Tag Archives: future

Prodigy Eternal – Chapter One

The highly anticipated sequel to the cult-classic Prodigy will be available in eBook stores soon!

One year has passed since Alexandra Gray became the symbol of hope for society. Sheathed in the undercurrent of Tokyo, Alex has remained out of the public eye, desperately trying to reclaim a piece of her old life, all the while searching for her purpose.

Becoming close with a group of rogue hackers, Alex is offered a chance to escape the burdens of fame and slip back into a life she once knew. But upon placing her trust in the hands of people with ulterior motives, she discovers the misstep could have serious repercussions on the world — consequences far more dire than even her betrayers may realize. Now it is up to Alex to contain the situation and undo the damage that she has inadvertently caused. Standing in her way is an elusive and powerful foe who will stop at nothing to avenge a wrong that has been committed against him.


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Chapter One

Tokyo — 2119

The constant awe and admiration of staring eyes had become too much for Alex to bear. She had been hiding for the past year, moving from place to place and trying to find purpose. While discovering what the world had to offer beyond the confines of her home in Megalopolis, Alex mainly ended up in population-dense cities since they provided the best cover.

With a proper disguise, she integrated inconspicuously among the people without the risk of being identified. There were a few instances where savvy pedestrians would stare at her face for a little longer than she felt comfortable with. Their curious eyes would study her flawless bone structure and wonder if they had inadvertently stumbled upon the famous and elusive Alexandra Gray. But before they settled on a conclusion, Alex would vanish like an apparition, leaving them with nothing but doubt and a fleeting memory.

Reports of sightings would invariably emerge with people claiming to have had genuine encounters. Tall tales and rumours travelled through close circles of friends and eventually spread out like a virus, infecting the ears of anyone with an interest. With each story and occasional blurry image that was captured, her legend grew stronger. Having one of the most recognizable faces on the planet didn’t make lying low any easier. Even the best disguises were not immune to the diligent observation of those who were on the lookout for her.

Hiding behind large sunglasses and a full head wrap, Alex approached a market in the busy Shinjuku district of the Japanese metropolis. Fully immersed in the orderly chaos, she slinked her way through the crowds of people until she reached a vendor selling frozen fish. Amongst the chatter between customers and merchants, haggling over prices, Alex heard a siren in the background and tensed up. She was not wanted by the authorities, but the discomfort of knowing she had broken several laws with impunity never left her. The sirens faded and the voice of a shouting man flooded her ears.

“Miss, hello, do you want to buy?” the vendor asked.

Alex snapped out of her daze and regained her focus.

“You want to buy fish?” the man asked.

“I’m just looking, thanks,” Alex said politely.

“Next customer, please!” the man shouted.

Everything about Tokyo was unique. It was unlike any other spot she had been, and she felt more like she had landed on another planet than in another city. The customs and behaviour of the people were noticeably different. Despite what she had learned at the Facility, the once touted ‘global super-culture’ was showing signs of divergence. The architecture was similar to her home of Megalopolis, but distinctive at the same time. Tall glass-covered structures stretched up beyond the clouds and out of sight, while colourful lights and floating holograms sparkled across the night sky.

Alex manoeuvered past the fish vendor and squeezed through a barking herd of customers. As she made her way to the subway, a familiar face on a large screen caught her attention. The sound from the news broadcast poured out from concealed speakers and into the crowd, but no one seemed to be paying any attention. Alex stopped and watched, even if it would only be for a few moments.

“Hi, I am Marika Martens for the Global News Network, and we are gearing up for what will be a historic event this weekend. This Saturday marks the one-year anniversary of when our planet was saved by the heroic Alexandra Gray. There have been many rumours and speculation as to Miss Gray’s whereabouts, but one thing is for certain, history will forever remember this young prodigy.

“Joining us live is one of Alex’s closest friends, Milo Rion. Milo, welcome to our program.”

“I’m happy to be here, thank you for having me.”

“Milo, you are one of Alex’s closest friends and have become somewhat of a celebrity yourself. How has your life changed since that fateful day, and how do you intend to celebrate this Saturday?”

