Michael Crichton: More than Jurassic Park

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Michael CrichtonMichael Crichton (1942-2008) was a prolific author, screenwriter and director for TV and movies, but it sometimes surprises me that he has become remembered almost entirely for a very short list of accomplishments… specifically, Jurassic Park, Westworld, The Andromeda Strain, and sometimes ER (of which he was creator, writer and executive producer).

But this rare creator not only penned many incredible novels besides the few most people think of, but he was the writer/director of some low-budget movies that so beautifully define him to me, including The Terminal Man, Runaway, and Looker.   His bigger-budget movies, such as Sphere, Rising Sun and Disclosure (also based on books), are also high on my list of movies to watch… when you can catch them. Continue reading

Are We Overthinking the Dangers of Artificial Intelligence?

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skynetIn this IO9 article, George Dvorsky talks to SF author David Brin about our society’s inherent over-reaction to and fear of technology.  His comments parallel recent articles and press releases of Project Hieroglyph, in promoting a positive outlook in science fiction, and he sums up the biggest problem here:

The problem with Hollywood, and cable news and yes, much written sci fi, as well, is that the very notion of adult process is anathema! it is seen as a killer of what Hollywood needs most… drama! Fast-paced peril and pure heroes opposing pure evil!

He also calls out one of my old favorite authors, Michael Crichton, for building his reputation on stories where basically the purity of science and technology was corrupted by a few people ignoring accepted safeguards, or working in secret with some hidden agenda, and thereby creating deadly nanotechnology or dinosaurs running amok.

My take: David Brin Johnson is right! (Hurerrer!) It’s good to hear a bit of common sense applied to technological development, and the fears largely caused not by the technology, but by our own lack of care.

Invasive technologies define the future of Sarcology

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sarcology cover 2014Invasive technologies, by definition, tend to have the most initial resistance to their introduction to society.  It can be hard to imagine a future world in which new and sometimes disturbing, often painfully-disruptive technologies come to be accepted, even common, parts of our lives.

Sarcology, recently updated and re-released, depicts a future world full of these invasive technologies, making it easy for the reader to question the likelihood and desirability of this future reality.

But given time, and often contrary to public perception, we have seen that even the most invasive of tech can overcome initial resistance and become accepted, even ubiquitous, in society. Continue reading

The man behind Man Plus. RIP Frederik Pohl.

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Man Plus coverFrederik Pohl, the acclaimed science fiction author behind one of my favorite novels, Man Plus, passed away today.

The list of novels he’s written, or edited, or presented in his magazine Galaxy, that I have not read, is too long to enumerate here.  Pohl was the very definition of prolific in his writing and editing.  Most importantly to me, his style and sensibilities helped to inspire me in many of my own writings.

Man Plus is a perfect example of this.  In Man Plus, scientists planning the first manned mission to Mars decide that a human needs to be “augmented” to properly survive on the Martian surface, and thereby to ensure the success of the mission.  Continue reading