20134677)

You make valid points but you really should read Gibsons works and read about the man. Gibson is anti technology, always has been. I think his first books were written on a typewriter. And with very little technical knowledge his gaze into the future of technology and how it plays out within the human element is truly amazing.

Gibson's books are all about the grey areas. You should check out the short story the New Rose Hotel, even a pretty decent movie adaptation.

His earlier works focused on AI, and human nature. Pattern Recognition focused on trends, seeing the wave, and riding it.

Gibson is an author, and considered Sci-Fi, but if you read him, you will know, he could write in any genre.

Puto

Re:I.J. Good & The Suspension of Disbelief (1)

nuzak (959558) | more than 6 years ago | (#20135045)

> You should check out the short story the New Rose Hotel, even a pretty decent movie adaptation.

God, I hope it's better than what they did to Johnny Mnemonic ... though to be fair, I wasn't that fond of the story eityher. I mentioned "Hinterlands" as an illustrative example of Gibson's writing style, but I should have pointed at "New Rose Hotel" and now that I think of it, "Fragments of a Hologram Rose" (I always get them confused due to them sharing a word). Seriously, folks, go grab Burning Chrome. It's got crap in there (the title story isn't great) but it also has some stuff that's just wonderfully poignant and poetic, including all the before named stories.

Re:I.J. Good & The Suspension of Disbelief (1)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | more than 6 years ago | (#20134799)

It is possible that ultra intelligent is impossible if you mean "smart".

A machine might be able to consider more information than humans in making a decision.

We need to understand genius's before we could make a smart machine tho.

And real genius's are random in nature and typically unique.

Re:I.J. Good & The Suspension of Disbelief (2, Interesting)

bobetov (448774) | more than 6 years ago | (#20134851)

In regards to your skepticism regarding the singularity, I'd like to point out that it doesn't require super-smart machines to happen.

The requirement for the singularity is simply that we reach a point where we can achieve, in some manner, an intelligence of 1.01 times the human norm, and that that intelligence can repeat the trick. Certainly, machine intelligences should allow this, but it is also possible we will devise ways to improve our own mental functioning, or a way to aggregate normal human intelligence such that the total is greater than any one mind could comprehend.

There are, in short, a number of paths to exponentiating intelligence. To argue that such is impossible is not supportable - we have only one example of a human-caliber mind, and all indications are that we are not in any way an end point of evolution. If mother nature can get to homo sapiens through genetic darts and dice, it seems decidedly improbable that we won't be able to do better with a guided approach, once we master the required genetics and so forth.

Now, I have major doubts about the *pace* of this change, and of when it will kick in, but it seems unlikely that anything short of a planet-wide catastrophe could stop it from happening *eventually*.

Re:I.J. Good & The Suspension of Disbelief (1)

juuri (7678) | more than 6 years ago | (#20134879)

Actually I think if you follow the logic course of our current evolution as well as observing network theories, a singularity type event is all but assured. Consider that within the next 10-15 years everyone in a first world country will have a decent network connection on their person at all times. The sharing of human experience is set to rise exponentially with just that small leap. What will the world be like when *everyone* is networked? What comes next? What happens when we no longer need to use our fingers or words to start up these shared experiences?

Fantasy is not Science Fiction (2, Insightful)

mangu (126918) | more than 6 years ago | (#20135071)

Of course, the border is fuzzy, but in general one could say that a work gets further apart from SF and deeper into the fantasy field when the impossibilities start piling up. A good SF story may depend on one "fact" that's considered impossible in the current scientific knowledge, for instance it may be about time travel or faster than light travel, but when the author starts depending too much on magic it becomes fantasy.


About the singularity, my opinion is: who knows? It seems more or less like life after death, we have no sure way of knowing from where we stand today, we should just wait and see. It's a funny thing, when you start examining past predictions of SF. In one of the books in the original Asimov "Foundation" trilogy, written about 1940, there was a description of a calculator: "Seldon removed a calculator from the pouch at his belt ... Red symbols glowed out from the gray". In other words, Isaac Asimov had a calculator from the early 1970s in a book he wrote in the 1940s.


Another funny prediction is that something very much like a search engine was predicted both in Arthur Clarke's 1975 book "Imperial Earth" and in the film "Rollerball", from the same age. But neither of these predicted the internet, both of them had a search engine running in a supercomputer that had assembled in it the whole of human knowledge.


The point is that it's possible to predict functionality, because that's something we need and someone will invent it sooner or later. But we cannot predict when or how that functionality will be achieved. Arthur Clarke's Google was 300 years in the future, Rollerball's was in 2018. And there's more: when the scientist in "Rollerball" wants some data he types a command and the computer starts reading punched cards.


In conclusion, I'm ready to bet we will reach that "singularity", but I don't know whether it will be in the next 30 or 300 years. And I have absolutely no idea how we will do it or what will come after.


In some way we can say that we already have reached a point where machines are more intelligent than us. The first mathematical theorem that was proved by a machine and that humans couldn't prove was the "four color map" theorem, proved about 30 years ago, taking about a thousand hours of calculations from the supercomputers of the day.


