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Ender’s Game – 35 years on …

August 7, 2012

When Orson Scott Card first wrote his novelette Ender’s Game in 1977, I was 10 years old – the age at which Andrew ‘Ender’ Wiggin was in the midst of saving the human race from *evil* aliens in the story.

Coming to this Sci Fi classic 35 years after it was first published and before a new blockbuster film based on a fusion of two of the ‘Ender series’ books is due to be released in 2013 has been an interesting and timely experience.

As with many Sci-fi novels from the last 100 years it prophesied how some aspects of our society could developed over the subsequent decades.

The full novel was published in 1985, predating the web and a time when the Sinclair ZX Spectrum was the peak of home computing and gaming.

The ‘newsnets’ that the story refers to were no doubt based on Card’s understanding of the rudimentary communication structures on the Internet at that time, before Sir Tim Berners-Lee created the hypertext mark up language that made the environment accessible to everyone.

So, in anticipating the future, Card certainly got the following right …

  • Globally accessible computer networks to which anyone could publish their thoughts anonymously, become influential and gain large followings.
  • A computerised portable, wireless, ‘desk’ – which sounds very much like what we know today as laptops and tablet PCs.
  • Immersive and hyper- realistic fantasy computer games

In terms of the digital revolution we have experienced over the last two decades, I’m sure there are some developments that have surpassed Card’s imagination when he was writing in the 1970s and 80s.

I think where the upcoming film and renewed interest in the story could hit the mark in terms of parallels to the world today is the use of computer games to train armed forces and the increasingly remote and disconnected nature of modern warfare.

In essence, the idea that a 10-year-old boy – who has the sharp mind and reactions of today’s highly skilled computer games players and strategic maturity of  a child chess prodigy – could control a real battle scenario with remote ruthlessness, is nowhere near as far-fetched as it was over 30 years ago.

It would not surprise me if the more extreme hawks in the Pentagon have already conceived of the need for a ‘Battle School’ to train younger and younger recruits in the art of remotely controlled ‘drone’ warfare.

Faced with the prospect of confronting another in battle armed with a games console, perhaps the last person I’d choose to compete with is a smart 10-year-old kid.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. August 12, 2012 4:27 am

    Just spotted this Huff Post article showing MIT’s latest autonomous experiment flying indoors in confined spaces. The underground car park onboard camera footage is impressive.http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/10/mit-robot-plane-video_n_1765696.html#slide=592866

    Also, the video clip of the X-47B futuristic stealth drone test flight further down the page illustrates how far things are advancing with this technology. This one can land with precision on the deck of a moving aircraft carrier and hold a 4,500 lb payload. Hmmm …

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