Wednesday, 1 July 2015

The Future, 2009

See here.

As we read SM Stirling's Conquistador (New York, 2004), we find that the date of the action matters. The novel is copyright 2003 but set in 2009, the future. There has been a recent war:

"'...they tightened up on security a lot during the war, with identity cards and biometric scanners all over the place.'" (p. 39)

Our hero, Tom Christiansen saw action and took a bullet wound during that war but we have not been told any details of the conflict as far as I have read.

Secondly, there are three pieces of future technology:

a Segway is a small two-wheel computerized electric scooter with its rider standing on a platform, lawsuits and regulations keeping them out of towns;

a hooded scanner above a hospital bed monitors brain activity and a variant electronic process hastens healing by generating an analogue of natural sleep;

display glasses with small microphones attached play recorded wraparound 3D moving images distinguishable from reality only by the fact that the person wearing the glasses cannot change his viewpoint by turning his head.

We might be puzzled to read about this technology in 2009 until we check the date of publication. As a rule, alternative timeline stories start from the author's "present," not from his near future, but a writer of Stirling's inventiveness is not bound by any rules.

14 comments:

  1. Ummmm, Segways have been around since 2001. Unless there's some modification not mentioned in your reference, that one ISN'T future tech.

    Wikipedia notes that in the UK, they're sold by Segway-UK. Under UK law, "...the Segway is classified as a powered vehicle and subject to Road Traffic law — with the effect that, because the Segway is deemed not to meet required safety standards, it is unlawful to use a Segway anywhere other than on private property with the owner's permission."

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    1. Thank you, David! I did wonder whether some of the "future" technology that I was describing was in fact present! But Stirling describes this vehicle as if it was unfamiliar to the reader and I didn't google, preferring to let blog readers put me right if necessary. Long may science fiction and science fact change places like this.
      Paul.

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    2. Greetings David and Paul!

      One bit of futuristic technology I would love to have is an "aircar," a flying automobile. I first came across that, I think, in either ENSIGN FLANDRY or AGENT OF THE TERRAN EMPIRE. Compared to something as cool as aircars, Segways doesn't get my motor racking!

      I've started rereading CONQUSTADOR and I've wondered if the war mentioned in the 2009 section were the wars which started after the Nine Eleven attacks in 2001.

      Sean

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    3. The flying car seems like a great idea until you remember all those turkeys who drive while texting, eating, putting on make-up, etc. -- to say nothing of drunk drivers -- and then you think of cars not only crashing into each other but plummeting from the sky to kill people below.

      Tangentially related:
      Webcomic writer Howard Tayler included in his image of the future that "manual operation [i.e., not using the autopilot] under the influence" is a CAPITAL crime. This is because you CAN'T manually operate a vehicle in Tayler's future when your judgment is impaired by alcohol, other drugs, testosterone poisoning, etc. -- UNLESS you, while cold sober, sabotaged the sensors so they'd let you drive while impaired. In which case you've proven yourself to be a jerk who believes your "right" to enjoy driving drunk or stoned is more important than other people's right not to be unnecessarily endangered. And they'll execute you for that.

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    4. david,
      I think that aircars in sf are usually autopiloted or remotely controlled by a centralized traffic computer?
      Paul.

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    5. Greetings, David and Paul!

      David: Paul beat me to it when he said futuristic air cars would be usually autopiloted or remotely controlled by a Traffic Control Computer. If 95 percent of air car owners could not lawfully control aircars manually, I would argue that solves the problem of careless and irresponsible people using them.

      And I like David's idea that illegal manual driving of air cars might be so severe a criminal offense that that it carries very severe punisment, even the death penalty.

      There would have to be some reasonable exceptions to NO one driving air cars manually, at least during emergencies. The police, military, and rescue services comes to mind.

      Sean

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    6. Not *my* idea; Howard Tayler's idea, in his science fiction webcomic *Schlock Mercenary*.

      And the ban was only on manual operation *while drunk, stoned, or otherwise of poorer-than-usual judgment*. Sensors built into all cars detected such things and prevented driving -- unless, as I said, the would-be driver had sabotaged the system, which was such a complex procedure that it couldn't be done except by a sober (although evidently sociopathic) person.

      Tayler made quite a point of that: execution wasn't for driving drunk, per se. It was for being the kind of person who, even while *not* drunk, *wanted* to be capable of wantonly endangering innocent people and would go out of his way to give himself that capability.

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    7. Hi, David!

      I sit corrected,. HOWARD TAYLER'S idea, not yours. And people COULD manually fly aircars if sober. I should have noticed the bit about sensors built into aircars which would detect if the drivers were sober or drunk/high. I like this and Tayler's additional explanation for why some persons were executed--becuse by cold bloodedly and deliberately these sensors, they proved themselves callous sociopaths willing to wantonly endanger others.

      I still wonder if a computerized traffic control system might still also be used. I would think it very useful for both drunks and blind people. They could enter their aircars and instruct the auto pilot where to take them.

      Sean

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  2. Sean,
    In that case, this war would not be fiction either - or only partly. Argh!
    Paul.

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    1. Kaor, Paul!

      A pity, of course, that the war mentioned is probably not meant to be fictional by Stirling. I suspect he had the Post Nine Eleven wars in mind.

      Sean

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  3. BTW, the FirstSide of CONQUISTADOR is not -quite- our present. Eg., the Rolfe name persists, although in our history the name died out, though not the bloodline. That continued through Rolfe's daughters, so that virtually all the Virginia aristocracy was descended from him (and from Pocahontas).

    It's very similar to our timeline, but not identical. I usually do this -- it makes the "curse of near-future SF" easier to handle. SF authors are terrible about predicting the future, almost as bad as professional futurists or politicians.

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  4. BTW, the FirstSide of CONQUISTADOR is not -quite- our present. Eg., the Rolfe name persists, although in our history the name died out, though not the bloodline. That continued through Rolfe's daughters, so that virtually all the Virginia aristocracy was descended from him (and from Pocahontas).

    It's very similar to our timeline, but not identical. I usually do this -- it makes the "curse of near-future SF" easier to handle. SF authors are terrible about predicting the future, almost as bad as professional futurists or politicians.

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  5. Mr Stirling,
    Yes, I do recognize that CONQUISTADOR is not our timeline somewhere; I don't remember where!
    Paul.

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    1. Dear Mr. Stirling,

      Yes, I admit I thought the FirstSide of CONQUISTADOR was meant to be our real, literal, "where we live" Earth. And, yes, having the Rolfe name still existing in CONQUISTADOR was meant to show readers FirstSide was meant to be an alternate Earth. Oh, well! (Smiles)

      Sean

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