I’ve had people ask me from whence come my stories. … Okay, my dad asked me that once. Still, he was quite insistent: “Where on Earth do you get the ideas you need to write an entire book?” That’s actually a good question.
I previously wrote about the Event Wheel, which is a device that allows you to map out an event and find out what secondary, tertiary, and even quaternary events happen as a result. It is indeed a very powerful tool, and you can read about it if you like. However, most of the time, I’m just playing “what if” games, which is not very different that one-person brainstorming. Take for instance today. I was on about mile 0.5 of my 2-mile walk, when a question hit me:
Once humans master the human brainwave interface, which will allow for direct electrical interactions between computers and the human brain, will it not be long before we develop the ability to fully download what makes us human – personalities, memories, learned responses, etc. – into an artificial life? When that happens, what happens next?
These random thoughts are usually followed by a stream of follow-on thoughts:
- If an entire human “being” is downloaded into an android, what happens to the “soul?”
- Do the belief in the soul inhibit people’s acceptance that the droid is still the same “person” as before? Do religious people see these beings as “godless” starting a heated religious conflict?
- Do religions like Buddhism become more popular or do people simply stop believing all together?
- Would the downloaded droid (Indefs, as in Indefinite life expectancy) consider itself the person as before, or a newer (better) entity?
- Would the Indefs consider themselves godly beings?
- Other than the infirmed, who would do this first?
- How quickly would governments step in? Surely there would be moralistic-based limits (as on cloning) to prevent this.
- If not (or prevalent illegal trade) how does government limit the numbers eligible to do this? How do you stop the species’ evolution from stopping – only transfers after fertile years?
- Would countries forcibly switch over their populations to save on food costs and create stronger armies? How do you prevent /combat that?
- How would bio-based humans fight back against the appeal of this? Would this really open the door to DNA enhancement? Superman vs. Machine?
- Would they be allied, mutually accepted, at war?
- What about sex? Surely the Indefs would still be sexual beings. Would the culture be different – more logic-based or freer?
- Does this create a class conflict? Rich people get downloaded but poor people just die?
- Do the poor get downloaded with government subsidies, but in a lower class of bot?
- Do unethical groups/governments trick the poor and only download their abilities to work – essentially creating new slaves?
- How quickly would the Indefs push to leave Earth? Why would they stay? Could they be put in stasis indefinitely for interstellar flight?
These are just the thoughts I came up with on my 30-minute walk, and while I was typing, but I think you see the point. The power of the process is to allow one question or “what if” generate the next, and let it take you as far afield as it does. Looking at the above, I see a number of possible storylines, every thing from political dramas, to dystopian oppression, or even space opera.
The next step, however, is to me the fun step. What happens when you insert a character into the above?
It’s 2187. Let’s call our character Carmen, a 30-year-old ex-Marine, who is on a whirlwind tour after publishing her 1st novel based on her experiences in the North Asia Indef Revolt. Those Godless Bots took over their local government after a long terror campaign, supposedly “fighting for basic human rights.” Like they’re human. Ha. Then, suppose she is struck while crossing the street, leaving her paralyzed from the lips down. Wow.
So, stop and think about that for a second.
There are a lot of ways to go from there, huh? She can become a “godless” Indef, and begin to see their cause. She can infiltrate them and find their goal to be far less noble than we thought. We can stay away from the “Avatar” line completely, and have her recover some function, but end up being the first genuine mixture between fully an Indef and a bio-based human. Maybe she avoids the damn war and heads out to space with a crew of beings who are sick of war (or want to kick ass in the rest of the solar system.)
Or, we can keep the character, and use some of the questions above to create new story ideas. Anyway, that’s how a five-second thought blossoms into the start of a short story or novel idea.
So here’s my question to you – where would you take the ideas above? Who would your main character be?
11 thoughts on “One More Weird Idea”
Yup. This is the beauty of SciFi or even Speculative Fiction. Technology can create a massive cascade of social change. What kind of changes would happen? These are the things I like to explore. It’s one reason why my interest has remained rooted in the same genres for most of my life.
I actually find plots of “non-genre” fiction more challenging to come up with.
Ugh, I HATE when people ask me where my stories come from. I really don’t know. That’s the nature of inspiration. I can’t really say. The plots just develop step by step for me, like you. What events are inspired by the events by preceded? I never know starting out–or even 2/3 of the way through–how things will end.
I’m less of a pantser than you are, except for short stories. I typically know at least generally how it will end for a novel. For some, I do a pretty extensive outline; I may know what will happen, but I don’t know the how. Often, new things will pop up as I write that changes the flow entirely. For the most part, I do my “what-ifs” up front so that when I start to write, I don’t have to think much. I just get into the characters and let it flow. With short stories, I usually have zero idea what the story will be before I write it.
You see, these are some of the reasons I prefer to read. Keep writing Bill, I’m still reading. Mary
It’s really a freeing exercise, but I think it takes practice. Until I started writing my first novel, in November 2009, I would tell anyone that I had very little imagination. Even during writing that novel I still think it was true, to the point I wrote that into my main character. But after the 2nd book, it was like a switch turned on. Although I hadn’t remembered dreaming in decades, I started vividly dreaming, and now my imagination turns on almost with a switch.
Like everything else, it comes down fundamentals, I guess.
In the first few thought you are following a concept that was shown in Battlestar Galactica the Remake not the old one and it is quite likely that it is possible but and that is a big but is it worth trying just because we maybe can do it or would it take away the human side of ourselves the mistakes and the unforeseen than makes us trying to better ourself.
That’s interesting to know, and it makes me not want to write a story about this. 🙂 I actually think if the technology exists, there would be all kinds of prohibitions against it. It’s the same “man playing God” argument that’s against cloning. Only if society stops believing in God would it be allowed .. or maybe in case of incurable plague.
You could argument God created Man a gave Men the ability to create a Machine that looks and behaves like a Man. But in my believe of things I am not sure if it is a good Idea to replace Humans by Machine.I don’t feel good about this Idea.
My son fervently believes we’ll all be downloaded onto a giant mainframe in fifty years or so, and have our avatars wandering around doing stuff while our minds stay put. The soul – he doesn’t believe in it. Me, I’m not sure. But I do the same thing as you – wander around and think up stuff, ramifications. I’d go with the Carmen becomes soul-less robot line – maybe she could be a soulless robot with a soul – a sort of hybrid?
I actually like that idea. I’m not sure what I believe in terms of life after death, but I do believe we are more than just a collection of atoms. It would be interesting if she had a “soul.” I’ve even toyed with the idea of spiritual robots. Why would they be any more certain than we are?
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