“I appreciate some of the spillover attention I’ve received, but that has mostly died down now. I get the odd person recognizing me here or there, but honestly my life hasn’t changed all that much. I’m still picking away at my school requirements with the hopes of graduating soon. As for how I intend to celebrate — I don’t know, I haven’t really given it much thought. I’m just thankful to have had Alex as part of my life for as long as I did. So I suppose more so than other times, this Saturday I will be reflecting back on some of the special moments we’ve shared together.”

“I’m sure you get this question all the time, but I have to ask — where is Alex?”

“You know, I wish I knew, but we haven’t spoken in a long time. I hear the rumours just like everyone else and am left to wonder where she is and what she has been up to.”

“If she is watching this, is there anything you would like to say to her?”

“Alex, if you’re watching, I just want to say that I miss you very much and I hope you are safe.”

A single tear emerged from behind Alex’s glasses and rolled down her cheek. She wiped it away and sniffled.

“We’re now going to play a clip from Alex’s last public appearance, where she addressed millions of adoring fans all over the world.”

I stand before you completely humbled. I didn’t ask for any of this attention and praise, but I am truly honoured you herald me as your saviour. The truth is, I was just one small part of a much larger operation. I could not have done it without my mother, her friends, as well as my two best friends…”

As the footage played, Alex was nowhere in sight, having dispersed into the crowd like a whisper in the wind.

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Transcendence Explained (Spoiler Alert!)

Transcendence explained

Chances are if you’ve arrived at this post, you’ve seen the movie Transcendence with Johnny Depp and the girl from The Town, and had some questions. Before we get into the explanation of the movie, in particularly the ending, I just want to say this will contain spoilers if you haven’t seen the movie.

So what is Transcendence about? What I took from the movie was that it wanted to make you question our interaction and relationship with technology on a fundamental level. What does that mean?

When I was watching the movie, I wasn’t really sure who to root for. The husband and wife duo, Dr. Will and Evelyn Caster (Johnny Depp and Rebecca Hall) were clearly introduced as the movie’s protagonists. Will Caster is brilliant, has adoring fans, and seems to have a benevolent agenda. Then he gets shot and we pull for him and his wife even more.

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Evelyn Caster uploads her dying husband’s consciousness into a computer and the concepts of sentience and personhood are forever blurred. One of the first things Will does once his conscience has been melded with the computer hardware is demand more power, which seems reasonable enough. Their cohort Max Waters has reservations about the demand and whether Will is really the mind in the machine. Max and Evelyn get into a heated argument over the issue and Max is thrown out. It was at this point where I began to form an opinion of what I would do in this instance. As Evelyn’s motives seemed to be clouded by her emotions, I tended to side with Max.

In a harrowing race against the clock, Evelyn concedes to Will’s request and connects him to a satellite, much like letting a bird out of a cage. Will’s consciousness immediately travelled across the vast network of computers and electronic devices, and he suddenly had access to information and systems like never before.

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There is a reason why philosophers study and debate ethics — it is inherently complex. Is it right to take a man’s life if you know it would save ten lives? Is it wrong to steal if you need to feed your children? When, if ever, is it morally permissible to lie? The point I’m trying to make is that the hero and the villain are not always easy to cast. In this case, Will manipulates the financial market to fund a company that is owned by his wife Evelyn. This enables her to buy and build (under his request) a facility that will do two things:

  1. Give him more power
  2. Provide a place where advanced research can be conducted

Two years after the facility is built, a worker is assaulted, leaving him in rough shape. He has open wounds and what we are led to believe a broken leg. With the facility funnelling unlimited power to Will, he has become adept at controlling computers and nano-technology. Using the facility’s high-tech equipment, he heals the man instantly. As a by-product of being infused with nanobots, the worker has super strength. However, since the man is now an amalgamation of technology and organic material, Will can control him. Here, the line of what is morally permissible seems to have been crossed, especially when Will controls the man’s conscience and uses him to talk and attempt to touch Evelyn.

