Visions of the future, p.1

Visions of the Future, page 1

 

Visions of the Future
 



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Visions of the Future


  LIFEBOAT FOUNDATION

  presents a collection of stories & essays including Nebula & Hugo award-winning works

  In Visions of the Future you’ll find stories and essays about artificial intelligence, androids, faster-than-light travel, and the extension of human life. You’ll read about the future of human institutions and culture. But these literary works are more than just a reprisal of the classical elements of science fiction and futurism. At their core, each of these pieces has one consistent, repeated theme: us.

  * * *

  PRAISE RECEIVED BY AUTHORS

  (AND US!)

  “Benford may be at his best in his shorts.” —Chicago Tribune

  “Bear is one of the few SF writers capable of traveling beyond the limits of mere human ambition and geological time.” —Locus

  “Ray Kurzweil is the best person I know at predicting the future of artificial intelligence.” —Bill Gates

  “Martin Rees is one of our key thinkers on the future of humanity.” —TED

  “They don’t write ‘em like that anymore! Except Asaro does, with no false nostalgia, but rather an up-to-the-minute savvy!” —Locus

  “In the last few years, Canadian science fiction has undergone an unprecedented boom. Native Canadians are turning out solid SF, and of these the foremost is undoubtedly Robert J. Sawyer.” —The Toronto Star

  “Combines the feel of classic SF adventure with strong, character-driven storytelling and lays the foundation for other tales set in Cooper’s brave new world.” —Library Journal

  “It’s a page turner. Istvan knows how to tell a compelling story.” —io9.com

  “Lifeboat Foundation is a nonprofit that seeks to protect people from some seriously catastrophic technology-related events. It funds research that would prevent a situation where technology has run amok, sort of like a pre-Fringe Unit.” —The New York Times

  Published by Lifeboat Foundation

  lifeboat.com

  © 2015 by Lifeboat Foundation

  All rights reserved.

  Authors hold their individual copyrights on the stories and essays included here as described in our acknowledgements section.

  No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review.

  This anthology includes works of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

  ISBN-13: 978-0692513781

  ISBN-10: 0692513787

  Edited by J. Daniel Batt

  Afterword by David Brin

  PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

  OTHER BOOKS BY LIFEBOAT FOUNDATION

  The Human Race to the Future: What Could Happen—and What to Do

  by Daniel Berleant

  Prospects for Human Survival

  by Willard H. Wells

  Learn more at lifeboat.com/ex/books.

  Table of Contents

  Title Page

  Front Matter

  Introduction by J. Daniel Batt

  FICTION

  Robert J. Sawyer • The Shoulders of Giants

  Alan Dean Foster • Gift of a Useless Man

  Catherine Asaro • Light and Shadow

  David Brin • Lungfish

  Nicole Sallak Anderson • The Birth of the Dawn

  Ben Bova • The Weathermakers

  Douglas Rushkoff • Last Day of Work

  Frank White • I’m a What?

  James E. Gunn • The Listeners

  Allen Steele • The Emperor of Mars

  Jasper T. Scott • Lunar One

  Brenda Cooper • My Father’s Singularity

  Kevin J. Anderson • A Delicate Balance

  Joe Haldeman • More Than the Sum of His Parts

  Gregory Benford • Lazarus Rising

  Clayton R. Rawlings • Unit 514

  Keith Wiley • Persistence

  J. Daniel Batt • The Boy Who Gave Us the Stars

  Chris Hables Gray • The Etiology of Infomania

  Ramez Naam • Water

  Frank W. Sudia • Looking Forward: Dialogs with Artilects in the Age of Spiritual Machines

  Jim Tankersley • Teleporter

  Donald Maclean • The Spa

  Hugh Howey • The Automated Ones

  Peg Kay • The Billionaires’ Gambit

  J.M. Porup • The Children of Men

  Jeremy Lichtman • Down In the Noodle Forest

  Ille C. Gebeshuber • A Requiem for Future’s Past

  Coni Ciongoli Koepfinger • Get the Message

  Lawrence A. Baines • New Age Teacher

  Greg Bear • Blood Music

  NONFICTION

  Lord Martin Rees • Our Final Hour

  Ray Kurzweil • The Significance of Watson

  Eric Klien • Proof That the End of Moore’s Law Is Not the End of the Singularity

  José Cordeiro • The Future of Energy: Towards the “Energularity”

  William Faloon • Intolerable Delays

  Tom Kerwick • Enhanced AI: The Key to Unmanned Space Exploration

  James Blodgett • Do It Yourself “Saving the World”

  Zoltan Istvan • Will Brain Wave Technology Eliminate the Need for a Second Language?

  Brenda Cooper • Smart Cities Go to the Dogs: How Tech-savvy Cities Will Affect the Canine Population

  Heather Schlegel • Reputation Currencies

  Douglas E. Richards • Scientific Advances Are Ruining Science Fiction

  Michael Anissimov • 10 Futuristic Materials

  Afterword By David Brin

  About Lifeboat Foundation

  Acknowledgements

  INTRODUCTION

  j. daniel batt

  In the following pages you’ll find stories and essays about artificial intelligence, androids, faster-than-light travel, and the extension of human life. You’ll read about the future of human institutions and culture. But these literary works are more than just a reprisal of the classical elements of science fiction and futurism. At their core, each of these pieces has one consistent, repeated theme: us. You are in these pages. I am in these pages.

