Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Author
The Coming AI Wave and Job Retraining

At Asilomar, they looked at the real US economy, the real reasons for the “hollowing out” of the middle class. The problem isn’t immigration—far from it. The problem isn’t offshoring or taxes or regulation. It’s technology.” — Cade Metz, Wired.com

AI is going to replace far more jobs in the US (and elsewhere) than outsourcing labor ever did, and unless we prepare for that now, we’re going to have another economic collapse when millions of unskilled/low-skilled workers are replaced by software. One solution is the UBI, universal basic income, which will never fly in the US in the current climate. A more practical solution is retraining. You can’t just replace jobs with machines. You replace jobs with AI and then you retrain the people whose jobs have been obsoleted. But who pays? The corporations using AI won’t want to foot the bill. The whole reason they are replacing people with AI is to save money. It will be left up to the government then, at state and federal levels, to step up. But with a GOP majority intent on reducing government size and spending, this likely won’t get done. So in the end you will have another great wave of US unemployment and possible economic collapse that could have been prevented by simple worker retraining programs.

Forget the Baby Boomers. (Sorry, I love you, but you guys still use AOL). To my Gen-X and Millennial-aged friends: let’s craft a better plan for the next decade, because AI is coming faster than any of us are prepared for.

 

Interview in Outer Places

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Chris Mahon of Outer Places and the interview gone up live on their website. I talk about the Singularity, data privacy, technological ethics, and my long and short fiction.

You can check out the interview here.


BRITE Conference

I’m excited to be participating in a panel called “From T-1000 to Hal 9000: How Realistic Are Sci-Fi’s Robots?” at the 10th annual BRITE Conference held at the Columbia Business School. The panel will be held on March 6th from 11:10am-12:00pm. The official panelists are: Dan Abella, Director of the New York Sci-fi Film Festival and Philip K. Dick Film Festival, Matt Kressel (yours truly), Nebula-award nominated sci-fi author, Peter Asaro, PhD and Assistant Professor at the New School, and Mike Massimino, former NASA astronaut. The panel will be moderated by Christopher Mahon.

PANEL DESCRIPTION:
From T-1000 to Hal 9000: How Realistic Are Sci-Fi’s Robots?

Sentient robots have been a classic science fiction trope for decades, and with the popularity of works like Her, Ex Machina, and Westworld, they’re not going away anytime soon. In this panel, artificial intelligence and pop culture experts discuss famous depictions of sentient AI and their respective levels of scientific plausibility. Is Samantha from Her the logical extension of Siri and Google Home? Do we need to preemptively afford artificially intelligent robots “human” rights in order to avoid the enslavement of sentient beings? If we ever build a robot that can approximate emotion like Hal 9000 or Ava from Ex Machina, would we ever be sure that they are *feeling* emotion rather than simulating it? Join us for a discussion of all of the most fascinating questions (and most entertaining pieces of fiction) about the burgeoning growth of artificial intelligence.

ABOUT THE BRITE CONFERENCE:
Now in its 10th year, BRITE ’17 (March 6-7, Columbia Business School, NYC) will bring together 500-600 executives, entrepreneurs, academics, and students to discuss the future of business, technology, media, and society. Participants at BRITE come to learn about how innovative ideas are changing society and the ways that brands are built and maintained. Current confirmed speakers for BRITE ’17 include: Maryam Banikarim (CMO, Hyatt), Dana Anderson (CMO, Mondelez), Jonathan Becher (CDO, SAP), Raj Subramaniam (EVP, FedEx), Andrew Kassoy (Co-Founder, B Lab) and Chris Welty (Senior Researcher, Google).


“Great Game” up at Hex Publishers & “The Last Novelist” Presale


My story, “The Great Game at the End of the World” is up now at Hex Publishers. After a bizarre apocalypse that shatters Russell’s neighborhood into floating chunks of property and unleashes horrid creatures into the world, he must protect his sister Jenna at all costs, even if that means giving up everything he loves. Here’s the intro paragraph:

The Creepy playing second base is a hell of a fielder, but his arm’s for shit, so they can forget about the double-play. My sister Jenna swings a doughnutted bat in the on-deck circle, chewing strawberry gum we found in the drawer of a wrecked house, her Mets cap turned around backwards, her yellow hair flowing in the constant breeze. Seeing her like this makes me happy. She shouts at the Ken up at bat, “You’d better hit the goddamned ball, loser!” Mom wouldn’t ever let that language fly. Jenna’s only ten. But I let it slide. Lately, I let everything slide.

The Creepies’ pitcher looks like a seven-foot tall furless cat with giant yellow eyes that glow no matter what angle you look at them, and rows and rows of toothpick teeth longer than my fingers. But her arm’s the real killer. She’s struck out four batters already, and it’s only the third inning. (These Creepies learn fast.) Bottom of the third inning, actually, and the last. Three innings was all we could coax from these creatures who seem to be more interested in the strange stars spinning wildly above the field than the game. Its Jenna, me, the Kens and Barbies vs. the Creepies, and we’re down, 1-0.

You can read the full story here.

