WorldCon 2016: Humans and robots

Disclaimer: I am not perfect and neither are my notes. If you notice anything that requires clarification or correction, please email me at melanie (dot) marttila (at) gmail (dot) com and I will fix things post-hasty.

Panellists: Kevin Roche, G. David Nordley, Brenda Cooper (moderator), Walt Boyes, Jerry Pournelle

humansandrobots

Joined in progress …

KR: They have built and programmed competent bartending robots.

GDN: There’s an S-curve with any technological development. If you picture the letter S and start from the bottom of the letter, robotics is at the first upsweeping curve.

WB: Google is the largest robotics company in the world. Boston Robotics sells services in robotic hours.

JP: With regard to artificial intelligence (AI), every time we started something that looked like AI, people said nope, that ain’t it. Unemployment is higher than the statistics report. In the near future, over half of jobs will be replaced by robots or other automation. The unemployable won’t be visible. They won’t be looking. We’ve not lost jobs to overseas corporations, or not as many as we think. We’ve lost jobs to automation. The “useless” class is on the rise. Look at it this way, an employer saves an employee’s annual salary and spends maybe 10% of it to maintain a robot doing the same work. They’d need one human to service 20 robots.

BC: How do you assign value to human work?

WB: In 1900, the second industrial revolution saw farm workers move to the cities and the factories. The real issue is a philosophical one. We’ve been assigning value to people by the work that they do. A corporate lawyer has, subjectively, greater value than a garbage man. What happens when automation and artificial intelligence replaces both?

KR: When workers are underpaid, the social contract bears the cost. Increasing the minimum wage and increased automation are exposing the dirty little secret. People need to be valued differently. Teachers and artists, in particular, can’t be replaced.

GDN: The top level docs of our society assign value to every citizen. The big question is how do we realize that? The recession has meant fewer tax dollars dedicated to the arts and infrastructure. We have to have the social conversation.

JP: Will advances in artificial intelligence implement Asimov’s three laws? Drones don’t use the three laws. IBM created an AI that beat a human at go [the game]. They took two machines, programmed them with the rules of the game, and let them play each other. After ten million games, they could functionally beat anyone. If you ask a robot to stop humans from killing each other, what’s to stop the robot from coming up with the solution to kill all humans? We have to proceed carefully.

KR: Watson won Jeopardy. Its job is to parse huge amounts of information and look for patterns. It’s humans who decided to test the system by putting it on the show.

GDN: Right now, computers are still, by and large, working on bookkeeping tasks. As we get to the point where we have to consider the three laws, we have to be cautious.

WB: We have to expand out definition of robotics. We have the internet of things with programmable thermostats and refrigerators we can access through our phones. Though still imperfect, we have self-driving cars. We need to figure out how to program morality.

GDN: Human beings don’t consistently make the same moral choices. Fuzzy logic and data sets would be required. Positronic brains would have to deal with potentialities.

KR: We don’t have an algorithmic equivalent for empathy.

And that was time.

Next week, we’re going to explore the steampunk explosion 🙂

Until then, be well, be kind, and be awesome!

WorldCon 2016: Class and equality in fantasy and science fiction

Disclaimer: I am not perfect and neither are my notes. If you notice anything that requires clarification or correction, please email me at melanie (dot) marttila (at) gmail (dot) com and I will fix things post-hasty.

Panellists: Jennie Goloboy, Jennie J.R. Johansson (moderator), Eleanor Arnason, William Hayashi

Note: Terra LeMay was scheduled to participate in this panel, but could not make it. Agent Jennie Goloboy graciously agreed to participate.

classandequality

Joined in progress.

EA: Barbara Jenson said that economy and society cannot be separated.

WH: It’s useful to use familiar tropes to reach your readers, but be wary of stereotypes.

JG: The cultural pressure to categorize people opposes the personal feeling that it’s wrong.

JRJ: You have to question it, though. It’s a useful tension to explore.

WH: Look at how other authors have addressed the issue. Young adult novels turned movies like The Hunger Games and Divergent. Frank Herbert’s Dune. Asimov’s Foundation.

EA: Melissa Scott writes about marginalized characters. Science fiction under-represents the working and middle classes.

JRJ: Marie Lu’s The Young Elites explores issues of class.

