As I mentioned in my recent blog on fiction becoming reality ("Science Catching Up With My Fiction"), I keep getting the shivers these days as more and more of what I envisioned a number of years ago (thinking I was writing science fiction), is already busting out in our current science news. I'm not very esoteric, growing up in a pragmatic ranching culture, but I must admit that my own experience indicates that we can somehow see at least vaguely into the future ... and write about it. And my scientific mind, which loved creating the far-out mood-modification broadcast equipment in my novels, feels shocked to see this same technology emerging in reality.
Take, as an example, the recent announcement that Elon Musk's Starlink space company just fired 60 low-orbit satellites designed to broadcast internet data down onto our heads. These satellites are 60 times CLOSER to the earth than previous broadcast satellites. Each weighs 500 pounds - and nowhere do I read that we know what's in each satellite. SpaceX plans to launch over 1,2000 such low-orbit satellites in the near future, and then inundate the entire world with internet-delivery broadcasts.
Well ... taken to its logical extreme, that's almost exactly the plot in Ten%Max, which I originally envisioned five years ago as happening around 2030. Assuming that this private company remains ethical and transparent and wise in how it uses those satellites, we're perhaps okay - but as my novel documents, even America's good guys can get tempted to secretly do something quite humanly devastating with those satellites ... and in the name of protecting us from harm or evil.
In the same way that I'm not very esoteric or fantasy-fixated, I'm also not a fan of conspiracy theories - but again, I find myself sounding sometimes like one - because in my novels I show just how easily certain conspiracies can shift from theory into reality. I've had Hollywood folk reject my novels outs of hand, because they sound in their blurbs like conspiracy plots. I mean, who wants to believe that any of our white-collar American scientists might plot to secretly influence our moods and thoughts - even if they're trying to thwart terrorists or protect our way of life against attack or mental illness?
But a quick look at the news shows how eroded our regulatory and legal system is becoming, how overly-complex and untested our technologies, and how risky and out of control our corporate research programs might become. In Higher Forces I show how even seemingly-benign brain research like this "computer assisted telepathy" program can readily in the wrong hands evolve into something that violates the basic "truths we hold to be self evident" - our freedom of thought, freedom of independent action, freedom to experience our own emotions without external influence ...
In my novels I'm careful not to force a judgment on where tech is taking us - instead I leave my stories open-ended so that readers can reflect and come to their own personal decisions about what they want to happen in their lives, and the future lives of their children. Drama becomes important to our democratic future when it reveals possible scenarios on the horizon that we need to begin talking about as a culture if we want to make conscious choices about our shared future.
I hope my fiction will be of help in stimulating this reflective process. I love technology, we all do - but it's a wild uncharted force that will require purposeful control and regulation. We need to take responsibility and contain this new power and use it to nurture humanity's inherent virtues, not take advantage of our inherent gullibility in the face of complex new manipulatory systems. Heads up!