Also, my story “The Last Novelist,” which will appear at Tor.com on March 15, 2017, is now available for pre-order. Here’s the jacket copy:

“The Last Novelist (or A Dead Lizard in the Yard)” by Matthew Kressel is a science fiction story about a dying writer who is trying to finish one final novel on the distant planet he settles on for his demise. His encounter with a young girl triggers a last burst of creativity.

You can purchase your early copy here.

 


How To Run a (Successful) Reading Series

Over at Tor.com, they’ve posted my piece on “How to Run a (Successful) Reading Series.”

So you want to run a reading series, do you? That’s fantastic news! The more places authors have to showcase their work, the better. But while running a reading series may seem like a cakewalk to the casual outside observer, there are many things you must consider to make sure your series is successful.

I’ve been co-hosting the Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series in Manhattan alongside Ellen Datlow for over eight years (the series itself has been running since the late 90s), and in that time I’ve learned many things about how to run a successful reading series, some of which I’ll share with you here.

You can read the full piece here.


When I Was Suffering, I Made Less Art

There is a cliche that suffering makes one a better artist. I don’t know if that’s true, but I do know that when I was suffering, I made less art.

I was a struggling artist for years. And, yes, I know that’s also a cliche. But it’s true. I lived paycheck to paycheck, hoping that I wouldn’t get sick, that some great expense didn’t burst into my life and wreck the fragile life I was building. I could not afford health insurance. For a single, self-employed individual in his early thirties, the health plans were all in the $1000-$1500 per month range. That was more than I was paying for rent. So what I did was:

  • Run three times a week
  • Look both ways twice before crossing the street (yes, this is true)
  • Try to eat healthy
  • Pray to any deity that would listen for my well-being

I did this because I was terrified. Terrified that I’d get sick and wouldn’t be able to pay for it. And what do you know, I did get sick. I herniated a disc in my neck, C5-C6. If you don’t know, that’s where a major nerve bundle passes and connects to pretty much every point in the body. The result? Excruciating pain, numbness, tingling, and a general sense of constant malaise. I would often take up to twenty Advil and half as many aspirin just to get through a single day. And by “get through” I mean barely squeaking by. I was depressed, angry, and bitter. I couldn’t write when I was in so much pain, which was every day, and I recall one Thanksgiving that I couldn’t even sit at the table with my family and had to go lie on the floor for an hour. Because I couldn’t afford health insurance I had to separate from my family on one of the few times a year I see them. Yeah, it sucked.

I suffered for years. And while I tried to write as much as I could, oftentimes the pain was just too much.

I won’t bore you with the details of how I got better, but it took me years, and I still have to be cautious. And while I’m not sure that if I’d had health insurance I would have healed more quickly, it’s likely that had I visited a doctor and gotten the care I needed I would have been in less pain. Yet, because I feared for my financial well-being over my physical one, my writing suffered. I’m sure there are many thousands of artists, perhaps millions, who have similar stories to mine.

And here’s the thing: the surest way to kill art is to kill the people who make it. I don’t know what the GOP plans to replace the ACA with, if anything, but I do know that if they don’t offer a low-cost, subsidized plan for low-income people, artists all over the U.S. will suffer. And guess what? So too will their art.

 


Arisia Schedule

I’ll be at the Arisia convention in Boston this weekend. It’s a great convention, and I’m looking forward to it! Here’s my schedule. Hope to see you there!

Story Architecture: How to Plot Your Story
Marina 3, Writing, Sat 5:30 PM 
Deborah Kaminski (m), Michael Carr, Felicitas Ivey, Matthew Kressel, Suzanne Palmer
“A well-crafted story resembles a suspension bridge. How much backstory do you need at the beginning? How quick should you get to the inciting incident? What the heck is a midpoint? What milestones should you plot before you write a single word? And how do you get to your ‘all is lost’ moment without losing track of why the heck you started writing in the first place? Whether you’re a plotter or a pantser, creating a roadmap will help your protagonist get to their destination.”

How to Self-Edit That Steaming Hot Pile of Crap
Adams, Writing, Sun 10:00 AM
Trisha Wooldridge (m), Jacqui B., Alexander Jablokov, Matthew Kressel, Ken Schneyer
“Have you ever gone back to edit your story, only to ask “Who wrote this $#!t?” Can you fix it? Where do you start? Our experts will teach you how to identify which elements you wish to save, how to spot plotting and pacing issues, why adverbs are so bad, and what tools are available to make self-editing easier. Bring a butcher knife…it’s time to conduct surgery on your baby…”

Is Optimism Just Nostalgia in Disguise?
Marina 2, Literature, Sun 11:30 AM
Andrea Hairston (m), MJ Cunniff, Matthew Kressel, Nalin Ratnayake, T.X. Watson
Description We are hearing, after a long sojourn in dystopia and postapocalypse, that optimistic SF is making a comeback. Is it really the case or is the optimism of yesterday just another type of nostalgia? When climate change, postantibiotic medicine, and resource depletion are major factors in our lives (topics that are not always as well addressed in optimistic SF), is there a way to temper our optimism and inspire those who might be able to face these problems?