JG: What do class and equality look like in the future?  If we extrapolate from current trends, there will be more automation, shorter attention spans, but more independence.

WH: Robert Heinlein pitted the working class against the upper class. It’s a common trope, but it’s realistic. The 1% versus everyone else. Where does hope come from? In Snowpiercer, society at its worst is contained in a train. They’re the last survivors. It’s a microcosm.

JG: Young adult science fiction has focused on the dystopia. What about utopias? Utopias contain the seeds of dystopia and vice versa. But it’s not so simple.

WH: Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time is hopeful.

JG: There are the working, middle, and upper classes. Are there any others to explore?

WH: Why not transcend class? It’s a spectrum.

JRJ: It’s easier to look at issues in another society, a fictional society, rather than to look at our own.

JG: A reader might say, “I identify with Katniss, so I must be a good person.”

WH: Why do we focus so much on dytopias?

And that was time.

Next week: It will be my December next chapter update and my 2016 year in review post.

Happy New Year (calendrically speaking), everyone!

WorldCon 2016: Beyond—fantasy creation for the bold

Disclaimer: I am not perfect and neither are my notes. If you notice anything that requires clarification or correction, please email me at melanie (dot) marttila (at) gmail (dot) com and I will fix things post-hasty.

Panellists: Kate Elliot and Ken Liu

kateelliottkenliu

My apologies for the picture, Kate. this was actually the better of the two I took 😦

Joined in progress …

KE: People who live in the tropics tend to have darker skin. Those in northern countries are pale. It’s a specific adaptation to their environment.

KL: My book is not an Asian epic fantasy. It’s a reinterpretation of the Han Dynasty. I defined what it means to be Chinese in my world and purposefully varied the appearance of my characters. What does it mean to be a Han Chinese? Ultimately culture is how they define themselves, not by appearance. That’s [definition by appearance] a western-centric notion.

KE: The Mali from my spiritwalker series has eight or nine ethnic groups. They identify by where they live. Ethnicity is fluid. As writers, we have to think about our choices.

KL: The shape of the eye is not a defining feature.

KE: In any culture, you’re going to have sub-cultures develop. A static culture is a dead culture. Every empire is made up of many ethnicities interacting with the dynamics of assimilation, resistance, centre/periphery. These are character and plot dynamics.

KL: Cultural change is good for building a plot. All cultures are not equal. People adapt differently to their circumstances. Build a richer world. Show the dominant culture being challenged by another.

KE: Writers bring their ideas of what cultural changes matter. The Silk Road wasn’t an actual road. It was a chain of stops on a trade route.

KL: Transformative ideas are themselves transformed in the process of their transmission from culture to culture. Christianity in South America is different than the European tradition. Buddhism is different in India, Tibet, China, Japan, and Korea. Religion interacts with political power.

KE: The way they infiltrate through social strata is also different. Ptolemaic Egypt was actually more influenced by Macedonia and Greece. The native Egyptians were marginalized and had their own traditions. One of the best ways to research a historical time period is through art history.

KL: “We have not changed” is a common cultural narrative. Why do they need to insist on that cultural story?

KE: The centre of an empire will have one narrative and peripheral societies will have other narratives unique to them. Look at the Aztecs. The conquerors write history. Find stories on the peripheries.

KL: When writing an epic fantasy based on an historical culture, respect the intellect of the people of the past. The Ancient Romans were as cynical as we are.

KE: People don’t believe the same things in the same ways.

KL: The western bias is that cultures that lacked science must have been stupid.

KE: The history of technology is fascinating. Look at the geographical impact. Where do they live? Whether the society was coastal or land-locked makes a difference in what might otherwise be common myths and legends, like flood stories.

KL: Consider you narrative space and language as a part of worldbuilding. There are two layers of understanding, the linguistic, and the folk/colloquial. Power and self-image are parts of contextual identity.

KE: Language sticks around like an artefact. European place names that were derived from the Celtic tribes remained even though the culture was marginalized.

And that was time.

Next week: We’ll delve into class and equality in fantasy and science fiction for my final WorldCon report of the year. I’ll continue them in January, after my next chapter update for December and my year-end wrap up. And of course, Tipsday and Thoughty Thursday will continue 🙂

Hope you’re enjoying time with your family and friends, whatever holiday you celebrate.

