Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Greg Bear on TV

Posted by goatchurch at 3:46 AM

Greg Bear was interviewed on the esteemed Daily Show on 21 June 2007 as "one of several science fiction writers who gets called upon by the United States government to help combat terrorism".

It is my claim that the US government is one of the greatest consumers of bad MundaneSF in the world. Whilst the SETI@home project showed that there is a big market out there for searches for Little Green Men, that's not where the money is. The money is in fabricating excuses for a hundred billion dollar space weapons system against a closed society that is teetering into its second famine in ten years and over-selling terrorist plots by uneducated and incompetent bozos who don't know what an explosion is. But then, neither do the journalists.

Famines. Now that's a major human event that doesn't feature in SF very often. Does not compute with our current culture. As always, what you get to read in fiction is determined by what's popular with the editors. In scientific writing the literature is determined by what's important, whether or not it's liked.
Stewart: ...So you can't just in the middle of your story go, 'And there's a gate, and you step through it. You're on another planet!

Bear: I've done that! That's fun.
He was showing off his book Quantico which is a "technothriller" based on what he learnt during a conference in 2000 on Future Crime.

He points out that the bullet we don't hear is the one that gets you. "We are concentrating on all these foreign terrorists, and we've forgotten about domestic terrorists."

They're starting to talk about dual-use technologies in biological laboratories.
Bear: The point is we need to put these capabilities into high schools and universities and so on so that our kids can be raised for the bio-tech world we are entering into.
By dual-use, it's medicine and research into pathogens which you necessarily learn how to culture and grow them.
Stewart: For you the ultimate scenario of terrorism is not a bunch of guys on planes doing those sorts of things, it's eleventh grade chemistry students figuring out how to grow viruses and then figuring out how to switch this little protein here we can make it have teeth.

Bear: That's it. Very concise. In five to ten years college students will have the equipment to assembly viruses from scratch.

Stewart: Not computer viruses. You're talking about living viruses.
Then it degenerates into something silly about putting pathogen sensors and radiation detectors into everybody's cell-phones so it can phone in the alert.

Maybe they'll only use it to detect kids smoking pot.

It does seem believable that millions of high school kids are likely to contain more stupidity and greater capability to get up to some serious mischief than any band of terrorists. It's like Vonnegut's Ice-9 in Cat's Cradle. Someone young without any sense of mortality will make something awful. And the reason they had the capability was that we were trying to educate them.

This is likely to come out of one of the rich upper class private schools where they have excellent facilities. Maybe they'll drive across the railway tracks and try out their concoctions on people in the poor part of town and inject Plutonium into their bloodstream.

Oh, the CIA has done that already.

Unfortunately, this is one of those crazy things that happen which goes beyond anything that features in polite SF writing these days.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This reminds me a little bit of the Dilbert cartoon where Dilbert tells Dogbert he's going to create a "new technology to prevent kids from seeing smut on the Internet."

Dogbert replies, "So, you're pitting your intelligence against the collective sex drive of all the teenagers who own computers?"

Dilbert asks, "What is your point?"

Dogbert replies, "Did you know that if you put a little hat on a snowball it can last a long time in Hell?"

7/04/2007 11:50:00 AM  
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