47 - Eliot Peper (The Weird Turn Pro: Sci-Fi & Scenario Planning)

Mon Nov 06 2017 (01:07:00)

In one of the most QUOTABLE episodes of Future Fossils yet, this week’s guest is Eliot Peper – a “novelist and strategist” writing fiction and consulting businesses about the social implications of disruptive technologies.  In addition to writing a steady stream of sci-fi inflected techno-thrillers like True Blue and Cumulus, he’s an editor at Scout.AI (one of the cooler speculative fiction websites I’ve seen out there).





We Discuss:

• The power of science fiction to help us imagine future scenarios;

• The possible social impact of radical life extension (gerontocratic radical conservatives vs. an emergent mature wisdom culture);

• The Superstar Effect and how it might play out in the digital age;

• The awesomeness of Cory Doctorow’s latest novel, Walkaway;

• Eliot’s skepticism of mind uploading and conscious AI;

• The specter of technological unemployment;

• Science fiction’s growing significance to corporate think-tanks and creative labs in a future-facing society;

• How science fiction is like traveling to a foreign country – and teaches us more about our own moment than it does about the future;

• And More!



“We don’t call it ‘life extension,’ we just call it ‘healthcare.’”

“I think there is a very misleading public discussion going on around these topics [mind uploading and conscious AI], for a very simple reason.  And that is – and I know this as a storyteller – metaphors matter…the human mind is very poor at distinguishing metaphor from reality.  That’s what makes art fun!  That’s what makes novels entertaining.  We experience them as if they are real.  Money is that.  It only exists because we can build these complex shared fictions.  However, those fictions can come back and bite you in the ass.  And one of the ways they do it is, we take the metaphor too far.”

“[Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein] takes the extension of the Industrial Revolution into the imagination of dystopia.  And I think we’re doing that right now when we’re talking about uploading our minds, and about creating general AIs…I just think we’re taking the computer analogy too far.”

“Technology is most useful to the extent that it is inhuman.”

“The whole point of technology is that we can accomplish what we want to accomplish more effectively – or, said another way, we can do less of what sucks.”

“Getting better at the skill of putting yourself in another person’s shoes is really important, and fiction is a great training ground for that.  It can illuminate so much about why we do what we do that we can apply in our lives.”

“I think what makes science fiction as a genre interesting is its insights about the PRESENT.”

“I seek out discomfort.  I seek out novel experiences that challenge me and that are not always fun.  And I try to talk to people from different fields and learn from them, because I’ve learned that in my own life that having a really strange and somewhat random set of life experiences allows me to have a fresh perspective sometimes on a new problem.”

“The most important things about the world and about what it means to be human are very obvious and very old.  And I think it’s especially important to remember that when we feel like we’re in the midst of a whirlwind of change that we don’t understand.  And that the world we want to build and the lives that we want to lead – either today in 2017, or in 2117 – is that we need to be kind to each other.  We need to help our friends out.  Even more important, to help out strangers.  To pay things forward instead of trying to think about the benefits that accrue to us.  To make sacrifices – meaningful, painful sacrifices – financial, emotional, or otherwise – to help each other out.  I think that building a better world is just a thousand small acts of kindness.”