There was an age that ended about 150 years ago when an intelligent person would be able to learn everything worth learning in science. Today, the more we learn the more we become specialized, and the more we need machines to handle our knowledge. But I see nothing wrong with that, if a man can control a crane that lifts a thousand tons, why couldn't a man control a computer that handles knowledge far beyond the capacity of a single human being?

Sounds like a cop out to me (2, Insightful)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 6 years ago | (#20134405)

So what its hard, and you might get it wrong? That doesnt mean it cant be entertaining reading and thought provoking.

History class is for the lazy writer since there is little to 'invent'. Sure, history is really interesting and educational, but not in the same way as scifi is entertaining and thought provoking.

And if his 'history works' turn out anything like the "difference engine" was ( it was set in the past remember ), then his career is over as a writer im afraid.

Re:Sounds like a cop out to me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20134529)

I agree. Science Fiction is about many things: an allegory about our present...pondering the 'possibilities' of our future, a genre where there is no limit to the creative mind...

The expectation that Science Fiction must predict the future exactly is simply not horrorshow, my droogies.

Re:Sounds like a cop out to me (1)

penp (1072374) | more than 6 years ago | (#20134549)

I totally agree. Since when is "science fiction" synonymous with "attempting to tell the future"? I don't really understand what there is to "get wrong" about writing a fictional story that takes place in a fictional point in time.

Especially given what he's written (1)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 6 years ago | (#20134735)

Neuromancer was damned fun to read, even if large parts of it seem completely unrealistic now or in the future.

For that matter, "Journy to the center of the earth" (Jules Verne) was actually an interesting book, even if we're all pretty confident now that it's completely impossible.

So I can understand giving up on actually trying to predict the future. But go ahead and speculate. Have fun!

Re:Sounds like a cop out to me (1)

noSignal (997337) | more than 6 years ago | (#20134775)

History class is for the lazy writer since there is little to 'invent'.
I disagree. Unlike scifi, where anything can be dreamed up and the 'history of the future' can written to explain a premise, factual history (or even historical fiction) is quite a bit more difficult to write since there will always be a reader that knows at least as much about the subject as the author and will be able to spot factual errors. Imagination, for me at least, is a whole lot easier to use than historical references.

Re:Sounds like a cop out to me (1)

drsquare (530038) | more than 6 years ago | (#20135189)

I'd say history's harder to write. With sci-fi you can just make everything up to fit the plot. I mean what do you think was harder to write, Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy or War and Peace?

hmmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20134427)

wow. didn't see that one coming, He predicted that the future will be unpredictable.

Use Occam's Razor (1)

athloi (1075845) | more than 6 years ago | (#20134429)

The shortest route to the truth. Which is more likely, sudden Godlike sentience, or failure and degeneration into a has-been? It may be that life was never meant to get smarter than apes are, and humans were an anomaly...

Difference Engine is almost 20 years old! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20134431)

Gibson has been going backward and forward in time as he sees fit. Doesn't seem like this is some new direction if you ask me. Perhaps continuing to go sideways might be more accurate.

Time to retire, eh? (-1, Troll)

xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) | more than 6 years ago | (#20134439)

Sci-fi novelist William Gibson has given up trying to predict the future -- because he says it's become far too difficult.


More likely: all his money from his books went to hookers and blow, and writing the next book for a bunch of whiny fanboys doesn't sound that appealing anymore.

Maybe it's time for Gibson to go the Isaac Asimov route and cash completely out of the sci-fi genre by putting his name on anything that moves.

Thanks for the memories, Bill.

become? (2, Insightful)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 6 years ago | (#20134453)

It's become too difficult? I think it's always been difficult and he's just now beginning to realize how far off the mark his books have been. Don't get me wrong, I love his stuff and will continue to read his books, but saying it's become too difficult is just silly. As for his new book being set in the past, why does that seem to ring a bell? Anyone know of any other cyberpunk novelists that have gone that route?

Re:become? (2, Informative)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 6 years ago | (#20134951)

As for his new book being set in the past, why does that seem to ring a bell? Anyone know of any other cyberpunk novelists that have gone that route?

And Stephenson's Baroque Cycle is a monument to how much fun that can be. I mean, how many novels get to have a thorough explanation of the origin and evolution of international banking, swashbuckling scenes involving Barbary pirates, a wide range of um... occasionally unorthodox intimate antics, and a chase scene involving Our Hero barely escaping through the Mines Of This-Ain't-Your-Daddy's-Moria while being chased by wacked out Teutonic pagans stoked on psychedelic mushrooms, and ending up in a phospohorous-decorated scene right out of Scooby Doo, only involving a hot chick that's smarter than most of her fans, and who hangs out with world-changing philosophers and scientists while longing for the identity and demise of the slave-owning, rotten-fish-eating villain that stole her as a child and whose son she unknowingly marries as a facade behind which to extend her reach into the pockets and policies of European aristocracy? Did I mention Isaac Newton being brought back from the mostly dead? Sci-fi, schmi-fi!

He's wrong, you know. (3, Insightful)

palladiate (1018086) | more than 6 years ago | (#20134483)

Thus the first ultraintelligent machine is the last invention that man need ever make.
He's as wrong about this as he was his "cyberspace." It will obviously be followed by the invention of something to shut down an army of robots controlled by the world's first ultraintelligent machine. I know I'm killing a sacred cow here, but were any of his predictions all that accurate? I'm not trolling, but after recommending Neuromancer to my far more literate wife and suffering major embarrasment that she called it "the worst kind of pseudo-intellectual garbage," I had to re-read it. All I can say is that it's a good book to read in middle school 20 years ago. It doesn't hold up very well.

