Author Topic: Looking forward to future tech in our SF,  (Read 530 times)

Al Stevens

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Looking forward to future tech in our SF,
« on: June 01, 2021, 06:52:59 AM »
I wrote this essay a couple of years ago and toss it out now for thought.

Thirty-some-odd years ago I was working at KSC on shuttle payload processing. We were building a programming language. The idea was that the language would run on multiple platforms and would be used in the factory where users built payloads, in the payload processing centers (horizontal and vertical) at KSC where they installed payloads into the cargo bay, on the launch pad, and in space. One programming language for users of varied disciplines: assemblers, installers, testers, astronauts. An ambitious project to be sure.

Because the Shuttle program was planned to last thirty more years, we had to consider what computer programming would be like over that time span. Given that the time has elapsed and how programming has evolved, some of our guesses back then are laughable with hindsight.

Looking forward and predicting technology is a slippery slope at any point in time. But that's exactly what we do when we write, for example, in the speculative fiction genres. I've written one space opera and a post-apocalyptic novel, and they had me scratching my head trying to forecast how people in the future will use technology to deal with travel, conflict, economy, ecology, and so on.

Recently I scanned several space opera titles' Look Insides in the bestselling lists. I found several common themes that seem to look more backward than forward. Control panels, indicator lights, buttons to press, communications cables, ray guns, even touch panels, and so on. Star Trek. Star Wars. 20th Century.

The following are speculations, not predictions, tossed out here for thought.

The first thing we learn from today's events is a prediction of how wars will be fought. Not on-the-ground wars like we have in Afghanistan, for example, but cyber wars similar to the Russian attacks on the USA's election process. Civilizations won't have to kill off their citizenry with firepower. They'll destroy economies and let their enemies starve or surrender. They'll use ones and zeros, not bullets and death rays.

What is the point of disintegrating a spaceship? They'll just send in another one.
It's not like there are turfs and boundaries in outer space, territories more desirable than others to motivate conflicts and conquests. There's enough space to go around, and it's all the same. As writers, we have become used to applying earthly concerns to the extraterrestrial.

Why is a spaceship always right-side up? Why does it bank to make a turn? And go swish?

Who needs control panels with components to use and maintain? Holographic images, speech recognition and simulation, and pilotless craft already exist. Why are our heroes pilots who zoom around shooting ray guns at one another? Tomorrow's heroes will most likely be computer hackers. That is if they survive the apocalypse.

And I wonder how we'll be programming in thirty years.

Just rambling...
     
 
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djmills

Re: Looking forward to future tech in our SF,
« Reply #1 on: June 01, 2021, 08:08:12 AM »
Yes.
Central computer sends out nanotech to fix or restore any broken computer parts.
'bots clean the ship of dust, mould, etc.
Maybe one human to monitor cleaning air filters, testing all the program reported errors, etc. Ships without humans don't need breathable air, but do make for dull reading.
No tapping screens. Ask central computer to display error messages or running reports on any section of the ship.
Artificial gravity will make "up" or "down" redundant. 
And I have read most scifi on central computer going rogue. Programming will stop that, even if the computer freezes while trying to solve a complicated computation.
All fun ideas to add complications to the character story.  :-)
 

PJ Post

Re: Looking forward to future tech in our SF,
« Reply #2 on: June 02, 2021, 01:28:10 AM »
On the writing side, people write what they know. Henry Ford said that had he relied on what 'the people/market' wanted, they'd have asked for faster horses.

And when these same people/writers project into the future, they use existing technology/social systems/philosophy/religion as a foundation and then extrapolate from there. Retrospectively, it's pretty obvious - but I agree, not so much in the moment.

Also, in writer world, I think having characters push buttons, check displays and having ships bank creates a familiar environment for the reader to better immerse themselves. If the character is using their DNA as an auto-synch and then subconsciously controlling the ship like they would their own breathing (Spock's Brain), the narrative might get a bit boring.
 

Vijaya

Re: Looking forward to future tech in our SF,
« Reply #3 on: June 02, 2021, 01:39:54 AM »
Much food for thought, Al. I enjoy thinking about future tech and I keep coming back to the idea that the more we depend on technology, the more it's going to control us. There've been some good movies with the Hal-archetype.


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Al Stevens

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Re: Looking forward to future tech in our SF,
« Reply #4 on: June 02, 2021, 01:54:20 AM »
By the way, the multi-platform payload programming language never came to be. After the Challenger accident, all such Shuttle-related R&D programs shut down never to be resuscitated. Too bad, it was a good idea.
     
 

Jeff Tanyard

Re: Looking forward to future tech in our SF,
« Reply #5 on: June 02, 2021, 01:16:30 PM »
When it comes to questions like these, my brain usually runs to the obvious counter-question: "What could go wrong?"  If the answer to that question is sufficiently horrifying, then I decide that the tech is too dangerous to implement, and I further assume that my futuristic society has already learned this the hard way (unless I make the lesson part of the plot).  For example, consider this:


Quote
Who needs control panels with components to use and maintain? Holographic images, speech recognition and simulation, and pilotless craft already exist.