Be well!

WorldCon 2016: Oceans, the wettest frontier

Disclaimer: I am not perfect and neither are my notes. If you notice anything that requires clarification or correction, please email me at melanie (dot) marttila (at) gmail (dot) com and I will fix things post-hasty.

Panellists: Christopher Weuve (moderator), Patricia MacEwen, James Cambias, Alyx Dellamonica, Laurel Anne Hill

oceans

Yeah, I know this was supposed to be up yesterday, but yesterday, I finished off my Christmas shopping and then went to a friend’s party (at which I got hammed—don’t worry, it’s a rare occurrence; I think I just had to get some post-shopping/renovation celebration in 😉 ) so I didn’t get much writing done at all.

Life happens.

CW: There’s more space-based science fiction out there than water-based science fiction.

JC: But there are more people who will know if you get it wrong under water than in space.

CW: What, or who, was your inspiration? Frederick Pohl was one of mine.

PM: Nnedi Okorafor’s Lagoon.

AD: Alan Dean Foster. Peter Watts’ Starfish.

LAH: Starfish impressed me with this sentiment: the underwater world is so compelling that even if it scares you, you can’t wait to go back.

JC: There was a boom in the late 60’s and early 70’s. I didn’t enjoy most of it. The contemporary non-fiction on the topic was fascinating, though.

PM: Jacques Cousteau’s grandson has a new book out.

LAH: I met Jacques Cousteau. He was my idol. Few women dove in those days.

CW: James, what was it that left you wanting in the fiction?

JC: The inherent contradiction that the solution to overpopulation was to exploit the continental shelf.

PM: They weren’t talking about the future health of the oceans, or the extinctions that were already happening.

AD: I’m working on a series in which the crisis is the deoxygenation of the oceans.

PM: Canfield makes dire predictions about the future of the oceans.

LAH: Stung!, by Lisa-Ann Gershwin is about the jellyfish overpopulation and what it’s doing to the oceans.

AD: I’ve never had a distaste for ocean-based science fiction. I grew up in the prairies and then moved to Vancouver. I was captivated. The ocean is the connective tissue of planetary economy.

PM: I had no trouble buying into the ocean-based science fiction I’ve seen, but there are things missing. Other sensory systems are a fascinating area. If there’s life on Europa and it has magnetic sensing organs, they’d feel god [Jupiter] passing by every 36 hours. There wouldn’t be a single atheist among them.

CW: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was a seminal influence.

LAH: It was impressive. There was a 1945 movie made from the novel.

PM: Verne based it on a real French submarine. It was even called the Nautilus. In the 1800’s they had one they called the turtle. It was intended to scuttle ships, but couldn’t drill through the steel hulls.

CW: there’s no physical evidence that the turtle ever existed, though.

JC: The drive design in The Hunt for Red October, the caterpillar, was more plausible.

AD: I’m as interested in sailing, in the romance of rigging and sail, as I am in the underwater aspect.

JC: The translations of Verne’s work left out the technical aspects of submarines, how they worked.

LAH: His Majesty’s Dragon from the Temeraire series has some good naval battles.

AD: Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea series.

PM: One of the things people tend to gloss over is that when you’re living on board a ship, you’re living in cramped quarters.

AD: It’s a great opportunity for character development and conflict.

JC: The Last Ship is a current attempt at ocean-based science fiction.

PM: Stephen Baxter’s Flood and Brin’s Uplift.

[Very sorry. Not sure who said the following. The ideas were coming fast and furious, but they were interesting ideas, so I had to get some of them down.]

  • Alternate means of communication underwater. Hand signals make sense, but chromatophors would be better.
  • Sub-harmonic or sonic communication.
  • Phosphorescence.
  • Infrared.
  • Plastic garbage is killing off the plankton, which is the basis of the oceanic food chain. They’re developing bacteria that eat plastic. They’re also looking at harvesters that collect plastic and convert it to diesel fuel.

And that was time.

Next Saturday is Christmas Eve, but I’ll still attempt to get my post out on time. Here’s the title for a teaser: Beyond, fantasy creation for the bold.

Be well until next week!

