November 2023 Archives

(This is the text of a talk I delivered at the Next Frontiers Applied Fiction Day in Stuttgart on Friday November 10th, 2023. Note: early draft, contains some typos, I'll fix them next week when I get home.)

In 2021, writer and game designer Alex Blechman inadvertently created a meme:

Sci-Fi Author: "In my book I invented the Torment Nexus as a cautionary tale."

Tech Company: "At long last, we have created the Torment Nexus from classic sci-fi novel Don't Create The Torment Nexus!"

Hi. I'm Charlie Stross, and I tell lies for money. That is, I'm a science fiction writer: I have about thirty novels in print, translated into a dozen languages, I've won a few awards, and I've been around long enough that my wikipedia page is a mess of mangled edits.

And rather than giving the usual cheerleader talk making predictions about technology and society, I'd like to explain why I—and other SF authors—are terrible guides to the future. Which wouldn't matter, except a whole bunch of billionaires are in the headlines right now because they pay too much attention to people like me. Because we invented the Torment Nexus as a cautionary tale and they took it at face value and decided to implement it for real.



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