Why does Elon Musk think that AI is going to kill us all? Why do so many "rationalist" techbros assume that he's right?
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Charlie Stross's keynote at the 34th Chaos Communications Congress Leipzig is entitled "Dude, you broke the Future!" and it's an excellent, Strossian look at the future we're barelling towards, best understood by a critical examination of the past we've just gone through.
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Why do billionaires like Elon Musk make terrified pronouncements about the imminent rise of self-aware, murderous AIs that use us to reproduce themselves, controlling us instead of serving us?
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The instructors for this summer's Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy writers' workshop are Dan Chaon, Lynda Barry, Nalo Hopkinson, Andrea Hairston, Cory Doctorow, C.C. Finlay and Rae Carson: the workshop runs from Jun 25-Aug 5 at UCSD in La Jolla, California. Read the rest
Eric Heisserer adapted Ted Chiang's novella Story of Your Life as the screenplay Arrival. Both are brilliant, but in different ways. It wasn't easy.
In all my draft work on the adaptation, I spent the most time on the intellectual and political challenges of the story. But if I ever encroached on the intimate, emotional through-line of Louise’s journey, the story fell apart. Other scenes could be sacrificed, reworked, moved, or cut to the bone. But director Denis Villeneuve and I found a bare minimum of steps to Louise’s personal journey, and that became our Alamo; our hill we would die defending. Denis had a knack for visuals that spoke on an emotional level while also dovetailing with the intellectual challenges our characters faced. Marrying those two, sometimes in a single line of dialogue or image, made the film come alive. It made us feel the story. And at the end of the day, what drew me most to Ted Chiang’s story was the way it made me feel, and above all else we wanted to transport and share that feeling with audiences
It's always fascinating to see how the sausage is made. Screenwriters must write for several audiences--the author being adapted, producers, directors--at different stages of the process, while keeping moviegoers in mind all along. You can see here how a master makes his script align with each on its journey to the screen, somehow without alienating everyone.
Also interesting is the fact Final Draft, the expensive and mandatory screenplay production software package, can't handle images—an unusual but unavoidable requirement for a movie full of alien logograms to be deciphered. Read the rest
The ethics of torturing robots is not a new question, but it's becoming more important as robots and AI becomes more lifelike. Author Ted Chiang explored it in his 2010 novella, The Lifecycle of Software Objects. In 1998 I wrote an article for Wired Online called "Virtual Sadism" about people who liked to torture artificial life forms called "norns" (and a movement of norn lovers who tried to stop them). In 1977 Terrel Miedaner wrote a philosophical science fiction novel called The Soul of Anna Klan, which featured a little Roomba like creature that seems to be afraid to "die" when someone tries to crush it with a hammer. (An excerpt from the novel appears in the excellent book, The Mind's I: Fantasies And Reflections On Self & Soul, edited by Douglas R. Hofstadter and Daniel C. Dennett.)
Dylan Love of Inverse revisits the idea of robot abuse in his article for Inverse, "Is it OK to torture a robot?"
Consider the latest robot to be unveiled by Google’s Boston Dynamics. When the collective internet saw a bearded scientist abuse the robot with a hockey stick, weird pangs of empathy went out everywhere. Why do we feel so bad when we watch the robot fall down, we wonder? There’s no soul or force of life to empathize with, and yet: This robot is just trying to lift a box, why does that guy have to bully it?
The Boston Dynamics video reminded me of the inflatable Bozo men, meant to be abused:
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Ted Chiang (previously) may be the best short story writer in science fiction today; though he produces very infrequently, he wins accolades and awards for every story. Read the rest
The Clarion Writers' Workshop at UC San Diego has announced its lineup of instructors for the 2014 session, and it's pretty spectacular: this year's writer-instructors are Gregory Frost, Geoff Ryman, Catherynne Valente, N.K. Jemisin, Ann VanderMeer, and Jeff VanderMeer.
Clarion is a six-week, intensive boot-camp for science fiction, fantasy and speculative fiction writers. It counts among its graduates some of the very greatest writers in the field, from Octavia Butler to Bruce Sterling, as well as Lucius Sheppard, Kathe Koja, Nalo Hopkinson, Eileen Gunn, James Patrick Kelly, Ted Chiang, Tim Pratt, Tobias Buckell, and many others.
I'm an alumnus myself, as well as a frequent instructor and a member of the volunteer board of the Clarion Foundation, the nonprofit 501(c)3 that oversees the workshop. Clarion isn't the only way to become a better writer and to learn about the industry and how to earn a living in it, but it is absolutely one of the best. My own experience in 1992 was life-changing for me, and has left me committed to the workshop for life.
Applications close on March 1, 2014. Read the rest
The Clarion Writing Workshop at UC San Diego is the oldest science fiction writing workshop in the world, and it's graduated distinguished alumni from Bruce Sterling and Nalo Hokinson to Kathe Koja and Ted Chiang (and me, for the record). I'm on the board of the Clarion Foundation, the charitable 501(c)3 that oversees the workshop and fundraises to keep tuition as low as possible.