WorldCon 2016: Mythology as the basis for speculative fiction

Disclaimer: I am not perfect and neither are my notes. If you notice anything that requires clarification or correction, please email me at melanie (dot) marttila (at) gmail (dot) com and I will fix things post-hasty.

kclibrarypl

Panellists: Ada Palmer, Jeffrey Cook, Sheila Finch (moderator), David Farnell, Katie Daniels

SF: Joseph Campbell said that myth and metaphor are the language of dreams. How important is myth in speculative fiction?

JC: The basis of myth is exploration and explanation.

KD: Myth is what endures.

DF: Myth is the story. Science is the vehicle. Even hard science fiction follows mythic patterns.

SF: It’s easy to see the hero’s journey play out in fantasy.

AP: At one point in Jo Walton’s The Just City, a Platonist explains a spaceship to aliens. Myth helps us conceive of alien concepts and means of communication.

JC: Useful myths are universal. They allow us to understand other cultures.

KD: We may have to define most useful. Are we talking about Prometheus or Jason and the Argonauts?

AP: The most useful myths can invoke craftsmanship, finesse.

DF: Do tropes emerge from myths? If you’re writing about Japanese mythology, it’s helpful to dig into the literature and not restrict yourself to what you see in manga.

SF: Jung said that myth conveys a sense of the numinous. They say something different to each person.

DF: Here’s one Japanese myth: the weaver goddess and a cowbird fall in love and stop doing their respective jobs. The Emperor of Heaven separates them, but allows them to reunite in the rainy season. It’s very Romeo and Juliet.

Q: 2001 and Star Wars are myths in their own rights.

AP: Some myths are devoid of awe. Others are full of it. Myths are the metaphysical reality of a world.

Q: What are some of the main themes of myth?

DF: How to deal with death.

JC: A quest of favours. [Mel’s note: In order to achieve the story goal, the protagonist must provide each character who helps her with something they want or need. Things generally get more complicated, and more humorous, as the story progresses, and the series of favours can even be a chain, with the satisfying of one favour being dependent on all the others before. Sometimes the favours cannot be granted until the ultimate goal is accomplished, and then everything falls into place.]

AP: Look for the big questions. Why is there evil? What is death?

And that was time.

Next week: Oceans, the wettest frontier.

Book review: K.M. Weiland’s Creating Character Arcs

What Amazon says:

Have you written a story with an exciting concept and interesting characters—but it justcreatingcharacterarcs isn’t grabbing the attention of readers or agents? It’s time to look deeper into the story beats that create realistic and compelling character arcs. Internationally published, award-winning novelist K.M. Weiland shares her acclaimed method for achieving memorable and moving character arcs in every book you write.

By applying the foundation of the Three-Act Story Structure and then delving even deeper into the psychology of realistic and dynamic human change, Weiland offers a beat-by-beat checklist of character arc guidelines that flexes to fit any type of story.

This comprehensive book will teach you:

  • How to determine which arc—positive, negative, or flat—is right for your character.
  • Why you should NEVER pit plot against character. Instead, learn how to blend story structure and character development.
  • How to recognize and avoid the worst pitfalls of writing novels without character arcs.
  • How to hack the secret to using overarching character arcs to create amazing trilogies and series.
  • And much more!

Gaining an understanding of how to write character arcs is a game-changing moment in any author’s pursuit of the craft.

My thoughts:

Creating Character Arcs: The Masterful Author’s Guide to Uniting Story Structure, Plot, and Character Development is a fabulous writing craft book.

K.M. Weiland digs deep into the three types of character arcs and how they work with and influence story structure.

Then, she offers a few ideas on how to use character arcs in your main and supporting characters (and whether it’s worth making the assay with the latter instance), layering character arcs, how to use character arcs over series, and whether or not it’s possible to write a story without a character arc (*spoiler alert,* it is, but there are specific considerations the writer must address).

At the end of each chapter, Kate has a slew of helpful questions that will focus your new understanding of character arc and apply it to your current work in progress. As she has with Outlining Your Novel and Structuring Your Novel, I wouldn’t be surprised if a Creating Character Arcs Workbook is in development 🙂

As with Kate’s other writing craft books, Creating Character Arcs emerged from a blog series on the same topic. Even if you’ve read/listened to the entire series, there’s something about having the reference at your fingertips.

