Inventions and technologies add texture and color to our world, from a simple invention like a robotic vacuum cleaner to revolutionary inventions like the airplane or the computer. Technologies can corrupt or enhance society. In the last fifteen years, the smart phone has dramatically changed the family dynamic, and nuclear bombs could eventually destroy the world. Hundreds of technologies will define our future, all impacting the flavor of the world.
I tried to include roughly one new technology in every scene of The Spark Anomaly and its planned sequels. When I started, I thought I would run out of new ideas, but so far, technological invention has been the easiest part of the writing process. Storyline and character development are much more challenging.
My fictional technology design process is similar to the invention process I go through in my engineering firm, except when I encounter a technological challenge in prose, I can write my way around any issue—even if it means inventing a new branch of physics.
As both an engineer and an entrepreneur, I have learned that invention is relatively easy, but bringing that invention to market poses the real challenge. There has to be a need, and most importantly, there has to be a viable business plan in place. But nothing ever goes as planned.
In designing my fictional technologies, I followed three basic steps:
Develop the business plan. A good example of this is the tactilefax, which I describe early in The Spark Anomaly. This technology is essentially a sophisticated 3-D printer, which should be familiar to most techno geeks. However, in order to bring this product into every home, I added intellectual property protections and self-destruct mechanisms so that it would make financial sense to have a device that can build any household product but still provide a revenue stream for the product designer. Imagine iTunes but with a vacuum cleaner instead of a song.
Design the widget. I feel that I have to understand the underlying technical challenges to properly describe how the technology works. Also, it is important for me to be confident that the device is buildable and does not violate a fundamental law of physics. Sometimes, for the sake of pacing, I leave the details to the reader’s imagination, but the design is always clear in my mind.
Decide what goes wrong. To me, what makes new technologies fascinating are their unintended consequences. Often, these unintended consequences have a bigger impact on our world than the primary product function. A butt dial can destroy a marriage, and a computer virus can change an election. And since nothing ever goes as planned, virtually all technologies have an unintended impact.
In The Spark Anomaly, I describe over fifty future technologies and inventions over the course of the novel. Some are critical to the plot, while others add to the atmosphere of their world.
The following are two examples of inventions featured in The Spark Anomaly that are not essential to the plot but do color the world.
I will be periodically sending out a free newsletter for any readers interested in learning additional details about my imagined technologies, as well as book release dates. Occasionally, I might throw in a few of my real technologies. Feel free to sign up below by providing your email address.
Jeffrey Freedman, May 28, 2019