TRANSCENDENCE

Will puts out a seemingly benevolent invitation to anyone who suffers from any sort of physical limitation such as muscular dystrophy (I’m guessing), blindness, paralysis, etc. and offers to heal them. On the one hand, this seems to be pious, but on the other hand, Will’s agenda is not fully transparent. With each person he helps, he is ultimately adding another soldier to his army. He maintains these people are coming and working at the facility on their own volition, and are free to leave whenever they want.

As the movie progresses, we see Will as this omniscient, sentient machine becoming ever more creepy, and the radical anti-technology organization becoming increasingly more justified in preventing Will from gaining too much power. Will has put nanobots everywhere — in the air, the water, the ground, and into many individuals. His goal seems to be to create one global super-conscience that can stave off disease, purify the air and water, rebuild nearly any material… But, the cost of such world-wide inclusivity (for lack of a better word) is that humans would have to give up being human.

Will is eventually able to use nano-technology to regenerate himself, but moments later, he and his facility are attacked. The so-called “radical” anti-Will organization have devised a plan to infect Will with a virus. They realize, however, the only way to stop Will and his omnipresent nanobots is to have a total world-wide blackout whereby the use of computerized technology is wiped out.

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The virus succeeds and at the end we see a world where people are desolate. Computerized technology litters the streets and is used as door stoppers. And as the credits roll, we can’t help but wonder if perhaps the world would have been better off in the hands of a super computer.

The end of the movie may not be satisfying for some since it leaves it open for the audience to draw their own conclusions. Was Will really in the machine, or was it just some malevolent artificial-intelligence hell-bent on world domination? One could see how a world where everything is a part of a machine could turn into a Matrix, or Terminator-type scenario. Conversely, if Will’s vision of world domination was to create utopia, then we are faced with the challenge of evaluating what is truly important. Is the price we pay for utopia too high?

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At its core, Transcendence is a philosophical movie that forces us to think. We may be presented with this type of technological singularity (as articulated by futurist Ray Kurzweil) at some point in the future, so this may be less science-fiction and more of an introduction to a global discussion.

My final thoughts on the moral dilemma — I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer. Some people value being human more than having pure air and water, while others would rather be a part of a hive-minded AI that provides us with solutions to many of the world’s problems. At this time, I would be willing to consider giving up my humanity and embrace technology. We’re not going to live forever, so my humanity is only temporary. As long as the technology has a benevolent agenda, I’m okay with the singularity. Embrace change.

See Also:

Interstellar Explained

Cloud Atlas Explained

Oblivion Explained

Life of Pi Explained

Looper Explained

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Prodigy Introduction

Prodigy - Edward MullenThe year 2030 was a significant turning point in human history. It was the beginning of a global catastrophe known as World War III.

Those who were fortunate enough to survive the attacks, nuclear blasts, and fallout were met with decades of economic recession, famine, and illness. Staying alive during those times required diligent effort, team work, and a lot of luck. People grew despondent and any remaining civility eroded. While the war was going on, there was a total disregard for law and order. Riots, looting, and senseless murders were a routine occurrence in nearly every city. Financial systems unraveled, infrastructures deteriorated and entire neighbourhoods were abandoned as people sought refuge in rural parts of the country where it was deemed to be safer.

When the war finally ended, it was a pyrrhic victory that decimated the majority of the world’s population and left the world in a state of ruins. If there was a positive, it was that the survivors came together like never before. Roughly one billion remained – a technologically savvy group of individuals who refused to be bound by outdated ways of thinking. They had nothing more to lose and everything to gain. With a fierce tenacity, they organized together and vowed to never let the mistakes of the past lead them to war again. They used the Internet to create a true democracy that allowed them to vote on every issue. Humanity had given life to technology, and when they needed it the most, technology gave life back to humanity.

The access to information enabled them to be tolerant of other cultures, educated about the issues, and intelligently discuss different ideologies. They took pride in rebuilding a new civilization because they felt like their voice mattered. Each law, policy, and institution was examined and discussed. Within a relatively short period of time, a new constitution was enacted by the people, for the people. Shortly thereafter, the New World Order was established – a benevolent and centralized government that became the administrative body for the entire planet. They operated with a simple agenda of creating optimal living conditions for all. There were no invasions of privacy and no invasions of countries; the sole purpose of its existence was to facilitate the will of the people – the way it was intended by the ancient Greeks.

