Tag Archives: database

The Idea Mill #37

I’ve been neglecting the blog a bit lately. Some of this is because I’ve been writing tour posts for Viral Blues. I’m trying to trickle these things out a bit this time, rather than crunch over a ten day period.

Fall is finally here, and October is my favorite month of the year. I’m looking forward to it. I’m already surrounded by pumpkin beer and a few other Fall favorites. My Asian pear tree is loaded and I’ve been eating those like crazy.

Viral Blues has already been a topic here, and there will be some reblogs from the sites I visit, but I also need some new content at Entertaining Stories. This brings me back to the Idea Mill.

I write speculative fiction, and require a source of inspiration for my stories. You guys might, too. That’s why I share these articles on occasion. They also tend to give a bit of legitimacy when you decide to push the envelope from here on.

Our first article involves brain reading technology from our old friends Facebook. (Scary enough) Currently this involves implanting sensors on the surface of the brain, but Facebook wants to move beyond that. The technology started off trying to improve the lives of the handicapped.

It seems to involve a kind of predictive text, and the article makes an interesting conclusion that eventually the technology will outpace the human. Could it be that some kind of AI will pay our bills before they arrive? Maybe it will write our next novel, because it can predict what we’re going to come to eventually?

The real loss is invasion of privacy. Our most intimate thoughts could go into a database somewhere. In the hands of Facebook, this is already a nightmare.

Imagine a future world where people start tossing around words like sedition, or treason based upon minor thoughts that flashed through your brain. The article goes on and makes the frog in a pot of water comparison, that we could lose our freedoms slowly and not understand the ramifications until it’s too late.

Elon Musk is involves in a competing project, but his goal is to merge artificial intelligence with humanity. His project wouldn’t just predict our thoughts, the technology would also be able to write to the human brain. Imagine a planet of worker drones with no thought the AI didn’t give them.

There have to be a million novels that could be written about this. Read the article here.

Next, how about some stowaway creatures on the moon. It seems Israel crashed something into the moon. There was an experiment onboard involving microscopic creatures called water bears.

These little guys can survive nearly anywhere, but are unlikely to colonize the moon. The article indicates the experiment was snuck onto the capsule at the last minute. There are no laws or protocols for shipping organisms into space.

That’s where the real beauty of this article lies for a fictioner. Imagine someone like… Elon Musk, operating without regulations and contaminating space vessels or celestial bodies. I seem to remember experiments with bees on Skylab or something. It wouldn’t be too hard to seed a Mars colony with killer bees.

We all know to keep away from large predators. You don’t hug a grizzly in Yellowstone. What about microscopic predators we never give a second though? Put them in space, add some tonnage based upon a different environment with no natural predators, and you could have a crew facing giant blood sucking mites.

Take a space station, like Skylab which actually crashed back to Earth, and you can write a story similar to The Blob, only use gigantic amoeba that were originally an experiment. This is the article.

The final article blew my mind. It isn’t the subject itself, it’s the implications of the story. First the story. There is a piece of music that seems to be some kind of pop tune from the eighties. Nobody knows where it came from, who performed it, or who wrote it.

Thousands of people have spent thousands of hours trying to solve this mystery. If you think about recording studios, artists, agents, contracts, and the idea that someone would normally claim it, this lack of records is baffling.

This is how it went crazy for me. Humans have always saved things. In ancient times, there was the library of Alexandria. Post Gutenberg, we came up with different libraries, including the Library of Congress. We have patent offices, copyright registries, and more.

Today, everything is electronic. There isn’t a paper copy of any story I’ve written. They’re created on a word processor, and the entire process is electronic. ICloud and huge databases are our archives today. And yet, something has gone missing in the background of this song.

Think about deeds, marriage certificates, Supreme Court decisions, all in the future of course, and corruption could be a real problem. One missing line in a contract could change the entire meaning of the contract.

I also remember a bit from Jurassic Park about referring to DNA as lines of code. This is where they revealed using frog DNA to repair the lines. Electronic documents are just lines of code. We view them by feeding those codes to a program that reveals them as documents.

My mind goes to any of those archaeological adventures we’ve all seen. We need to recover the pieces of X before the bad guy does. I feel like I’m on the verge of a whole new genre here, only my hero could be searching the cloud for missing lines of code that change the way a court decision is interpreted. This would have to be futuristic, but in modern comparison, imagine a few lines missing from the Rowe vs. Wade decision. The entire thing could be interpreted differently.

Maybe the bad guys are hackers who intentionally delete lines of code to change the world to their image of what it should be. Maybe they replace them with words of their choosing… It blows my mind to think about. I hate to give credit to anything in the blockchain world, but the idea that multiple people have a copy makes it nearly impossible to tamper with those records.

Here is the simple article that sent me down this path. Yes, you can listen to the song on one of the links. Whoever it is.

