Kirk L. Kroeker "Technology, too, obeys the law of responding, of answering a call at whose origin we are encountering so much static." -- Avital Ronell

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Writing the Future: Computers in Science Fiction

By Kirk L. Kroeker & Jonathan Vos Post

Although we cannot be certain that science fiction directly influenced the course that computing technology has taken over the past 50 years, the genre has—at the very least—anticipated the technologies we’re using and developing.

Speculation about our future relationship to computers—and to technology in general— has been the province of science fiction for at least a hundred years. But not all of that speculation has been as optimistic as those in the computing profession might assume. For example, in Harlan Ellison’s chilling “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream,”1 three political superpowers construct vast subterranean computer complexes for the purpose of waging global war. Instead of carrying out their commands, the computers housed in these complexes grow indignant at the flaws the humans have introduced into their systems. These self-repairing machines eventually rebel against their creators and unite to destroy the entire human race. Collectively calling itself AM—as in “I think therefore I am”—the spiteful system preserves the last five people on the planet and holds them prisoner so it can torment them endlessly.

This article was published in IEEE Computer, vol. 33, no. 1, Jan. 2000, pp. 29-37.

This piece won an APEX 2000 award for magazine writing.

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