Once the financial system was put in the hands of the people rather than power-hungry individuals, everything changed for the better. The economy became more efficient and people were no longer at the mercy of cyclical fluctuations and unstable speculative markets.

The educational system of the past was determined to be fundamentally flawed as well. It was designed hundreds of years before and no longer met the requirements of the modern world. The entire world population was now required to be educated according to a contemporary curriculum consisting of ten main subjects: mathematics, finance, science, languages, law, history, philosophy, psychology, art, and athletics. Each main subject could be subdivided into a vast collection of subsidiary subjects. Amongst these traditional subjects were a number of new and important additions to the curriculum. The study of personhood, mind management, and discipline were introduced in an effort to help people better understand the complexities of their egos and to moderate their temperaments.

Each subject would take years to master, but would not be learned in the traditional sense. Now, subjects were broken down into several parts and downloaded directly into people’s brains. Once downloaded, there would be no need for tests since the student was able to recall anything they had downloaded at a moment’s notice. For the most part, learning the traditional way, through repetition, became obsolete. Nearly everyone on the planet was enlightened, in effect, creating a world of kind and rational human beings.

The concept of countries no longer existed. People were free to live anywhere they wished. Individuals from underprivileged parts of the world were offered the chance to receive a one-time location reassignment, temporary lodging, and a full education – completely free. Nearly everyone accepted and moved into major cities leaving many of the harshest environments on the planet abandoned.

The Child Rearing Act was introduced as a method to maintain the global population as well as filter out children who were deemed to be a high risk for causing problems in society. An evaluation process was put in place and each woman was required to be approved before she conceived. Any woman wishing to have a baby would have to meet certain financial, educational, physical, and psychological requirements. Global populations became stable and for the most part, poverty was nullified.

Before all these changes, the world was on a steep descent into depravity and this seemed like the only logical step to take. Any woman who was found to be in violation of this act was often imprisoned and sometimes sterilized to prevent future offenses. In addition, the baby became the property of the state to ensure it would receive an adequate upbringing. Although the punishment was severe, it was deemed to be the only way to keep the system from falling back into the flawed ways of the past.

The ubiquity of information allowed people to gain a thorough understanding of worldly cultures. As a result, many of the cultural differences between people began to fade. Despite being separated by great distances, people still felt connected to each other in a communal sense. They had no nationality, no allegiance to a flag, and viewed themselves as citizens of Earth. They acted as one conglomerate global super-culture where many old nonsensical customs were abandoned and replaced by rational thinking and empathy. For the first time in human history, there was sustained global peace.

Article by Edward Mullen

Author of The Art of the Hustle and Destiny and Free Will

Host of The Edward Mullen Podcast

www.EdwardMullen.com

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The Evolution of Money

evolution of moneyBarter

Before physical money was invented, people needed a way to conduct transactions. The barter system was the first form of money. A baker would trade his bread for a table, a wagon maker would trade his wagon for a goat, and so on. The problems with this system were many: you had to find someone willing to accept your goods in exchange for theirs. Also, relative value wasn’t clearly defined. How many loaves of bread equal a table? Clearly, there needed to be a more efficient way.

The barter system still takes place in many parts of the world. One main advantage is that the government cannot tax barter transactions.

Commodities

In order to lubricate transactions, there needed to be a system in which tangible items represented value that everyone agreed upon. The earliest known commodities were things like seashells, stones, precious gems, silver, and gold.

Today, silver and gold are still accepted commodities all around the world.

Receipt money

Even commodities have their limitations. People didn’t want to walk around with a bunch of gold and precious gems, nor did they want to store it at their house, especially if they were wealthy. They needed a place to keep it safe. To solve this problem, a trustworthy person established the first banking system whereby individuals would drop off their commodities in exchange for a paper receipt that represented the value of their deposit.

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Today we still use this system. Receipt money now takes the form of cheques, bank drafts, wire transfers, and debit cards.

