It starts with the flip of a bit uploaded to servers around the world. Reply suggestions appear in your chat app. A friend texts you, and beneath their words, three Gumby-edged rectangles appear, presenting you reply options. Would you like to respond with “Hello”, “Hey!”, or “‘sup?”? You’re turned off by this the first time you see the chirpy replies inviting you to take the easy path. You refuse to play their game and defiantly type, “Hey!” When you press send, you realize your response was identical to one of the suggestions. It’s irritating that they got it so right. The second time you see this, the stone in your aorta rolls aside. You were going to type “Hey!” Anyhow, you might as well save yourself some keystrokes. RSI can be a bitch. The AI that predicts your responses gets better over time. The most capitalized multinationals to ever exist fund Research labs. (See how I capitalize the ‘R’? This work is looked on with religious fervor in tech circles). Pipelines devour, separat

Just what my TBR stack needs...

 I visited the Bay Area Book Festival on Sunday, attending two sessions devoted to speculative literature. The earlier session, " Cataclysm or Cure-all: Novelists Engage with the Promises and Perils of Our Tech Future ," featured four writers whose work straddles the line between literary and speculative fiction. Vauhini Vara is a tech reporter for the Wall Street Journal, but in parallel has worked on her debut novel, The Immortal King Rao , for thirteen years. It's about a Dalit CEO in a dystopian state where citizens are shareholders. She also co-wrote an essay with GPT-3 on grief. Claire Stanford has somewhat of an outsider's perspective on the tech world, and her novel, Happy For You , explores why so many talented people expend their efforts in the tech industry. Her main character is a philosopher-in-residence at a tech company, creating a quantification-of-happiness app called "Joyful." Kate Folk published a short story collection, Out There , f

Reading (and Writing) While Neurodivergent

 I was the girl who sat in class reading a book under her desk while ignoring her math teacher. It made me extremely popular with math teachers, but the feeling was mutual. ADHD is a life-long condition, but smart girls who read instead of disrupting the class were not diagnosed with ADHD when I was a child, so I remained undiagnosed until age 28. I never had any reason to suspect that my ADHD brain impacted my reading until I started writing. My first reaction to some critique partner feedback would be “But no one really cares about this, right?” Then I realize that yes, many readers do care about these things, because we read in different ways. One of the biggest differences I’ve noticed is that first words and pages don’t matter to me. I need a certain amount of context until characters, settings, and events start to “stick” for me mentally. The first few pages are a reading warm-up, allowing me to sink into the world of the story and start to experience it.  A recent, very stark ex

A Call for Milquetoastification

There's a sentence in System Error  that contained so many disparate elements, I needed to unpack it: We must confront the algorithmic sorting of users into filter bubbles that contribute to growing polarization, extremism, and decreasing social trust, all of which threaten the health of democracy. This is stated baldly, and with no explanation, so I'd like to examine two questions: First, are these things related in a self-evident way? and second, what are the causal chains at play? Photo by  Alexander Dummer  from  Pexels First, let's consider filter bubbles. Is this a concept that the general public understands well? Perhaps, but let me explain it just to be clear. In the early days of mass media, there was no way to individualize news and entertainment content to tailor it to the individual interests and world views of each consumer. Outlets had their own ideological bent, but given the limitations of the platforms and market pressure to be as broadly applicable as poss

Randomization and Willpower

When I can’t sleep, I listen to audiobooks read slowly. I tried this with Borges, but it didn’t work because his stories are too interesting. (My other insomnia bro, Victor Hugo, tends to go on hours-long descriptions of the sewers of Paris , so is a better choice for this purpose.) A line from The Zahir wormed it’s way into my brain the other night: “a coin symbolizes our free will.” Fitting, since a coin represents a fiction—money isn’t real—and free will is equally false (though like with Pascal's wager, you should believe in it anyway ). When you flip a coin or use some other random process to determine an action and committing to the random outcome, you are exercising your willpower in a way that you couldn’t if left to your own devices. I’ve recently introduced randomness into my life, and it has improved things everywhere I've applied it. It started, as so many things do, with ADHD. I’m on the umpteenth editing pass of my novel about a girl surviving her last few months

Breatharians at the End of the World

What do you think of when you think of hunger? Is it physical hunger from skipping meals or fasting? Or is it emotional hunger, the desire for something new, something different, something that feels more real than the daily treadmill of life that's only become more tedious since the rise of the novel coronavirus? To quote an Old El Paso commercial, why not both? I published my first flash fiction piece, Only Starlight , with Flash Fiction Magazine in November of last year. It's only 1000 words, and I'd love it if you'd take the time to read it and let me know what you think. Are there other types of hunger that interest you?

Reading Guilty Pleasures

My reading taste tends toward literary most of the time, and I gravitate towards difficult reads. I like a challenge and learning new words. I like there to be a deeper layer of meaning beneath the words on the page, and experience a thrill of discovery about the unreliability of a narrator. I love connecting various unrelated threads together in a way that's not explicitly spelled out by the author. Vagueness, ambiguity, and conflicting points of view are my jam. But right now, friends, I am exhausted. September/October 2020 has hit like so much of the rest of the year--unrelenting in its awfulness while at the same time passing miserably as more of the same. Every day requires a new evaluation of statistical tradeoffs, the type of thing that human brains excel at. I'm a manager, which means supporting my reports' existential dread while managing my own simultaneously. A Republican congress has defied the dying wish of a feminist icon and Supreme Court justice by shoving t