Science Fiction Topics

  • by Gitabushi

I think there are a number of good topics to be explored in a rigorously-projected near future.  Do any of these appeal to you to try to write yourself?

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Post-Scarcity.  To some extent, the United States is already a post-scarcity society.  There are a few things that point to it, depending on your definition of “scarcity” and “post-scarcity.”  For example, the poor in the United States (and most of the Western world) struggle with obesity, rather than starvation.  Homelessness is usually due to inability to maintain a stable life, rather than being unable to afford any place to live.  We throw everything away, often before it reaches the end of its usable lifespan, including some advanced electronics and clothes.  The basics of life are pretty much assured, and even the poor in the US have smart-phones, which provide unprecedented access to more information and entertainment than existed in the entire world prior to 1995.

But from another perspective, energy is wealth. If you have enough energy, you can do anything, from changing the orbit of a planet to transmuting lead to gold, to approaching 99.99999% of light speed (or maybe even breaking that barrier, somehow).  So as long as energy has a cost, perhaps you don’t have true scarcity.  So what happens when/if cheap fusion becomes reality? The energy from one makes it cheaper to build a second, and so on, until energy is virtually costless. What kind of society does this create?

Now consider robots and computers.  Robots are getting sophisticated enough to replace humans in all sorts of dangerous and menial tasks.  I don’t think Artificial Intelligence will really ever become Sentient/Aware or develop a survival instinct, but AI will start succeeding in any number of tasks that currently require human thinking, like language translation, creation of art, designing buildings and machines.  What happens when there is no work at all for humans to do?  Contrary to what Socialists (and to be fair, Capitalists) insist, wealth and resources are necessary, but not sufficient, for a good life.  We will still sort along neatness/organization, cleanliness, emotional stability. What does a society look like where everyone has an equal chance for a prosperous life via ubiquitous resources, but still sorts into Elite and lower classes?

Robot Apocalypse. What if I’m wrong about AI developing self-awareness and a survival urge, but more than one AI has that ability. They may see other AI as big of a threat as humans, or bigger, and so it won’t actually be a Total War of Extermination Between Man and Machine, but rather a war where humans are sometimes the target, sometimes an ally, sometimes a pawn, all between various factions of AI.  Would the AI stick to one mode, like the SexBots vs the Home Networks, or would Home Networks vie with Industrial Monitoring/Control Systems to develop the better SexBot to induce humans to be allies?

Robot Apocalypse II. Is there a way humans could survive against AI, if it were to come down to a war of elimination?  Robots are stronger, faster, think faster, have less fragile life support needs, have senses so far beyond ours and will be able to find and target us no matter what sort of masking we use (can see in so many different spectra, camouflage will be useless, but can also develop algorithms for detecting human movement or even the sound of human body cycles).  Is there even a chance humans could survive something like the SkyNet of the Terminator movie, even without cyborgs or time travel?

Cyborg Enhancements to the Brain. What will it be like, really, to have cyborg memory additions?  So in the future, you can plug in a USB drive to your brain, and store memories.  Will they be artificially crisp, being stored digitally rather than synaptically?  What will it feel like to store a memory in your flash drive, remove the drive, and then try to remember?  People have covered digital memories and AI-linked brains before.  But none have ever tried to imagine what it might feel like, and described it in an immersive manner.

In any case, I think these are all beyond my writing ability at this time. Maybe you can write them. Or maybe I’ll get there someday.

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16 thoughts on “Science Fiction Topics

  1. Right now, my sci-fi themes probably land most in the scarcity/post-scarcity/energy-is-wealth camp, though not completely. I’ve written/touched on the whole robots-replacing-humans topic. It was an older story of mine and it sucked, and I don’t feel much urge to return to the topic. I liked the androids I created but ultimately robots must be created and all it takes is conveniently losing a few robot factories and their world-domination plan is out the window. Unless they wiped out most of the human population, there are a lot more humans than robots. Of course, even now we have people who welcome our new artificial overlords and so even if the robots wanted to kill us all, lots of people would just ignore the problem until it’s too late. That was my thinking for my own stories, anyway, and I know it’s been done lots elsewhere.

    Re Skynet: I’m watching Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood and I will tell you that humans. Don’t. Give. Up. :-P we aren’t killed that easily! Well, we kinda are but you know what I mean xD

    When robots start to occupy menial tasks, we will have more and more people left without jobs and we as a race are still multiplying. Sci-fi answers this problem with us just going off-world, but in reality that is a long way off and robots are the more practical solution to discovering if we can make it out there in the big bluish black thing.

