Sex Robots

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I just read an article in the online version of the Sydney Morning Herald, about the development and possible consequences of lifelike intelligent sex robots.

If this prospect interests, excites or appals you, I recommend clicking on this link to read the article and watch the embedded video. I also recommend buying Goldiloxians (The Eeks Trilogy in a single volume) which features sex robots and the practical and ethical complications they may give rise to.

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Musings from Bangkok

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That’s not a very informative title, but I’m posting about two separate things and I happen to be in a transit lounge in Bangkok with a lot of time to spare.

I just came off a flight where I watched a film I’d vaguely heard about and a documentary about the Cassini mission to Saturn. Both affected me to the extent that I want to share.

The film was ‘Downsizing’, starring Matt Damon. It has been described as sci-fi satire but I don’t think that does it justice. The title relates to a scientific breakthrough that reduces people to 1/14 their height, and consequently 1/2744 their volume and mass. The aim is to reduce humankind’s environmental footprint before we destroy our habitat, but it has the side effect of allowing the ‘small people’ to use their savings to buy huge mansions in special resort-like communities and live lives of leisure and luxury.

I want you to see the film, so I won’t say any more – except to laud the actress who was for me the de facto star (see photo). Her name is Hong Chau, born in Thailand of Vietnamese refugee parents and now living in the USA. She plays a Vietnamese activist and amputee and she is superb.

The Cassini documentary starred the gallant little spacecraft itself, which was sacrificed at the end of a spectacularly successful mission. It was vaporised in a fireball in Saturn’s atmosphere, with eerie echoes of ancestral sacrifices to uncaring gods. This sacrifice was necessary to avoid the danger of terrestrial contamination of an environment where life already exists or one day may.

I found myself tearing up, not because of Cassini’s death, but because the whole enterprise showed what our species can do and be at our very very best. NASA had a huge team of specialists, men and women, young and old, from many nationalities. They had a common goal to know, a dedication to science, and no malign intent.

The NASA team’s goodness contrasted starkly with the recent horror in Indonesia where a whole family, young children included, wiped itself out in coordinated murderous attacks. This was a team effort too, but instead of being enthused by science their minds were infected by a perverted ideology that thrives only on ignorance and superstition. This was our species as its very very worst.

When humans are over

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Many marvel at my magnanimity, as well as my alliteration. I set up my blog to promote my own writings, yet from time to time I use it to draw attention to the work of my competitors. Today I’m doing it again.

“When humans are over, and have become just another geological stratum, the entirety of our existence will be represented by a layer no thicker than a cigarette paper. Now I find that rather beautifully humbling.”

That is the closing passage of an article in the Guardian Weekly by Philip Hoare (pictured) whose works include Leviathan and The Sea Inside.

These words resonated with me so strongly that I clipped them out immediately. It is exactly this sense of the fragility of our species, combined with its uniqueness, that inspired me to write The Eeks Trilogy.

“What ‘uniqueness’?!” you may protest. “We share Earth with millions of other species that feed, grow, reproduce and die just as we do, and throughout the universe there may be billions more!”

“Aah,” I reply, “but we have yet to meet, or find the skinniest of evidence of, another species with anything approaching our capacity for abstract thought, for curiosity, for imagination or for reasoning. How many dolphins have figured out the Laws of Motion? How many daffodils have made it to the moon?”

If we are unique, if ours are the only minds that have even asked the fundamental questions, we really should take better care of ourselves.

They Know Everything About You!

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Or do they? Here is a listing of the junk mail I received today, as filtered by Hotmail:

I have never expressed, in thought word or deed, online or offline, the slightest interest in building a boat, gardening, extreme dieting, getting pregnant, learning the piano or keeping chickens (whether for fun, for profit or for deviant sexual purposes).

If that’s an indication of what Big Brother’s algorithms have worked out about my life, I am relieved.

On the other hand, since I am relying on those algorithms to steer people who are interested in robots, artificial intelligence and extraterrestrial colonisation towards my books (The Eeks Trilogy published in a single e-volume ‘Goldiloxians’), I am distressed. Are my potential readers being directed to cricketers’ autobiographies and railway timetables?! Rather more efficient invasion of privacy is called for, I think.

Sapiens

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It shows great generosity of spirit when one author recommends the work of another. This I now do.

I’ve just finished reading ‘Sapiens’ by Yuval Noah Harari, and I urge you to read it too. And give it to your friends and relatives, or at least recommend it to them. It’s subtitled ‘A Brief History of Humankind’, and although there may not be much there that you don’t already know, he puts it together in a way that makes one think about it differently. At least, that’s how I felt.

Best of all, Dr Harari ends by speculating about what will happen next in Homo sapiens’ journey, when our powers to create and control will truly make us godlike and the next step in our evolution will be of our own making.

It put me in mind of my own modest work: The Eeks Trilogy, available from all good e-book retailers in a single volume entitled ‘Goldiloxians’, which speculates about our future dealings with intelligent robots. But do read ‘Sapiens’ too.

Intelligent Design

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I am a writer of science fiction – or social science fiction, as I have redefined my chosen genre in an as-yet unsuccessful attempt to create a new market in which I am the sole supplier. Apart from pitifully low sales figures, my main concern is that science fact will overtake me, leaving my speculative, imaginative, provocative stories looking like ho-hum period pieces.

This concern of mine was reinforced today by two stories at the BBC’s admirable website. One is about a self-contained robotic octopus made of jelly-like materials, intended as a prototype of something that will one day perform autonomously and slither into spaces that robots with rigid components cannot. It’s a good read.

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The other story is about the future evolution of our species. The idea is that we have evolved as far as we can by means of natural selection, which is in any case too slow for our immediate needs. We now have to design and make our own evolutionary adaptations, which will almost certainly entail combining organic and inorganic elements. This story is very short and told audio-visually.

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If those stories pique your interest in what I’ve been writing, and if you’re willing to buy and read e-books, you can get my trilogy of books in an omnibus edition called ‘Goldiloxians’ at all the major e-book retail platforms. Here are two links:

Goldiloxians’ at Amazon/Kindle

Goldiloxians’ at Smashwords

Goldiloxians

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There is a buzz of excitement in the literary world today. For the first time ever, all three books of The Eeks Trilogy are available in a single e-volume. Entitled ‘Goldiloxians’ it is for sale at Amazon/Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, Kobo and other e-book retail platforms at the absurdly low price of US$4.99.

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Why such excitement? The Eeks Trilogy is thought by some to be the first example of an explosive new literary genre, which concentrates on human responses to change brought on by scientific and technological advances and speculates on the future path that our species will choose. This new genre has been called Social Science Fiction.

Don’t be unprepared when the conversation at your next dinner party turns to Social Sci-Fi. Be the first to say, “I suppose you’ve all read ‘Goldiloxians’?”