This book works well in conjunction with the other Helping Writers Become Authors books and each builds on the others to form a rich body of writing craft knowledge.

For me, every story begins with the characters and they inform everything else. Creating Character Arcs will help you to connect the dots between your characters, their arcs, and your plot. Using Kate’s method, you can craft a tight, compelling story that works on multiple levels.

Every writer should own a copy.

My rating:

Five out of five stars!

About the author:

kmweilandK.M. Weiland lives in make-believe worlds, talks to imaginary friends, and survives primarily on chocolate truffles and espresso. She is the IPPY and NIEA Award-winning and internationally published author of the Amazon bestsellers Outlining Your Novel and Structuring Your Novel, as well as the portal fantasy Dreamlander, the historical/dieselpunk adventure Storming, the medieval epic Behold the Dawn, and the western A Man Called Outlaw. When she’s not making things up, she’s busy mentoring other authors on her award-winning blog http://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com. She makes her home in western Nebraska.

Book review: K.M. Weiland’s Structuring Your Novel

So I lied. Again.

I thought I was going to proceed with my WorldCon reportage, but I realized I have a book review due (not this one, it’s yet to come). So I’ve decided to write two book reviews today, both for K.M. Weiland books 🙂

The reason for this is that I read Structuring Your Novel and Creating Character Arcs together. I would recommend the practice to anyone, because character arcs and story structure work with each other to deepen the writer’s understanding of story overall.

First up: Structuring your Novel: Essential Keys for Writing an Outstanding Story

What Amazon says:

structuringyournovel

Is Structure the Hidden Foundation of All Successful Stories?

Why do some stories work and others don’t? The answer is structure. In this IPPY and NIEA Award-winning guide from the author of the bestselling Outlining Your Novel, you will learn the universal underpinnings that guarantee powerful plot and character arcs. An understanding of proper story and scene structure will show you how to perfectly time your story’s major events and will provide you with an unerring standard against which to evaluate your novel’s pacing and progression.

Structuring Your Novel will show you:

  • How to determine the best techniques for empowering your unique and personal vision for your story.
  • How to identify common structural weaknesses and flip them around into stunning strengths.
  • How to eliminate saggy middles by discovering your “centerpiece.”
  • Why you should NEVER include conflict in every scene.
  • How to discover the questions you don’t want readers asking about your plot—and then how to get them to ask the right questions.

My thoughts:

I’ve been following K.M. Weiland’s blog and podcast for a number of years, since, in fact, she started her series on story structure.

Yes. Everything you will read in this book was originally on Kate’s blog, Helping Writers Become Authors, and you can easily access the whole series (because she’s so organized and so focused on her audience), but it’s so much more convenient to have a condensed, edited, and physical copy of the book, accessible to you at any time, so you can refer to it as you work on your story.

Kate has cracked the code of story structure for me. I’ve read a lot (a freaking lot) of writing craft books and methodologies and Kate’s is the only one that has enabled me to get inside my stories, even those that are already written.

Using Kate’s method, I can dissect my novel structurally and reassemble it in a better, more compelling form. I also use it when preparing for my annual #NaNoWriMo challenge, and when I think about outlining a new work in progress.

I’ve also read a number of her other books, both fiction and writing craft. Each work builds on the others and, because they’re all written in the same voice (excepting the fiction), it helps to form a cohesive body of knowledge that can be accessed and utilized as you need.

With respect to her fiction, you can see that she practices what she preaches. Kate doesn’t instruct from a “do as I say, not as I do” position. She’s field tested everything she presents. You can trust her. I do. Implicitly.

Kate is very much a writerly friend and mentor and this comes across in her authorial voice. She’s all about building writers up, not tearing them down.

Suffice it to say, I loved Structuring Your Novel, and I would recommend it to any writer at any stage of development.

My rating:

Five out of five stars!

About the author:

K.M. Weiland lives in make-believe worlds, talks to imaginary frienkmweilandds, and survives primarily on chocolate truffles and espresso. She is the IPPY and NIEA Award-winning and internationally published author of the Amazon bestsellers Outlining Your Novel and Structuring Your Novel, as well as the portal fantasy Dreamlander, the historical/dieselpunk adventure Storming, the medieval epic Behold the Dawn, and the western A Man Called Outlaw. When she’s not making things up, she’s busy mentoring other authors on her award-winning blog http://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com. She makes her home in western Nebraska.

