Category Archives: Thoughts and speculation

Stop the Dystopia, I Want To Get On

Whether to write dystopian or utopian stories is an ongoing choice for science fiction writers and something I’m often questioned about. I’ve been pondering this for a while and my thoughts to date are featured in this month’s Focus, the British Science Fiction Association’s magazine for writers.

As the editor says, “Stephen discusses the implications for writers and also explores whether it’s a binary choice between the two.”

PS this was written before the current crisis, but it’s probably even more pertinent now.


photo credit: tsbl2000 Evening Class via photopin (license)

Is PITH for you?

Here is a recent example from PITH:

I was at the gym the other day, which is a strange experience for me. There were people pushing large tractor tires around the room and it made me wonder. If we spend our time replicating work from a past generation to keep fit, what might the gym of the future look like?
Will it be rows of desks with people exercising their typing fingers now voice activation is ubiquitous?
Or maybe machines with three pedals and a steering wheel?


Emails to PITH subscribers are infrequent and fairly random, but always short and pithy.

I’m not particularly public about it either – avoiding the ‘subscribe now and get a free gift’ approach. However, from time to time I let people know it exists, hence this post.

You can sign up at https://tinyurl.com/PITHLIST


Image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/kumarsedit/16443534782

AI reflects the past not the future.

“Big Data processes codify the past. They do not invent the future. Doing that requires moral imagination, and that’s something only humans can provide. We have to explicitly embed better values into our algorithms, creating Big Data models that follow our ethical lead.”

Cathy O’Neil, Weapons of Math Destruction.

This is an easy book to read and it’s a difficult book to read. It’s easy because it’s well written with many real-life examples and extrapolations. It’s difficult because the examples show how pervasive and corrosive big data and machine learning has and can become.

However, the quote I’ve chosen gives an uplift of spirits; if humans take more interest, control and responsibility then the emerging world of artificial intelligence could be a good one.

I recommend this as essential reading for anyone with more than a passing interest in artificial intelligence and who wants to think a bit more about the ethical aspects of big data and machine learning.

After all as you’ve heard me say many times, ‘the future is ours and it’s up for grabs…’


photo credit: György Soponyai The Crystal Ball via photopin (license)