Inspiration from near-term Sci-Fi

5 min read

Inspiration from near-term Sci-Fi

One of the places that I like to find inspiration is from novels. Specifically, near-term sci-fi. This is sometimes called speculative fiction, though that includes other things as well.

One of the reasons that I prefer fiction to non-fiction for this kind of inspiration, is that fiction gives the author the ability to explore the possible ramifications and societal impact.

The following are just a few of the authors and books that I have read that have interesting ideas.

Daniel Suarez


Ideas I love:

  • Narrow (Game) AI unleashed
  • Darknets
  • Cryptocurrency
  • Augmented Reality
  • Reputation economy

Freedom(tm) - Sequel to Daemon

Ideas I love:

  • As above
  • Democracy, crowdsourced and localized
  • Community, redefined for the modern age
  • Genetic modification of crops
  • Self-sufficient communities
  • Computer aided manufacturing (Fabrication)
  • Killer Robots

Kill Decision

Ideas I love:

  • Drones
  • Swarm Intelligence
  • Future of war

Change Agent

Ideas I love:

  • Policing genetic crime
  • human trafficking
  • genetic modification (plants, humans)
  • crypto currency
  • effects of legislation of competitiveness in technology adoption

Ramez Naam

Nexus, Crux & Apex

Ideas I love:

  • Applied nano technology,
  • post-humanism
  • trans-humanism
  • Political ramifications of trans-humanism,
  • security when technology is in your brain
  • Uploaded personality
  • Policing trans-human threats
  • Positive and negative potential of technology
  • Mind to mind communication
  • Super soldiers

Charles Stross

Accelerando (available for free)

Accelerando is deep. It’s filled to the brim with ideas. Is a multi-generational singularity story. Themes: Digital Contracts, Alternative Economies, Trans-humanism

Halting State

Annoyingly in second person. It’s not as good as the sequel Rule 34

Ideas I love:

  • Virtual economies (Games).
  • Digital crimes.
  • Policing in the digital age. BlackNet - anonymous peer-to-peer currency system asks you to do favors, it does you favors

Rule 34

Neal Stephenson

Snow Crash - Oldie but a goodie. VR and social change

The Diamond Age

I have read The Diamond Age so many times that it’s almost imprinted permanently.

Ideas I love:

  • Interactive book that changes it’s stories to the needs of the child. Roles are played by remote actors (a concept that might work for VR).
  • Enclaves for everyone in both social values (Victorians), racial groups & political ideologies. All living in the same city. This is both interesting and also dystopian depending on how you look at it.


Neal Stephenson has been involved in and the creation of the Millennium clock (the prototype of which is a the Science Museum in London). This novel is a exploration of some of the ideas behind The Long Now. How do you preserve knowledge over 10s of thousands of years without anything more than human minds (etc).

Ideas I love: The long now, preserving knowledge across 10s of thousands of years. Dark ages and iconography of a society.

Cory Doctorow


Cory Doctorow’s first adult novel in eight years: an epic tale of revolution, love, post-scarcity, and the end of death.

Ideas I love:

  • Open-source construction, UNHCR collaborative building.
  • Gift economy
  • Uploaded personalities
  • Fabrication (3D printing etc)

The Rapture of the Nerds (with Charles Stross)

Gender bending yarn about people left behind when all the nerds went transhuman and left Earth. Leaving only the luddites and some very dangerous technologies hanging around.

  • Houses that reconfigure themselves
  • ? (It’s been a while)

Makers (free download)

Ideas I love:

  • New economic systems
  • Interactive rides made by 3d printing (open source, and procedural generation)
  • Jealous disney executives
  • Lawsuits multiply as venture capitalists take on a new investment strategy: backing litigation against companies like Disney
  • Boing Boing in a book: DIY everything, subcultures, nonsense legal actions, open source, 3d printing, Disney, online meeting/consensus tools, revision control systems, police brutality, urban decay, and of course citizen-journalism

Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom

Bruce Sterling

Islands in the Net

Quite an old book. Has some very interesting concepts though.

  • Assasination by drone
  • Collectives (sort of companies where everybody does their own thing but agrees to work collaboratively)
  • Underworld of data pirates
  • Bootleg biogenetics

Iain M Banks

Pretty much all the culture novels (too many to list).

The Player of Games

The Culture - a humanoid/machine symbiotic society - has thrown up many great Game Players. One of the best is Jernau Morat Gurgeh, Player of Games, master of every board, computer and strategy. Bored with success, Gurgeh travels to the Empire of Azad, cruel & incredibly wealthy, to try their fabulous game, a game so complex, so like life itself, that the winner becomes emperor. Mocked, blackmailed, almost murdered, Gurgeh accepts the game and with it the challenge of his life, and very possibly his death.


  • Post singularity society where the AI decided they liked humans and kept them
  • Pan-humanity it’s broad it’s diverse and individuals can change themselves at will and in response to environment (heavier gravity). I think it might be in “Matter” but spending time as the other sex and having kids and then switching back
  • It’s like Star Trek but without the Prime Directive. They love to meddle. They have patron, less advanced societies.