 

WorldCon 2016: Science fiction as epic

Disclaimer: I am not perfect and neither are my notes. If you notice anything that requires clarification or correction, please email me at melanie (dot) marttila (at) gmail (dot) com and I will fix things post-hasty.

Panellists: Frederick Turner, Walter Jon Williams, Cynthia Ward, John Kessel (moderator), Elizabeth Moon

kcpubliclibrary

The Kansas City Public Library

Quick note: What’s with the non-panel pictures? In the first day, I wasn’t sure if it would be acceptable to take pictures without first asking permission. So I’m sharing pictures from Kansas City, which hosted WorldCon this year, because I took walking tours of the city Friday, Saturday, and Sunday mornings. Panel pictures will arrive with the Friday sessions.

Joined in progress.

FT: The classic epics were the science fiction of the past. They shared common themes and fundamental elements. They were from the oral tradition (storyteller). They featured a creation myth (cosmology), a hero, a quest, kinship and kinship troubles, the interplay of nature, culture, and the supernatural, descent into and emergence from the underworld, and/or the founding of a city.

EM: The SF epic can be set in a different world. One of the features in that case would be the technological difference between our world and the other one.

JK: Does scope equal epic? Northrop Frye espoused the high mimetic (imitative) as central to the epic form. Is there no everyman in the epic?

EM: The genius has epic intellect. The protagonist must be exceptional in some way.

CW: Walter Mitty is not epic.

FT: Many heroes start out as foundlings or shepherds.

WJW: Dune is a science fiction epic. Zelazny’s Lord of Light is an SF epic.

JK: Star Wars is an SF epic, a space opera. Edith Hamilton and Joseph Campbell have both analyzed it in their work.

CW: Foundation is an epic.

FT: Epic goes to the edge of the world, or humanity, or the universe. The world has to change as a result of the story.

WJW: So Epic science fiction is about man’s place in the universe.

FT: There’s an emotional, almost musical resonance.

EM: Modern readers need humour. That’s the secret spice in the stew.

JK: Economics doesn’t seem to be a factor.

CW: Not everyone appreciates an empire. Post-colonial narratives.

FT: Mad Max is dystopian and epic.

Aud: Wilson Tucker coined the term space opera in the early 40’s. It was meant to connote second rate science fiction that focused on adventure. It’s from horse opera, which was a pejorative term for a western.

Other epics were proposed by the panel and the audience: C.J. Cherryh, Leviathan Wakes, Hyperion, Babylon 5, Sagan, Clarke, David Brin, Gene Wolf. The theme of faith and religious belief was also proposed as another feature of the epic.

And that was time.

Next week: Mythology as the basis of science fiction.

Be well until then 🙂

WorldCon 2016: Is cyberpunk still a thing?

Disclaimer: I am not perfect and neither are my notes. If you notice anything that requires clarification or correction, please email me at melanie (dot) marttila (at) gmail (dot) com and I will fix things post-hasty.

Panellists: Cory Doctorow (moderator), Matt Jacobson, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, James Patrick Kelly, Pat Cadigan

thecoolestparkinggarageevar

Joined in progress . . .

PNH: Cyberpunk is a course correction.

MJ: I think of cyberpunk in terms of the Max Headroom tagline: fifteen minutes into the future.

CD: The first generation/layer was written by people who were not computer professionals. The second focused on current technology and near future extrapolation. The third layer is an aesthetic.

PC: The first generation of cyberpunk writers was the first to grow up with mass media (television, radio, etc.). The Vietnam War was the first to be televised. They wrote about the influence of media and extrapolated what the influence of mass media might be in the future.

CD: In the 1980’s, money had a huge influence on the political process.

PNH: An aesthetic is a number of people who have similar intuitions about the world. It’s deliberately referencial.

JPK: Bruce Stirling tried to “end” cyberpunk, but the readers weren’t listening.

MJ: A thing would be whatever catches people’s attention.

PC: Cordwainer Smith and Alfred Bester were influences on cyberpunk.

