My Boskone Schedule

Just a quick thing, for those of you who will be in Boston next week — Boskone 56 will be going on, and looks to be a lot of fun! I’ve got a couple of panels talking about some of my favorite topics with some of my favorite people, and what promises to be a fun discussion group about Martha Wells’s excellent novella series The Murderbot Diaries.

Naming Names

15 Feb 2019, Friday 20:00 – 20:50, Harbor II (Westin)

Are characters’ names critical to the story? Just ask Charles Dickens. But naming characters can be tough. How do you find just the right one? Bad choices can undermine the storytelling; good ones can capture the reader’s imagination and memory. Let’s discuss how to craft names while avoiding naming pitfalls. Plus: can a good genre name take hold in the outside world?

Mr. Walter H. Hunt (M), John P. Murphy, Suzanne Palmer, Max Gladstone, Allen M. Steele

AI: Be AI-fraid. Be Very AI-fraid.

16 Feb 2019, Saturday 11:00 – 11:50, Harbor III (Westin)

Before humanity hands over too many more critical decisions to algorithms and artificial intelligences, let’s pause for questions. What are AIs’ innate weak points and/or limitations? What are their strengths? Where have they succeeded — or failed — lately? What happens when AI tech goes wrong? What might it do to us if we leave too much to them? Is us and them really the right terminology?

Mr. Walter H. Hunt (M), Jeanne Cavelos, John P. Murphy, Edie Stern, Catherynne M. Valente

The Murderbot Diaries

16 Feb 2019, Saturday 17:00 – 17:50, Galleria – Discussion Group (Westin)

The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells is an award-winning novella series published by It stars an AI whose analysis of humanity’s flaws and graces, paired with its own struggle to survive so it can binge cool TV shows, make for a fast-paced, witty, and insightful reading experience. Author John P. Murphy leads an informal discussion (with spoilers!) about this clever new hit series.

John P. Murphy (M)

When Robots Take Over (Our Jobs)

17 Feb 2019, Sunday 11:00 – 11:50, Burroughs (Westin)

Twentieth-century history shows that automation can increase productivity and stimulate new employment. More recent developments, however, haven’t always been so productive or stimulating (e.g., grocery store self-checkouts). Are we nearing a point of no return — when technological advances chiefly function to replace human labor? What happens to society once work gets scarce, and stays that way? And what might the transition to that brave new (jobless) world entail?

Mark Olson (M), Karl Schroeder, B. Diane Martin, John P. Murphy, Brianna Wu

Gimme That Old-Time Space Adventure

17 Feb 2019, Sunday 13:00 – 13:50, Harbor II (Westin)

The subgenre has been around a long time — but people still love a good space adventure story. Why? What are the greatest space sagas of the past, and what are the new classics of the field? How are they similar or different from each other? Do the new ones still have that good old goshwow sensawunda?

Brendan DuBois, John P. Murphy (M), MR Richardson, Auston Habershaw, Dan Moren

AI and the Growth of Intelligence

17 Feb 2019, Sunday 14:00 – 14:50, Harbor II (Westin)

How do we determine whether an entity is intelligent, and what do these criteria say about artificial intelligences (AIs)? What is machine learning? How does it relate to true intelligence? Are current AIs the equivalent of idiot savants? Participants explore what could make an AI a person instead of a system. What technical breakthroughs have occurred (or need to occur) in order for us to ascribe intelligence to AIs?

John P. Murphy (M), Jeff Hecht, Dr. Stephen P. Kelner Jr., Laurence Raphael Brothers, Justin Key

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