The Coming Con.

I was going to save this post until closer to the weekend, but I figure that folks to the south might want something to distract them from voting machines that tally up Obama votes in the Romney column, and election officials who helpfully fill out other people’s ballots with a clean sweep of Republicans. So here it is, something utterly trivial but hopefully less likely to make the blood boil, the face palm, or — more likely — the head simply shake in rueful, unsurprised acknowledgement of fulfilled expectation.

Here is my schedule for SFContario this weekend:

SF as a Stealth Delivery Platform Everybody knows that science fiction has inspired legions of young people to grow up and become scientists: half of NASA was weaned on Star Trek. But does SF’s influence with these people end with their choice of career? Might science fiction actually serve as a legitimate means of transmitting scientific ideas between working scientists in different disciplines? Might it, in certain circumstances, be more effective than the usual technical publications? (Madeline Ashby, Susan Forest, Brett Savory, Neil Jamieson-Williams, Peter Watts- Moderator) Friday 8:00 PM, Ballroom A

Automaton World Philosophy and mountains of neurological evidence are converging on the same disquieting endpoint: not only is there no such thing as “free will”, but the very idea is logically incoherent. We release a hypersexual pedophile from jail once it’s discovered that his behavior was caused by a brain tumor over which he had no control, while conveniently ignoring the fact that *nobody*, tumor-ridden or healthy, has any control over the way their brains are wired. Does this mean that social systems ranging from religious to legal are all predicated on a logical fallacy? What now? (Madeline Ashby, Richard Baldwin, Peter Fitting, Peter Watts) Saturday 11:00 AM Ballroom BC

Come out and play with Big Brother Our panelists discuss trends in dystopic novels and what they might say about the cultures and writers that produced them. Dystopic SF tends by its nature to be bleak. Huxley emphasized the shallow, hollow nature of the pleasures offered by his Brave New World. In more recent dystopic novels characters do have the occasional bit of fun while the world burns. Julian Comstock gives us rollicking adventure alongside its political warnings while heroes of Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother and Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games learn they can challenge oppressive governments. (Jeff DeLuzio, Lynna Merrill, James Nicoll, Alex Pantaleev, Peter Watts) Saturday 1:00 PM, Ballroom A

Will we ever stop being human? From the cyberpunk desire to transcend the flesh to speculative fiction’s monstrous bodies, when does the category “human” cease to apply? This panel will explore what the terms “human,”"transhuman,” and “posthuman” really mean and, through the lens of science fiction, imagine what the future of humanity might look like. (James Bambury, Alex Pantaleev, David Stephenson, Peter Watts-Moderator) Saturday 4:00 PM, Gardenview

The Future of Privacy Fourteen years ago, on The West Wing, Sam Seaborn opined “The next two decades are going to be (about) privacy.” Technology has made it easier for people to find and share information. Yet in our increasingly online world it has become much more challenging to protect privacy. Is privacy a right to be protected our an outmoded concept? Will the future bring a further erosion of personal privacy? (Kari Maaren, Michael Mattheson, Matt Moore, Peter Watts) Sunday 2:00 PM, Courtyard

Holy shit. That’s five panels, which I guess I can’t complain about seeing as how I proposed two of them. Don’t really know what I’m doing on the dystopian panel, though. Also they’ve got me moderating at least two of these things.

I’m told I’m supposed to donate some used underpants or something for some kind of raffle, too. I should probably pull them on and start sweating. I’ve only got three days.

This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Tuesday November 06 2012at 12:11 pm , filed under On the Road, public interface . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

13 Responses to “The Coming Con.”

  1. Don’t really know what I’m doing on the dystopian panel, though.

    You’re the voice of optimism?

  2. It’s a typo. You should be in the utopian panel.

  3. I read that one panel with ‘automation’ in the title and then thought you were tying in pzombies to CNC & automation & 3d printing somehow. I don’t know how. I figured maybe you flip the zombie switch and use them to man mills at zombie hackerspace nights. uh, whatever. it was going to be a really interesting panel. I guess ‘automaton’ isn’t bad but I’ll miss the zombie 3d printers and laser cutters.

  4. I really hope there will be videos of these panels, or possibly blog posts.

  5. I’ve harped on this point before in your comment section, and am (inevitably?) compelled to do so again: “the “Automaton World” panel is itself logically incoherent. If there is no free will, spending an hour pontificating on what we should do about it is extremely silly.

  6. Doubter:
    I’ve harped on this point before in your comment section, and am (inevitably?) compelled to do so again: “the “Automaton World” panel is itself logically incoherent.If there is no free will, spending an hour pontificating on what we should do about it is extremely silly.

    Except for the fact that the majority of those in the audience do not accept that premise; I’ve read the occasional study to the effect that even when you do convince someone that they lack free will, the insight “wears off” after a few hours. Most of us never question the intuition, and even those who do default back to it. There’s even a school of thought that says that authorities who explicitly know better should lie about it to general public because of the social upheaval that might result.

    By way of analogy; it isn’t “extremely silly” to go on about the reality of anthropogenic climate change when your audience is full of climate-change deniers.

  7. It would be quite sensible to try to convince people of the reality of climate change. We can do something about it, if the universe is not predetermined.

    By contrast, if we are deterministic automatons, we can’t do anything about that fact by definition. Would you go to a slasher movie and shout at the screen in an attempt to convince the cheerleader not to go outside and check what the noise was?

    Every time you bring up free will, or its lack, on your blog, I am struck by this thought: If your assertion is true, you’re not taking it seriously enough.

  8. If his assertion is true, then the panel must naturally take place. You, Doubter, must note its futility, Peter must object, and I will unable to refrain from commenting on the levels of meta involved in expanding circles of people with no free will commenting on the futility of commenting on the non-existence of free will.

    And, apparently, I could not refrain. It’s better than LSD.

  9. @Hljóðlegur: I’m glad to see that you’re taking this seriously, as you were fated to do from the beginning of time! If the universe was created by something intelligent, it has a weird sense of humour…

    I’m so glad that I am deterministically programmed to believe in free will.

  10. Doubter: If your assertion is true, you’re not taking it seriously enough.

    Of course I’m not. That’s what “even those who do default back to it” means. But serious or not, I find the subject fascinating. After all, there’s always the possibility I could be wrong.

    Statistically, it has to happen sometime.

  11. @ Peter Watts who wrote in-part regarding free will: Statistically, it has to happen sometime.

    Would it be outrageous if I were to suggest that large amounts of recreational chemicals might make it a more frequent happening?

    Thus, drug addiction might be seen as (possibly genetically inspired) an inherent tropism towards free will and away form neuro-determinism. Until of course the monkey on the back starts calling the shots, even moreso than would have been the case before.

    Hmm, free will leads to even worse predetermined behavior and thinking. Now I’m depressed again. 8-D

  12. Darn that correction editor, when it times out, it doesn’t save what it’s got, or stop the time counter until the editing is done/saved.

    The line “Would it be outrageous if I were to suggest that large amounts of recreational chemicals might make it a more frequent happening?” should read:

    “Would it be outrageous if I were to suggest that large amounts of recreational chemicals might make it a more frequent happening? You know, recreational chemical derangement of the inherent neurochemistry would tend to alter neuro-predestination, or at least make it more escapable.”

  13. Doubter, I’d just like to point that “deterministic” does not mean that the programming cannot be changed; so your movie analogy is somewhat off. Otherwise, conditioning wouldn’t work either.

    Actually, now that I think about it, it could probably be said that if humans had (absolutely) free will, conditioning them would not work (since a free choice should remain a free choice, thus leaving the behavioral pattern unchanged).