As any writer knows there are two questions that you always get asked:
- How do you become a writer?
- Where do you get your ideas from?
As many writers will tell you the answer to the first question is ‘you write’; the second is not always as simple to pin down beyond experience, observation and knowledge.
In the case of the my #twitterfiction 2014 piece, The Incipient Web I actually know exactly where I got my ideas from and I present them all here.
Back around Christmas / New Year there were a wave of stories about a team of US researchers looking for evidence of time travel in twitter. A short write up (amongst many) is courtesy of the Huffington Post: Time Traveler Hunt On Twitter: Researchers Find No Evidence Of Real-Life Dr. Who. No prizes for identifying why I picked that piece;-)
So the idea of messages from the future being received on twitter was no big stretch but how to make that vaguely credible? Well there is a piece of quantum mechanics that Einstein didn’t like; something called the Einstein Podolsky Rosen Paradox (see wiki EPR Paradox). You don’t need the science, what you need to know is that it pivots on information travelling faster than the speed of light. That’s all I needed – if information can travel faster then light then having it travel backwards in time is again credible. I also don’t bother explaining the idea in the story anyhow!
Many years ago (in the 1970s I expect) I read a short-story that worried about what happens when all the worlds’ telephones are connected together. When the system went live it was complex enough to develop intelligence. The end of the story went something like:
‘Is there a god?’
‘There is now!’
I don’t know what it was called or who it was by but the idea of complex systems becoming self-aware has stayed with me.
Emergence and complexity
I have been meaning to write a short story on emergent intelligence for a while and here is some of the background:
- Emergence explained on wikipedia
- The push to set up the Internet of Things
- Just how many devices are on the internet today – a counter from CISCO
- A prediction of 50 billion devices online by 2020 from the Telegraph
So we have emergence and a rapidly growing internet. How realistically does that compare with the human (or other brain)?
- How many neurons in the Human brain? a piece from Guardian Science
- A wiki list of the animals by numbers of neurons
I also think that the elements on the internet are each more complex than a neuron, there are vastly more complex messages being moved around and finally they move around far faster than neurons send signals.
A final piece of research is just how much internet traffic / websites are just dedicated to entertainment of one sort or another. The answer is a vast percentage though I have no definitive references.
There you have the pieces and you will be able to read my tale told via the medium of twitter – only you can judge the story!