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Windycon 2017 – Dystopians Unite

Monday, November 6th, 2017

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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Capricon Science Fiction Convention 2011 Debriefing

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

Capricon Live Art Sound Art Landscape
Capricon Live Art Program – Sound Art Landscape

The Capricon Science Fiction Convention was held at the Wheeling Westin Feb. 10 thru Feb 13. I arrived Thursday evening for my first panel – Requiem for the Space Shuttle. Along with fellow panelists Bill Higgins, Tracy Lunquist, and Henry Spencer, we discussed the history of the space shuttle program and its impact on space exploration. We also spent some time talking about the future of human access to space and the commercial revolution that will make it possible for private citizens to buy tickets for trips to space, i.e. space tourism. Our discussion lasted for over 90 minutes with lots of input from an enthusiastic audience.

Live Art

For me, the highlight of my participation in Capricon was my Friday morning Live Art presentation. My presentation opened with a demonstration of one of my programs for taking sound input from a microphone and processing that sound in order to create visual imagery. This was followed by my presentation which explored the subjects of algorithmic art, conceptual art, the question of is computer art art, and an explanation of my methodologies and the programming tools that I used to create the various programs. In fact a reasonable part of my presentation could be considered as a sales pitch for the field of computer art. My presentation was followed by the "show" – which involved running a number of different programs I had written to convert sound into art and letting the audience have their way with the microphone. Several of the artworks we created can be seen at A Gallery of Live Art Created at the Capricon Science Fiction Convention. The point that I sought to drive home was that while the sounds being generated by the audience were largely the same, the way in which they were interpreted visually varied tremendously based on the algorithm being used to translate the sound waves into visual imagery. For information about Live Art and my other presentations, see my Art Lectures page.

The Art of Space Exploration

Saturday morning I gave my The Art of Space Exploration presentation which provides an overview of the history of space art – beginning with early astronomical art and concluding with a discussion of space art from an artist’s business perspective. I included a couple of my own works in the presentation, including Shattered Dreams, a piece that I created as political commentary on the cancellation of NASA’s planned return of humans to the Moon and which was the cover art for the 2010 International Space Development Conference Program Book.

Capricon Odds and Ends

The rest of the weekend was spent either in conversation in the halls or over food, or attending panels on a variety of subjects. Unfortunately for me, the three programs I most wanted to see at the convention were scheduled in the same time slots as when I was speaking. My surprise meet-up of the convention was with fellow space artist John Kaufmann. This was the first time I had met John face to face – our previous meetings were of the virtual variety. John had some great astronomical art in the convention’s art show. We had a wonderful time talking shop and otherwise. Dinner Saturday consisted of an outing to a local mexican restaurant with Tullio Proni, maker of ray guns and other fine energy weapons; Bill Higgins, a beam jockey at Fermi Lab; and Nora. The other convention highlight was attending the Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog which indeed lived up to its name. In short, I had a fine, fun time at the con.

The Illustration

To illustrate this blog post, I combined two of the artworks created during the Live Art program in Photoshop and performed some additional image manipulation on them to create an abstract landscape. I also use this piece to illustrate A Gallery of Live Art Created at the Capricon Science Fiction Convention.

Referenced Links

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