PNH: Science fiction is one big conversation.

MJ: Cyberpunk has been taken over by tech noir. Shows like Mr. Robot and Person of Interest.

JPK: Cyberpunk emerged pre-Apple. For most users, a computer is indistinguishable from magic.

CD: The whole point of Mr. Robot is to strongly distinguish technology from magic.

MJ: Pokemon Go demonstrates just how easy it is to know where anyone is, anywhere in the world.

CD: Actually, your device uses the statistics from the game to triangulate your location and reports the information to Nintendo. That’s a lot more scary.

PC: In the early days of the internet, there were the BBS’s, the bulletin board services. Genie—the conversation never ends. Now mass media is to ambient, we’ve stopped seeing it. Information (and misinformation) is ubiquitous.

PNH: Science fiction has been doing the virtual presence thing since 1929 with the fanzines.

MJ: Cyberpunk intersects with maker culture. High tech is repurposed.

CD: The liminal moment was a queer programmer, Jennings. Cyberpunk concerns itself with the frontier of self and interrelatedness.

And that was time.

Next week: science fiction as epic.

And, of course, in the meantime, I’ll be curating Tipsday and Thoughty Thursday for you.

Be well. Stay safe. Love unconditionally.

That is all.

WorldCon 2016: What’s new in medicine

Disclaimer: I am not perfect and neither are my notes. If you notice anything that requires clarification or correction, please email me at melanie (dot) marttila (at) gmail (dot) com and I will fix things post-hasty.

Panellists: Dr. Brad Aiken, H.G. Stratmann, John Strickland Jr. (moderator), Dr. David Kushner

Research into slowing down the aging process:

  • Telomeres – the caps on the end of a chromosome that include instructions for replication
  • Mitochondria – have a role in regulating the aging process

There are currently 19 different areas of research. Some focus on the mechanism and some focus on the effects and process of aging.

Metformin is a drug used to treat type II diabetes. Some studies have shown that type II diabetics live longer.

Medicine in general is helping people live longer. The oldest documented human lived to be 122 years old.

We’re thinking in terms of health span versus life span. Quality of life is more important than simply living longer.

Aging is a complex process. We don’t fully understand it yet.

NASA has contributed data from their astronauts. The relief of gravity accelerates some aspects of aging.

Space medicine focuses on a small number of subjects, astronauts. Many of the changes that result from space travel reverse once the astronaut is exposed to gravity again.

There have been changes in the eyes. Vision can be negatively affected.

Artificial organs can be printed using 3D printers/matrix machines. An artificial heart has been created this way.

In neurosurgery, they’ve 3D printed skull fragments and in ortho, they’ve printed knee replacements.

In cancer research, they’re customizing treatments and addressing immunodeficiencies by individual genetic profiles.

Genetic medicine means there is no single treatment for a disease. Each treatment is customized to each patient.

In cardiology, they’re making stents that are absorbed into the body. Xenotransplantation, transplanting a pig’s heart into a human body, continues to be pursued.

Crisper is being used to edit genes.

Defibrillators and pace makers represent mechanical human enhancement.

In cases of patients who’ve suffered strokes or brain injury, doctors and researchers are using direct electrical stimulation and fMRI to prompt the brain to “rewire” itself.

Using a combination of a robotic exoskeleton and a brain/computer interface, like the Oculus Rift, paraplegic patients have regained some muscle control. They can’t walk, but they have a much higher quality of life because they’ve been able to overcome incontinence. And they have hope because they can move their limbs, even if it’s only a little bit. [Mel’s note: I actually shared an article on this a few weeks ago on Thoughty Thursday 🙂 ]

In both cases the brain is bypassing the area of damage.

Sensory loss attributable to peripheral nerve issues is still difficult to treat.

Artificial limbs and prosthetics are continuing to improve. Many now use neural interfaces to allow the brain to control the limb.

Spinal cord repair with respect to vertebrae (3D printing again) and discs is also making progress.

viewfrommyhotel

The view from my hotel room.

And that was time.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t close enough to see who was speaking at any given time, so I haven’t identified who was saying what.

Next week: Is cyberpunk still a thing?

And, of course, Tipsday and Thoughty Thursday will be making their regularly scheduled appearances.

See you on the interwebz!