My latest Locus column, "A Vocabulary for Speaking about the Future," talks about science fiction's uselessness as a predictive medium, and its great utility as a medium for thinking about, attaining, and preventing futures.
But the really interesting thing is how science fiction does its best tricks: through creating the narrative vocabularies by which futures can be debated, discussed, adopted, or discarded.
There are innumerable examples of this, but my favorite is George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. Before this novel’s rise to prominence, any discussion of intrusive surveillance was singularly bloodless. ‘‘I don’t like how it would feel,’’ you could say, or, ‘‘It would change my behavior, make me self-conscious.’’ These are highly abstract, rather unconvincing arguments, especially when weighed against the technological narrative of surveillance: ‘‘With total information awareness, we will be as gods, our eye upon each sparrow as it falls from the tree. No evil deed will go unobserved and unpunished.’’ After all, it stands to reason that if you can watch everyone, you can see everything, and punish every bad deed.
But a science fiction writer, Orwell, has given us a marvelous and versatile vocabulary word for discussing this: now we can say, ‘‘Your surveillance idea is a bad one because it is Orwellian’’ – we can import all of that novel and its horrors with one compact word. The argument becomes a duel of narratives: the cool, impartial intelligence apparat that catches the bad guys versus the human reality of the corrupting nature of power and the way that our social contract and good behavior are eroded by constant surveillance and a culture of suspicion.
Cory Doctorow: A Vocabulary for Speaking about the Future
(Image: McCall Style & Beauty Cover - Fortune Teller, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from hollywoodplace's photostream)
Five chefs shared their top tips for improving frozen pizza: the easiest and most plausible one on the list is to just top the thing with thin-sliced garlic before cooking, turning it into delicious roast garlic topping by the time it’s done.
Microsoft has announced an Xbox Onesie that looks like a cuddly spacesuit, and comes with pockets sized to fit game-controllers, forearm grips to prevent slippage at key moments, and roomy hoods that can accommodate enclosed gamer headsets.
Leonard Richardson isn’t just the author of Constellation Games, one of the best debut novels I ever read and certainly one of the best books I read in 2013; he’s also an extremely talented free/open source server-software developer who has been working for the New York Public Library on a software project that liberates every […]
If you’re looking to earn a top salary in the tech industry, there’s no better career than coding. However, sometimes the hardest part of entering this career path is knowing where to begin.We took the Complete Web Developer Course because it took that decision out of our hands. This course teaches beginner-friendly coding languages that will also help land an immediate […]
To be a Pokémon master, you’ll need a phone that won’t constantly die on you. Because nothing is worse than seeing the screen go black right as you’ve finally found the Charizard of your dreams.That’s why we’re so excited about the LinearFlux PokeCharger Portable Battery ($39.99). With its 3.0 Amp HyperCharging technology, this slim battery will […]
The tech industry is constantly innovating, and in order to stay competitive, you’ll need to keep up. The Programming Into the Future Bundle was created to teach you the skills employers are looking for at this very moment, including in-demand coding languages like Google Go.The bundle of courses includes instruction on a range of innovative tools that advanced coders […]