[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

Nanotechnology, lifelike robots, Google Glass, Invisibility Metamaterials, and 3-D Printing are just the beginning. Many technologies that recently existed only in the pages of a science fiction novel are becoming reality. We asked this week’s panelists:

Q: What science fictional technologies do you think are right on the horizon and will become part of our everyday lives in the next ten years?

Here’s what our panelists had to say…

Ken Liu
Ken Liu’s fiction has appeared in F&SF, Asimov’s, Analog, Strange Horizons, Lightspeed, and Clarkesworld, among other places. He has won a Nebula, two Hugos, a World Fantasy Award, and a Science Fiction & Fantasy Translation Award, and been nominated for the Sturgeon and the Locus Awards. He lives near Boston with his family.

Advances in artificial intelligence are not making many headlines these days, but I think within the next decade computer thinking will make inroads in many areas touching our lives. The reason advances in AI don’t seem very “science fictional” to us is that we keep on moving the goal post: computers now can beat humans at chess, answer Jeopardy questions, understand and transcribe your speech, translate in real time, and make billions on the stock market. While most people still seem “skeptical” about whether computers can think, we already live in a science fictional world.

Perhaps two areas will challenge our comfort. One is the military. Right now, military computers are still used in a way that is “supervised” by human decision makers. The drones that are in the news so much are operated by remote pilots, and targeting systems make recommendations, leaving the final decision to kill up to the human (though some have already described the human oversight as “illusory”). But the machinery of war has a relentless logic: eventually, human oversight will be seen as too slow and error-prone and undependable. We will have fully automated robots fighting our wars, where the decision to fire and kill will be made by machines alone—human oversight, if any, will be limited to the crafting of the algorithms governing these systems.
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MIND MELD: Great SF/F Stories By Women

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Recently, Ian Sales posted an article on his website called Toward 100 Great SF Short Stories by Women. We thought this would be a great question for our Mind Meld panelists and so we’ve leveraged the question:

Q: What stories do you think belong on a “100 Great SF/F Stories by Women” list?

Here’s what they said:
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Diane Turnshek is an astronomer whose short fiction has been published in Analog Magazine and elsewhere. She teaches astronomy and experimental physics lab at Carnegie Mellon University and at the University of Pittsburgh “The Physics of Science Fiction” as well as astronomy. She’s a contributing author of Many Genres/One Craft, a 2011 award-winning book on writing. She has taught college writing classes, helped organize science fiction conferences, founded Alpha, the genre workshop for young writers, and ran the 2007 SFWA Nebula Awards in NYC. Diane has four stellar sons and an out-of-this-world boyfriend.

I am on Mars, at least that’s what it looks like here in the high desert of Utah. Six of us are living in the Mars Desert Research Station, a two-story cylindrical habitat 30 feet across with steep ladder stairs between floors. Our bunks are 4 by 11 feet and we share one bathroom. Why am I here for Christmas instead of home with my four children? For science.

We are pioneers, studying how humans could live on another planet. We’re in full sim. We eat rehydrated/dehydrated food, suffer a 20-minute lag time with communications, travel outside the Hab in spacesuits and ride ATVs in the red desert. We each pay for our travel and a flat fee for food and lodging, but what we get back is invaluable. We have forwarded the progress of science, taking humanity one small step closer to striding onto the surface of Mars.

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