This was essentially McKittrick's idea in WarGames.  Take the men out of the loop.  And we all know what happened next.   :icon_eek:

As for holograms and speech recognition, that sounds like an opportunity that would have an evil Bond villain rubbing his hands with glee.  Just whip up a "deep fake" video or audio and take complete control.  Instant global domination.  Bwa-hahahaha...

One show that took the danger of tech into consideration was BSG.  Their ships had computers, but none of them were networked due to the danger of being hacked by the Cylons.  I always thought this was an excellent example of writers realistically considering technology rather than just using whatever's new and shiny and ignoring risks.
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TimothyEllis

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Re: Looking forward to future tech in our SF,
« Reply #6 on: June 02, 2021, 04:36:07 PM »
One show that took the danger of tech into consideration was BSG.  Their ships had computers, but none of them were networked due to the danger of being hacked by the Cylons.  I always thought this was an excellent example of writers realistically considering technology rather than just using whatever's new and shiny and ignoring risks.

Not quite true.

The Galactica was like that, but Adama was a hold out on the last war.

Pegasus was shut down, and manually and randomly jumped out of hacking range.

But there were accounts of Battlestars being shut down like a switch was turned off.

The writers got it right, but only really for where plot needed it.
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Post-Crisis D

Re: Looking forward to future tech in our SF,
« Reply #7 on: June 02, 2021, 04:55:31 PM »
One show that took the danger of tech into consideration was BSG.  Their ships had computers, but none of them were networked due to the danger of being hacked by the Cylons.  I always thought this was an excellent example of writers realistically considering technology rather than just using whatever's new and shiny and ignoring risks.

Not quite true.

The Galactica was like that, but Adama was a hold out on the last war.

Pegasus was shut down, and manually and randomly jumped out of hacking range.

But there were accounts of Battlestars being shut down like a switch was turned off.

The writers got it right, but only really for where plot needed it.

I think their modern ships were all networked which is why they were disabled by the Cylons.  The Galactica was basically a museum ship, older and not networked.
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Jeff Tanyard

Re: Looking forward to future tech in our SF,
« Reply #8 on: June 02, 2021, 05:54:29 PM »
One show that took the danger of tech into consideration was BSG.  Their ships had computers, but none of them were networked due to the danger of being hacked by the Cylons.  I always thought this was an excellent example of writers realistically considering technology rather than just using whatever's new and shiny and ignoring risks.

Not quite true.

The Galactica was like that, but Adama was a hold out on the last war.

Pegasus was shut down, and manually and randomly jumped out of hacking range.

But there were accounts of Battlestars being shut down like a switch was turned off.

The writers got it right, but only really for where plot needed it.


Gotcha.  I was just thinking of the Galactica, and apparently my memory extrapolated to the rest of the fleet.  I remember Adama mentioning it and, lo and behold, I actually managed to find the scene on YouTube.  lol


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The Bass Bagwhan

Re: Looking forward to future tech in our SF,
« Reply #9 on: June 08, 2021, 10:44:14 AM »
The potential reality of future technology doesn't really lend itself to action/adventure SF. Even modern-day jet fighter encounters are long-distance and computer driven,  and generally boring, and writers constantly hark back to WW2 era combat scenarios (cue Top Gun, which I think they're remaking?). I doubt that death-gripping a joystick and gritting your teeth as you fly through a storm of (space) flak will ever get old.
 

Post-Crisis D

Re: Looking forward to future tech in our SF,
« Reply #10 on: June 08, 2021, 11:20:06 AM »
The potential reality of future technology doesn't really lend itself to action/adventure SF.

It will probably be like that Star Trek episode where wars were virtual and if the computer said you were a war casualty, you headed for the execution chamber.
Mulder: "If you're distracted by fear of those around you, it keeps you from seeing the actions of those above."
The X-Files: "Blood"
 

PJ Post

Re: Looking forward to future tech in our SF,
« Reply #11 on: June 08, 2021, 11:59:51 AM »
It will probably be like that Star Trek episode where wars were virtual and if the computer said you were a war casualty, you headed for the execution chamber.

But maybe without the hats...or half-pants?

 

LilyBLily

Re: Looking forward to future tech in our SF,
« Reply #12 on: June 08, 2021, 01:58:42 PM »
It will probably be like that Star Trek episode where wars were virtual and if the computer said you were a war casualty, you headed for the execution chamber.

But maybe without the hats...or half-pants?



This photo deserves a caption contest.

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Jeff Tanyard

Re: Looking forward to future tech in our SF,
« Reply #13 on: June 08, 2021, 03:30:46 PM »
This photo deserves a caption contest.


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Jeff Tanyard

Re: Looking forward to future tech in our SF,
« Reply #14 on: June 08, 2021, 03:33:16 PM »
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Vijaya

Re: Looking forward to future tech in our SF,
« Reply #15 on: June 08, 2021, 11:15:46 PM »
 :icon_lol2: Jeff


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