Re:He's wrong, you know. (1)

dmoynihan (468668) | more than 6 years ago | (#20134561)

He was dead-on about the death of CD-Roms as a media platform (this was back '94 or so... maybe Mona Lisa Overdrive.)

Haven't read Gibson this century, however.

Re:He's wrong, you know. (1)

caffeinatedOnline (926067) | more than 6 years ago | (#20134631)

Quite a few, actually. While his version of cyberspace wasn't accurate (well, not yet at least), many of the little things in Neuromancer and his follow-up books (Count Zero, Monalisa Overdrive) that at the time seemed quite far out have come to see the light of day in current times. Remember when reading it that it was written in 1984.

Re:He's wrong, you know. (1)

mihalis (28146) | more than 6 years ago | (#20134669)

Oh come on! Even if you don't like Neuromancer, finding worse pseudo-intellectual garbage is not at all hard, so how can it be the "worst sort"?

Re:He's wrong, you know. (1)

dave562 (969951) | more than 6 years ago | (#20134679)

I had to re-read it. All I can say is that it's a good book to read in middle school 20 years ago. It doesn't hold up very well.

I completely agree. When I was in school I thought that he was a great writer and that his books were excellent. They were great books, but having read them again recently the prose and syntatic structure doesn't seem as great as it did when I first read it. None the less, I still think he has a great way with words. The opening line from Neuromancer will always be in my mind... "The sky above the port was the color of a television, tuned to a dead channel."

Re:He's wrong, you know. (1)

nuzak (959558) | more than 6 years ago | (#20134699)

Cyberpunk may be dead, but it made for such nice RPG's. Gibson's Matrix was far more interesting than the Wachowski Brothers' version. Okay, they weren't entirely representing the same thing, but you get the idea.

Gibson's "impressionistic" style was a great big part of it, a style that sadly waned after the Sprawl trilogy was done. Going back and re-reading it, I'll admit it's a bit trite, but I still prefer it to the godawful style of Asimov's Foundation and Robot wherein he would congratulate himself masurbatorily on every other page about his clever ideas of psychohistory or laws of robotics. And don't get me started on Heinlein's preachy aphorisms.

One of my favorite stories of Gibson was "Hinterlands", a short story out of Burning Chrome, which had really nothing to do with the tech, but was about the psychological trauma of seeing the wrecks of explorers that came back after having something like a Lovecraftian-horror experience with truly alien intelligences.

Probably the only other author that grabs me with good characters this way is Greg Bear, and he's somewhat uneven -- Darwin's Children just didn't grab me. Maybe it was just too soon after reading Darwin's Radio.

Anyone who feels the same way can feel free to bombard me with suggestions on authors to read next. I'm in a bit of a drought here.

Re:[s]He's wrong, you know. (3, Insightful)

prgrmr (568806) | more than 6 years ago | (#20134701)

she called it "the worst kind of pseudo-intellectual garbage,"

The "worst", as opposed to the "best" kind?

The book is speculative fiction: Is it garbage because its predictions haven't been met? Is it "pseudo-intellectual" because it is a work of fiction, and, to some extent, was intended to entertain? Or is it that she judged the story or the characters or the setting to her disliking insteading judging the writing itself?

Granted, it's not an earth-shattering revelation on the insights of society and technology, but then I don't believe either the book itself or Gibson presented it that way.

Re:He's wrong, you know. (1)

naoursla (99850) | more than 6 years ago | (#20135057)

I really, really wanted to like Neuromancer, but honestly I didn't really like it even when I read it in high school.

Re:He's wrong, you know. (1)

Lehk228 (705449) | more than 6 years ago | (#20135145)

anyone who analyses the literature will hate neuromancer and most other cyberpunk as well. if you prefer to visualize it as a story and put yourself into the world it is a thouroughly enjoyable book, i say this not based on old memories, but rather based on a week ago when i finished the book.

Re:He's wrong, you know. (1)

OldeTimeGeek (725417) | more than 6 years ago | (#20135167)

He's as wrong about this as he was his "cyberspace."

What's "wrong" about it? It hasn't come to pass yet. Mice aside, we still interact with computers in roughly the same way as we did thirty years ago - prettier colors, some video, but still largely a keyboard, a monitor and text.

When someone comes with a truly different way to interact with information, then we can call Gibson "wrong".

Not so hard, really (4, Interesting)

pieterh (196118) | more than 6 years ago | (#20134499)

It's pretty easy to predict the future. The hard part is the timing.

