All of this year’s nominees share an interest in the relationship between person, system and machine… If individually the novels cover a thrilling range of horrors and monsters, as a collection they offer grounds for hope. In these worlds of chips, nodes or artificial assistants, people still reach out to loved ones. Even owned and tortured characters find fragments of joy, and the will to fight for more.
The exhibition’s dramatically lit opening text informs visitors that after a long time on the fringe, “Science fiction is now all around us.” Frustratingly, the exhibition repeats this trope while refusing to fully confront its literal truth.
Many of the richest individuals, companies and governments in today’s world are pouring investment into putting still more of the imaginary products of Victorian collectible cigarette cards onto our shelves and our streets. Self-driving cars or flying ones, private space travel, AI assistants, all hover on the edge of the real. Some of the most highly valued companies in history – Uber, Google and Tesla – literally survive on the capacity of investors to imagine and have faith that these still-fictional sciences will become fully real
We have seen a frantic surge in interest across the political spectrum in how data-driven businesses are reshaping, even undermining democracy by filtering our access to information in personalised newsfeeds and cutting us off from opposing views, thus undermining attempts to collaborate and compromise. And concerns are surfacing about how data collected for convenient apps might be repurposed: many of the companies mentioned in the book have stated publicly that they would not collaborate in attempts to create a so-called Muslim registry.
Weigend’s crisp description of the mechanisms Google uses to rank its search results was written before the search giant rushed through a fix to its algorithm so that the top result for the query “did the Holocaust happen?” was no longer a link to a Nazi group that denies it. The move was interpreted by many as frank recognition on the data broker’s part of its responsibility for the accuracy and impact of its services. Ranking pages according to how much attention they receive, no matter how sophisticated the analysis, is no longer good enough.