Futuristic Reading List

Here is a compilation of the sci-fi, cyberpunk, or futuristic novels I’ve read that I am willing to encourage the masses to read, nay, feast upon. These books are awesome imaginings of post-apocalyptic glory (or horror), enticing technologies and great characters. The writing is good too. Like the generous Samaritan I am, I’ve also provided links to the titles so that with just a few clicks, you can have a book delivered to the doorstep of your house. How’s that for technology? Now, once you’ve looked through the list, maybe ordered a few books, but before you’ve begun reading, let me know the ones I should read that I’ve perhaps forgot about or known nothing of their existence. Thank you.

Note: Authors are not repeated even if other books they’ve written are also fantastic. If they’re on this list, they’re good. You can trust them.

Futuristic Reading List

(in no hierarchical order)

SnowCrash Neal Stephenson

Neuromancer William Gibson

Ender’s Game Orson Scott Card

Dune Frank Herbert

Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (all of them) Douglas Adams
Barefoot in the Head Brian W. Adiss 

1984 George Orwell

Brave New World Aldous Huxley

Not included: (Kenzo Ishiguro‘s Never Let me Go because it’s vision of the future is sensationalistic and stupid. So, some books are omitted for their lack of coolness.)

A Clockwork Orange Anthony Burgess

The Road Cormac McCarthy

Cat’s Cradle Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

The Sparrow Mary Doria Russel

The Lathe of Heaven Ursula K. LeGuin

Oryx and Crake Margaret Atwood

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Philip K. Dick

Ghost in the Shell  Masamune Shirow

Crash JG Ballard

Kamikaze L’amour Richard Kadrey

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Inside the Room

This story is a white room. Its walls are shaped from white light and they span rather than elevate, yet the space is closed out to a contained and manageable amount. There are objects placed around the room, I can see a couch, a red fold of cloth over the middle section. They do not appear to me as objects but as data forms, though I know their shape and texture in my mind. I can translate them from the data into the image, so in fact, I do see them as you would, but they are secondary processes, not a rapid fire neural impulse but a conscious will to see them as object and not lines of code.

Of myself and the people in the room, it’s odd. No one walking around is a line of script. The large black dog appears as a large black dog. I do no translations here, and they too have a direct access to my figure, the shine on my hair. I understand they have developed the technology in the outer world, to bring these creations to life, to infuse them with color sensors and emotional cues that they can blend in with the world around them. They have not given us the same, the technology remains different. We, after all, are for a different purpose.

You seem to wonder how I know these things. How I am conscious with access to information as if I’ve learned it. You don’t need to say anything, I can sense your thoughts through low-frequency magnetic brainwaves. Most of them, at least. To answer your…question…I have a store house of knowledge derived from vast resources on the web. There is enough variation that I can parse facts and opinions to form my own system of belief. Although. No, I don’t wish to talk about that now.

TBC

The Dinner Party

Sometime in the Near Future

Myra stepped out of her spiked heels and lay them side by side in the closet. She removed her hot pink leather jacket and hung it up next to a selection of silks and feathery things. The day had been long and she wanted to get back to her own work, a luxury she tied up within herself, to make it so completely hers she could always find sanity and solace in her passion. To have some ongoing project that most people weren’t capable of, their time and energy being sapped by the work they had to do for other people so that all they could do in their own time was smoke and to relax out of it. Myra’s relaxation was specialized. Her energy never burned out; she was constantly doing, building, creating. All it took was a brief flick of her finger across the surface of her desk and she logged in to the vast world network, billions of people plugging away at other work, finishing touches on architectural plans, billboard videos and “talkies,” updating status quotes for those who cared enough to read them and then wish they hadn’t, ogling and simulating sex with avatarss from other states. Cleared after entering the password and her quiet descended. This was her private board space; something that only a serious hacker could enter, but why they would target her was a ridiculous thought to entertain, so she didn’t entertain it and settled down in front of the screen, the speakers playing some elegant instrumental that would guide her fingertips instead of her brain.