    I am, or was for a while, interested in the rise of totalitarian “utopias” coupled with rise of convenience technology. It seems that the more luxuries we acquire, the more comfortable we are with giving up our rights and being ruled by more than tech, without even considering the datamining aspect. I tried to read 1984, but I found Brave New World to be a far more engrossing (and relevant) fictional society – we were scared of Big Brother, but we welcomed Mustapha Mond and his machinery because it’s pretty and makes us feel good.

    I guess in a way I don’t really write “true” science fiction as I don’t often draw out and examine the consequences of a particular technology, but more how we maintain our humanity in the face of rising technological challenges no matter what they are.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think “true” science fiction *is* exploring what it means to be human.
      Mostly by showing how technology changes the context in which we are human, but what makes it compelling is seeing ourselves in these other environments. So I think you are writing precisely what science fiction should be.

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  2. Living things have three advantages over machines that would make a human/AI war very short and one sided. We are self-repairing, we can use nearly any organic material as fuel (and use it more efficiently) and we can manufacture replacements with virtually no parts and using unskilled labor.

    Machines can be big and scary, but they are fragile and require far greater support to stay in running condition. A motorcycle can outrun a horse on paved roads, but which would you rather take on a trip across a virgin forest?

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    1. I think it depends on *at what point* of autonomy they develop self-awareness. If they already have AI automation of fabrication plants, auto-responding repair bots, and the entire supply chain of resources, it’d be tough for us to shut it down.

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      1. Have you read James P. Hogan’s “Two Faces of Tomorrow”?
        I found it plausible, but it posited far more advanced AI technology and interconnection than we have now.
        Current technology? No way. But that’s not the point. *IS* there a level of AI technology and integration where it becomes a danger? I think the answer is yes.
        Consider that freaky dog-robot that can open doors….and then consider how it goes down when it steps on marbles.
        But eventually, they’ll fix that.

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  3. You’ve roughly summarized the issues I wrestled with developing the background for the Torchship books. Want a review copy?

    Okay, brain implants were not given a hard look. They were more assumed as a by-product of the other changes.

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  4. I have something percolating from this post and another one I read about Gundam style fighting robots. Suppose humans and AIs went to war as allies? Humans who were post technological and did not see the machines as their own creations, but as creatures in their own rights, allied with intelligent Transformer-level robots, against an alien force that is so alien that it can’t be characterized as either organic or mechanical….

    Hmmmm….

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  5. The post-scarcity society that rattles most around in my mind: a patriarchy. Not that all the patriarchs are men or even human, but sort of what is happening now: a single individual – me, for example – has tapped into a vein of money (a lamentably small and near tapped out vein, alas! But big enough) to support a number of people (7 people – me, my wife and kids – plus occasional others – right now, there’s grandma, a 14 year old kid, and one of the staff from school living under my roof ) for an indeterminate length of time, at a level of luxury none of the other people involved is likely to have been able to attain on their own. (In my case, all that means is a nice suburban house with plenty of food and distractions like Netfix and musical instruments around)

    Now imagine a world where AI and robots are concentrating wealth, not just in the hands of the extraordinarily rich, but also in the hands of the people with the background and intelligence to manage all that AI and robotics, which will need at least guidance if not creation, repair, and programming.

    So people go into one of three tracks: Inherit massive wealth; learn to do one of the diminishing ranks of smart/skill jobs that are highly compensated or learn to serve or otherwise attach yourself to one of those other two groups.

    The thing I’ve noticed is that, once you get a house and a little cash flow, adding a few people to the fold, as it were, just isn’t very marginally expensive. (Of course, in my case, not having accumulated a fortune by any means, it all stops if I were to be unemployed!)

    So, the real question becomes: how do people sort themselves out? Can people be happy picking jobs solely on the self satisfaction, knowing that they contribute nothing to material well being but are at the mercy of somebody else? What legal/cultural guarantees are needed? What keeps rich people from becoming Caligula, or the clients of patriarchs using their leisure to plot revolt out of boredom?

    This all ties in to your last essay on Socialism, which I’ve long said mainly a revenge fantasy for people with daddy issues – those people are not going to be happy as clients to a daddy, no matter how well their material needs are taken care of.

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  6. Ok, so this interests me a great deal because of a story I wrote a while back. It took me half an hour, but occasionally I reflect on the in-universe history of the piece. Downloadable memory almost always plays around in my head, but in my mind it is difficult to figure out how it would feel to not only translocate that information, but also how to know when a situation arises that you have pertinent information for on a disc or in the cloud. I have tinkered with this idea being the reason my story ends the way it does. Thoughts?

    https://intomyview.wordpress.com/2017/08/13/we-were-supposed-to-be-going-home/

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