Fractional reserve receipt money

As more and more people adopted the receipt money system, bank vaults became filled with silver, gold, and precious gems. Since receipts were lighter, safer, and more efficient, customers had little use for their stored commodities. Bankers realized this and began to lend it out in the form of loans. The borrower would put up some form of collateral, and in turn would be issued a receipt of debt to be paid back with interest. This way, the banker could make money on other people’s wealth.

This is where all the problems begin. First, bankers were greedy—they issued more loans than they had in reserve in their vault. They would get away with it provided that everybody didn’t take out all their gold at the same time.

The second problem is that it puts more money into the system, which causes inflation. In effect, the banks found a way to print money.

Fiat money

Fiat money is money that is not backed by gold. Prior to 1971, every dollar in circulation represented a percentage of actual gold in a government vault. This was a way to avoid inflation. After President Nixon severed the ties between money and gold in 1971, the United States no longer needed anything of value in their vaults to print more money. Since then, the value of the dollar continues to plummet. Money is no longer a derivative of gold, it’s now a derivative of debt.

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E-currency

We’ve already seen a reduced need for physical cash. Debit and credit cards offer a safer and more efficient way to do business. Coins like the penny are becoming obsolete since they cost more to produce than they’re worth. Cash has other problems as well: it can be lost, destroyed, stolen, printed, exchanged discreetly, requires resources to produce it, and you have to continually go to the bank to get more of it when you run out.

If cash becomes obsolete, then naturally e-currency would be the next evolution of money. If all transactions using e-currency is fully traceable, then you couldn’t print any more of it. Inflation would cease, markets would stabilize, the standard of living will improve for all, and the world will prosper. In addition, if fully traceable, then black market transactions could not occur discreetly. If people no longer feel comfortable operating under the guise of anonymity, then crime and corruption may drop.

This is obviously a very idealistic interpretation. There will always be people who are tempted to hack into some database and add a few extra zeros to their account.  If e-currency doesn’t work and the faith in the dollar completely erodes, then we may see a resurgence of the whole cycle starting back with the barter system.

Article by Edward Mullen

Author of The Art of the Hustle and Destiny and Free Will

Host of The Edward Mullen Podcast

www.EdwardMullen.com

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Daniel H. Wilson Interview

danielhwilson1-660x511New York Times bestselling author, Daniel H. Wilson, has one of the most remarkable Hollywood stories of recent times.

After publishing several successful non-fiction books, he began writing his first full-length novel, Robopocalypse. Before it was even finished, he received an offer from DreamWorks to purchase the movie rights, which is pretty much equivalent to winning the lottery. When news later revealed that Steven Spielberg was signed on to direct the now bestseller, the excitement for Daniel grew.

Almost immediately, Daniel was whisked away to Hollywood where he met Spielberg and screenwriter Drew Goddard to discuss the finer points of his book.

Last summer, Daniel celebrated the release of his next techno-thriller, Amped–a story about people implanted with a device that makes them capable of superhuman feats.

To add to his laundry list of accomplishments, including earning his Ph.D. in Robotics and hosting a TV show, Daniel has a number of exciting projects planned for the next couple of years including the release of the paperback version of the widely popular novel, Amped (due out this February) and the highly anticipated sequel to Robopacalypse.

Recently, I had a chance to speak with Daniel–a polite and easy-going guy who currently resides in Portland Oregon with his wife and daughter.

In 2011, your first fiction book Robopocalypse was published, which became a New York Times bestseller. Then in 2012, you followed that up by releasing another widely successful fiction book called Amped. I’m curious to know, how has your life changed since the success of these books?

I sold the film rights to Robopocalypse in 2009, the day before I sold the book rights. So, I’ve had a long time since then to digest the success of that book. I’ve been really happy about it because Robopocalypse is the first novel that I wrote. So without that success, I would probably be done writing novels. Over the years my life really hasn’t changed much, except that I get to sit around and think of fiction to write everyday instead of doing all the research that’s associated with non-fiction.

ralgYou mentioned that you sold the film rights to Robopocalypse the day before you sold the book rights. From what I understand, the book wasn’t even finished and it somehow got leaked. Is that true and how did that come about?