Part of these posts is me hashing out a corny story using all of the posts. Away we go…

Mars is overrun by giant man-eating poodles. The evidence seems to suggest NASA approved a program where all of the colonists were allowed a service animal, but nobody told the colonists. They didn’t bring them to their new home.

Our hero has spent a year trying to find the original mission orders, but suspects they were corrupted somehow. He meets up with someone who has the brain reading technology that allows her to dive deeper into the internet and search for the missing lines of code that will reveal the true orders. The only problem is the poodle-master is writing code into her brain faster than they can repair the changes.

Corny enough for you? Can you see stories centered around any of these articles? What would you do with one of them?

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The Idea Mill #34

This one is going to be a bit different than other Idea Mill visits. I usually save links and try to get three unique stories to post about. Today I have two, and I’m combining them into one concept.

If you’re new to these, I write speculative fiction and that involves asking “what if.” I think it’s important to base spec fiction in reality wherever you can. These stories help build a bit of foundation that we can use to build our speculative story.

This time, I don’t even have links. This stuff is everywhere and is very current news. This is why I’m constructing the post this way. If I wait, it might not be as current.

You must have all seen the stories involving Cambridge Analytica and the misuse of Facebook data. I know Facebook stockholders are aware of it. In a nutshell, these people pirated the data to make targeted events during the last election cycle. If you believe all the stories.

We live in an age of data. The world is full of massive databases that contain everything from our banking information, our preferences online, where we eat, where we buy groceries, and more. Surf for a new book to read, someone is tracking it. Follow a clickbait article with a titillating story and it’s been logged. I know if my wife looks at anything on her laptop, my Facebook ads change and show me options to her search. Made it kind of hard to surprise me for Christmas.

This is what we already live under. Enter the new database that we’re contributing to. This one is fun… there’s no harm in fun, right? It’s almost taken on a party atmosphere. Here’s how it works:

You take a swab and wipe it around the inside of your mouth. Then you mail it to a company who will analyze it and send you an idea of your genetic heritage. Usually it proves that Mom really did know what she was talking about as far as your ethnicity.

Keep in mind, your results are going into a database somewhere. Keep in mind that one of the largest databases in the world was just accessed inappropriately and misused. Now we have a solid foundation to start speculating. What if…

What if the Nazis had access to such a database. Think how much more efficient their genetic purging could have been. Genocide went on before the Nazis, and it’s still going on today. Don’t tell me it will never happen on such a large scale again.

We can also take this into the speculative realms. What if aliens made a cold clinical decision and used this database to collect whatever they prefer and destroy the rest.

Keep in mind that your heritage is only one thing a DNA test can reveal. How about one of the cancer genes? Maybe the hacker is big insurance, and they start raising the prices on those who have one of these genes. Maybe the general population develops a new prejudice against someone with one of these genes. You no longer have to worry about cancer killing you… your neighbors will do it long before then.

Maybe the database starts influencing reproduction. Insurance refuses to cover children from matings they didn’t pre-approve. Maybe it’s not so deep, what if humans start checking out potential mates on the database before getting involved with someone? We already run background checks and credit checks on potential partners. This isn’t all that far fetched. My own wife and I spend part of date nights on our phones these days. Humans aren’t as connected on a personal level as they were twenty years ago. Nope, not getting involved with her because she’s going to lose her teeth by the time she’s fifty.

Take it up a notch, and have one spouse cave to the pressure of breeding with an approved partner. A mutual agreement would certainly lead to a marital breakdown. A secret affair can also add a mountain of stress.

Maybe there is a trend toward a certain genetic combo that poses a workplace hazard. Could employers start demanding DNA tests as part of the hiring process? Maybe it reveals a reasonable percentage of people with that gene are prone to thefts.

These are big ticket issues that work in some kinds of fiction. They play on the idea of what we are afraid of, which is always a good idea in fiction. There is also a possibility of taking it down to a smaller level and telling a good story too.

What if some family fun revealed a secret nobody was supposed to know? A bigot could make for a good character arc. Pride makes a great thing to toy with in our stories. He or she despises some kind of race or ethnicity. A DNA test reveals the character is of that heritage at least partially. First thing would be to despise his parents and blame them. Maybe he runs away and goes on a journey where he finds himself and discovers some errors he’s made during his life. Maybe he finds family members he never knew he had. Maybe the employees he’s been making work overtime, and denying benefits to, are his nieces and nephews.

Obviously a family member who was the result of an affair could be pretty dramatic too. What if this revelation changed the line of succession to the throne of some country? Or maybe it’s a huge inheritance? You could play this for laughs, or make it dangerous and dark. What do you mean Uncle Bob can’t inherit Grandpa’s company?

I’m not contributing a corny story this time. I wanted to rush out the foundation stories from the news and speculate a bit. What could you create using these two current events? I’d love to hear it.

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