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!


The Kintsugi – Homebrew Torch Ship

The Kintsugi, Zaki and Segi’s home-brew torch ship.

Heading up to pay a visit to Dr. Pritchard for the climax of ReImagination.

Printing had closed off the hull, hiding the fractal patterns inside a smooth shell of charcoal-grey diamond. In time lapse, this last phase had looked like a potter closing the rim of a bowl, bringing the edges up and together to make a sphere and smoothing over the seams to create a solid, blended whole.

Moving parts were few. There were no control surfaces that Zaki could identify. All but the most heavy-duty hinges were formed from graphene doped with crystalline polymers, the printing and subsequent baking process determining their flexibility and axis of movement. The few proper, full-scale, mechanical parts—like hatches and the crab-like undercarriage—had been printed together with the contiguous hull; then, a misting of acid—to which the diamond hull was impervious—had dissolved preprinted seams and voids, erasing acid soluble strata, to form independently articulating sections.

It was a technique borrowed from biology, where cells and tissues were grown bottom up, while groups of cells could be killed top down, in concert, to detach limbs and organs. It was how delicate fingers were cut from the blunt ends of embryonic stumps.

The last job of the print gantry employed the same misting head during a week-long controlled bake and baste. A shroud of super-thermal-insulator had been printed and the temperature inside kept at a steady, precise, 917 degrees kelvin. Every few minutes, the printhead had doused specific sections of hull with a solvent. The liquid worked its way into the graphene, crystallising and disrupting carbon bonds, changing the diamond from a dull, opaque grey to a polished, gem-like orange. The smoothed edges of the new transparent window panes faded organically into the hull. Just as dots added to a random doodle can turn meaningless squiggles into an unambiguous face, the transparent panels transformed the smooth, squashed ellipse into what was clearly an aircraft with a graceful, blended cockpit.

Rescue mission to Punt.

Note: After the war of ReImagination the shuttle was patched up and renamed Kintsugi.

Tech from Singularity’s Children – Meddling with Mosquitos

I incorporate a lot of ‘fun’ technology into my books, every now and again, some of it leaks out into RL:
Miraculous’ mosquito hack cuts dengue by 77%

The REVOBS act pays species for the work they do (in #MESHCOIN of course!)
Bees clearly deserve to be paid for their pollenation work… but what about mosquitos?

A scene in Denial (Denial Book One) has the lawyer for the Mosquitos not entirely happy with a new technology that makes his clients allergic to human blood…