Sometimes, when I’m in need of inspiration or just deep thoughts in general, I go to Writing Excuses. Today I focused on their world-building podcasts, and this one in particular caught my attention: Writing Excuses 6.13: World Building Communications Technology.
One of the main points of this particular podcast was how the technological advances was in communications. Back in the 1980s, a lot of science fiction stories were centered on flying cars and other amazing transportation technology, but that never happened, not because it’s impossible, but because our technology focused on communication instead. How cellphones grew smaller and smaller, more compact, more able to perform dozens of functions. Our computers grew faster, smaller, and more efficient, and now the Internet is faster, better, and connecting us on an even deeper level, more than we may realize.
Now if you’re writing science fiction, especially one that takes place in the future, communication can play a key role in this futuristic society, and as the podcast pointed out, this isn’t done as frequently as some other ideas. Often a novel may try to limit communication for various reasons to create tension.
This left me wondering how communication is done in various science fiction books I’ve read. It also had me wondering how does fantasy books portray communication? How does mysteries or literary books? Are people utilizing the dozens if not hundreds of possibilities communication can bring to a story?
This also made me wonder how codes would develop. As technology progresses and the ability to communicate becomes more and more instant, wouldn’t the need for secrecy and ways to hide become more prevalent and innovative? So encryption would have to become more sophisticated in order to keep up with the information overload, and how it is easier for people to learn how to code programs and so forth, meaning a higher potential of people who could learn how to hack through security defenses. Today, is there not a growing movement of hackers? Of people creating viruses and other ways to disrupt various websites and programs? How would encryption technology develop and what would it look like in the future?
Then I wondered, would viruses on the Internet start to evolve on their own without the need for people to program them?
There is a series that answers that question. Dan Simmon’s Hyperion Cantos deals with the struggle between Humanity and Artificial Intelligences set far, far in the future where amazing feats of technology are commonplace. The history of the AI beings are fascinating and you learn their story early on in the first book, I believe. The AI is a different type of evolution than the biological evolution that humanity undergoes. AI evolution took place in the realm of the Internet, in those digital spaces. The way the evolve, and how it happens plays a large role in how the AI interact and view the universe around them. Even though this is just a side note in the series – the history of the AI – it left me with the chills. Could that be happening now with the viruses currently out there in the Internet? Is such a thing possible?
The series itself is something I highly recommend to anyone interested in science fiction, or really to anyone interested in reading. The novels explore not just the ideas of artificial intelligence, but also evolution, religion, philosophy, empathy, and the survival of humanity. There’s a quite a few novels out there that take on such an epic scope, and the interesting part is how they handle the more mundane things.
Like communication. Or food. Or just traveling/walking from one place to another. These little details that seem small and unimportant, but could become a major plot point if they’re disrupted. It fascinates me how this is explored not only in the various stories I choose to read, but in my own stories and even my own life.
Communication, it’s something we currently take for granted, but for a moment, let’s sit back and think about how it affects our life today.
I use a cellphone, but I only use it for calling or texting. I store numbers in that phone, use the calender option to remind myself of appointments, and the alarm option as a way to wake myself in the mornings.
I own a desktop computer that I turn on every day, where I surf the web, exploring my usual haunts and occasionally venturing out into unknown territory – new websites I’ve never seen before. I then may comment on what I find on facebook or google+, where I poke various friends, like their statuses (or not), comment on their links and thoughts, and exchange conversations through messages. I may go to my email, where I sift through email from various websites or people. The causes I support will often send me emails, and I will click the links in them to sign a petition or read an update on their progress. Other times, I’ll answer the emails of my friends. Then I’ll sift through various forums, reading and writing posts. I’ll chat with people online through instant messaging. Or I’ll write a blog post, comment on other blogs, or just read other blogs and like the ones I enjoy.
That’s just two things: my cellphone and my access to the Internet. This doesn’t even begin to cover my face to face interactions with people. I never put that much thought into my habits, but even though all of this may take me an hour or two, the fact that I do this, and may check my email, a certain forum, or a social networking site a few times a day, is a heavy reminder of just how integral communication is in my own life.
What about yours, my dear readers? How do you utilize communication? What do you think our communication technology will look like a few decades or even a century from now?