Yeah, I would describe it as winning some kind of cosmic nerd lottery. *laughs* I have no idea how it came about, I didn’t even know there were people that leaked stuff like that in New York at the publishing houses. But of course, now it seems obvious that there would be. The studios are very eager to be the first to jump on new projects–even before they’ve been sold.

You know, I have to say that I was really blown away and I still feel really really lucky. There’s nobody that deserves that level of luck. *laughs* It was a crazy and spectacular situation, like your lotto numbers coming up.

With that said, when I look at my writing career–which of course started with getting a degree in robotics and then playing to that strength–every book was kind of a paving stone laid that took me a little bit further until I reached the point where I had enough credibility and enough contacts to try to write a novel and try to get attention for it. In retrospect, I suppose I bought the lottery ticket myself.

It’s been confirmed that Steven Spielberg is directing Robopacalypse and from what I understand, Alex Proyas is directing Amped. Is that true?

In regards to Alex Proyas directing Amped, that was on the table for a while, but actually that’s no longer the case. It’s a really topsy-turvy world with films. So as of right now, the Amped rights are very recently available.

news-graphics-2008-_655878aAs you know, Steven Spielberg directed the movie A.I., is that good or bad that his name is associated with a similarly themed movie?

There’s no downside to having Steven Spielberg direct your movie. With A.I.–coming from the academic side–I mean, I have a degree in A.I. specifically and I love that movie. I love how true he was to the robot characters. It makes me really confident and happy that he’s the one making Robopocalypse.

Recently, it has come out that Spielberg has delayed production of Robopocalypse about six to eight months. According to sources, Spielberg said that the film was costing a lot of money and had found a better and cheaper way to tell the story. Spielberg stated, “I just told everybody to go find other jobs, I’m starting on a new script and we’ll have this movie back on its feet soon.” Can you shed more light on this situation?

I would of course love to see the Robopocalypse movie sooner rather than later, but I am excited to hear that Steven Spielberg has had a breakthrough on the script and grateful that DreamWorks is taking the time to execute the absolute best version of this project.

I follow you on twitter @danielwilsonpdx and you posted a picture of Chris Hemsworth saying he’s not exactly who you envisioned in the lead role (Cormac Wallace). Who in Hollywood would you have cast, if you couldn’t pick Chris Hemsworth?

Actually, you know what, the more I thought about it… I totally get it now. I had only seen him in Thor, and he’s this huge guy, he’s like this pro wrestler, you know. Cormac Wallace, the character in the book, is really just a regular guy. But now that I have seen Chris in some other roles, I realized that they had done a lot of work to make him look like Thor–the God of thunder. So yeah, I realized that he could play Cormac, I’m pretty excited about it actually.

How much say do you have in the development of the screenplay and what actors are cast?

Oh, I don’t have any say. Everything that I contributed to the movie I had contributed by the time I had finished writing the book. They’ve got my full trust. I’m really looking forward to seeing what they’ve done.

A book is a book and a movie is a movie, and there is no rule that the movie has to be completely identical to the book. Ideally, the movie is the best version of the book, so that’s what I want to see. And it’s not going to be exactly the same. The book is very epic–it’s sprawled over lots of time and lots and lots of characters, and different continents. Things come together slower in the book so I would imagine that the movie would be different, but I don’t really know. I will just be watching like everybody else.

That must be so exciting for you.

Yeah, you know, I wrote the first hundred pages and then it sold. I then wrote the rest of the book knowing that these people were interested, but not really believing that it would be made into a movie because almost all my previous books have been optioned at some point, but never a movie. Over time, I started realizing, ’hey, man, this might be a real movie with merchandise, and toys, and video games, and stuff like that.’ I don’t know for sure, but how cool would that be? Luckily that sort of pressure and that kind of thinking never really hit me until I finished drafting the book.

The first time I saw Robopocalypse, I walked into the bookstore and saw the amazing cover art and was drawn in. How did that come about? Was the robot built for the cover picture or is it a computer graphic?

