August 31, 2007

Summer is Over

Posted in family, sci fi at 4:22 pm by Mike Milinkovich

How do I know that?

  1. Labour Day weekend is upon us.
  2. Nick is leaving home to go to Queen‘s tomorrow.
  3. I finished the fifth book in my summer sci-fi reading list.

Yes, my no-longer-little boy is headed off to university. It is certainly a bittersweet moment. But as Cathie said, it would be a lot worse if we weren’t so confident that he is completely ready to go. He is so much more grounded and mature than I was at 17.

On the sci-fi front, by pure luck I managed to save the best for last. I loved Weapons of Choice. It was by far and away the best of the five books on the list. The difference, however, was not its vision of the future as compelling as it was. John Birmingham is just simply a great writer. The quality of the characters, their development and the prose is just head and shoulders above the others.

To be honest, I had seen the book in bookstores several times but had just never bought it. It seemed too close to Harry Turtledove‘s Worldwar series which I had read a few years back. I’ve ordered the next two books in Birmingham’s trilogy. But so far, I like it a lot better than WorldWar.

I found this comment in the Wikipedia article on Weapons of Choice baffling:

Weapons of Choice has been both hailed and criticized by members of the alternate history community. Some believe it to over-emphasize the racism and sexism of the 1942 Allies, to the point of their being barely morally superior to the Axis.

I thought he got the views and social mores of the time exactly right. The US Navy really was all-white in WW II. Racism and segregation was the order of the day. But to say that his writing implied a moral equivalence between the Allies and the Axis seems wildly overblown.

It is chilling to think that a mere 80 years separated the two societies portrayed in the book. The characters from 2021 might have been human, but truthfully, this book has its roots in the alien encounter genre. Highly recommended.

August 16, 2007

Body Hacking and Rainbow’s End

Posted in computers, sci fi at 10:09 am by Mike Milinkovich

I am really very sorry that I missed Quinn Norton’s talk at OSCON on Body Hacking. But I did find a version of her slides, and Alasdair Allan’s blow-by-blow description of her talk.

I strongly suggest that people take a look at what she’s talking about, because this stuff is obviously happening and happening quickly. Any talk that ends with “What counts as human?” is worth a look. The moral and ethical conundrums are mind-bending.

The body hacking ideas are particularly interesting to me because I just finished reading Rainbow’s End…one of my summer sci-fi reading list. A wonderful book, with lots of very interesting ideas on what society will be like in a world of wearable computers and utterly ubiquitous wireless networking. Another great pick by Andreessen.

Then today, I also stumbled across a news article on the invention of paper nanotube batteries that are “…a prime candidate for being implantable inside the body…” because “…the battery may also be activated by the electrolytes found in human secretions and fluids“.

So my conclusion: Rainbow’s End has a great vision of the future, but likely didn’t go far enough. The future is likely to be far stranger…and much sooner…than people expect.