Soonish: An Interview With Zach Weinersmith
Last week I posted my review for the book Soonish: Ten Emerging Technologies That’ll Improve and/or Ruin Everything. I really enjoyed Soonish and learned a lot from it. So much so that I thought I might reach out to the authors to ask a few questions.
As you may know from My List, most of the authors of the sci-fi books I’ve reviewed so far are dead. Since Kelly and Zach Weinersmith are alive, I couldn’t pass up such a golden opportunity!
I was able to get in contact with co-author Zach Weinersmith, and because he’s such a nice guy (and alive!), he answered a few questions for me via email.
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions, Zach. To begin, what was the number 1 most surprising thing you learned while researching Soonish? Similarly, what was the most disappointing thing?
Zach: I’d say the most surprising thing is the level of advancement in precision medicine. It’ll be a while before a lot of this stuff gets used in regular medicine, but the idea that we can detect all sorts of risks from a blood test is pretty incredible.
Most disappointing? I would say I came away a bit more bleak about fusion energy than I’d started. It’s still exciting stuff, but outside of some game-changing technology, it’s not going to happen soon enough to matter for climate change.
Next, amid all the learning I was doing while reading Soonish, I was also inspired with ideas for all sorts of science fiction stories. In fact, that’s the definition of sci-fi: using the science of the day as inspiration. Also in fact, at times I felt like the real reason you wrote Soonish was specifically to inspire me, Andrea Elisabeth. So, thanks! You’re so considerate! So while you were researching and writing, did you ever at any point think, “Man, this would make a great book and/or movie?” Not that I’m trying to steal your ideas or anything…
Zach: Confession: I’m more of a literary sci-fi guy than a hard sci-fi guy. That said, yeah definitely, there’s lots of neat stuff. I find the brain-computer interface’s dystopic possibilities particularly rich.
Now, I know you and Kelly are prediction-averse, as you mentioned in the book’s introduction, but just for fun, after all your research, which technology warms your hearts with thoughts of a utopian future, and which technology gets your post-apocalyptic-senses tingling?
Zach: BCI [brain-computer interface] for sure. Like, nuclear apocalypse might happen because we’re stupid. Bad AI could happen because we mess things up. But BCI? That’s *going* to happen because the economic incentives to enhance your brain are so massive. That’s going to put us in a strange and inhuman world. Immortality maybe, but the price is that your boss at work can literally control your brain and your partner can read your thoughts.
Yikes! That’s scary and getting into Brave New World territory. *Shudders* Okay, while we’re traversing potential dystopias, based on your research, when is the Robot Uprising due? Is there any way we can avoid it, or is humanity doomed?
Zach: We actually avoided AI stuff generally because it’s so complicated. I frankly haven’t got a clue. The one thing I’ll say is that building AI from the ground up seems safer to me than duplicating existing minds, with all their evolutionary baggage.
I see. More R.U.R and less Ex Machina. Got it. Finally, this being a sci-fi blog, what’s your favourite sci-fi novel (or movie)? And why is that one your favourite?
Zach: It’s a tie between Solaris, Roadside Picnic, and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. Those three are all favorites because they focus on the inner life of the characters more than describing technology or worldbuilding purely for the sake of coolness.
Amazing! A huge thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer my questions. I really appreciate it!
Don’t forget to pick up a copy of Soonish: Ten Emerging Technologies That’ll Improve and/or Ruin Everything. It’s a comprehensive, funny, well-written account of our current technological landscape as well as the obstacles and potential concerns in getting where we want to go with them.
*Note: I do not receive any kickback for linking you to Soonish on Amazon. Though maybe I should sign up for one of those accounts!