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  • Every science fiction writer

  • has a story about a time when the future arrived too soon.

  • I have a lot of those stories.

  • Like, OK, for example:

  • years ago, I was writing a story where the government

  • starts using drones to kill people.

  • I thought that this was a really intense, futuristic idea,

  • but by the time the story was published,

  • the government was already using drones to kill people.

  • Our world is changing so fast,

  • and there's a kind of accelerating feedback loop

  • where technological change and social change feed on each other.

  • When I was a kid in the 1980s,

  • we knew what the future was going to look like.

  • It was going to be some version of "Judge Dredd" or "Blade Runner."

  • It was going to be neon megacities and flying vehicles.

  • But now, nobody knows what the world is going to look like

  • even in just a couple years,

  • and there are so many scary apparitions lurking on the horizon.

  • From climate catastrophe to authoritarianism,

  • everybody is obsessed with apocalypses,

  • even though the world ends all the time, and we keep going.

  • Don't be afraid to think about the future, to dream about the future,

  • to write about the future.

  • I've found it really liberating and fun to do that.

  • It's a way of vaccinating yourself

  • against the worst possible case of future shock.

  • It's also a source of empowerment,

  • because you cannot prepare for something that you haven't already visualized.

  • But there's something that you need to know.

  • You don't predict the future;

  • you imagine the future.

  • So as a science fiction writer

  • whose stories often take place years or even centuries from now,

  • I've found that people are really hungry for visions of the future

  • that are both colorful and lived in,

  • but I found that research on its own is not enough to get me there.

  • Instead, I use a mixture of active dreaming

  • and awareness of cutting-edge trends in science and technology

  • and also insight into human history.

  • I think a lot about what I know of human nature

  • and the way that people have responded in the past to huge changes

  • and upheavals and transformations.

  • And I pair that with an attention to detail,

  • because the details are where we live.

  • We tell the story of our world through the tools we create

  • and the spaces that we live in.

  • And at this point, it's helpful to know a couple of terms

  • that science fiction writers use all of the time:

  • "future history" and "second-order effects."

  • Now, future history is basically just what it sounds like.

  • It is a chronology of things that haven't happened yet,

  • like Robert A. Heinlein's famous story cycle,

  • which came with a detailed chart of upcoming events

  • going up into the year 2100.

  • Or, for my most recent novel,

  • I came up with a really complicated time line

  • that goes all the way to the 33rd century

  • and ends with people living on another planet.

  • Meanwhile, a second-order effect is basically the kind of thing

  • that happens after the consequences of a new technology or a huge change.

  • There's a saying often attributed to writer and editor Frederik Pohl

  • that "A good science fiction story

  • should predict not just the invention of the automobile,

  • but also the traffic jam."

  • And speaking of traffic jams,

  • I spent a lot of time trying to picture the city of the future.

  • What's it like? What's it made of?

  • Who's it for?

  • I try to picture a green city with vertical farms

  • and structures that are partially grown rather than built

  • and walkways instead of streets,

  • because nobody gets around by car anymore --

  • a city that lives and breathes.

  • And, you know, I kind of start by daydreaming the wildest stuff

  • that I can possibly come up with,

  • and then I go back into research mode,

  • and I try to make it as plausible as I can

  • by looking at a mixture of urban futurism, design porn

  • and technological speculation.

  • And then I go back, and I try to imagine what it would actually be like

  • to be inside that city.

  • So my process kind of begins and ends with imagination,

  • and it's like my imagination is two pieces of bread

  • in a research sandwich.

  • So as a storyteller, first and foremost,

  • I try to live in the world through the eyes of my characters

  • and try to see how they navigate their own personal challenges

  • in the context of the space that I've created.

  • What do they smell? What do they touch?

  • What's it like to fall in love inside a smart city?

  • What do you see when you look out your window,

  • and does it depend on how the window's software interacts with your mood?

  • And finally, I ask myself how a future brilliant city

  • would ensure that nobody is homeless and nobody slips through the cracks.

  • And here's where future history comes in handy,

  • because cities don't just spring up overnight like weeds.

  • They arise and transform.

  • They bear the scars and ornaments of wars, migrations,

  • economic booms, cultural awakenings.

  • A future city should have monuments, yeah,

  • but it should also have layers of past architecture,

  • repurposed buildings

  • and all of the signs of how we got to this place.

  • And then there's second-order effects,

  • like how do things go wrong -- or right --

  • in a way that nobody ever anticipated?

  • Like, if the walls of your apartment are made out of a kind of fungus

  • that can regrow itself to repair any damage,

  • what if people start eating the walls?

  • (Laughter)

  • Speaking of eating:

  • What kind of sewer system does the city of the future have?

