Category Archives: events

Inspired by Cyborg Cadavers

Caro data vermibus
(flesh given to worms)

I’m inspired by the people I meet, the science I’m exposed to and the tech that might become, but it’s unusual for me to use art to inspire my near-future fiction. So, it was interesting to be asked to write a piece for Hallidonto’s latest exhibition – Cyborg Cadavers.

I read the blurb and pondered, studied the art and pondered and then had a few too many beers with the artist. Then, I let all that sink in and allowed a story to surface.

The result was Death Life Transfer and in the video below you can watch me reading it at the opening night of the exhibition, along with other contributors and Hallidonto himself.

The exhibition:

“Are we the fallen and in what image will be the re-imaging of our flesh.” Hallidonto 2019.

Hallidonto’s work explores these themes in an attempt to answer the complex questions that ever-evolving technology poses to humanity. In his latest work, ‘Cyborg Cadavers’ a series of nine pencil works that explore the very of concept of the body, and if we don’t choose wisely, we won’t be in a position to select the body we need or for that matter the body that is required. This poses deeper questions of we view ourselves within our technological world. Is the flesh redundant and shall we proceed with the morphological freedoms embedded within the post-humanist/ trans-humanist discourses where alteration and the evolution of body intertwined Halliidonto with other leading, artistic luminaries to explore the rise of the artificially sentient and the ascent of the cyborg. Hallidonto has curated nine speakers to respond to the work and pathos created by the artist.

You can find him at:

Website: https://hallidonto.onfabrik.com/ | Twitter: @Hallidonto
Insta: @hallidonto | Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Hallidonto/


Image: (c) Hallidonto

Am I AI?

Tonight, I’m on a panel on the future of storytelling at the Barbican FutureFest lates.

As part of the preparation I’ve been looking into stories written by AI and came across the recent “1 the Road” which is an interesting road trip written by an AI with a camera, a GPS unit, a microphone and a clock attached to a car. The ‘writer of the writer’ is Ross Goodwin.

I have also ‘co-written’ a short piece with Transformer – a modern neural network that completes your text. Below is a short piece we wrote together with me starting, Transformer adding more text and then me writing the next connecting piece. And so on. Transformer only knew about the most recent text so it was for me to try and create coherence across the whole thing. It was a fascinating experience – take a look at the result and see if you can spot which is mine and which is Transformer’s.


The Piece, by Stephen Oram and Transformer

An advanced artificial intelligence has uncovered a glitch in our social media news feeds. It found that posts have been attributed to the wrong people, causing at least one suicide.

What does that mean for the future of the human race? And will we ever be able to tell the difference?  Is this an automated glitch? Will we get rid of the news feed and adopt something new? Or will we never see anything new, or just a whole lot of the same? The short answer to that is: it doesn’t matter.  We have an online media universe that is largely populated with people who do not care what information is presented to them. If all we had was the same content over and over, it would still be a better and safer place.  They wouldn’t be in any danger of suicide. But we have a vast number of news feeds, and many are created by human beings, not robots.  There is nothing that prevents a system from coming up with an algorithm that automatically chooses who to share what information with and who doesn’t, based on a mixture of interests, biases, and the underlying ideology that it was created to propagate. The big question is whether this is a glitch or the beginning of something more sinister.

(To get a glimpse of our system in action, click this link to browse the “Masthead.” See our list of people who’ve taken us seriously in the past.)

How does this system work? In principle, it works like this. First, each user knows their identity, or “identity.” We share our identities to keep track of what’s going on. We also have a system in place to keep track of who you were before you were in Masthead and the person or people you interacted with before that. If the user is using this service to share stories with one another, we share their stories to build an ever-growing database that’s updated every time you share a story.

In the next step, our users know if their stories will be included in the machine learning system, and we know how to resist manipulation, unlike other systems such as that revealed by the advanced AI. We may not be able to detect all possible manipulations by a given system, but we also have an incentive to avoid manipulation because we want the users to enjoy their stories.

Machine Learning is a field known for being very open-source but this post is less about a technical overview like this, and more about a personal experience in learning machine learning in my current work. If you have any questions, concerns or just want to share what is going on with your team, I’d love to meet you.


Why not have a go at writing something with Transformer for yourself – I’d love to read the results, so feel free to post them in the comments below.


photo credit: Stanley Zimny (Thank You for 45 Million views) Listening to FDR via photopin (license)

Do you want the AI to see you now?

As part of the Barbican’s More Than Human season there’s an evening event this week titled, “The AI will see you now.”

I was asked to curate a pamphlet of short science fiction to accompany the event, to get the audience into the ‘zone’.

I chose a selection of four stories – two from my own Biohacked & Begging collection (Zygosity Saves the Day and Happy Forever Day) along with two from the Virtual Futures Near-Future Fiction anthology (Young Blood by Jule Owen and Undefined Variable by C.R. Dudley).

Here’s the event blurb: “As machine learning is increasingly adopted into our systems of society, when will we see its launch into the medical field? Will it lead to a quicker, more efficient and less error-prone NHS? Are we as patients more comfortable with human error than machine error, even if the machine gets things right more often? Can a machine be taught bedside manner? “

It certainly looks like it’ll be an interesting and lively evening with a panel made up of: Professor Tom Vercauteren, a pioneering researcher at King’s College London whose work is using AI to recognise signs of disease; Dr Ali Jomaa, an active NHS A&E doctor and futurist working to improve his patients’ care with breakthrough digital technologies; Dr Christine Aicardi, a big-picture social scientist at the EU’s Human Brain Project investigating the potential dangers of using AI in healthcare; and Juan Echenique, co-founder of Horatio Productions, a company which seeks a new storytelling language around science in theatre and film.

For those of you that won’t be able to attend the event, here’s my introduction from the pamphlet:

When we talk about artificial intelligence we often bundle together many different aspects, such as automation, algorithms, machine learning and sentient robots. Fiction tends towards stories of sentient AI and is really about our fear that superior beings will consider us a toxic blemish on the world and wipe us out. Of course, these stories say more about us than they do about artificial intelligence.

Another aspect of AI that crops up a lot is health – how we’ll be diagnosed or cured and what the health system could look like. But, who knows what the future might hold?  The possibilities are endless in a world of big data, a world where AlphaGo wins with a move so radical it overturned hundreds of years of received wisdom and a world where a shed load of money is spent on extending life expectancy.

Science fiction helps us imagine these possible futures, mainly with warnings of what could go wrong. Why does sci-fi focus on the negative?  Well, partly because stories need drama, but also because, as Frederick Pohl put it, “A good science fiction story should be able to predict not the automobile but the traffic jam.”

This mini collection of short stories takes you through different versions of our future, ending with the hopeful scenario of living forever. They are designed to prompt you to think about what you want your future to be.

After all, “the future is ours and it’s up for grabs…”


Biohacked & Begging and Near-Future Fictions Vol 1 are both widely available (here are the amazon links (Biohacked & Begging | Near-Future Fictions, but you can buy them in other places too!)

Link to the event https://www.barbican.org.uk/whats-on/2019/event/the-ai-will-see-you-now


photo credit: fabsit waiting room via photopin (license)</a