  Exploration of the future is not just pondering what’s out there or what’s to come. It is a discussion of how we as humans will react to what we encounter. How will we respond to androids, extraterrestrial life, and humans that have seemingly unlimited lifespan? How will we react to technologies that bridge colossal gaps of distance? We have not always met new technologies and philosophies with enthusiasm. Patterns of thought and belief that are thousands of years old still hold sway in shaping our reactions. What seemed to be obvious societal advances, in hindsight, were actually challenging battles.

  If we encounter intelligent life amongst the stars, what will we do? Will our response be one of mutual curiosity and sharing? Or, instead, suspicion and fear?

  This book, Visions of the Future, is not just a handy collection of pulp sci-fi adventures and articles. It continues a necessary conversation our society is having. Our responses now will shape our responses to come. If our relationship today with what is both new, unknown, and different is derived from fear, it’s not a far extrapolation to see that mentality carried forward. Hugh Howey’s “The Aut
omated Ones” projects current fear-based bigotry into our relationship with AI life. Nicole Anderson’s “The Birth of the Dawn” shows a different relationship to human 2.0—one built on enthusiasm and wonder. The very challenges we face today will be mirrored in the future.

  Science fiction has already begun to shape the way we think. Thomas M. Disch, in The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of, writes, “It is my contention that some of the most remarkable features of the present historical moment have their roots in a way of thinking that we have learned from science fiction.” Science fiction and futurism can be both predictive and prescriptive. Today’s TASER is an acronym for Thomas A. Swift’s Electric Rifle, referencing the pulp science fiction classic that gave inspiration to the modern-day inventor. Beyond technological foresight, science fiction functions as a lab for thought experiments. It allows us to imagine scenarios that are to come and then analyze them. Through the stories, we also analyze ourselves. We are reflecting back our own beliefs about humanity and our own fears.

  The future isn’t predetermined. We are not guaranteed the stars. We are not guaranteed another century on this planet. We are not guaranteed this planet. Through resilience and incredible fortune, the future may turn out far more marvelous than even the stories in this book could imagine. But it will not just happen.

  This is what this book in your hands is about: our relationship with our future. Will we be dragged into the future, kicking and screaming? Will we stumble into it? Will we flee back to the caves in fear of it? Or will we run to it? Create it? Design it?

  This book is not a road map, but, hopefully, it can inspire the map makers. As you read these pages, keep in mind Dennis Cheatham’s words from The Power of Science Fiction: “It may be the case that the future worlds and infinite possibilities projected in science fiction can be used to inspire viewers to pursue work that will make those possibilities or ones like them, real.” It’s possible that one of the futures you’ll read in these pages might actually end up being right. But even the ones that will get it wrong (and let’s be honest, most science fiction does) are still critical for us now. It’s difficult to overstate the significance of the practice of science fiction on shaping us today. The most important aspect about explorations of the future is that they be written and be read.

  So, enjoy reading. Find yourself in these pages. Discover our future in the words ahead.

  FICTION

  “Individual science fiction stories may seem as trivial as ever to the blinder critics and philosophers of today—but the core of science fiction, its essence, the concept around which it revolves, has become crucial to our salvation if we are to be saved at all.”

  —Isaac Asimov

  THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS

  robert j. sawyer

  Rob is one of only eight writers in history—and the only Canadian—to win all three of the world’s top science fiction awards for best novel of the year: the Hugo, the Nebula, and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award.

  Read his Red Planet Blues at http://amzn.to/1B7cE52.

  It seemed like only yesterday when I’d died, but, of course, it was almost certainly centuries ago. I wish the computer would just tell me, dammitall, but it was doubtless waiting until its sensors said I was sufficiently stable and alert. The irony was that my pulse was surely racing out of concern, forestalling it speaking to me. If this was an emergency, it should inform me, and if it wasn’t, it should let me relax.

  Finally, the machine did speak in its crisp, feminine voice. “Hello, Toby. Welcome back to the world of the living.”

  “Where—” I’d thought I’d spoken the word, but no sound had come out. I tried again. “Where are we?”

  “Exactly where we should be: decelerating toward Soror.”

  I felt myself calming down. “How is Ling?”

  “She’s reviving, as well.”

  “The others?”

  “All forty-eight cryogenics chambers are functioning properly,” said the computer. “Everybody is apparently fine.”

  That was good to hear, but it wasn’t surprising. We had four extra cryochambers; if one of the occupied ones had failed, Ling and I would have been awoken earlier to transfer the person within it into a spare. “What’s the date?”

  “16 June 3296.”

