In my research into Young Adult fiction, I have chosen to appropriate the word ‘geek’ to describe a very technologically able individual in a world filled with digital insiders who understands the technology in their life rather than just being a user of the technology. While it would be interesting to canvas opinion on my choice and to explore what people perceive is meant by the word, a conversation I had last night reminded me of the need for us all to understand our technology, rather than just use it.
I was 18 in 1995 when the Internet started to become available to people outside academic and military institutions and I believe that having been an adult user close to its inception has helped me to think critically about it. At that time AltaVista and Yahoo! were the main search engines, with Google only joining the party in 1998. To find something, people had to parse their question, say ‘Which is the oldest college in Cambridge?’, to select the keywords in order of importance; the query would therefore become ‘cambridge college oldest’. Having grown used to this as the Internet grew, I still search this way and still expect to hunt through search results to find the answer. However, one of the aspirations of companies such as Google is to be able to understand natural language queries and even pre-empt the whole question. If you’re usually a keyword user, go and try typing the full question into Google: it suggested the whole question to me as I got to ‘college’. Watching children search for information at school, I regularly see them typing the full question as if they are simply talking to a human repository of facts.
The information I have given Google over the years helps it to guess my question as it knows I am in the UK and I assume it knows I look at .cam.ac.uk pages quite regularly. This must also be quite a common question as Google is able to find it in its archive of previous searches people have executed to find other old things.
Take another example: Amazon. How often are we told that people who bought the book that is just being downloaded to one’s Kindle also enjoyed a host of thematically related books? This is a great way for researchers to discover similar texts which may be of use, and a helpful way to find something which is unlikely to be a risky choice.
Again, our personally shopping history combined with millions of other people’s shopping history is combined, processed and spat out as recommendations.
These are only two examples out of many, but they exemplify perfectly the need to understand the technology.
Both Google and Amazon are providing an amazing and useful service in helping their users find what they want quickly, easily and efficiently. However, in doing so they are perpetrating the same questions and same recommendations to a wealth of different people linked only by a gossamer thread of curiosity or reading tastes.
Considering this in the broadest of terms, there are three things which worry me – and I believe should worry you – about this.
Firstly, moments of serendipity when we discover something by accident are excluded from the algorithms which predict what we want to know, and the likelihood of stumbling across something accidently is lost. (Communicating virtually through timed Skype meetings also has this effect as ‘watercooler moments’ are less likely to happen, but that’s for another day.)
Secondly, without serendipity, we are all being made into homogenous individuals who are privy to the same information and are expected to have similar consumer tastes.
Thirdly, an array of digital intelligences is growing on the servers of big companies dotted around the world that knows us as well as we do and is thinking for us and shaping our choices.
The technological singularity has been something of science fiction for decades. It wouldn’t be the first thing written about in fiction to become a reality.
Originally written for the Children's Literature at Cambridge blog and first posted there earlier today.
Sunday, 24 November 2013
Tuesday, 23 July 2013
|This list has been updated: a newer, expanded version can be found at http://richardshakeshaft.blogspot.co.uk/2017/02/young-adult-fiction-technology-reading.html|
17 February, 2017
|The Mad Scientist's Daughter - Cassandra Rose Clarke (2013)|
The billion dollar android, Finn, looks and acts like a human and is programmed to assist his owners and perform his duties to perfection. His primary duty is to tutor Cat and he becomes her guardian and constant companion. However, he begins to learn what it is to be human as he tries to find his place in the world and her heart.
|The Different Girl - Gordon Dalquist (2013)|
Four nearly identical girl live on a desert island with two adults who care for them and teach them. Unexpectedly a shipwreck brings a very different kind of girl to the island and her presence makes the girls question their own existence.
|MILA 2.0 - Debra Driza (2013)|
After the sudden death of her father, Mila’s at a new school, trying to fit in and falling for the mysterious. When she is involved in a car accident, she discovers she is not human and then learns that her life is a fiction and she cannot even rely on her emotions to tell her who she is. As she fights to find out who she really is and to protect her 'mom', she finds out there is much more to her life.
