Sven Davison, author of State of Mind, is an NYU film school graduate who wrote trailer copy for Beavis and Butthead Do America, The Relic and The Ghost and the Darkness. He spent a decade as the head of Twentieth Century Fox’s Worldwide Home Entertainment Content department. He has one produced screenplay and a published novel in the action-adventure Hollywood-satire genre. When he’s not writing he consults for entertainment technology companies.
I’ve always loved science fiction. As a kid and a teen my favorite authors were Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, E.E. “Doc” Smith, Frank Herbert, Douglas Adams, and Samuel Youd (aka John Christopher). In college and beyond I gravitated towards Robert Heinlein, Orson Scott Card, Harlan Ellison, Gregg Bear and Richard Paul Russo. I had always dabbled in science fiction short stories and shot short films with scifi plots.
In 2000 I read an article in Popular Science, which covered chipping pets with subcutaneous identification tags. I thought about a world where we could all interface with computers through chips in our minds. I had read Arthur C. Clarke’s Lion of Comarre when I was a kid and the plot of people living out their lives plugged into a virtual world stuck with me. I also thought of The Matrix, which was the best contemporary example I had at the time. Then I thought of a world where we could be emotionally and physically enhanced by chip implants. Part of my job at Fox was helping to enforce anti-piracy on digital media. But if one person invents secure code another person can hack it. Ultimately I thought: What it would be like to hack into someone’s mind, place them in a coma and force their body to do anything? That’s when I started writing.
As I wrote I thought about how our society was looking more and more to medical technology to solve deeper issues. Got a hyperactive kid? Give him Ritalin. Overweight? Get a lap band. Addressing a symptom is far easier than confronting a cause. I thought the technology of the P-Chip should take this idea to the nth degree. If the P-Chip encouraged irresponsible behavior, people would ignore the pitfalls and sign up for implantation. I agree that there are always exceptions to every rule, so I’m not trying to generalize, but I do believe the psychology I present affects a majority.
After my first draft, the iPhone came to market and it bolstered my confidence in the plausibility of the P-Chip. If you apply Moore’s Law (the quantity of transistors that can be placed inexpensively on an integrated circuit will double every two years) to technology in general, then what was the next leap from the iPhone? I felt it could very well be a PDA implanted in the brain.
I was unaware of Ray Kurzweil and the Singularitarians until the book was close to its publication date in March 2011. Steve Moore referenced them in a review of my book and I looked them up. According to the Time cover article published on February 21, 2011 by Lev Grossman, Singularitarians feel that by 2045 humankind will be joined with artificial intelligence and our consciousness will live forever inside a machine. My only argument against this is if AI comes to life and it evolves according to Moore’s Law then it won’t take long for this new intelligence to surpass our level of comprehension. In a short time it will see us as a lower life form, as we would a monkey, or even a paramecium. Why would this new intelligence have a need to integrate us into its consciousness? I should think this new intellect would move on to the next phase of existence and leave us to deal with our human issues by ourselves (Blood Music anyone?). To quote Douglas Adams, “So long and thanks for all the fish.”
On a more immediate note, I recently came across an article in Popular Science about an NYU art professor who had a camera surgically implanted in his brain. I couldn’t help but think the world of the P-Chip was getting closer.