It has been said that science fiction is the literature of ideas.
The corruption of expected reality creates situations not probable in our lifetimes, therefore distilling a hidden facet of human existence. Hopefully it entertains in the process.
Or in more crude terms we can say: science fiction creates crazy ass situations that causes the protagonists to act in extraordinary ways.
What science fiction does best is take dreary erudite subjects and make them glow with the effervescence of life. I’ve discussed in previous posts the abuse of our personal information in Freedoms and the 5th Amendment and Machines That Know. Sometimes these mechanical discussions can put people off from important subjects. Already some are wondering if augmented reality will jump the shark and get lost in the overhyped scrap heap of technological history.
What I tried to explain in clunky non-fiction ways, Cory Doctorow has brought to life in a wonderfully engaging novelette called The Things That Make Me Weak and Strange Get Engineered Away. Cory has been nominated for a Locus Award for this novelette. I recommend you stop by and read it. Here’s a taste to get you going:
Lawrence’s cubicle was just the right place to chew on a thorny logfile problem: decorated with the votive fetishes of his monastic order, a thousand calming, clarifying mandalas and saints devoted to helping him think clearly.
From the nearby cubicles, Lawrence heard the ritualized muttering of a thousand brothers and sisters in the Order of Reflective Analytics, a susurration of harmonized, concentrated thought. On his display, he watched an instrument widget track the decibel level over time, the graph overlaid on a 3D curve of normal activity over time and space. He noted that the level was a little high, the room a little more anxious than usual.
He clicked and tapped and thought some more, massaging the logfile to see if he could make it snap into focus and make sense, but it stubbornly refused to be sensible. The data tracked the custody chain of the bitstream the Order munged for the Securitat, and somewhere in there, a file had grown by 68 bytes, blowing its checksum and becoming An Anomaly.
Order lore was filled with Anomalies, loose threads in the fabric of reality—bugs to be squashed in the data-set that was the Order’s universe. Starting with the pre-Order sysadmin who’d tracked a $0.75 billing anomaly back to foreign spy-ring that was using his systems to hack his military, these morality tales were object lessons to the Order’s monks: pick at the seams and the world will unravel in useful and interesting ways.