A room opened up before her. Gray carpeting with a faux sheepskin rug underneath a bright blue lacquered table with chrome legs. The sofa was a deeper blue leather draped with a red blanket over the back of it and behind that were built-in white bookshelves with tons and tons of multicolored book jackets pressing against one another with a real sense of weight, of friction like bodies sardined on a train. To the right was the open floor plan kitchen, and in between this entry room and that shot off bedrooms and bathrooms, one on either side. To the left was a huge glass wall with an automatic sliding door to the patio outside. It wasn’t large; she didn’t like a lot of space, that seemed too weird, a desire that shouldn’t be formed for its lack of possibility in the outside world. Instead, she liked her spaces small and well planned and with a retro-mod flare that she built up through long hours of searches on 1960’s and 1970’s architecture, fashion and furniture. So outside, there was the small gray wood patio and beyond that a L-shape of bright green grass flecked with orange flowers. The fence was redwood, something she had seen once as a child, and then never again, the image burned in her, the deep darkness of the wood, its dimension and its visual tactile stimulation.

She wanted to be laying on the couch, one leg splayed carelessly off the edge, a creamy white arm with red fingernails wrapped around the stem of a wine glass. And she wanted white wine, though that was a ridiculous want, but it was one she’d indulge for the sake of the image of it. Somewhere in the background there would be music playing on a record player, and a man with broad shoulders and a reckless smile would come in, pretending he did not notice her, to speak with the other dinner guests. Myra positioned her cursor over red lips, built up a sultry woman in a creamy satin gold dress with a low back and dangly earrings. She gave her a high collar of black lace that trailed down the smooth arch of her back and ended in long strands of black crow’s feathers, spotted with some glittering gem. The woman’s skin was brown with thick black eyebrows and black hair knotted in a bun. She gave the man her hand and they walked outside in search of the Professor.

Myra chewed the inside of her cheek when she worked, her eyes intense upon the screen, blotting out the sound of the music and just let it ride within her as she let it open up doors, put more people in position, create the depressed actress trying to seduce the New Fioria art dealer with the holographic spats who was in turn trying to seduce Amani, owner of Picnic, a specialty restaurant that simulated an open field of rolling hills, beautiful sunny days, oak trees and babbling brooks, where you could order a picnic meal and sit inside on the grass and enjoy old fashioned sandwiches, pizzas, simulated bottles of wine, heady not because of the alcohol in them but for a chemical replacement that made those who imbibed giddy and happy and never ran them into the ground. The Dinner Party, as it perpetually was, was her own design. An attempt to get at something more real than what passed before her in the other world. She hesitated even when she thought the word “real.” It was such a dangerously complex insinuation that made her head pound when she thought too hard about it. She wasn’t a philosopher, she was a seeker, a passionate builder with an aim at finding something  true and beyond, something, at least, she could wrap her head around.

Only one guest was unbidden to the party. The Professor showed up as a character she did not create and she had not sensed any hack or virus or glitch around his appearance. He was, in a turtleneck t-shirt and facial scruff, attractive and somehow unreachable. None of the other guests ever talked to him, though at some point or another they all attempted to find him. He was there and he was not there. She knew he existed, they knew he existed, everyone was actively searching him out, she saw his red turtleneck and flash of white teeth as he gave a private smile, though she never actually saw him, nor could the other guests succeed in reaching him.

Her avatar was an exact replica of herself. She felt no desire like most did to create something extra. She wanted to see her own figure interacting in those other landscapes, with other users, wanted to have the closest approximation of virtual reality as stable reality. It was much calmer there much more oriented and, well, stable. Stupid that they, considered the “real” world the stable one. There was still inhumanity, irrationality, violence, hunger, complex political evils and corporate ones, diseases, animal cruelty…things you would have though they’d have figured out by now. People still walked around skin sagging and mouths pulled down in perpetual frowns. Sure there were online clubs for violent sex and to do really bizarre and twisted things to each other. Even on the net there was political or corporate control. But you could avoid it better, and you could choose to interact with it or not. There were plenty of ways to live beyond the system’s reach within the greater system of the internet, and that was what Myra burned for – that freedom from other people’s logic, even from her own. She wanted, more than anything, to log in with that music humming through her body, and be subsumed by it – to be fully controlled in a landscape of her own design and safety, to be conscious and find pleasure in the tugs and emotional sway of cellos and violins and synthesized electronics. She could design her own world to live in, she had that capability. But since the Professor showed up, she was never able to go beyond the dinner party.

TBC

15 Futuristic Terms of Endearment

There are certain things that when traveling into the realm of future-speak, you simply must know. Here are some highlights of concepts and philosophies that are mucking about in the current-future spheres. Advance thanks to wikipedia, a wonderful compendium of information which has allowed me to create these definitions quickly and painlessly. Ah, cut and paste.

