Technology, psychology and the rise of AI – my science fiction inspiration for the day

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One of the good things about working as a freelance writer is the endless sources of ideas. It’s not that I never got ideas out of my old job – just people watching from my desk gave me moments of character inspiration, and any job with a bit of analysis to it gets you thinking. But the insights were few and far between.

This is your brain on ideas
Practising levitation, or something

Now they come at me all the time.

Take today. Today I was writing about smartphones for a guy who sells – guess what? – smartphones. I’m not terribly interested in smartphones in general, but researching his articles has led me down some interesting paths.

The Blackphone – almost as sinister as it sounds

Like last week when I did some reading about the Blackphone. You’ve probably never heard of this device, and you certainly haven’t seen it as it’s not yet on the market. But it’s a phone whose designers have put all their focus into protecting the user’s data, providing them with security and anonymity. It’s a smartphone response to the ongoing battle between forces of privacy and intrusion. It’s a change in the market to make phones more varied. It’s a business acting like something more than a profit making machine. And it’s also a cool little slice of near future potential, a source of inspiration for science fiction gadgetry.

Building addictions

I also read about some legal and PR battles surrounding King, the company behind many simple but addictive smartphone games. And that led me back to some things I’d read before about the psychology behind these games, the way that they’re built to tap into particular parts of your brain and manipulate you into keeping on playing. You may be using your phone but now maybe your phone is using you. Look at all those tasty conflicts – business vs business, business vs press, man vs machine, man vs himself in a fight to stop playing Candy Crush Saga (seriously, knowing it’s manipulative and addictive is one thing, putting it down is another). That’s some story fodder right there.

Putting it all together

Mix those pieces together with this week’s Writing Excuses episode on AI and I had a story idea bubbling in my brain, all before lunchtime.

And what’s the point of all this reflection? Well, it’s cheered me up, so that’s something. There’s the old lesson that you can find inspiration everywhere. There’s even an element of pointing and going ‘look, our science fiction future is here!’

Beyond that you can take whatever lessons you want.

So what have you seen today that’s inspired your inner story teller? And what cool story ideas have you stumbled across at work? Share your thoughts in the comments, inspire each other.


Image by Matthew Wynn via Flickr creative commons