Science Fiction of the Future

A government commissioned review has just backed the building of the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon scheme for generating electricity. It’s likely to cost £1.3 billion and still has a couple of hurdles to get through i.e. get marine license approval and the need to agree a deal with the builder. See here for more details.

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This is going to be used as a forerunner of other tidal lagoon schemes like those suggested for the Severn Estuary. I have (as you will note) long since been an advocate of the harnessing power from these tidal estuaries.

What I hope is that someone has the gumption to include wind generators of some sort on top of the lagoon structures, as they would then be somewhat remote from people, farming and industry. Even better I would like to see consideration being given to adding in features that would help conserve marine wildlife or add in things like mussel or oyster farms.

Now where did all these hopes come from?

Well my first science fiction novel. This novel is the novel that every novelist writes to learn their craft. Looking back at it now, I would say it’s awful. But then I’ve learned an awful lot of the writing craft since then. But the technology ideas behind it then are just as valid today.

[As an aside I did put forward one of the tech ideas I came up with to my workplace, only to have it turned down flat. A few years later, guess what? Another firm had developed that same idea and was selling it in the market place. Needless to say I was more than a little cheesed off with my firm.]

Now if my first novel had been published (after someone else had helped me to wring it into shape I hasten to add), then I believe these decisions might have been accelerated and we would be building the tidal lagoon now, if not already using it.

This come son top of the news that there is a new anthology out – Chasing Shadows by Tor. The blurb on the Tor.com site is

As we debate Internet privacy, revenge porn, the NSA, and Edward Snowden, cameras get smaller, faster, and more numerous. Has Orwell’s Big Brother finally come to pass? Or have we become a global society of thousands of Little Brothers—watching, judging, and reporting on one another?

Noted author and futurist David Brin presentsChasing Shadows, a collection of short stories and essays by other science fiction luminaries—available January 10th from Tor Books. Partnering with the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination, Brin and scholar Stephen Potts have compiled works from writers such as Robert J. Sawyer, James Morrow, William Gibson, Damon Knight, Jack McDevitt, and many others to examine the benefits and pitfalls of technologic transparency in all its permutations.

I have not had chance to read this, so don’t know whether it is good or bad. But I have a feeling about computers and computing in the near future – we’re heading for a significant change in the way they work.

Why? In my view, it’s all about the energy consumption, even the most efficient modern ones, use. We are demanding more functionality from them. They are growing bigger in capacity for any given size. They are using less energy for any given size. But they are still not enough for our needs. As a society, we want more. And in the end, they are going to come up against the energy limitation, and the only way to overcome this is to use some sort of technology disruptor.

Of course, this is all grist to mill of writing science fiction…

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2 thoughts on “Science Fiction of the Future

  1. A great post, Rosie – I, too, am hoping we will be utilising more of our wind offshore, as well as wave energy, which we have an abundance of and which I understand is a lot more effective that was initially thought. As for the tidal lagoon scheme – the sooner we think more creatively about the free energy around us generated by the weather and stop fixating on fossil fuels, nuclear or – god save us – FRACKING then the better:)

  2. From an engineers point of view there isn’t one renewable energy source that can replace conventional electricity production for providing constant reliable power. You just have to look at all the blackouts they have had in South Australia in the last few months. They have 40% of their electricity from wind, that is when the wind blows at the right speed (if it blows too hard the turbines shut down, it it doesn’t blow hard enough they have to take power from the grid to turn the blades to prevent warping of the gearbox bearings.

    Tidal power is just the same there is something like a 3 hour period around slack water (when the tide changes twice a day) when no power is generated and the conventional generators must make up for what is missing. In the case of this proposed Swansea Bay tidal lagoon scheme, if it is so good why does the government have to put our tax money into it (the fact the power from it will cost at least £89.90 MWh, about double the current market value and be index linked for 90 years). It is significant that no entrepreneurs or venture capitalists will put money into it, they require solid engineering facts not pie in the sky.

    With anything put into seawater you have to factor in very high maintenance costs as well as higher than normal building costs. When you add all those factors in to the cost of produced energy it becomes much too costly to economically use.

    Just look at Gridwatch http://www.gridwatch.templar.co.uk/ to see the state of power generation in the UK.

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