Biblio Tech

Writings on SF from IEEE Security & Privacy

Back in 2002 the IEEE Computer Society launched a new magazine called IEEE Security & Privacy. George Cybenko of Dartmouth was the Editor-in-Chief and I’d worked with him on the launch of the magazine, along with a number of other people. In organizing the magazine I made a proposal to the rest of the editorial board for a column or department on the subject of science fiction. I wrote the following proposal as an email to the rest of the board, expecting it to be laughed down:

Over the years many seminal ideas in technology have been explored in the medium of speculative fiction. Some of these works have been tremendously influential in the technical community because they help feed the “what if” thinking that attracted so many of us to these fields in the first place.

My proposition is that we include in ‘Security and Privacy’ some things that reflect this aspect of our interests. The specific formats that come to mind include:

  1. An overview of Cyberpunk (going back to Heinlein’s “Moon is a Harsh Mistress” and Ryan’s “Adolescence of P1,” through Vinge’s “True Names,” and on to Gibson’s “Neuromancer,” “Count Zero,” and “Mona Lisa Overdrive,” and including Stephenson’s “Snowcrash,” and “Cryptonomicon,” and also Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner,” based on Dick’s “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep”).
  2. Book reviews – in addition to reviews of technical and scientific books in our field, include reviews of classic and current speculative fiction.
  3. Interviews with and biographies of influential writers and directors. For instance, John Pierce, inventor of the traveling wave tube and proposer of the communication satellite, among other things, also published poetry and fiction under the pseudonym “J. J. Coupling.”

This deviation from the classical IEEE “Just the facts, ma’am” approach to editorial content will, I believe, enhance the attractiveness and broaden the relevance of the publications to the practicing engineers and technologists who make up the readership.

To my surprise, the proposal was welcomed enthusiastically by my colleagues on the editorial board and when the magazine launched in January/February of 2003, the first of what would be fourteen articles, twelve of which I wrote, appeared.

The twelve articles appeared over the course of 2003, 2004, and into 2005, with a single-article revival in 2009:

# Title Date
1 AI Bites Man? 2003-01
2 Post-Apocalypse Now 2003-03
3 Hey, Robot! 2003-05
4 The Girl With No Eyes 2003-07
7 Die Gedanken Sind Frei 2004-01
8 Hacking The Best-Seller List 2004-03
9 Cult Classics 2004-05
10 Deus Est Machina 2004-07
11 Jennifer Government 2004-09
12 Use The Force, Luke! 2004-11
13 A Young Geek’s Fancy Turns To … Science Fiction? 2005-05
14 War Stories 2009-05

In late 2008 the editorial board asked me to revive Biblio Tech intermittently in future issues of Security & Privacy. The first of the new articles, entitled War Stories.

Over the years the IEEE Computer Society has reengineered their site, as a result of which the links back to the originals have broken, so I have removed them from this page. You can find them by searching the Security & Privacy website for the articles.

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