That’s completely the marketing folks at Doubleday; they did an amazing job on the cover. They really knocked it out of the park. You can tell that it’s a great cover because every international edition of the book has pretty much the same cover because it’s just so iconic. Normally they’ll change the cover depending on different countries. So Doubleday really killed it.

It’s actually a 3D model that was public domain and whoever the artist was started with that and then modified it to make it look the way it does. It’s not exactly the same as the original 3D model. In fact, I found the original 3D model because the people were so excited they were tweeting about it, because when the book came out they were like, ‘those are our models!’ So that was pretty funny.

In addition to an obvious robotics theme throughout much of your writing, you also focus a lot on morality. Can you touch a little on that and talk about why that is important to you?

Technology, I think of as just a multiplier on our morality. I mean, every real story is about good and evil, there’s no way around it. That’s what’s interesting, that’s the struggle we all have every day. Whenever you give human beings really advanced technology, our capacity to do good and evil is multiplied. I mean, you can do really great things or really terrible things when you have the right technology. I think of technology as a way to sharpen the drama that characters are experiencing in the real story.

You also focus a lot on technology that either currently exists or that will exist soon? Why is it important for you to remain true to the current realm of possibility?

I think it’s important because I want people to read it. There are only so many worlds that you can absorb, and memorize all the names of the races, and the locations, and the types of weaponry, and vehicles. There are only so many Middle-earths and Dunes that you can hold in your head. In my work, I want the reader to really hit the ground running–to already be immersed in my story without having to do a lot of exposition.

If I set this thing on Mars and it was a thousand years from now, no one is going to be able to relate to the characters. I’m going to have to unload a ton of exposition in order to make people understand the setting. Also, what’s the value?

On some level it’s tempting as a writer to go crazy in the role of God, which you have as a writer–you get to make worlds and people. But at the end of the day, you have to remember that it’s about the reader, it’s not about exercising your power as a writer for the heck of it. You are trying to get people to read it, and have a good time, and convey whatever your message is, or whatever your themes are that you want to play with.

Do you write with the intent of conveying some sort of message?

I usually don’t have any explicit message. I’m not trying to convince anybody of anything except that they had a good time reading the book.

You published a short story in December on nightmare-magazine.com called Foul Weather, which is a lot different from some of the other stuff you are known for. What was the inspiration behind that?

That story was just me on an airplane daydreaming, so I threw down the bones of it.

It is about this old man who used to be a meteorologist, reminiscing about something that happened that was kind of horrifying and supernatural. One afternoon, I was writing on that short story and I was like, ‘well, let’s get into this character. Who is this guy?’

So I started calling meteorologists and I ended up talking to this meteorologist out of Oklahoma who was older and had been around when computers showed up on the scene. So to me, that was really interesting, thinking about this field and what happens when technology changes everything and whether there is some underlying intuition that lurks below the technology, or maybe even invisible to the technology, that you might have if you started out doing meteorology with pencil and paper and the breeze in your face. So that was the impetus of that story.

So are you going to try to get away from writing about robotics because I imagine at some point those stories would be harder and harder for you to write?

No, it’s actually funny, it’s easier and easier. There’s so much, there are so many different angles. I mean, think about someone like Asimov, did he run out of robot stories? Not really.

I write about whatever I feel like is a good story, and a lot of the time it has to do with technology because I spent a lot of time studying that stuff, and that’s what’s kind of floating around in my dome.

Whenever something better floats along, I’m happy to write it, too.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I’m writing the sequel to Robopacalypse. It’s called Robogenesis and it’s going to come out around when the movie comes out in October or December 2014. I’m also working on an anthology called Robot Uprisings with John Joseph Adams–it’s a lot of short stories. It has been really fun to interact with some of the science-fiction writers that I’ve always loved. Now I get to email them and say, ‘hey, can you contribute a story?’ We’ve got all our people picked out and we’re starting to receive the stories, so it’s pretty exciting.

Article by Edward Mullen

Author of The Art of the Hustle and Destiny and Free Will

Host of The Edward Mullen Podcast

www.EdwardMullen.com

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Cloud Atlas Explained (Spoiler Alert!)

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This may be the toughest article I’ve ever written. I’m going to try to explain the movie Cloud Atlas.