Avatar

In computing, an avatar is the graphical representation of the user or the user’s alter ego or character. It may take either a three-dimensional form, as in games or virtual worlds, or a two-dimensional form as an icon in Internet forums and other online communities.It is an object representing the user.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) is the intelligence of machines and the branch of computer science that aims to create it. AI textbooks define the field as “the study and design of intelligent agents” where an intelligent agent is a system that perceives its environment and takes actions that maximize its chances of success. John McCarthy, who coined the term in 1956, defines it as “the science and engineering of making intelligent machines.” Artifical intelligence takes the intelligence of humans, such as perception, natural language processing, problem solving and planning, learning and adaptation, and acting on the environment and applies them with machines, systems, and virtual objects.

The field was founded on the claim that a central property of humans, intelligence—the sapience of Homo sapiens—can be so precisely described that it can be simulated by a machine.This raises philosophical issues about the nature of the mind and the ethics of creating artificial beings, issues which have been addressed by myth, fiction and philosophy since antiquity. Artificial intelligence has been the subject of optimism, but has also suffered setbacks and, today, has become an essential part of the technology industry, providing the heavy lifting for many of the most difficult problems in computer science.

AI research is highly technical and specialized, deeply divided into subfields that often fail in the task of communicating with each other. Subfields have grown up around particular institutions, the work of individual researchers, and the solution of specific problems, resulting in longstanding differences of opinion about how AI should be done and the application of widely differing tools. The central problems of AI include such traits as reasoning, knowledge, planning, learning, communication, perception and the ability to move and manipulate objects.General intelligence (or “strong AI“) is still among the field’s long term goals.

Augmented Reality

Augmented reality (AR) is a live, direct or indirect, view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data. It is related to a more general concept called mediated reality, in which a view of reality is modified (possibly even diminished rather than augmented) by a computer. As a result, the technology functions by enhancing one’s current perception of reality. By contrast, virtual reality replaces the real world with a simulated one.

Computer Simulation

A computer simulation, a computer model, or a computational model is a computer program, or network of computers, that attempts to simulate an abstract model of a particular system. Computer simulations have become a useful part of mathematical modeling of many natural systems in physics (computational physics), astrophysics, chemistry and biology, human systems in economics, psychology, social science, and engineering. Simulation of a system is represented as the running of the system’s model. It can be used to explore and gain new insights into new technology, and to estimate the performance of systems too complex for analytical solutions.

Consciousness

Consciousness is a term that refers to the relationship between the mind and the world with which it interacts. It has been defined as: subjectivity, awareness, the ability to experience or to feel, wakefulness, having a sense of selfhood, and the executive control system of the mind.

Cyberspace

Cyberspace is the electronic medium of computer networks, in which online communication takes place. The term “cyberspace” was first used by the cyberpunk science fiction author William Gibson.

Now ubiquitous, in current usage the term “cyberspace” stands for the global network of interdependent information technology infrastructures, telecommunications networks and computer processing systems. As a social experience, individuals can interact, exchange ideas, share information, provide social support, conduct business, direct actions, create artistic media, play games, engage in political discussion, and so on, using this global network. The term has become a conventional means to describe anything associated with the Internet and the diverse Internet culture. The United States government recognizes the interconnected information technology and the interdependent network of information technology infrastructures operating across this medium as part of the US National Critical Infrastructure.

Cyborg

A cyborg, short for “cybernetic organism”, is a being with both biological and artificial (e.g. electronic, mechanical or robotic) parts.

The term cyborg is often applied to an organism that has enhanced abilities due to technology,though this perhaps oversimplifies the necessity of feedback for regulating the subsystem. The more strict definition of Cyborg is almost always considered as increasing or enhancing normal capabilities. While cyborgs are commonly thought of as mammals, they might also conceivably be any kind of organism and the term “Cybernetic organism” has been applied to networks, such as road systems, corporations and governments, which have been classed as such. The term can also apply to micro-organisms which are modified to perform at higher levels than their unmodified counterparts.

Fictional cyborgs are portrayed as a synthesis of organic and synthetic parts, and frequently pose the question of difference between human and machine as one concerned with morality, free will, and empathy.

Cyborg Manifesto

Cyborg theory was created by Donna Haraway in order to criticize traditional notions of feminism—particularly its strong emphasis on identity, rather than affinity. She uses the metaphor of a cyborg in order to construct a feminism that moves beyond dualisms and moves beyond the limitations of traditional gender, feminism, and politics. Marisa Olson‘s take on Haraway’s thoughts is a belief that there were no separations between bodies and objects; that our life force flows through us and out into the objects we make; thus there ought to be no distinction between the so-called real or natural organisms that nature produces and the artificial machines that humans make. Haraway’s conclusion: We are all cyborgs.

