Ad Astra Schedule

For the first time in a few years, I’ll be attending Ad Astra this weekend (March 27-29) — which is being held, as usual, way out in the boons to anyone without their own wheels.  Should you be interested in a) attending, and b) learning whether I have anything new to say that I haven’t already repeated a dozen times right here, I will be at the following places at the following times, grumbling about the following subjects with the following people:

  • Friday 10:00 PM Salon 241 Breeding People for Obedience. Derwin Mak, Peter Watts, Derek Künsken (MOD), D.K. Savage.  What is the feasibility, and what are the ethical implications, of creating people to have traits that aren’t in their own best interest? Who are you when the choice is taken out of your hands? Given what we know of modern neurology, is free will an illusion anyway?
  • Saturday 01:00 PM Salon 343 Evolution vs. Optical Effects James Alan Gardner, Peter Watts, Julie E. Czerneda, Derek Künsken (MOD). Whether aliens, creatures of fantasy, or horrific monsters, how do you come up with something that fits the world and the story instead of just looking cool? How can you take evolution and ecology into account?
  • Saturday 03:00 PM Ballr. Centre What is Real Evil? Peter Watts, Sephera Giron (MOD), R. Scott Bakker, Ken Lillie-Paetz, Nigel Bennett, Stephen Barringer.  Sociopaths? Ordinary people “just doing their job”? A trick of perspective? What kind of evil is scariest: a person, a group, something nameless or faceless, something from a creative work, or something that exists in the world today?
  • Sunday 11:00 AM Salon 241 Crowd-Sourcing Creativity Peter Watts, Hayden Trenholm (MOD), David Drake.  Some authors use feedback and contributions from blog communities in their writing. How far will this go? Will writing ever become truly interactive, or will the resulting work always be significantly influenced by the author, editor, or manager? Can interactivity be guided by the examples of shared-world setups and MMORPGs?

You may notice that my own pet peeves seem to be pretty compatible with the panels they’ve got me on, so it should be fun.

You may also notice that they don’t have me down for anything on Saturday evening.  I guess I’ll just have to hang out in the bar during that time.

This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Monday March 23 2009at 04:03 pm , filed under public interface . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

15 Responses to “Ad Astra Schedule”

  1. To save time, can this be combined into one uber-presentation in which a consortium of really evil sci-fi writers cross-breeds convention-goers into monsters who obediently post to their respective blogs, creating books for them, so they can give up writing?

    Then every one can adjourn to the bar starting Saturday afternoon.

    Just putting it out there.

  2. No way; you’re going to my thing on robots at nine. I will have been moving all morning. I shall require moral support. (Actually, the bar may be more fun. You can listen to my frazzled, punchy rants re: robots any time.)

    I really hope I make it over there in time for the evil panel. I rather doubt that I will. But I shall be with you in spirit. EVIL spirit. I might even be able to make it for the Obedience panel; I’m doing something with DK re: skiffy anime right beforehand so it’ll be easy to follow.

  3. What is Real Evil?
    Watch Martyrs. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1029234/ torrent: http://www.mininova.org/tor/2380495
    (“Elle n’est pas été violée, c’est une certitude.” Don’t read spoilers.)

  4. Breeding people for obedience?

    Aren’t we already obedient enough? One would have thought the self-domestication that coincided with the advent of hierarchies and agriculture left us obedient enough…

    Funnily enough, the Chinese who have lived under feudalism the longest are anecdotally more obedient than others groups.

    [quote]
    Who are you when the choice is taken out of your hands?
    [/quote]
    Choice? What choice ? You don’t choose one’s own parents, so you have absolutely zero choice concerning your biological make-up and most formative upbringing. Which is perhaps 3/4 of what matters..

  5. Y.T. says:

    “Aren’t we already obedient enough? One would have thought the self-domestication that coincided with the advent of hierarchies and agriculture left us obedient enough…”

    Good point. Yes, I think we are as obedient as we need to be. Possibly too obedient.

    Remember, Stanley Milgrim’s test subjects most able to resist the white coat directive were those whose locus of control on moral issues was internal, who felt they were the deciders and arbiters of their moral choices and actions. Automata are dangerous, because personal control implies personal responsibility.