Anyhow, here goes:

- most of the world gets online and fully integrated into the digital revolution
- wireless networks everywhere
- more and more services get online
- large-screen video conferencing in every living room
- digital glasses that overlay the real world with maps, wikipedia pages, everything
- facial recognition for *everyone* you meet, pops up their wikipedia page
- no more queues at the post office - every interaction with the state will go online
- movies will, eventually die, and be replaced with something like scripted video games
- virtual worlds will become a major front-end to the internet
- rising energy costs will define how we use transport
- poorer nations will be strongest adopters of ecological technologies
- we'll see 'fabricators', able to make any product out of a digital design
- the *AA will crack down on design sharers
- cities will reject the automobile and become a lot nicer places to live in
- pharmaceutics will go digital and we'll be exchanging digital drug designs
- some bright kid will hack a drug fab to produce artificial life
- the church and the *AA will crack down on DNA design sharers
- the country as a notion will die and be replaced with the online community
- big, big changes in political structures

Etc.

Climate change (2, Insightful)

gilesjuk (604902) | more than 6 years ago | (#20134615)

Alternately, climate change destroys much of human life on the planet.

It won't be Mad Max, Waterworld or Soylent Green but certain foods are going to become a luxary. Certain fish already are.

Re:Climate change (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 6 years ago | (#20135147)

Alternately, climate change destroys much of human life on the planet.

With any luck, we won't actually be so stupid as to try and "repair" something we do not fully understand.

Re:Not so hard, really (1)

qweqwe321 (1097441) | more than 6 years ago | (#20134643)

Making predictions about the future is ugly. Everyone expects current trends to continue to their logical conclusions, and that's why most predictions go wrong. Look at 2001: A Space Odyssey, if you want a great example. In that movie, there are colonies on the moon and Man can send a spaceship to Jupiter, but computers are still essentially extensions of 1960s mainframe technology rather than being the ubiquitous tools they are today.

Re:Not so hard, really (0)

renoX (11677) | more than 6 years ago | (#20134801)

There may be at least one inconsistency in your (optimistic) predictions:
>- rising energy costs will define how we use transport
>- we'll see 'fabricators', able to make any product out of a digital design

If by 'fabricators', you're thinking about are Drexler's type nano-factory, then 'any product' will include efficient solar cells so this should solve our energy problem.
Assuming of course that we get nanotechnology before the rising energy cost send us back in a kind of 'medieval age', as it's quite difficult to build nanobots without a lot of energy available to make very high tech machine&computers first..

Re:Not so hard, really (2, Insightful)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 6 years ago | (#20135013)

- rising energy costs will define how we use transport
or Nuclear Fission will start to replace natural gas and coal fired power plants followed shortly buy Fusion in about 20 years.
Coal reformulation will replace oil as the primary source of liquid hydrocarbons.

- poorer nations will be strongest adopters of ecological technologies
Poorer nations will continue to exploit the cheapest and dirtiest fuel sources such as coal.

- cities will reject the automobile and become a lot nicer places to live in

Would be nice if they would just build some side walks near my home!

Will water suddenly no longer be wet? (1)

toppavak (943659) | more than 6 years ago | (#20134523)

I dont seem to see anything particularly novel or interesting about his remarks. Technologically speaking, I dont see any evidence in the recent (or distant) past that we've EVER had an idea about where we're headed. According to 1950's sci-fi, we should have multiple extra-solar colonies by now, hand-held laser based weaponry, AI, working jetpacks and the list goes on...

Re:Will water suddenly no longer be wet? (1)

Xybre (527810) | more than 6 years ago | (#20134767)

I don't get what he's on about. He *did* write one of the most amazing Cyberpunk books of all time (Neuromancer) he *did* predict a big chuck of our present and maybe even our future back in the early 80s. He wrote the damn thing on a typewriter without owning a computer. But I can't say he predicted it intentionally. And I can't really say he's that great of a writer anymore. Maybe he's trying too hard to best his best.

It's just silly to claim he can't predict the future anymore, he shouldn't feel he has to, he's not a deity, he's a writer, make shit up, create a world, enjoy yourself. If you can't do that, maybe you shouldn't be writing.

I've given up on the PRESENT: (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20134535)


in the United Gulags of America [whitehouse.org] with the war criminal George W. Bush in control.

Patriotically From France,
Kilgore Trout

Sounds like Gibson is getting old. (1)

PMBjornerud (947233) | more than 6 years ago | (#20134537)

Just as many issues with the future in the 80s, no?

Cold war erupts, MAD destroys humankind. Bad fashion causes global intellectual meltdown.

He writes what he wants, but the reason Neuromancer & Co. was amazing was because he took certain aspects of the current time and extrapolated them into an interesting future. Just like all great science fiction, and I'm sure there will be other authors writing great works about the future in the future (heh). If global warming, singularities or a collapse of civilization doesn't make great writing, write about something else.

Re:Sounds like Gibson is getting old. (3, Insightful)

Cadallin (863437) | more than 6 years ago | (#20135207)

He writes what he wants, but the reason Neuromancer & Co. was amazing was because he took certain aspects of the current time and extrapolated them into an interesting future.

I think this is the problem. Look at where we are right now. Extrapolating elements of our present into an interesting future is something many authors have struggled with. Because, quite frankly, the era we're living in is pretty dystopian. For an example: Today Congress passed the "Protect America Act" which grants sweeping surveillance powers to the executive branch with no judicial or legislative oversight. George Orwell didn't know the half of it. How do you work with that? Who is most likely to be able to other throw the totalitarian regime recent US governments have turned the USA into? The Chinese? The other great totalitarian surveillance state?

