Tag Archives: Hugo Awards

If a computer or machine is watching me, so what? Graphic novel commentary.

Page 69

This week I’m picking up on a thread from a couple of weeks ago on how adaptive we are as a society and how that can be good and not so good. Gradual change is something we are less likely to notice than abrupt changes in the world around us. One could argue that our adaption to the abrupt changes are more survival oriented — we quickly adapt and then eagerly make efforts to revert to something we think is better. When confronted with things like natural disasters, wars, shortages or catastrophes we tend to adapt quickly, even band together, until the situation can be corrected, or together, we correct it. When we look at the incremental changes of technology, or augmentation, or bio/genetic modification, these changes (though they are coming increasingly faster) are much slower. Adaptation is not on a massive scale. It’s an S curve followed by another S curve, and then another. Before we know it, there has been a massive change. Technologies that enable us to rid ourselves of disease or poverty are one thing; they have less of an effect on an individual’s daily behavior. Technologies that enable us to cram more information into our brains at a faster pace, or stay awake longer, or focus better, including cosmetic improvements, or escapist entertainments may need to contain a warning label. It’s hard to deny that the onslaught of technology and information, of sound byte attention spans on a 24/7 time schedule has changed us. The question is: at what point will we no longer recognize ourselves.

The characters in The Lightstream Chronicles may have arrived at this question too late. Over a period of decades, society has gradually given up on the notion of privacy. It was exchanged, bit by bit for enhancements that enabled telepathy, to channel direct-to-brain, instantaneous entertainment or escape into the V, a brain-port to upload language fluency in two hours, protection from assault and kidnapping. Together with the demand for ubiquitous, “active surfaces” woven into every piece of their environment a 24/7, always-on picture of everyone, every minute became the norm. There seemed to be little question that the positives outweighed the negatives. So what if a computer or synthetic is watching me in my most private moments? It was awkward at first and took some getting used to, but government assurances that the “watchers” were only looking for laws that are being broken and putting citizens into danger, made things easier to take. After all, the watchers are just computers or machines; they are not making any moral judgments. And in a society where anything is legal as long as it is consensual, most people aren’t worried about breaking any laws. And if they feel like being deviant, well there is always the V. There they can delve into the darkest recesses of their imagination with impunity.

Relax. It’s all good.


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In the future, hurting people is a crime. In fact, in the surveillance-state, don’t even think about it.

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In last week’s The Lightstream Chronicles, weighing the rational against the emotional, Toei boldly suggested that perhaps a synthetic police detective could do a better job of apprehending the serial rape gang that has been successfully eluding Detective Guren for the past several months. These type of crimes — inflicting harm on another person — are top priority and usually solved immediately. With mesh imagery available for nearly every square meter of Hong Kong 2, the ultra-sophisticated surveillance that is capable of seeing everyone, anywhere, anytime would have quickly identified the imminent crime even before it was actually committed. Similar to matching a fingerprint, analysis of body language, gestures, heart rate and other data can predict almost instantaneously that an individual or individuals is about to commit a crime. The mesh, constantly “on”, looks for patterns of suspicious behavior and provides a 3D picture. When suspicious 3D mesh behavior is detected, computers quickly accesses the chipset of anyone in proximity. Readings from the autonomic nervous system of the victim(s) and/or perpetrator(s), provides evidentiary data. If it is determined that a crime is about to be committed, drones, police or sentinels are quickly dispatched to the scene. If the perpetrator(s) are synthetic, the job of detection is actually less complex than assessing human biometrics. Synthetics, even those who have been twisted, have “intent transmitters” which can quickly be identified by central security systems. In Detective Guren’s serial rape case, however, “outages” in the mesh prevented the first step initiation of this public safety protocol. Should he be held to blame?

Next week, I’ll talk about why crime continues to thrive in HK2.

Progress update

Perhaps it doesn’t take much to get me excited when it comes to The Lightstream Chronicles, but this week, while working on Chapter 3, I built the first few panels with whom I think is going to be our number one star. I don’t think it is too much of a spoiler to say that Keiji-T will play a very prominent role in the remainder of the story. If we make a movie analogy and look at the six chapters that comprise The Lightstream Chronicles (at least so far), then Chapter 1 was probably the first 15 minutes of the flick, and Chapter 2, the next 15 minutes or so. That makes introducing a prime player and arguably the lead character, a good 30 minutes after the start of the movie, a bit risky in standard practice for film evolution. Then again, it might not be totally accurate to say that he (it) has not been introduced. In truth, Keiji’s first appearance was in Chapter 1, on page 17 and then again in Sean’s lab. And there has been chatter about him, but not what you would call an official speaking part as of yet. So, since i know what is going to happen, starting to render Keiji is a pretty big deal for me.

Upcoming speaking engagements

Coming to London and Copenhagen
Coming to London and Copenhagen

I think I can safely say, now with travel arrangements in place, that I will be in London and Copenhagen this summer presenting papers on my design fiction research. The first appearance will be at Loncon3, the 72nd World Science Fiction Convention. It runs August 14 – 18 at ExCel in London. I don’t have a fixed time yet but I will be participating in the academic program in conjunction with the event. This is the place where they award the Hugo’s every year for the best in science fiction, and that is pretty exciting. The focus of the academic program is Diversity in Speculative Fiction. I will be presenting the intersection of my digital, online, graphic novel with the broader aspects of design fiction. Shortly thereafter, I will be presenting another paper more deeply focused on design fiction as design research and practice with in the “Design Thinking and Social Justice stream” of the The 2014 Art of Management and Organization Conference in Copenhagen, August 28-31. Both venues are very exciting opportunities. If you’re one of my followers from The Lightstream Chronicles or theEnvisionist.com, in either of these cities, stop by and say hello.

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