I find the optimism of the transhumanists oddly bracing. It’s true: I tend to be cynical about the future of humanity. Some of the traits that once allowed us to survive – even thrive – now work against us, and I believe that we’re running out of time. I have a friend who thinks that our unprecedented access to information will allow us to stem the blood-dimmed tide, but I see humanity’s struggle for survival as one whose success or failure will be based less on how much we learn or how fast we learn it, and more on who we are. In theory, we might sidestep our fate by changing what it means to be human, which is partly behind my interest in transhumanism (as well as the fact that cool technology is, well, cool). I’m still not holding my breath, but it’s that perspective that I bring to the first chapter of More Than Human: Embracing the Promise of Biological Enhancement by Ramez Naam, (more…)
So. Jung. I’ve always had kind of a love/unease relationship with Jung. In my twenties, I took a class (or two?) at the C G Jung Institute in Chicago, based on what was then (and is now, with a bit of skepticism thrown in) a Jung/Campbell appreciation. I enjoyed the class, but as I learned more, I experienced a growing sense of frustration, which looking back I now recognize as my being torn between the urge to find something that I could buy into, one hundred percent, and a growing understanding that for me, there’s no such thing. (more…)
I believed in Santa as a kid, except in the sense that I never believed in Santa. It was a subject that we danced around, in my family. I think that if me or any of my siblings had asked about Santa directly, the answer would have been either vague or evasive, along the lines of “what do you think?” or “Santa is a state of mind.” My family was big on imagination, but grounded in the real. Santa lived in the gray area between, and as a kid, this was enough. I never believed in Santa, I never didn’t believe in Santa. I never stopped believing in Santa – my relationship with him just changed. (more…)
My review of Angus Watson’s Age of Iron is out today, and though I’m thrilled to be guest posting at Bookworm Blues, I’m sorry that the review itself couldn’t have been more positive. I know that I can be picky, but I’m (mostly) at peace with that; I’ve written before about the culture of criticism, and how I think that genre suffers when reviewers choose being positive over giving authentic critiques. As a reviewer, I owe the author a thoughtful read, with the understanding that every time I pick up a new novel, it’s with the hope that I’ll enjoy it; as a writer, that’s all I could ask.
Imagine sleeping late, every day. You wake up to the smell of pancakes and bacon – it’s your robot servant, standing next to the bed. “Young master,” it says (even though you’re almost fifty), “it’s time to get up.” Sometimes you stay in bed. Sometimes you watch something on the Holo-Telly; there are new shows generated constantly, and brought to life by digital actors and actresses who’ve never passed through the uncanny valley. Sometimes you meet friends for lunch, or maybe a board game. All of you remember what life used to be like, before, and at least once during the meal, somebody raises a glass. “I don’t know about you,” they say, “but I love our robot overlords.”
I have an ongoing, love-hate relationship with the string of MMOs (Massively Multiplayer Online Games) that I’ve played over the last 20 or so years. On one hand, I love to play. On the other, it’s a constant struggle to balance that play with, you know – life. MMOs are a kind of therapy, for me: an easy-mode world, where I create an avatar, pick a character class (Rogue? Wizard? Tank?) and
wreak my terrible vengeance explore the online world – by myself, and occasionally with others. I’ve played long enough to recognize that the character classes I choose – and how I choose to play them – say a lot about me: my moods, how I interrelate to other people, and how I accomplish tasks. If you’ve played, you probably know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, think about each of the four, basic classes as I describe them. Which appeals to you, and why? Which one do you think you’d be most likely to play?
Do I behold these steep and lofty cliffs,
That on a wild secluded scene impress
Thoughts of more deep seclusion; and connect
The landscape with the quiet of the sky.
– Quoted in this article are selected lines from William Wordsworth, “Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, on Revisiting the Banks of the Wye during a Tour. July 13, 1798.”
As kids, my sister and I spent long hours constructing complicated fortresses out of blocks, that we then populated with plastic animals and multicolored dinosaurs. We invented stories about the world we had created: sometimes there was peace, and resources were spent building up the fortress – other times war broke out, or a Fisher Price army lined up outside the gates and lay siege. I remember one specific time (was it the last time?) when my sister – almost four years older – declared that a flood had destroyed everything. I insisted that the green pterodactyl had survived; I remember swooping it back and forth, until it eventually found purchase on a shelf. My sister left, considering the game concluded. She was getting too old for imaginary games, but I think that I never outgrew them: instead, they took on other forms, more palatable to my slow-maturing brain. Chief among them was Dungeons and Dragons.
I spent most of junior high and high school in my head, preoccupied with bits of songs and images and ideas that drifted, connected, and broke apart. By the time I was in my early teens, my daydreams were mostly fantasy-adventure related, centered around the pen and paper role-playing games that I was playing in or running, and the rules that constrained them.