Transhuman Space is a role-playing game setting comprising 11 books, covering what the world of 2100 looks like on Earth and throughout the solar system, and doing so in as scientifically and conceptually plausible a manner as possible -- there's no faster-than-light travel, telepathy, or humanoid alien life. I wrote two of the books: Broken Dreams, which looks at the developing world and the global politics of intellectual property in 2100, and Toxic Memes, which examines conspiracy theories, political movements, popular culture, and the like in 2100.
Most of the books (including mine) run about 100,000-150,000 words, with only about a quarter of the text focusing on game mechanics. The rest is detailed exploration of what life may be like a century from now, from the minutiae of popular food trends and clothing styles to broader issues of environmental conditions, political struggles, and the extension of human rights beyond what we currently call "human."
I spent a lot of time thinking through the connections between various possible developments (political, social, technological, environmental, etc.) and how they may play out over the century. I was limited in part by not being the author of the original scenario; I was stuck with many concepts and models I didn't necessarily agree with, but had to work with. It was very much like working with on a scenario-planning project with a big client already set in its ways.
Both books connect to my broader work about the future. Broken Dreams posits a world where developmental leapfrogging hasn't worked, and where forces of collaboration and openness get slammed down by incumbent political and economic institutions fearful of their potential. In many ways, Broken Dreams is the world I fear might happen if we fail.
Toxic Memes gives me a chance to play with ideas about how society and technology co-evolve. In it I explore the evolution of reputation management networks, arguments for and against assigning "personhood" to constructed beings, and how life is changed by constant access to communication and information networks far denser and richer than anything we have today. Toxic Memes is, then, a contemplation of the various tools and resources people will have a century from now to shake things up.
New World Columns
From early 1999 through early 2000, I wrote the New World column for
PC Review, part of the Johannesburg Mail & Guardian.
New World was intended to be an ongoing set of essays about information
technology, what it is, why it is, and what sorts of interesting & evil
things can be done with it. It was aimed at an intelligent non-technical audience,
so don't expect programming tips or esoteric disucssions of whether ATM or gigabit
ethernet is better for multicast setups.
The column ended after I fell into a full-time job in 2000. In April of 2002, the Mail & Guardian finally took down the articles from
their archives. You can still read them here, though!
- The Devil and Ray Kurzweil,
discussing the Kurzweil's new book, The Age of Spiritual Machines
(March 16, 1999).
- Corporate Evolution,
on Apple's OpenSource Darwin project (March 30, 1999).
- Melissa, Microsoft, and Monocultures,
a shorter version of the Salon piece (April 14, 1999).
Microsoft Evil? The short answer is no, but... (April 28, 1999).
- Converge On This! explaining
why "Convergence" is harder than it looks (May 12, 1999).
- Going Through Windows looking
(briefly) at alternative operating systems (May 26, 1999).
- Y2K All Over, talking about
Y2K preparations around the world (June 9, 1999).
- May You Live In Interesting
Times, Part I, part 1 of a look at the next 20 years (June 23,
- May You Live In Interesting
Times, Part II, part 2 of a look at the next 20 years (July 7,
- The Retrospect Project,
about the idea of Civilizational Backups (July 21, 1999).
- NAT King Cascio, about
using NAT (Network Address Translation) to connect 4 machines on one modem
(August 4, 1999).
- IPic and iBook, about
wireless technology and micro-servers (August 18, 1999).
- Can You Keep A Secret?, explaining
encryption (September 1, 1999).
- Designed by Natural Selection,
discussing evolutionary software & hardware (September 15, 1999).
- Another World Awaits, taking
a look at immersive, persistent multiuser 3D worlds online, and their potential
for further growth. (September 29, 1999)
- The Last Human Century, exploring
what it means to be "post-human". (October 14, 1999)
- Back to Earth, taking a look
at online tools that help us understand changes to our planet such as earthquakes
and climate change, as well as looking at the Viridan Movement. (October 27,
- Molecular Breakthroughs, talking
about new breakthroughs in nanocomputing and nanotech in general. (November
- Don't Buy A Computer, giving you
the argument as to why you shouldn't buy one. (November 26, 1999)
- Computer 2001,
talking about what near-future computers may look like, especially how they'll
need to adapt to us rather than the other way around. (December 15, 1999)
- Sunrise on Macworld, asking
what Apple might have in store beyond funky plastic cases. (January 7, 2000)
- Net Appliances Come
Home, examining some of the new designs for home Internet devices. (January
- The Info Box, a review of Donald
Norman's The Invisible Computer. (February 11, 2000)
Technology & Culture Essays
I also wrote numerous articles for various online and print publications on the intersection of technology and culture... and sometimes about games.
- Anonymizing the Web, in Wired (May 1996).
End of an Era?, at PC Review, examining the options for Microsoft if the Department of Justice
had won its case (March 31, 1999).
Ecology of Computer Viruses Technology Feature article at Salon.com (April 7, 1999).
of Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri at PC Review (April 28, 1999).
Your Name On Mars, Technology Log article at Salon.com (May 10, 1999).
BeOS Bible, book review at Byte magazine (May 31, 1999).
Linux Be Banned Down Under?, Technology Log article at Salon.com (June 7, 1999).
In Your Eyes, at PC Review, about the SETI@home project (June 9, 1999).
and Sorcery, review of Baldur's Gate/Tales of the Sword Coast at
PC Review (June 11, 1999).
Is Betta, comparative review of Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri and Civilization:
Call To Power at the Seattle Weekly (June 23, 1999).
Like Web Talk?, Technology Log article at Salon.com (June 23, 1999).
Teeny-Weeny Web Server, Technology Log article at Salon.com (August 16, 1999).
Person Connector, exploration of EverQuest at the Seattle Weekly
(August 19, 1999).
the Die, about using the Internet to revive paper & dice gaming,
at the Seattle Weekly (September 30, 1999)
- Swords, Spells, and Academy Awards, at Salon.com (November 23, 1999), about the parallels between making
a movie and making a computer game.
Firing Squads Are Coming, in PC Computing (December 1999), about employment cycles in the high-tech