I really disagree that there were as many issues pressing down on us in the '80's. Barring a Strangelove-esque Doomsday device, MAD was never going to really end it all. The worst issues facing the '80's were the ones that we were blissfully unaware of, or ignoring. Global Warming, Energy crisis in the next 50 years, etc. Worst case (realistic) scenario with the Cold War was the utter destruction of the major world power bases, which doesn't sound all that bad in hindsight.

In my opinion, the best long term extrapolation from our current situation is "Earth Abides" by George R. Stewart, and its probably too optimistic.

Computer not yet invented. (2, Interesting)

backslashdot (95548) | more than 6 years ago | (#20134539)

You know a lot of people in the world live as though airplanes, cars, televisions, and the light bulb were not even invented yet. So even if someday someone invents cool stuff, there will always be a segment of the world to which those things may as well have never been invented. The computer I am typing this to you on is science fiction to them.

So, can we use our existing technology to provide decent preventative health, transportation, and clean water for everyone? It requires no inventing. No new technology. Their governments just need to allow entrepreneurs build a bunch of solar or nuclear power plants to desalinate the water and power heavy construction equipment (currently most third world governments don't allow entrepreneurs to compete against eh state owned corrupt utility companies).

Perfectly understandable. (1)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 6 years ago | (#20134543)

Had you ever watched one of those ancient b/w sci-fi shows or movies on TV? They predict scientific and technological advances to a certain extent - on some they fall short (DNA anyone?), and on some they expected too much (dude, where's my flying car?). But most of them are way off track on something: Society. The way it changes, advances or goes back is unpredictable.

Think about it. 10 years ago, sites like youtube or facebook were simply out of the radar. (Heck, 15 years ago Google didn't exist!) What to say of Survivor or Big Brother? World of Warcraft? Identity theft? Guys catching thieves with webcams on their laptops? Internet cults like Heaven's Gate? Corporations patenting certain kinds of corn? The RIAA's war on priv^H^H^H^Hpiracy?

Truth is stranger than fiction, indeed.

Re:Perfectly understandable. (1)

nuzak (959558) | more than 6 years ago | (#20134741)

> Internet cults like Heaven's Gate? Corporations patenting certain kinds of corn? The RIAA's war on priv^H^H^H^Hpiracy?

Indeed, Gibson really ought to reconsider hanging up his prognosticator cap.

Unless we see a really massive enabling of peoples in other parts of the world, the only prediction I see is Orwell's: "a boot stomping on a human face. Forever."

It's actually very easy (1)

Kohath (38547) | more than 6 years ago | (#20134547)

Predicting the future is actually very easy.

The future will be very much like today. In 10 years, we'll have the same modes of transportation, the same fuels, the same foreign policy issues, the same bad TV, the same bad politicians, etc.

If you look back 10 years, what are the big changes?

Re:It's actually very easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20134653)

i dunno maybe that my computer is as fast as a supercomputer from 10 years ago

These little followings always bothered me (1)

br14n420 (1111329) | more than 6 years ago | (#20134555)

If he's going to cite this month's CNN headlines as possibilities of our unraveling in 30 years, he's really demonstrating how weak his mind is getting as he's getting older.

I'll turn to Fox News if I want to hear about the end of the world or live in fantasy land.

Only chance for sustainability renewable energy (1)

Eravnrekaree (467752) | more than 6 years ago | (#20134573)

The rate of technology advancement indeed has been quite impressive in recent years, with the advancement of computers for instance where yesterdays million dollar computer can be outperformed by todays $200 computer. Computers were once mainly text oriented devices, and now even the cheapest ones can play video and render complex 3D graphics. This information age which has come to pass, is one of the best things that could have happened, especially if it is controlled and utilised by the masses rather than for the few, in a climate of completely free and unbridled free speech and expression. We must hang on to that, and i believe such diversity is critical to our continued development intellectually, its when we have only a few viewpoints and persons which are able to express themselves that we risk stagnation. The internet has opened up anyone to be able to pubish information and anyone to be able to access it easily, so this has allowed for a lot of talent to be developed where it otherwise wouldnt have.

However, if we are going to continue this, we need to look for a renewable source of energy to power our machines and computers, and the only one I can think of is some sort of over unity system. Solar and wind it appears now are too low in power density to make more of a drop in the bucket of difference. Fusion might be too expensive and costly to provide energy on a large scale to provide cheap energy to all of the worlds population. Solar and wind energy do not even produce enough energy density to manufacture these very sorts of devices and fossil fuels are still necessary to manufacture them. Free energy would lift humanity out of the enslavement of poverty, and allow for poverty to be eliminated and first world standards of living to be brought to all areas of the world, all without burning one drop of fossil fuels burning any earth material or any fuels. Completely free, clean, cheap electricity which can be access anywhere without the need for quickly depleated, environmentally destructive and difficult to access and rare forms of energy such as fossil fuels. To not want this would be insane, it would be to want to see the continued suffering and impoverishment of millions of souls.