This year, we've partnered with Lee Moyers, who's done a series of very successful pinup calendars featuring characters from science fiction and fantasy, and we're raising money on Indiegogo to fund the initial print run. The calendar, when produced, will feature characters from Neil Gaiman, Kelly Link, Mary Robinette Kowal, Pat Murphy, Kate Wilhelm, Damon Knight, Kim Stanley Robinson, Greg Frost, Karen Joy Fowler, Mary Anne Mohanraj, and me (!).
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Published by Subterranean Press, part of its fall 2013 issue.
People consult their lifelogs for a variety of reasons—everything from reliving favorite moments to tracking down the cause of allergic reactions—but only intermittently; no one wants to spend all their time formulating queries and sifting through the results. Lifelogs are the most complete photo album imaginable, but like most photo albums, they lie dormant except on special occasions. Now Whetstone aims to change all of that; they claim Remem’s algorithms can search the entire haystack by the time you’ve finished saying “needle.”
Previously: Black Mirror decodes our modern dread of technology Read the rest
on the legendary science and science fiction magazine's murky proprietorship.
The Velveteen Rabbi wrote a beautiful piece, in the form of a psalm, for The Children of Abraham / Ibrahim. Snip: "For every toddler in his mother's arms / behind rubble of concrete and rebar / For every child who's learned to distinguish / "our" bombs from "their" bombs by sound..." (via @ethanz) Read the rest
Aspiring science fiction and fantasy writers have two weeks left to get their applications in to this summer's Clarion Writers' Workshop at UC San Diego. I'm a Clarion grad, instructor and board member, and yup, I really believe in it. The Clarion format -- a mix of intense writing and critiquing, along with extended personal instructions from six instructors in six weeks -- is a great way to bootstrap your understanding of how to write sf, along with detailed business and professional advice.
Established in 1968, the Clarion Writers' Workshop is the oldest workshop of its kind and is widely recognized as a premier proving and training ground for aspiring writers of fantasy and science fiction.
Our 2012 writers in residence are Jeffrey Ford, Marjorie Liu, Ted Chiang, Walter Jon Williams, Holly Black and Cassandra Clare.
Clarion Writers' Workshop at UC San Diego Read the rest
The Clarion Writers' Workshop is a sort of bootcamp for science fiction and fantasy writers. You write something like six stories in six weeks, critique your fellow students' stories for several hours every day, and get a new instructor every week who combines lectures, workshops and one-on-one meetings. It's all held on UC San Diego's beautiful La Jolla campus.
The workshop has is open for applications, and this year's instructors are Jeffrey Ford, Marjorie Liu, Ted Chiang, Walter Jon Williams, Holly Black and Cassandra Clare. I'm a Clarion grad (1992) and instructor, and I am a volunteer board member for the Clarion Foundation, which oversees the workshop. Clarion isn't for everyone, and you can certainly develop your writing without Clarion, but when Clarion works for a writer, it really works. It really made me the writer I am today.
You've got until March 1st to send in two short stories and a letter explaining your reasons for applying.
Clarion Writers' Workshop at UC San Diego Read the rest
Last night's Hugo Award ceremony at the World Science Fiction Convention in Reno were just great, and some damned fine writers, creators, editors and books were nominated and won. Some of the balloted works/writers you've seen reviewed here this year include:
* The Magicians by Lev Grossman (Campbell Award for Best New Writer, winner)
* Zoo City by Lauren Beukes (Campbell Award for Best New Writer, nominee)
* Lifecycle of Software Objects by Ted Chiang (Best Novella)
* The Dervish House by Ian McDonald (Best Novel, nominee)
* Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century, Volume 1: (1907–1948): Learning Curve, by William H. Patterson, Jr. (Best Related Work, nominee)
The winners were:
* Best Novel (1813 ballots):
Blackout/All Clear by Connie Willis (Ballantine Spectra)
* Best Novella (1467 ballots):
The Lifecycle of Software Objects by Ted Chiang (Subterranean)
Best Novelette (1469 ballots):
“The Emperor of Mars” by Allen M. Steele (Asimov’s, June 2010)
Best Short Story (1597 ballots):
“For Want of a Nail” by Mary Robinette Kowal (Asimov’s, September 2010)
Best Related Work (1220 ballots):
Chicks Dig Time Lords: A Celebration of Doctor Who by the Women Who Love It, edited by Lynne M. Thomas and Tara O’Shea (Mad Norwegian)
Best Graphic Story (1263 ballots)
Girl Genius, Volume 10: Agatha Heterodyne and the Guardian Muse, written by Phil and Kaja Foglio; art by Phil Foglio; colors by Cheyenne Wright (Airship Entertainment)
Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form (1755 ballots):
Inception, written and directed by Christopher Nolan (Warner)
Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form (1466 ballots):
Doctor Who: “The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang,” written by Steven Moffat; directed by Toby Haynes (BBC Wales)
Best Editor, Short Form (983 ballots):
Best Editor, Long Form (898 ballots):
Best Professional Artist (1304 ballots):
Best Semiprozine (1112 ballots):
Clarkesworld, edited by Neil Clarke, Cheryl Morgan, Sean Wallace; podcast directed by Kate Baker
Best Fanzine (870 ballots):
The Drink Tank, edited by Christopher J Garcia and James Bacon
Best Fan Writer (814 ballots):
Best Fan Artist (993 ballots):
Brad W. Read the rest