Monday, April 26, 2010

Our Cyberpunk World: The Coming of the RoboPolice

The article: Future police: Meet the UK's armed robot drones

It's happening in Britain now. The UK already has already set up a comprehensive surveillance regime. Its police force is already thoroughly militarized, even more than in the US (and more like Israel's). Now it's about to go to the logical extreme: complete automation of the entire law enforcement system. With robots. RoboPolice.

I know what you're thinking: Where's V when you need him?

Science fiction is said to be a series of predictions about which technologies will become real. So far, space-based SF doesn't have a good record. But there is one branch of science fiction that does: cyberpunk. Even if the predictions in the first-wave cyberpunk of the pre-Internet age include some embarrassments, cyberpunk is the subgenre that has come closest to becoming reality. In fact, it is our reality now. We live in the cyberpunk universe.

Case in point: the new robot police force being planned for the UK. Robot police are more efficient, really. There's no chance of human error. Robots can torture and kill without the slightest shred of human conscience (not to mention consciousness). They obey without question. For this reason, robot police are the wet dream of technocrats. To them, their virtue is that they remove the human element. Robot police are pure reason made reality.

There are, however, a couple problems with this dream. The first is that measures always create countermeasures. You got tased? It won't have any effect on you if you're wearing conductive clothing (or, like Spanner's sisters, you're electrokinetic). Flying robot platforms? You can use model planes against them, and even turn them into platform-hunting drones with an onboard computer. Jet fighter pilots have long used metallic chaff to distract homing missiles. And so on.

The other problem is that robots are controlled by computers. And computers can be hacked. If you want to remotely control your robot police, especially by remote computers, you need a wireless network — but don't let the hackers intercept or hijack it. And watch out if hackers turn your robot police against you.

Back in the '90s, when cyberpunk was relatively new (at least to me) and I had fallen freshly under its influence, I added to Spanner a force of android police that could pass as human despite their lack of feeling (because so many human police are equally unfeeling). What Spanner does to them (at least early in the story) is use a wireless transmission device (which, fast-forward to 2010, I now know is a jailbroken iPhone) which causes any android police in range to tear off their heads, which of course deactivates them; this also serves as a warning to the authorities that their own robot weapons can be used against them. This particular tactic won't work on the less advanced but more common drone craft. But the idea's the same.

Remember, we're already living in the cyberpunk universe now. William Gibson and Neal Stephenson no longer have to make this stuff up!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Script Frenzy 2010: Hey, It's Panic Time Again...

It's the last week of Script Frenzy, and for the first time I find myself faced with the dreaded Panic Time. In most novel writing months (last year's NaNoWriMo being the exception), I find myself with 30,000 words left to write when the final week begins, and I have to write all that in one week. If I want to reach 50,000 words and therefore win, I have to forcibly shift myself into Panic Mode. This time, I've got 58 pages to go to reach 100 and win Script Frenzy, and I've got one week to do it. I'm not going to ask myself the question "Can I do it?" because I've come back from worse deficits.

Now here's the problem. I normally have zero trouble writing scripts. My one Script Frenzy win so far, in 2008, consisted of 171 pages of Spanner script. Never mind that I found shortly afterward that I'd have to completely rewrite #1 and ditch the three later issues; I wrote them, and easily.

The problem is that I'm adapting. And what I'm adapting is my troublesome 2007 NaNoWriMo novel, Bad Company, which continues to try to keep me from finishing it no matter what I do. This adaptation has proved much harder than I thought. Maybe that's because I've been focusing on all the new scenes that aren't yet in the novel, particularly when Dictel invades America in the final third or so of the novel. What's more, the movie version of a novel is the Reader's Digest Condensed Version in script form. I'll worry about condensing the script, though, when I get into the editing stage, which is not my concern in April.

As I write this, it just occurred to me that there's an easy way for me to secure a surefire win. In fact, it's precisely what I did back in '07 when I adapted the one good scene from my '06 NaNo novel (the scene which I'm expanding into an entire novel called Black Science). Basically, I open up the novel files in Word and the script file in Celtx. I look for a scene to adapt, one that I haven't adapted yet, and then I adapt it, replacing all the first-person narration with, well, script. I usually transfer the dialogue intact, unless I decide I want to edit the dialogue. Yeah, that's how I'm going to do it.

I'm still going to win this thing. But this time it takes a Panic Time...

Monday, April 19, 2010

Script Frenzy 2010: Bad Company, The Movie!

Those of you who know me sufficiently know that I've been struggling with a novel called Bad Company (short description: mercenary corporation invades America to reverse Obama election) since NaNoWriMo 2007. This novel burned me out twice already, maybe three times (the third being last month, when I lost my first NaNoEdMo ever). For last year's Script Frenzy, I attempted to finish BadCo as a graphic novel script, only to be interrupted by moving across town. This year, I'm finishing BadCo as a movie.