Summer SciFi Musings

It’s summer, it’s hot, I’m in Turkey doing some writing—surrounded by some very pushy cats and startlingly clever Jaybirds.
I got to thinking about non-human intelligence again (a big theme in my books).

Forget about aliens, we already see non-human culture and technology.

Animals are a lot smarter than we give them credit for. We know they are capable of using tools. Some even pass new knowledge onto their offspring and colleagues—technicallythis is culture.

In my writing, the ‘BugNet’ allows animals to interact economically with humans. It’s Science Fiction, but it might not be as far off as we think…

I recently read about a group of scientists watching as a population of crows learned to use paper money to purchase treats from a vending machine!

The idea of their study was to see if birds could be incentivized to adapt to a completely new situation. The guinea pigs (flying guinea pigs) in this case were a murder of crows on a small south pacific island. They had already demonstrated they were able to make and use tools to snag bugs out of holes. In this experiment, they were presented with a vending machine and given some spending money. These very special birds quickly learnt that by inserting pieces of paper into the machine they could buy themselves lunch. Going further, when they were given notes which were too big, the crows were able to tear the larger denominations to match the advertised price.

In Siguarity’s Children I have a sequence where a trapped super-AI uses incentives and rewards to enlist wild animals to help it escape. Some of my early readers expressed scepticism that this might be a stretch, but here we have animals using tools, adapting to novel scenarios, and innovating on the fly (no pun intended). This is the same set of skills we might hope to find in a bright human being!

Imagine, if Instead of birds behaving this way, we’d found slug-beasts on another planet, or a population of zeno-chaete swarming beneath the ice of some Galilean moon! We’d be flipping out!


“Our difficulties in understanding or effectuating communication with other animals may arise from our reluctance to grasp unfamiliar ways of dealing with the world.”
― Carl Sagan

Let me know your own examples (or YouTube videos) of animals being unusually smart. I might include them in my upcoming book which (starts under the crust of an ice-moon).

If you want to read more about smart critters working within the human economy to build a better world… check out my Science Fiction!

Cheers, have a good summer!


Tech from Singularity’s Children: 3D Printing Organs in Space

3D Tissue Printing in Space is another technology I play with in my Singularity’s Children books.

The ultra-rich have found a new way to stave of a visitation from the grim-reaper by packing themselves in gelly and shooting themselves into orbit. There, cloning, cybernetics, and 3D tissue printing can fashion them new bodies.

FT – Small ‘organoids’ grown in the lab could be used to treat chronic conditions

In Space, the printer can place cells anywhere without worrying about gravity deforming the growing wet blob. Nutrients can be misted across the pulsing membranes as a new vessel for an oligarchs consciousness takes shape…

Once the body is done and ready for a freshly scooped out brain, all the fiddly neural wiring can be handled by software. Bulk connections are made in the brain-stem and dynamically mapped to sensations or actions in the synthetic body.

That’s the SciFi, this is the fact:

“In the microgravity environment, cells exhibit spatially unrestricted growth and assemble into complex 3D aggregates, in contrast to typical growth in monolayer (2D) cultures as occurs on Earth. For over two decades, investigations conducted in space and on Earth have shown that 3D culture supports the generation of tissue-like characteristics in vitro that are more biologically representative of native in vivo-like cell growth and function.”

Science from Singularity’s Children: Smart Cetaceans

In my Singularity’s Children series, animals are smart, but get a raw deal because they are hampered by a lack of hands and tongues, a deficiency overcome by the BugNet, AKA: IOA, The Internet of Animals.

The more science tells us about how smart —and devious— animals really are, the more convinced I become that we have already discovered “Alien Intelligence”.

Humpback Whale Communication and the Search for Alien Intelligence, watch the video here:

“The study of animal communication challenges our ideas of intelligence and informs our search for life in the universe. Among the most fascinating of vocalizations are the songs and sounds of humpback whales.”