Have we unleashed an orgy of trivia? Will robots manipulate our souls? Where’s the experimental writing?
These were some of the questions asked during a superb evening of writers (fiction, non-fiction and marketeer) talking about the future of their craft and answering a broad range of questions from a lively audience.
We touched on the democratisation of publishing, the future of the eBook and whether the big publishers are dying. Finishing up with the speculation that the future is one of artificial intelligence scripting our lives via mass produced personalised messages.
I want to say a huge thank you to the organisers of the Fitzrovia Festival (“the people live here festival”) for inviting me to host the evening. Thanks also to Etienne Gilfillan for the ‘band’ photo above (left to right: Hannah Kowszun, Helena Halme, Stephen Oram and Allen Ashley) and to the Sainsbury Wellcome Centre for providing the venue (and wine and nibbles).
Sadly, the camera ran out of space so we didn’t capture it all. However, you can watch most of it here…
Christopher’s neck was bruised where they’d held him down while forcibly removing his arms and legs. He’d fought them hard, but it had been pointless; here he was, dumped by the side of the road in an old damp car seat, helpless and homeless.
Tears were rolling down his face and he could do nothing about them.
How could it have come to this? Less than a year ago he’d taken an affordable loan from a company that owned massive driverless trucks. He’d replaced his arms and legs with prosthetics to become a highly paid and highly sought after new-breed trucker with enough strength to load and unload the huge cargos.
Now look at him. Useless. Slumped on a dirty seat in the gutter with the small begging bowl the bailiffs had graciously left in front of him.
A group of people approached and his hopes rose. As they got close he called out. ‘Please. Help me.’
Prosthetic envy. That was the theme of the Virtual Futures Salon at the end of last month.
Three out of four panellists had prosthetic limbs and were keen to talk openly about what that meant for them. One of them was James A.H. Young who you may have seen on the BBC recently.
They told their stories, pondered and discussed what had led to them having prosthetics, how good their limbs actually are and what the general public’s reaction is like.
Surprisingly, they had stories of people exlaiming how ‘cool’ the prosthetics are and asking how they could get one. To which, of course, there’s a reply which includes, ‘you’ll have to cut a limb off first.’
Luke Robert Mason introduced the evening, referring to Limbo ’90, which is a book I read as part of my research for the evening’s story, Loans for Limbs. It’s a 1950 book by Bernard Wolfe, billed as being the first book to “project the present-day concept known as ‘cybernetics’ to its logical and terrifying conclusion.” It’s well worth a read.
Here’s me reading Loans for Limbs for the first time in public.
Afterwards, some of the audience asked me how to get a written copy; if you join my mailing list before 17 June you’ll get it in the June email a few days later.