  • It's a trick question. There are no sewers.

  • There's something incredibly bizarre about the current system we have

  • in the United States,

  • where your waste gets flushed into a tunnel

  • to be mixed with rainwater and often dumped into the ocean.

  • Not to mention toilet paper.

  • A bunch of techies, led by Bill Gates,

  • are trying to reinvent the toilet right now,

  • and it's possible that the toilet of the future

  • could appear incredibly strange to someone living today.

  • So how does the history of the future, all of that trial and error,

  • lead to a better way to go to the bathroom?

  • There are companies right now

  • who are experimenting with a kind of cleaning wand

  • that can substitute for toilet paper,

  • using compressed air or sanitizing sprays to clean you off.

  • But what if those things looked more like flowers than technology?

  • What if your toilet could analyze your waste

  • and let you know if your microbiome might need a little tune-up?

  • What if today's experiments with turning human waste into fuel

  • leads to a smart battery that could help power your home?

  • But back to the city of the future.

  • How do people navigate the space?

  • If there's no streets, how do people even make sense of the geography?

  • I like to think of a place where there are spaces

  • that are partially only in virtual reality

  • that maybe you need special hardware to even discover.

  • Like for one story, I came up with a thing called "the cloudscape interface,"

  • which I described as a chrome spider that plugs into your head

  • using temporal nodes.

  • No, that's not a picture of it, but it's a fun picture I took in a bar.

  • (Laughter)

  • And I got really carried away imagining the bars, restaurants, cafés

  • that you could only find your way inside

  • if you had the correct augmented reality hardware.

  • But again, second-order effects:

  • in a world shaped by augmented reality,

  • what kind of new communities will we have,

  • what kind of new crimes that we haven't even thought of yet?

  • OK, like, let's say that you and I are standing next to each other,

  • and you think that we're in a noisy sports bar,

  • and I think we're in a highbrow salon

  • with a string quartet talking about Baudrillard.

  • I can't possibly imagine what might go wrong in that scenario.

  • Like, it's just -- I'm sure it'll be fine.

  • And then there's social media.

  • I can imagine some pretty frickin' dystopian scenarios

  • where things like internet quizzes,

  • dating apps, horoscopes, bots,

  • all combine to drag you down deeper and deeper rabbit holes

  • into bad relationships and worse politics.

  • But then I think about the conversations that I've had

  • with people who work on AI,

  • and what I always hear from them is that the smarter AI gets,

  • the better it is at making connections.

  • So maybe the social media of the future will be better.

  • Maybe it'll help us to form healthier, less destructive relationships.

  • Maybe we'll have devices that enable togetherness and serendipity.

  • I really hope so.

  • And, you know, I like to think that if strong AI ever really exists,

  • they'll probably enjoy our weird relationship drama

  • the same way that you and I love to obsess about the "Real Housewives of Wherever."

  • And finally, there's medicine.

  • I think a lot about how developments in genetic medicine

  • could improve outcomes for people with cancer or dementia,

  • and maybe one day, your hundredth birthday will be just another milestone

  • on the way to another two or three decades of healthy, active life.

  • Maybe the toilet of the future that I mentioned

  • will improve health outcomes for a lot of people,

  • including people in parts of the world

  • where they don't have these complicated sewer systems that I mentioned.

  • But also, as a transgender person,

  • I like to think: What if we make advances in understanding the endocrine system

  • that improve the options for trans people,

  • the same way that hormones and surgeries expanded the options

  • for the previous generation?

  • So finally: basically, I'm here to tell you,

  • people talk about the future

  • as though it's either going to be a technological wonderland

  • or some kind of apocalyptic poop barbecue.

  • (Laughter)

  • But the truth is, it's not going to be either of those things.

  • It's going to be in the middle. It's going to be both. It's going to be everything.

  • The one thing we do know

  • is that the future is going to be incredibly weird.

  • Just think about how weird the early 21st century would appear

  • to someone from the early 20th.

  • And, you know, there's a kind of logical fallacy that we all have

  • where we expect the future to be an extension of the present.

  • Like, people in the 1980s

  • thought that the Soviet Union would still be around today.

  • But the future is going to be much weirder than we could possibly dream of.

  • But we can try.

  • And I know that there are going to be scary, scary things,

  • but there's also going to be wonders and saving graces.

  • And the first step to finding your way forward

  • is to let your imagination run free.

  • Thank you.

  • (Applause)

Every science fiction writer

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夢見未來吧|查理-簡-安德斯(Charlie Jane Anders) (Go ahead, dream about the future | Charlie Jane Anders)

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    林宜悉 發佈於 2021 年 01 月 14 日
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