Michael Shermer on TED ...
Tuesday, December 5, 2006
Based on the evidence of most SF TV shows and movies, microphone technology doesn't exist in the future.
Captain Picard or somebody will be in a holding cell with Farnak the Magnificent.
PICARD: Listen. You've got to distract the guard. I'll make a run for the crystalline control device while you flibble his flygat rod.
FARNAK: It's a bold plan. Count me in.
The futuristic bad guys have no clue. Ever. They never listen in on the whispered conversations in their holding cells. See, the freaking Germans and Japanese had bugged their POW camps as, I reckon, we had done as well. But ... in the GLORIOUS FUTURE ... the mysterious secret of the hidden microphone has been lost.
No. Actually, what it boils down to is: If you're a writer creating dramatic situations, it's easier if you ignore the possibility of surveillance. This allows your characters to talk about what they're going to do before they do it.
Bear in mind, we're just talking about cameras and microphones.
If you read this book carefully and cross-reference it with Bruce Sterling's demented and highly probable speculations, you're talking about a future in which every machine is a computer, every machine has a central nervous system, and every machine talks to every other machine.
You don't need cameras and microphones.
The freaking toaster knows when you're toasting toast, and just how you like it, too. The floor knows when you're walking on it. Wow, sez Tommy Toilet. Something wrong with that dude's stool. Guess the boss is picking on him at work.
In simple terms: imagine the delusional architecture of your average paranoid schizophrenic. Now, build it. Build it everywhere.
That's the future.
Well, jolly wonderful, you're thinking. I'll be dead. Who cares?
See, I don't care. Life might suck for my great-great-grandchildren. So what? I'm dead. If they thaw me out, that's better than being dead. Take me to your toaster.
The problem is: Not being a lazyass SF writer and imagining the implications of this stuff.
To hell with microphones and cameras. Everyware makes conventional storytelling impossibly hard.
Imagine, say, Sin City, 2257. The hard goodbye.
Marv and Goldie make love. Kevin kills Goldie.
Except he wouldn't, because the intelligent AI running the room (even a cheap hotel room) wouldn't let him in.
Marv realizes he's been framed and fights his way past the corrupt police officers.
Except he wouldn't, because the room would seal him in.
He steals a police car.
Except he wouldn't, because the car would know he wasn't a cop and wouldn't drive for him.
Marv talks to his lesbian parole officer.
Except he wouldn't. Her apartment would identify him as a homicide suspect and not let him in.
Marv runs into the night and beats the truth out of various hitmen. He works his way up the foodchain. Except he wouldn't.
You get the idea. Let's skip ahead.
By the time Marv and Goldie were ready to kill Kevin, the various linked networks of machines talking to each other would realize some shit was going down. Marv goes into a hardware store to buy heavy duty gloves, rubber tubing, razor wire and a hacksaw. Based on pattern recognition and fuzzy logic, the machines have already told the AI running the store to expect this. The second Marv places his order, the plasteel walls come down and isolate him.
The story stops.
Monday, December 4, 2006
The future is a pain in the ass. But, based on this little thought experiment, the very weirdness of it all is interesting. This may be a half-hearted attempt to imagine what the future will actually look like based on what they're cooking up now.
Even so, it's more interesting than rocket ships, aliens, warp drives, ray guns and killer robots.