The Zeitgeist strikes again – it appears that this week is going to throw up lots of stuff about computer gaming. Here’s a counterpoint to Sven’s dispatch; a transcript of a keynote speech that Charlie Stross gave to the LOGIN 2009 games industry conference yesterday.
In the next five years we can expect semiconductor development to proceed much as it has in the previous five years: there’s at least one more generation of miniaturization to go in chip fabrication, and that’s going to feed our expectations of diminishing power consumption and increasing performance for a few years. There may well be signs of a next-generation console war. And so on. This isn’t news.
One factor that’s going to come into play is the increasing cost of semiconductor fab lines. As the resolution of a lithography process gets finer, the cost of setting up a fab line increases — and it’s not a linear relationship. A 22nm line is going to cost a lot more than a 33nm line, or a 45nm one. It’s the dark shadow of Moore’s Law: the cost per transistor on a chip may be falling exponentially, but the fabs that spit them out are growing pricier by a similar ratio.
Something like this happened, historically, in the development of the aerospace industry. Over the past thirty years, we’ve grown used to thinking of the civil aerospace industry as a mature and predictable field, dominated by two huge multinationals and protected by prohibitive costs of entry. But it wasn’t always so.
Go read the whole thing; Stross swiftly and plausibly draws a line from the present to the future two decades hence, a future where the audience demographics for gaming have shifted to include the vast majority of the population, and the technology platforms that games run on are small, portable and ubiquitous. [image by st3f4n]
If you’ve not caught it already, you should get over to Charlie Stross’s blog and check out his 21st Century FAQ; it’s your source of rant fodder for the coming week.
For example, in answer to the question “[w]hich of (Socialism | Capitalism | Libertarianism | Fascism | Democracy) is going to save us?”:
We’re still waiting for the definitive ideological polarity of the internet era to emerge, although Bruce Schneier has opined that the key political hot potato of the 21st century will be the question, “how do we maintain the concept of privacy in an age of ubiquitous communications and surveillance”, and some believe that privacy is already dead. Given the way Moore’s Law is taking us towards an essentially unlimited ability to record everything, I’m not able to argue with the inevitability of surveillance: what I’d dispute is the morality of it.
Responses and counter-arguments are cropping up already, naturally enough; for example, here’s Brian Wang refuting Stross’s claim that space colonisation and the Singularity are non-starters:
We know we can send people into interplanetary space for several days (Apollo). We could easily make the trip to Mars in days [using the Orion nuclear rocket configuration] and then onto to Jupiter in days. We could bring supplies, radiation protection in cargo that is equivalent to several great pyramids or how many loaded aircraft carriers equivalents.
Plenty of material for discussion for the more geeky water-cooler meet-ups. [image by Patrick Nielsen-Hayden]
So, do we reckon Charlie Stross is a fox or a hedgehog?
Charles Stross discusses the influences behind The Atrocity Archives and the rich seam of existential horror from whence they are mined:
There’s nothing terribly funny about “A Colder War”: I was groping in the dark for a way to express the alienating horror of nuclear annihilation that I’d grown up with, and Lovecraft’s monsters came perfectly to hand. The existential dread they evoke is not so alien to those of us who lived through the original Cold War.
[image from rainvt on flickr]
Web/SF/transhumanist-crossover titans such as Warren Ellis, Charles Stross, and gerontologist Aubrey de Grey are interviewed in this free 1st edition pdf of H+ Magazine.
Whatever your thoughts on transhumanism, it’s all well worth reading.
[via Boing Boing][image from the front cover]
I do go on about Charles Stross’ postings – but he is pretty good. As such, more comment from the Autopope on what constitutes near-future SF:
In my view, near-future SF isn’t SF set n years in the future. Rather, it’s SF that connects to the reader’s life: SF about times we, personally, can conceive of living through (barring illness or old age). It’s SF that delivers a powerful message — this is where you are going. As such, it’s almost the diametric opposite of a utopian work; utopias are an unattainable perfection, but good near-future SF strive for realism.
[image from dan taylor on flickr]