Science fiction author David Brin on society, science fiction, and engineering.
David Brin has been active in technology, both in fiction and nonfiction, for decades. Not only is his Uplift War Series on genetic manipulation, interstellar civilization and societal change classic science fiction, his post-apocalyptic dystopian novel The Postman was made into a movie with Kevin Costner in 1997. The scientist, futurist and author has won the Hugo, Locus, Campbell, and Nebula Awards.
David Brin's nonfiction work The Transparent Society won both the Freedom of Speech Award from the American Library Association, and the McGannon Communication Award.
Our interview began on an interesting note and immediately took on a breathtaking pace as I tried to keep up with Brin’s racing mind. His views on the electronic society and what it is doing to and for us made for an informative as well as entertaining time.
We began by talking about the conference call system we were using, and the fact that everyone hears the language from the country they are calling in from. I thought it was an interesting point to start with, that it exposes an aspect of our customized electronic ecosystem.
EETimes: It is an interesting issue that we may actually share in an electronic environment that is tailored to each of us to the point that we do not recognize that the other person doesn't even have the same context.
David Brin: Yes, well we have to get used to the fact that objective reality is behaving like subjective reality always did, and that is that we experience different things.
EETimes: When you think about that whole aspect of our society is adapting, and one of the things that you're very good at in your writing is societal adaptation to change. Because I mean you're most known for The Postman, but I got to know you through the Uplift novels, and I mean obviously they're not the same venues. But the theme of societal change, surviving societal change, dealing with societal change is a theme in both of those universes as one could say.
David Brin: Yes. Well you know being a science fiction author means that you must try to explore outside your comfort zone, but in ways that you have enough talent and insight already to be entertaining to people. Now I am blessed I'm able to do fantasy, and I've done some good ones that people have enjoyed. I'm able to do near term realistic thought experiments, and then my most popular works were either dire warnings, like The Postman, which Kevin Costner filmed.