    “Funnily enough, the Chinese who have lived under feudalism the longest are anecdotally more obedient than others groups….You don’t choose one’s own parents, so you have absolutely zero choice concerning your biological make-up and most formative upbringing.”

    The Chinese people, considering the duration of their civilization and their numbers, are mankind. I suspect we give them short shrift if we assume their ability to subsume personal desires into the greater good is primarily genetic.

    Chinese culture places heavy emphasis on Confucian ideals, and children are instructed to place the family first. Most people, raised in that environment would adhere to those concepts, and that’s the genetic component – people are bred to learn to live in whatever social environment they end up in. They are bred for flexibility, adaptability. If you were raised in a different culture, your values and attitudes would be different, on average.

    What I mean is, show me the “obedience genes.” Might as well say Germans have “shove Jews into ovens genes” or the French have “cheese making genes.” The idea seems mushy to me.

  6. [quote]
    The idea seems mushy to me.
    [/quote]

    It’s not mine. I borrowed it from some Chinese-born American scientist of European descent. I can’t remember his name. I think he’s associated with the people who push the idea that antisemitism in the middle ages caused Askhenazi Jews to be selected for intelligence.

  7. Drat. I wish we had these panels here.

    Take up python and submit a talk for Pycon. It’s too late for Chicago but maybe we could see you in Atlanta.

    And don’t get kicked out like Randall did. You could get kicked out even better I’m sure.

    http://pycon.blogspot.com/2009/02/randall-munroe.html

  8. Hljóðlegur, on March 24th, 2009 at 3:30 am Said:
    “Most people, raised in that environment would adhere to those concepts, and that’s the genetic component – people are bred to learn to live in whatever social environment they end up in. They are bred for flexibility, adaptability. If you were raised in a different culture, your values and attitudes would be different, on average.”

    I agree. That is why many Chinese adopted by Hawaiian families (indigenous Hawaii Polynesian) ended up “being Hawaiian”, more than “Chinese”, like some of my ancestors. Some Chinese children, adopted by Hawaiians, were allowed to attend the Hawaiian School, Kamehameha, without meeting the preference for Hawaiian blood ancestry. All of this crosses lines of ancestry, heritage, “race”, blood, and ethnic identity, all of which can be trumped by family ties and predominant culture one is raised in…

  9. I would’ve loved to have seen the “What is Real Evil?” panel. Seriously, you and R. Scott Bakker on the same panel talking about evil? Based on the “evils” you and Scott have thrown into your stories, I’m sure it absolutely rocked. Any way an MP3 recording is available somewhere?

  10. Unfortunately, Scott couldn’t make it; he had to tend a cat who fell suddenly and seriously ill, and while I was looking forward to the opportunity to reconnect with him, I commend the man for having his priorities in the right order. In his place, unfortunately, was some conservative Catholic guy who kept missing the point of modern neurology and muttered smugly about “original sin”. I’m afraid that he and I kind of monopolized the first third of the panel, for which I apologize. It’s just, you know, awfully hard to let such blatant dumbness go unchallenged sometimes…

  11. “some conservative Catholic guy who kept missing the point of modern neurology and muttered smugly about “original sin”.”
    Hihihi! I was there… the above one and the related “we are all guilty” stunned me for a second, but I got comforted by your grimace.

  12. Is it possible to get ahold of the things shown at Ad-Astra?

  13. A number of folks have posted blog entries and/or photo streams on the subject; just google the name and the date. The only actual pictures I took was when eight people were supposed to show up in the room for beer and pizza and twenty actually did.

    The weird thing was, with all those unexpected attendees, we still had a whole large pizza, twelve beer, and a glass of wine left over afterwards. Makes the whole loaves-and-fishes trick look a lot less miraculous.

  14. Wish I could have been there, Peter, if only to crap on your for the vampires, but also to listen to the bit on crowd sourcing creativity in MMORPGs. As a (sometimes) player of EVE online, I read the bits of text that players are allowed to post and a small percentage of them show true brilliance.

  15. Actually, the crowd-sourcing creativity panel didn’t last long: the only person who showed up other than the wives of the other panelists was a woman in a plush cuddly-cthulhu hat. And we never did get into the cool aspects of crowd-sourcing that I wanted to talk about (e.g., using WoW as a simulation platform for disease outbreaks).

    So you didn’t miss much on that score. And from the sound of it, I dodged a bullet.