“Great world-building”… What does that mean?
An early part of the process of publishing a book is getting comments from “beta-readers” before finalizing a draft of the book to be published. The last stage of the process calls for sending the manuscript to reviewers who will post their reviews in advance of publication. A consistent comment I’ve had from both groups is “great world-building!” World-building is the creation of a fictional setting in which the story takes place. If you’re a fan of science-fiction, you’ve seen fictional future worlds in everything from Star Trek to Marvel superhero movies. If you’re a fan of fantasy like Game of Thrones, you’ve seen it as a fictional gothic past.
So, what does my near-future world look like?
Artificial Intelligence (AI) looks increasingly like a technology that will change the world. What troubles me is that it’s evolving quickly without a grand strategy on the part of government, industry and communities to forestall its worst possible outcomes. And world-building I’ve done in my novel provides a peak into that future world. Speculatively, of course.
By now, regular readers of this blog should be getting a picture of the world I’ve built in my upcoming novel The Awakening of Artemis. In my last three posts, I’ve explored how existing technology widely-implemented in a future American society might affect our lives.
I take a dim view of many of these trends – constant surveillance with facial recognition powered by AI; microscopic robots that can be injected into our bodies to explore medical conditions; and our propensity to sacrifice our privacy to the gods of social media in exchange for 24/7 feed of stimulating images, messages and incentives to spend our hard-earned money. Imagine those trends, I have asked you, thirty years hence when an oblivious population willingly signs up to be monitored, stimulated and guided by social norms defined by the elite masters of our social and political world.
You won’t find a Speculative Fiction section in your local bookstore. Most often, books like The Awakening of Artemis are categorized as Science Fiction. Yet, to my mind, speculative would be a better label. After years of writing a blog which sometimes attracted slings and arrows from the left and the right, speculative fiction separates the issues from current politics and allows us to examine them from a safe distance.
But speculation is just that. My ideas about our future society may never come to pass. Yet, we must consider:
Alexa has been “called” as a witness to a 2017 New Hampshire murder. (Technically, Amazon has been subpoenaed to provide recordings at the time of the murder.)
We can download an app that uses AI to listen to our description of symptoms from which we suffer and provide a diagnosis and treatment. One of the apps – from Babylon Health – has been integrated into the British national health system.
The Harvard Business Review has outlined eight ways that AI can be integrated into work processes – including taking customer service calls – all of which threaten to supplant jobs. Global consulting firm Deloitte has predicted that AI will displace 47% of jobs in this decade.
Scientific American predicts that the evolution of smart phones to smart homes will lead to smart cities and smart factories. Today, the world’s most wired and networked city, Singapore, has used technology that was initially designed to detect terrorism, to inform economic and government policy.
As we become accustomed to AI-driven work processes and persuasive software designed to feed us what we want to buy, it’s not a reach to expect government to employ the same technology to nudge us in the direction it wants us to go. “Woke” culture is already affecting politics, corporate policy and social attitudes.
AI looks increasingly like a technology that will change the world. What troubles me is that it’s evolving quickly without a grand strategy on the part of government, industry and communities to forestall its worst possible outcomes. And world-building I’ve done in The Awakening of Artemis provides a peak into that future world. Speculatively, of course.
The Awakening of Artemis will be released through Amazon.com on August 26, 2021. Watch for the cover reveal by following me on Twitter and Instagram (@johncalia) and follow my Facebook page John Calia, Author.