You never really know when inspiration will strike, a connection between two random things can often spark a train of thought. An idea can grow from nothing or can fall into a previously blank space; where it fits as if it was made to be there. And sometimes, circumstances that seem annoying can be a breeding ground for new ideas.
I’ve spent a week without my home internet, with only email and basic stuff on my phone. I thought that I’d be able to use the time to catch up on all sorts of things. The trouble is, when something like this happens, you realise that the internet has silently taken over such a large part of our lives, whether you wanted it to or not.
Want to research something? Want to know something, tell someone something? It’s all tied up with the internet. And it’s only when you haven’t got it, or must make an effort to find a way to use it, that you realise that it’s got you under its control.
There’s a real depth of possible ideas there for a story. Let’s be honest, a lot of them have been used before. The Net, The Matrix or the Terminator films are good examples, before them stories like The Machine Stops or The City and the Stars all used controlling technology in the narrative.
That’s all very well, the really worrying part comes when you have a problem with the technology. It often seems that the human element, which after all is supposed to be in charge of the machinery, is often sadly lacking. In my own case, it took a week to solve my problems, many calls were made, a lot of time was spent on hold and I had to keep repeating my name, address and date of birth (as if I wanted to remember that one!). In the end, even though the problem was resolved, nobody was sure how it was fixed, or even why it had gone wrong in the first place. An unwanted engineer turned up on Saturday morning, largely because the automated booking system had forgotten to cancel him.
One of the many people I spoke with admitted that the same solution had been tried several times, on the advice of the system diagnostic software. Although unsuccessful, the machine kept applying it as a fix, as if repetition would somehow get different results. There’s a word that we mere humans use to describe that sort of behaviour. Somehow, the fact that it was being attempted by a machine doesn’t make it any more likely to succeed. Or inspire confidence in the system.
Now I suppose that you could argue, if the machines were more intelligent, they would realise their behaviour was irrational, they would learn not to do that. My response is that humans know, yet millions of years of evolution haven’t stopped us repeating the wrong thing, expecting the right results.
I seem to have strayed away from my intended topic, inspiration. However as everything is connected, it only appears that way. Whilst all this was going on, I was listening to a story on the news about organ donation. That reminded me of a documentary I saw years ago, about a man who had a heart transplant and suddenly developed a taste for the donor’s favourite food. I think the term for it was cell memory syndrome. I wondered, if we had artificial intelligence, implanted in cloned or laboratory created bodies, could the original emotions of the donors override the implanted behaviour in the same way. Might we see the irrational artificial human, how might their behaviour be changed by the conflict in their processing? Might a robot (for want of a better term), still keep pushing the button, knowing the action was futile?
That gave me an idea for a story, set in my second favourite place. Not the future, the Steampunk present. I think you might be able to see where I’m going with this. As it happens, I have a story that was struggling to find its purpose, now I think we can proceed with it.
The inescapable point is, inspiration can strike at any time and a series of apparently unconnected events can set you off in a direction that you might not have expected.
Long may it continue.