The over unity energy technology may be quite possible. If so, it is only our arrogance and ignorance, and our self assuredness that the laws of nature as we know know them apply in every single instance, which has not been proven at all. Perhaps there is some yet undiscovered force or effect that only manifests in one configuration of magnets out of millions. Unless you have been actively and carefully looking at all possibilities and testing all possibilites for such varations they would have been completely missed. Since every possible configuration of magnets, mechanical or electrical systems has not been tested that their is not some sort of force that may manifest in some special condition is based on faith. Withj this It is much harder to prove a negative than it is to prove a positive, because there are so many different cases where such a thing may be possible which have not been tested at all.

Electric power is everywhere present in unlimited quantities and can drive the world's machinery without the need of coal, oil, gas, or any other of the common fuels." [Nikola Tesla].

Ere many generations pass, our machinery will be driven by a power obtainable at any point in the universe. This idea is not novel... We find it in the delightful myth of Antheus, who derives power from the earth; we find it among the subtle speculations of one of your splendid mathematicians...Throughout space there is energy. Is this energy static or kinetic? If static our hopes are in vain; if kinetic \ufffd and this we know it is, for certain then it is a mere question of time when men will succeed in attaching their machinery to the very wheelwork of nature." [Nikola Tesla, in a speech in New York to the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, 1891. Quoted from his biography, Margaret Cheney, Tesla: Man Out of Time].

We have to evolve means for obtaining energy from stores which are forever inexhaustible, to perfect methods which do not imply consumption and waste of any material whatever. I now feel sure that the realization of that idea is not far off. ...the possibilities of the development I refer to, namely, that of the operation of engines on any point of the earth by the energy of the medium...[Nikola Tesla, during an address in 1897 commemorating his installation of generators at Niagara Falls.].

"Whatever our resources of primary energy may be in the future, we must, to be rational, obtain it without consumption of any material." [Nikola Tesla, 1900].

Re:Only chance for sustainability renewable energy (1)

PeterM from Berkeley (15510) | more than 6 years ago | (#20134943)


    And the sun may not rise tomorrow either! There's some *remote* possibility that the Earth may stop turning suddenly or the sun may go out because of some "law of nature" which is not obeyed "in every single instance".

    I would bet my life on the sun rising tomorrow. Furthermore, consider this: if some earthly living thing in billions of years of evolution had come across "forever inexhaustible non-waste producing energy", we would ALL be running on it--the selective advantage would be enormous. Instead, nearly all life runs on solar energy.

    Humanity shouldn't waste its time looking for "magic" sources of energy and instead concentrate on proven reneweables or near-exhaustibles such as fusion. You deride solar and wind power as not providing "enough energy density to manufacture...", which is just outright wrong.

    Wind power combined with some sort of energy storage mechanism could be the energy source of the future. *Already* certain wind plants produce energy at a lower cost than coal-fired power plants with negligible environmental impact (compared to a coal plant!).

    Humanity would be far better served by investing its resources into wind capacity and into energy storage than wasting efforts looking for power sources which have no support in current, well-tested scientific theory.

    I just wish I could moderate your post down a point or two for promoting pseudoscience.

--PeterM

Re:Only chance for sustainability renewable energy (2, Insightful)

nuzak (959558) | more than 6 years ago | (#20135097)

> The over unity energy technology may be quite possible.

Sure, if you repeal the laws of physics

Tesla was a genius, but he turned into a complete wackjob in his old age.

Re:Only chance for sustainability renewable energy (1)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | more than 6 years ago | (#20135187)

Just imagine if we had spent 500 billion dollars on solar power instead of on the iraqi war.

Just imagine if we had committed to spend 100 billion dollars a year on solar power for the next five years.

Even now, they are looking at 42% efficient cells and cells that can be created by printing them with nano-silicon. Put the two together and you have power for a house during the day for $5,000.

That would change everything.

Batteries and inverters are a challenge tho.

We are ruining ourselves spending so much to defend and support this antiquated oil economy.

It's a Brave New World... (2, Insightful)

zenasprime (207132) | more than 6 years ago | (#20134589)

...Or is it? Eh...I always thought Sci-Fi was more about bringing the present to light then predicting anything about the future but who am I... :p

Re:It's a Brave New World... (1)

realmolo (574068) | more than 6 years ago | (#20134667)

You're right.

The problem is that when you hold the "mirror" of science-fiction up to REALITY, it doesn't look all that much different. I imagine that is what Gibson's problem is.

We've reached a point with technology where we know A LOT about what is possible and what isn't possible. In many ways, the "dreams" of sci-fi are shattered. No FTL travel, no artificial intelligence, no unlimited energy source. That pretty much covers it, doesn't it?

Re:It's a Brave New World... (1)

zenasprime (207132) | more than 6 years ago | (#20135067)

But sci-fi isn't "traditionally" about FTL travel, AI, or ulimited energy sources, it's about how we as humans deal with them. FTL travel can easily represent the ability of 15th century europeans being able to build ships capable of traversing the worlds oceans. Or AI could be a mirror of how we view ourselves as intellegent beings. So my point is, it's not the gadgetry that is really important but how man interacts and uses his creations. :)

Re:It's a Brave New World... (2, Insightful)

Control Group (105494) | more than 6 years ago | (#20135135)

Wow, pessimistic much?

FTL travel I'll give you; it would take a major rewrite of physics to make that a reality. It's not happening.

