I had the opportunity to attend the science fiction symposium a few days ago, and I enjoyed my time there. Some of the subjects that were covered were known to me, and I got to learn about several other works of literature. We had several speakers at the event, but since I only had time to attend two sessions, only four speakers really had my absolute attention. I was really interested in what they had to say for different reasons, so much so, that I had to constantly remind myself to take notes for this blog. Before I get into details about my time at the event, I would like to acknowledge the presence of Prof. Jill Belli & retired Professor, Samuel R. Delany. Unfortunately I couldn’t be present during their talks, however I met Prof. Belli and we had time to talk in between the sessions.
The first speaker who had my full attention was Adam Heidebrink-Bruno, a graduate student in Lehigh University’s Literature and Social Justice program. He had my full attention because of the specific work of Literature he was talking about. He went into the different types of conflicts in a book by Dave Eggers titled the circle. It’s a good work of Literature, it’s not for everybody, but I enjoyed watching the movie they made about it. In fact, I watched the movie the night before the symposium, with no knowledge whatsoever about what the talks would be about. The fact that I watched the movie the night before, the immersive storytelling and diverse conflicts in both the book and the movie, ( ex: Humans vs Technology) are some of the reasons why Adam had my absolute attention. For anyone who doesn’t know anything about it, hopefully the following quote will get you started, “ Privacy is a human right “.
The second speaker who had my full attention was Kimon Keramidas, associate director and clinical assistant professor in the Center for Experimental Humanities in New York University’s Graduate School for Arts and Sciences. He had some of his students work on science fiction storytelling related video games. I thought that was a very interesting approach to video games, because most of the video games I know of, aren’t known for there storytelling, they are packed full of actions with no story to back them up. I always appreciate a good immersive story in a video game, and I long for more of them. He also mentioned one of his students video game, about the female body image which explores the saying, “ you’re not good enough “. I thought that would be an interesting video game experience for me. I will finish this section by including a direct quote from Kimon, “ Much of science fiction predicts the science of the future “.
The next speaker who had a significant influence on my thoughts after I left the event, was a chemist who doesn’t really like science fiction since much of his work is related to physical science. This is one of these moments where I was so immersed in the talks that I failed to write down the name of the speaker. I could relate to this chemists opinions about certain science fiction works of literature, because of their very nature. An example of such literature is the Harry Potter series, don’t get me wrong, I love these works of literature, I grew up wishing I could be a part of their world. My only concern with these types of literature is that I have no place to insert myself in, the older I get, the more out of place I feel in them, I have no place in them, because of how incredibly impossible they are. I have an active imagination and I really appreciate some science fiction literatures such as the one’s about Harry Potter, but most of the times, I feel excluded in them. There is a saying that brushes on the types of literature I’m talking about, when a narrator mentions something that’s practically impossible, in the world of literature they call it “ An Act of God “.
The last speaker I had time for that really caught my attention, was an art historian working on the creative nature of robots. Her research is mostly about the drawings of ancient times, however, she has a background in robotics, and has a bachelor in computer engineering. She had my full attention when she started talking about a man named Cohen Harold, who taught an AI called AARON, to draw and program images, then went on to teach it about including colors into the drawings. She had very interesting things to say about the AI, but as I mentioned before, I wasn’t focused on taking notes, I was focused on all of the new and interesting information I was getting from the talks. I also would like to mention Jean Pierre Hebert, he is an independent artist of algorithmic art, drawings, and mixed media. He co-founded the Algorists in 1995 with Roman Verostko. I believe his work was being used to teach AARON to draw, program and add colors to images. I will leave you with a quote from a man I admire, “The pace of progress in artificial intelligence (I’m not referring to narrow AI) is incredibly fast. Unless you have direct exposure to groups like Deepmind, you have no idea how fast—it is growing at a pace close to exponential. The risk of something seriously dangerous happening is in the five-year timeframe. 10 years at most”. Elon Musk