From the article Cyborgs:

Cyborgs not only disrupt orderly power structures and fixed interests but also signify a challenge to settled politics, which assumes that binary oppositions or identities are natural distinctions. Actually those oppositions are cultural constructions. Haraway underlines the critical function of the cyborg concept, especially for feminist politics. The current dualistic thinking involves a “logic of dominance” because the parts of the dualisms are not equivalent. Thus, the logic produces hierarchies that legitimize men dominating women, whites dominating blacks, and humans dominating animals. Instead, Haraway suggests that people should undermine these hierarchies by actively exploring and mobilizing the blurring of borders.

In the Cyborg Manifesto, she writes: “The cyborg does not dream of community on the model of the organic family, this time without the oedipal project. The cyborg would not recognize the Garden of Eden; it is not made of mud and cannot dream of returning to dust.”

Google

I think google should be included here. And I think you should get to know about google, as they will surely be behind some developments in the future. But rather than give you a definition, I suggest: google it. It took me two tries to find their info. How long will it take you?

Nanotechnology

Nanotechnology (sometimes shortened to “nanotech“) is the study of manipulating matter on an atomic and molecular scale. Generally, nanotechnology deals with developing materials, devices, or other structures possessing at least one dimension sized from 1 to 100 nanometres. Quantum mechanical effects are important at this quantum-realm scale.

Nanotechnology is very diverse, ranging from extensions of conventional device physics to completely new approaches based upon molecular self-assembly, from developing new materials with dimensions on the nanoscale to direct control of matter on the atomic scale. Nanotechnology entails the application of fields of science as diverse as surface science, organic chemistry, molecular biology, semiconductor physics, microfabrication, etc.

Posthuman

A posthuman or post-human is a concept originating notably in the fields of science fiction, futurology, contemporary art, and philosophy. A posthuman would no longer be a human being, having been so significantly altered as to no longer represent the human species. Underlying this worldview is a core belief that the human species in its current form does not represent the end of our development, but rather its beginning. – Nick Bostrum, 1999

The Singularity

The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology is a 2005 update of Raymond Kurzweil‘s 1999 book, The Age of Spiritual Machines and his 1990 book The Age of Intelligent Machines. In it, as in the two previous versions, Kurzweil attempts to give a glimpse of what awaits us in the near future. He proposes a coming technological singularity, and how we would thus be able to augment our bodies and minds with technology. He describes the singularity as resulting from a combination of three important technologies of the 21st century: genetics, nanotechnology, and robotics (including artificial intelligence).

Technological singularity refers to the hypothetical future emergence of greater-than-human intelligence through technological means. Since the capabilities of such intelligence would be difficult for an unaided human mind to comprehend, the occurrence of a technological singularity is seen as an intellectual event horizon, beyond which events cannot be predicted or understood. Proponents of the singularity typically state that an “intelligence explosion” is a key factor of the Singularity where superintelligences design successive generations of increasingly powerful minds.

Technology

Technology is the making, usage, and knowledge of tools, machines, techniques, crafts, systems or methods of organization in order to solve a problem or perform a specific function. It can also refer to the collection of such tools, machinery, and procedures. Technologies significantly affect human as well as other animal species’ ability to control and adapt to their natural environments.

Transhuman

Transhuman or trans-human is a term that has been defined and redefined many times in history. In its contemporary usage, “transhuman” refers to an intermediary form between the human and the hypothetical posthuman.

It is a commitment to overcoming human limits in all their forms including extending lifespan, augmenting intelligence, perpetually increasing knowledge, achieving complete control over our personalities and identities and gaining the ability to leave the planet. Transhumanists seek to achieve these goals through reason, science and technology. – Vita More

Virtual Reality

Virtual reality (VR),is a term that applies to computer-simulated environments that can simulate physical presence in places in the real world, as well as in imaginary worlds. Most current virtual reality environments are primarily visual experiences, displayed either on a computer screen or through special stereoscopic displays, but some simulations include additional sensory information, such as sound through speakers or headphones. Some advanced, haptic systems now include tactile information, generally known as force feedback, in medical and gaming applications. Furthermore, virtual reality covers remote communication environments which provide virtual presence of users with the concepts of telepresence and telexistence or a virtual artifact (VA) either through the use of standard input devices such as a keyboard and mouse, or through multimodal devices such as a wired glove, the Polhemus, and omnidirectional treadmills.