AI, though? I'm unaware of any fundamental reason AI can't be realized. Quite the opposite: the fact that what we term intelligence has already arisen naturally rather strongly implies that it can be done. It may not be right around the corner, but - unlike FTL travel - we know intelligence to exist; all we have to do is replicate it.

And unlimited energy? If you're defining it as depressingly rigorously as possible, and referring solely to conservation of energy, yes, of course. But you don't need to violate conservation to provide unlimited energy from the point of view of the human race. Just harnessing a significant percentage of the energy the sun blasts out in all directions would solve our energy problems forever. Just like AI, we know it's there, it's a matter of engineering a way to use it.

oblig simpsons. (2, Insightful)

Joe the Lesser (533425) | more than 6 years ago | (#20134639)

Somehow the future is surprising, yet not surprising. I revel in watching the world change, the same mistakes being made, but still with crazy plot twists.

The future has always been quite similar to the past, that's probably the most striking thing about it. Culturally things have hardly changed in centuries. People fight over religion, travel wherever they can to get away from each other, experiment with anything they get their hands on, grow up, get married, raise children, and die. The tools we use change, but our actual lives as homo sapiens...not so much.

Thinks I would like to happen! (1)

hackus (159037) | more than 6 years ago | (#20134649)

1) Gravity is finally figured out as a force.

We engineer devices to nullify it and usher in a new age of transportation, at ANY speed.

Instantaneous speed now has an entirely NEW meaning.

2) Dark Energy is found to be something you can actually tap into.

New forms of electrical generation result in unlimited amounts of energy as we tap into the local universe and use as much as we want.

3) New materials are manufactured from Dark Matter. Buildings 10 miles high, space elevators ala Space 3001.

It could happen. :-)

-hack

Huh? (5, Funny)

iknownuttin (1099999) | more than 6 years ago | (#20134655)

"Sci-fi novelist William Gibson has given up trying to predict the future -- because he says it's become far too difficult.

I find it impossible. I guess that's why I can't get a job:

Interviewer: "Where do you see yourself in 5 years?"

Me: "If I knew what was happening in 5 years, I'd be a billionaire and NOT interviewing for some dipshit wage slave job! And maybe, if I actually knew, I'd be committing suicide for my dismal future of: commuting at least an hour in traffic one way each day, having to put up asinine reviews that are geared to make me fail, watching CEOs who get fired leave with tens of millions of dollars in severance while, the rest of us watch our jobs go overseas,and ... oh fuck it!"

Future predictions have always been easy (1)

mmarlett (520340) | more than 6 years ago | (#20134673)

"Everything that can be invented has been invented." --Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, U.S. Office of Patents, 1899.

"If something's expensive to develop, and somebody's not going to get paid, it won't get developed. So you decide: Do you want software to be written, or not?" -- Bill Gates, 1984

I rest my case.

Not to argue with Gibson... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20134739)

...but his stance reminds me a lot of the people in the 50s, 60s and 70s who gave us artist's impressions of the following decades where we were all wearing odd-looking outfits to work and driving flying cars. Yet the only truely "big" visible change was in computing.

Aside from any incredible breakthroughs (time travel, faster-than-light drives, etc) I just see our future as being the same as those of previous decades: steady incremental advancements in mostly low profile technolgy and bioscience.

And please, nobody start blathering about "nano" anythings. You remind me of an Australian science show ('Beyond 2000') in which every episode we were told about how "virgil re-elleedee" was going to transform our lives completely and forever, Real Soon Now.

One author (1)

hellfire (86129) | more than 6 years ago | (#20134753)

This is one author, continuing to write, but changing his focus. Interesting article about William's change of focus and his ideas, but the "William Gibson gives up on the future" is obviously inflamatory and meant to draw in the eyeballs, when it's far more interesting to present an even keeled title. I would have felt compelled to remark more about sci-fi writing and the near future if it weren't for this obviously crappy title.

Did the firehose suddenly run out of water when this article was being modded?

Si Fi author != Futurist (1)

ekstrom (941853) | more than 6 years ago | (#20134765)

In an essay published some time ago, Si Fi author Ursula LeGuin came down hard against the idea that one should even expect her art to be a prediction of the future. She went down a list that included prophets, touts, and futurists, and didn't find herself anywhere among them. So she gave up decades ago.

All he needs to do is be himself (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20134889)

Gibson has made a career out of writing banalities and plagiarizing other authors in a cryptic, inelegant, hard-to-read style. It doesn't matter if his predictions are wrong, because no one ever understands exactly what he means (probably including himself), so he can always claim that he'd got it right all along.

Seriously, if you like sci-fi, do yourself a favor and go read Stanislaw Lem or Ursula Le Guin (or, if you prefer fantasy, Pratchett or Gaiman).

A few references to geek culture do not make a good book, and they certainly do not make a good writer.

Herbert solved this 30+ years ago (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20134915)

Come now, Frank Herbert of the Dune series completely eliminated the future predicting as a problem altogether. First, he went WAY into the future, at least 10 - 20 thousand years, and second he eliminated the difficult to predict computers and robots via cultural phenomena.

Just like that he eliminated all barriers to the future and was free to write whatever the heck he wanted. Wonderful Dune goodness was the result.