The last time I did one of these posts, I got into a debate with the Writer/ Director of the film via twitter. You can read that post here: What They Didn’t Tell You in Looper

Okay, here it goes. Cloud Atlas: came out October 26, 2012, adapted from a 2004 novel of the same title by David Mitchel, directed by Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski, and is about… as confusing a movie as even possible. In fact, it was like six really confusing movies in one, and then scrambled together. It’s about as easy to follow as a bee in a tornado.

Most movies follow a three-act structure – the setup, the confrontation, the resolution. It’s not the only way, and maybe not even the best way, but that’s what most movie viewers are accustomed to seeing. To say that Cloud Atlas deviates from this structure would be an understatement. The best way to describe the story arch is like filling a balloon with air and then letting it go. The balloon whizzes around the room with no discretion or purpose. Then at the end, it just falls flat. Even that analogy breaks down because balloons filled with air have a structure.

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After twenty minutes or so, it becomes apparent that the story is unfollowable. You give yourself the benefit of the doubt and hang in there, hoping that some sliver of plot will be revealed allowing you to start piecing things together. Then credits.

The driving force of this movie seems to be the characters, but admittedly I didn’t understand the movie so I may be wrong. The characters are never really explained. We know almost nothing about who they are, little about what motivates them, and not one morsel of their back story. We are introduced to a series of seemingly random story lines midway through, and are forced to play catch-up. When we start to unravel the mess we’ve been placed in, the story jumps to another completely different story, but the actors in the previous story are now playing different characters in the new story. Huh!

From my fading memory of the film, there are six stories.

Story One: Some kind of post-apocalyptic tale where a group of savages on horseback bare warpaint and kill a village of mountain people for no apparent reason. Some strange goblin appears at will who despite his creepy and sinister nature gives seemingly sound survival advice to one of the characters. A futuristic lady coasts to shore on a large yacht and helps these primitive mountain people.

Story Two: A journalist in the 1970s investigates a corrupt nuclear power plant owner and his plan for mass destruction. We are introduced to a few characters just long enough before they get killed. We are told that the journalist’s dad was also a journalist, who was friends with the assistant of the corrupt power plant owner, who feels duty bound to help his deceased friend’s daughter.

Story Three: A gay male prostitute meets a legendary composer in old town England. The prostitute writes down and plays the music that the old composer describes. The prostitute is in it for the money and adulation. He also has a gay lover who he keeps in contact with via snail mail.

Story Four: A lawyer on a ship (circa… I don’t know, 1850?) is being poisoned by a fellow shipmate for his gold. A slave on the boat saves the lawyer’s life. The lawyer convinces the ship’s captain to employ the slave for his sailing talents.

Story Five: Some rich and morally corrupt man sends his brother to a retirement home. The brother makes friends with some of the other retirees and attempts to break out of the prison-like retirement home.

Story Six: A futuristic tale about a bunch of Korean clones that are created to be wait staff in a diner. They sleep in these coffin-sized cubicles, they are fed some protein smoothie, and don’t know life beyond this servitude. The clones can eventually ‘graduate’ to become free citizens. Those who graduate are led to a ceremony, but actually it’s a slaughter. The “freed” clones get killed, ground up, and used to make protein smoothies for the still enslaved clones. One of the clones is rescued by some mysterious mercenary guy who is part of a squad of underground rebels, and is shown what happens to the freed clones. After seeing the horrible fate of the “freed” clones, the rescued clone becomes the symbol for the clone-rights movement.

CLOUD ATLAS

Although I roughly described six lackluster stories, I couldn’t really say anything intelligent about any of them. I’m still not sure what the point of any of those stories was, or what the point of the movie as a whole was, but there were three commonalities that I took notice of:

  1. The same actors had reoccurring parts, albeit different roles
  2. There seemed to be unselfish acts of kindness
  3. The stories were loosely connected in some way

I would say this is one of the worst movies I have ever seen, but I’m afraid I might just be too stupid to get it.

 See Also:

Interstellar Explained

Transcendence Explained

Oblivion Explained

Life of Pi Explained

Looper Explained

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