Technology, psychology and the rise of AI – my science fiction inspiration for the day

Posted: January 28, 2014 in writing, writing life
Tags: , , , ,

One of the good things about working as a freelance writer is the endless sources of ideas. It’s not that I never got ideas out of my old job – just people watching from my desk gave me moments of character inspiration, and any job with a bit of analysis to it gets you thinking. But the insights were few and far between.

This is your brain on ideas

Practising levitation, or something

Now they come at me all the time.

Take today. Today I was writing about smartphones for a guy who sells – guess what? – smartphones. I’m not terribly interested in smartphones in general, but researching his articles has led me down some interesting paths.

The Blackphone – almost as sinister as it sounds

Like last week when I did some reading about the Blackphone. You’ve probably never heard of this device, and you certainly haven’t seen it as it’s not yet on the market. But it’s a phone whose designers have put all their focus into protecting the user’s data, providing them with security and anonymity. It’s a smartphone response to the ongoing battle between forces of privacy and intrusion. It’s a change in the market to make phones more varied. It’s a business acting like something more than a profit making machine. And it’s also a cool little slice of near future potential, a source of inspiration for science fiction gadgetry.

Building addictions

I also read about some legal and PR battles surrounding King, the company behind many simple but addictive smartphone games. And that led me back to some things I’d read before about the psychology behind these games, the way that they’re built to tap into particular parts of your brain and manipulate you into keeping on playing. You may be using your phone but now maybe your phone is using you. Look at all those tasty conflicts – business vs business, business vs press, man vs machine, man vs himself in a fight to stop playing Candy Crush Saga (seriously, knowing it’s manipulative and addictive is one thing, putting it down is another). That’s some story fodder right there.

Putting it all together

Mix those pieces together with this week’s Writing Excuses episode on AI and I had a story idea bubbling in my brain, all before lunchtime.

And what’s the point of all this reflection? Well, it’s cheered me up, so that’s something. There’s the old lesson that you can find inspiration everywhere. There’s even an element of pointing and going ‘look, our science fiction future is here!’

Beyond that you can take whatever lessons you want.

So what have you seen today that’s inspired your inner story teller? And what cool story ideas have you stumbled across at work? Share your thoughts in the comments, inspire each other.


Image by Matthew Wynn via Flickr creative commons

  1. Ben Burston says:

    Today I have been using a computer system that is, frankly, Kafkaesque in its cruelty and obscure trickery and now I want to run home and either drink loads or read loads. There has been nil inspiration. Apart from perhaps wishing for a world when you could come into work and sit down at a desk that held a big green sheet of blotting paper and some fountain pens. Maybe there’d be an ashtray, and some ink stamps made of rubber. Perhaps a typewriter but probably not. There’s massive overhead lights here and I hate those. They reflect off everything – the huge glass wall to my left (floor to ceiling and hundreds of feet long, and all the glass offices on my right, and the shny desks, keyboards and well – every shiny thing. I am imagiining mahogany panelled walls and gaslight. That would be bliss. And no air-con – just a window and a coal fire. Man. I was born too late. I want to be a lawyer in 1786 in Lincoln’s Inn.

    Last night however was better and I stayed up til about 4 am reading a book by David Case. It was grim but gripping. It made me want to write. But I doubt I can, or really want to. But it was that good that it made me think that I should try.

    This is my rambling response.

    • When we are millionaires we will build that office. We will fill it with all the best people. We will have ink stains on our fingers, debate literature over afternoon tea and work late by the light of a roaring fire. There will be absinthe breaks, because late 19th century Paris is also cool.

      Then we will be shut down by health and safety inspectors after drunkenly setting the carpet on fire. But for three whole days it will be glorious!

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