Canticle For Leibowitz is another good book that just decided that eventually we would blow ourselves up, and then went from there to build a different future the way the author imagined it might go.

You don't even have to get super creative with this stuff. If it's too hard, just come up with something that will elimate the barrier for you and go with it from there. Perhaps we hit a plateau in 20 years and the "future" goes away from technology and into a different direction, who knows? His job is to be creative and it sounds like he's whining about it.

Gibson Gives up on the future? (1)

gurps_npc (621217) | more than 6 years ago | (#20134933)

This is the man that created the dark, techno-future from hell, whith no shanty towns instead of suburban paradises, and everyone is at heart a slave.

Me, I am happy that Gibson finally admits he has no freakin' clue what the future will bring.

Maybe he will stop writing about the dark ages as if they were coming to us instead of long past.

Re:Gibson Gives up on the future? (1)

Frumious Wombat (845680) | more than 6 years ago | (#20135211)

Been to Orlando lately? Gibson is probably on the right track, but the prescriptions that let him deal with it through writing ran out.

Look on the bright side, his future is more positive than "Blade Runner".

Easy... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20134957)

Set your stories far enough in the future that you'll be long dead. That way, if you get it wrong, what are they going to do about it?

ah (1)

ErikZ (55491) | more than 6 years ago | (#20134963)

Allow me to translate...

"Screw this. I'm going to write about a farm. With a horse. And he will act like horses do and eat hay. He will not be genetically engineered super-horse that's plugged into the online universe, hacking the orbital death ray lasers.

His name will be Fred.

Fred will whinny and snort while trotting about the pasture. The only thing fantastic about Fred will be the sheer amount of manure he produces."

What is science fiction (1)

fermion (181285) | more than 6 years ago | (#20134987)

Science fiction is a mixed bag depending of what plot devices the author need. This is why some don't like it. It is not necessarily a well told story, it is not necessarily a mystery, it is not necessarily a statement of how smart the author is. At it's highest is an exploration of what the process of technology has done, is doing, and might do. At it's most base it is simply another plot device, not unlike Huckleberry Finn. While there is nothing wrong with this, it tends to be a simplistic use of the genre.

Which is what confuses me about this. Many of Heinlein's books were set in the actual present. The same with Pohl. The same with Robinson. Even those set in the past are not necessarily time travel books. An appropriate example is the difference engine, by gibson and sterling. In that book they assume that manufacturing difficulties had been overcome and the age of computers began early.

What I hope Gibson is doing is not being so negative about the future, and focusing on the realistic implications of technology, or the best guess reality based on who we have behaved in the past. As wonderful as Neuromancer and the like are, they added more to the popular culture than the genre of science fiction.

Who needs Gibson, (1)

NullProg (70833) | more than 6 years ago | (#20135005)

We have Shatner.

"It's a step-by-step process. You climb on the backs of giants. Only rarely are there leaps. Scientific advances mostly are incremental. If enough time goes by, a decade goes by, suddenly, that increment, you take year one to year 10, looks like a giant leap. So here we are 30, 40 years after `Star Trek,' and it looks like it was extraordinary, the advances we've made."


http://www.happynews.com/news/392006/shatner-explo res-world-of-trek-tech.htm [happynews.com]

Enjoy,

Welcome to Marxism 101 (2, Interesting)

Dr. Spork (142693) | more than 6 years ago | (#20135143)

It's silly of someone so smart to claim that technology has been driving social change since the mid 18th century, because it was it was less than a century later that Marx put forward the view that technology is the only driver of ideology and social change ever. He didn't call it "technology," he called it "means of production," but we recognize what it is. Seemed pretty radical to some people then; funny he now seems so right.

Of course, Marx was different in this way: He did make one prediction about the future whose means of production were unknown to him: he thought there would be a people's revolution in which people would take control of the technology developed in the capitalist era, because of the inevitable resort to artificial scarcity that the capitalist system will increasingly have to turn to. Scarcity will need to be artificial because technology will be able to meet all the basic and many of the advanced needs of everyone in the world. Capitalism doesn't work in situations of plentitude, so there is no market for breathable air (yet). So the artificial scarcity that Capitalists will need to create will eventually get so ridiculous that people will just depose them. As far as futurism goes, I think this outline is aging rather well.

And by the way, this is much closer to what Marx actually said than what most "Communists" claim he said. The Marx I read never advocated a revolution, resource distibution, or any of that other socialist stuff. He was a dialectician who thought that history has an inner logic and moves forward inevitably. Pleading with people doesn't move history; technology moves history. He argued pretty forcefully that Capitalism isn't the final system, but not because he was trying to stir up a revolution. It was just to convince people that it can't last, that, like every earlier technological/ideological era, it will be undone by the tools it eventually creates. So if Capitalism creates automatic strawberry harvesters because Mexicans get too expensive, and intelligent robots and fusion powerplants and workerless factories, it will eventually make the gear of it's own demise. Marx repeatedly extolled Capitalism for being so damn good at producing new technology in the most efficient way possible. It was Lenin, not Marx, who thought that a society can leap past all the stages of industrial and post-industrial capitalism and start a revolution with just an ideological vanguard. Obviously, that didn't work out. Marx was clear that technology drives ideology and not the other way around.

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