Charlie Stross Talks Happy Slapping, Robot Chauffeurs with Paul Krugman

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I just came across this transcript of a conversation between Paul Krugman and the sci-fi writer Charlie Stross.

They talk about why flying cars are a bad idea, what kitchens tell us about ourselves, and how “future shock” leads to fundamentalism. Yes, it is that awesome.

Here’s an excerpt from Stross, answering Krugman’s question about why we don’t yet have robot drivers smart enough to ferry us around.

“I think that what has been happening rather than progress continuing and accelerating in a visible direction that everybody’s expected from 1960, we’ve seen immense progress in other directions and the effects are not immediately obvious  … It’s not a great cognitive leap from aeroplanes capable of carrying loads to bombers. It’s a hell of a leap from idea of getting a cheap camera chip and adding it to a mobile phone and coming up with a phenomenon of “Happy Slapping”. I don’t know if everyone knows what Happy Slapping is, … but its where kids basically find some random stranger beat them up while one of their friends videos it with their camera and then upload it to YouTube. As social phenomenon go, that’s not one you can predict from the input technology.” (via The Guardian)


Seth Fischer’s writing has twice been listed as notable in The Best American Essays and has been nominated for The Pushcart Prize by several publications, including Guernica. He was the founding Sunday editor at The Rumpus and is the current nonfiction editor at The Nervous Breakdown. He is a Dornsife PhD Fellow at USC and been awarded fellowships and residencies by Ucross, Lambda Literary, Jentel, Ragdale, and elsewhere, and he teaches at the UCLA-Extension Writer’s Program and Antioch University, where he received his MFA. More from this author →