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Windycon 2017 – Dystopians Unite

Windycon Science Fiction Convention

I’ll be attending the 2017 Windycon Science Fiction Convention this weekend. This year’s theme is Dystopia. I must say that I find dystopian SF appealing, particularly those novels whose focus is on the systems that either arise or exist in those worlds. And my favorite? None other than the classic dystopian novel 1984 by George Orwell.

As usual I’ll be participating in the convention’s programming. The five panels I will be on deal with space, artificial intelligence, and economics – all areas that I am keenly interested in. The only thing missing is art.

My first panel will be NASA Tech Not Just For Astronauts Anymore for which I will be serving as moderator. Along with my two co-panelists, we’ll be talking about technologies that are commonplace today but were once the domain of high technology, especially space technology. We’ll also be taking a look at the new technologies being developed – not just at NASA but within the larger aerospace industry.

In keeping with the dystopian theme of the convention, I’ll next be moderating the panel Not Too Big to Fail in which we’ll discuss how an economy and trade will work in a post-apocalyptic world. Other than being forced to barter for goods and services, what could or would people use for currency? Will there be more than one currency within a society – hearkening back to ancient Egypt where grain was used internally as currency but gold was used externally for trade. For that matter, how closely would a currency in such a society mirror the role it plays in today’s world? Drop in and find out.

Jumping back to space, I’ve also been asked to moderate the panel Tiny Homes Prep For Living in Space?. The question our panel has been tasked with answering is this: Is the current trend of people buying tiny homes good preparation for living in off world habitats? I have no idea what roads this panel will travel down in our pursuit of an answer. Given the open-ended nature of the question, we certainly will have a lot of territory to explore.

My Saturday morning wakeup call will be to serve on a panel in which we are tasked with addressing the monumental issue of The Future of Civilization. Yes, if you want to learn the fate of all humanity you will need to attend our panel. As a science and technology optimistic, we should have a bright future – if we are allowed to pursue and achieve that future. But then there is always Murphy’s Law to contend with and as everyone should know – Murphy is devilishly clever.

While Elon Musk is a hero of mine when it comes to commercial space (I even got to meet and speak with him at a space conference some years back), I do not share his extremely pessimistic views regarding artificial intelligence. In a recent interview, Musk stated:"Once there is awareness, people will be extremely afraid, as they should be.. AI is a fundamental risk to the future of human civilization…" I’ll be curious to see how my copanelists on the Measure of Sentience panel feel. Most provocatively, we panelists are expected to address the issues of AI rights and whether or not an AI should be considered as the equal of a human being. Quite coincidentally, Saudia Arabia has just granted citizenship to a female robot named Sophia. You can read about it in the following stories:

A publicity stunt? Most certainly – though the Saudis now have to deal with the backlash over their decision to give more rights to a robot (really just a machine made to look like a woman) than they give to their female citizens. But there may well come a day when we truly create an intelligent self-aware machine entity. In those circumstances, what will our response be?

So here’s to an exciting, interesting, and stimulating weekend at the Windycon Science Fiction Convention.

 

 

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