  I’d expected an answer like that, but it still took me back a bit. Twelve hundred years had elapsed since the blood had been siphoned out of my body and oxygenated antifreeze had been pumped in to replace it. We’d spent the first of those years accelerating, and presumably the last one decelerating, and the rest—

  —the rest was spent coasting at our maximum velocity, 3,000 km/s, one percent of the speed of light. My father had been from Glasgow; my mother, from Los Angeles. They had both enjoyed the quip that the difference between an American and a European was that to an American, a hundred years was a long time, and to a European, a hundred miles is a big journey.

  But both would agree that twelve hundred years and 11.9 light-years were equally staggering values. And now, here we were, decelerating in toward Tau Ceti, the closest sunlike star to Earth that wasn’t part of a multiple-star system. Of course, because of that, this star had been frequently examined by Earth’s Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. But nothing had ever been detected; nary a peep.

  I was feeling better minute by minute. My own blood, stored in bottles, had been returned to my body and was now coursing through my arteries, my veins, reanimating me.

  We were going to make it.

  Tau Ceti happened to be oriented with its north pole facing toward Sol; that meant that the technique developed late in the twentieth century to detect planetary systems based on subtle blueshifts and redshifts of a star tugged now closer, now farther away, was useless with it. Any wobble in Tau Ceti’s movements would be perpendicular, as seen from Earth, producing no Doppler effect. But eventually Earth-orbiting telescopes had been developed that were sensitive enough to detect the wobble visually, and—

  It had been front-page news around the world: the first solar system seen by telescopes. Not inferred from stellar wobbles or spectral shifts, but actually seen. At least four planets could be made out orbiting Tau Ceti, and one of them—

  There had been formulas for decades, first popularized in the RAND Corporation’s study Habitable Planets for Man. Every science-fiction writer and astrobiologist worth his or her salt had used them to determine the life zones—the distances from target stars at which planets with Earthlike surface temperatures might exist, a Goldilocks band, neither too hot nor too cold.

  And the second of the four planets that could be seen around Tau Ceti was smack-dab in the middle of that star’s life zone. The planet was watched carefully for an entire year—one of its years, that is, a period of 193 Earth days. Two wonderful facts became apparent. First, the planet’s orbit was damn near circular—meaning it would likely have stable temperatures all the time; the gravitational influence of the fourth planet, a Jovian giant orbiting at a distance of half a billion kilometers from Tau Ceti, probably was responsible for that.

  And, second, the planet varied in brightness substantially over the course of its twenty-nine-hour-and-seventeen-minute day. The reason was easy to deduce: most of one hemisphere was covered with land, which reflected back little of Tau Ceti’s yellow light, while the other hemisphere, with a much higher albedo, was likely covered by a vast ocean, no doubt, given the planet’s fortuitous orbital radius, of liquid water—an extraterrestrial Pacific.

  Of course, at a distance of 11.9 light-years, it was quite possible that Tau Ceti had other planets, too small or too dark to be seen. And so referring to the Earthlike globe as Tau Ceti II would have been problematic; if an additional world or worlds were eventually found orbiting closer in, the system’s planetary numbering would end up as confusing as the scheme used to designate Saturn’s rings.

  Clearly a name was called for, and Giancarlo DiMaio, the astronomer who had discovered the half-land, half-water world, gave i
t one: Soror, the Latin word for sister. And, indeed, Soror appeared, at least as far as could be told from Earth, to be a sister to humanity’s home world.

  Soon we would know for sure just how perfect a sister it was. And speaking of sisters, well—okay, Ling Woo wasn’t my biological sister, but we’d worked together and trained together for four years before launch, and I’d come to think of her as a sister, despite the press constantly referring to us as the new Adam and Eve. Of course, we’d help to populate the new world, but not together; my wife, Helena, was one of the forty-eight others still frozen solid. Ling wasn’t involved yet with any of the other colonists, but, well, she was gorgeous and brilliant, and of the two dozen men in cryosleep, twenty-one were unattached.

  Ling and I were co-captains of the Pioneer Spirit. Her cryocoffin was like mine, and unlike all the others: it was designed for repeated use. She and I could be revived multiple times during the voyage, to deal with emergencies. The rest of the crew, in coffins that had cost only $700,000 a piece instead of the six million each of ours was worth, could only be revived once, when our ship reached its final destination.

  “You’re all set,” said the computer. “You can get up now.”

  The thick glass cover over my coffin slid aside, and I used the padded handles to hoist myself out of its black porcelain frame. For most of the journey, the ship had been coasting in zero gravity, but now that it was decelerating, there was a gentle push downward. Still, it was nowhere near a full g, and I was grateful for that. It would be a day or two before I would be truly steady on my feet.

  My module was shielded from the others by a partition, which I’d covered with photos of people I’d left behind: my parents, Helena’s parents, my real sister, her two sons. My clothes had waited patiently for me for twelve hundred years; I rather suspected they were now hopelessly out of style. But I got dressed—I’d been naked in the cryochamber, of course—and at last I stepped out from behind the partition, just in time to see Ling emerging from behind the wall that shielded her cryocoffin.

 
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