|The Best of All Possible Worlds - Karen Lord (2013)|
The Sadiri were once the galaxy's ruling élite, but now their home planet and most of the population has been destroyed. Impulsive civil servant Grace Delarua is assigned to work with a controlled and taciturn Sadiri Councillor, on a mission to visit distant communities, looking for possible mates.
|Scarlet - Marissa Meyer (2013)|
The sequel to Cinder, in which Scarlet turns to Wolf, a street fighter, when her grandmother goes missing. At the same time, Cinder becomes the Commonwealth's most wanted fugitive as she breaks out of prison to escape from Queen Levana. The stories collide as Cinder's true identity is discovered and she becomes a greater threat to Levana.
|Fractured - Teri Terry (2013)|
This is the sequel to Slated, in which Kyla's memory was erased and her personality wiped blank. However, she begins to remember things that she shouldn't as she encounters actions and people from her past. Finding out more about who she was confounds the question of who she is and what decisions she must make about her future.
|vN - Madeline Ashby (2012)|
The protagonist, Amy Peterson, is a Von Neumann machine - a self-replicating humanoid robot - who for the past five years has been grown slowly as part of a mixed organic/synthetic family. However, a flaw is discovered in her synthetic heritage which prevents her failsafe, the mechanism which stops robots harming humans, working as it should turning her into both a deadly and desirable entity.
|MazeCheat - B R Collins (2012)|
The sequel to Gamerunner, in which cheat programmers work with gamerunners to uncover the secrets behind the latest expansion to CRATER's Maze. If players finally manage to beat the game, it takes their brain and memories to use as material for new games for new Gamerunners, leaving them dead. But no one knows this yet. When the heroes realise what is happening they need to destroy the game, but the all-seeing CRATER already knows what their plans are.
|Pirate Cinema - Cory Doctorow (2012)|
The sixteen year old Trent McCauley is obsessed with making movies by sampling and reassembling footage downloaded from the net. However, in the near-future Britain where Trent is growing up, this is more illegal than ever: if someone is caught three times, their entire household is cut off from the Internet for a year. When Trent is caught, the loss of the Internet nearly destroys his family and he runs away to London where falls in with a group of activists fighting a new bill that will further criminalise digital copying.
|Soul Fire - Kate Harrison (2012)|
The sequel to 2011's Soul Beach sees its protagonist continuing to talk to her dead sister in the virtual world of Soul Beach as she tries to solve the mystery of its inhabitants' deaths from the real world
|1.4 - Mike Lancaster (2012)|
The sequel to 0.4 sees another imminent upgrade to humans, but it is set against the backdrop of the protagonist, Peter Vincent (son of an internationally renowned scientist), uncovering a conspiracy amongst the leaders of the establishment to hide the knowledge of human upgrades from the populace.
|Cinder - Marissa Meyer (2012)|
A retelling of the Cinderella story in which the eponymous Cinder is a gifted mechanic and cyborg.
|Fair Coin - E C Myers (2012)|
Science fiction in the best sense of the term: alternative worlds, quantum theory, teenagers, and a the flip of a coin. To say anything else would completely give the novel away!
|Starters - Lissa Price (2012)|
Callie lost her parents when a virus attacked the Earth and then she lost what to her was home. In desperation she tried to raise money by participating in an illicit scheme whereby teenager bodies are leased to wealthy, but aged, renters. Finally, she loses her body too but she is determined to get it back.
|Unwholly - Neal Shusterman (2012)|
In the second book in the Unwind "Dystology", the teenage escapees continue to fight against the system that would 'unwind' them. A new character, Cam, is introduced: he is a 'rewound' made entirely out of parts from one hundred other 'unwinds', and struggles to find a true identity and meaning, and a place in society.
|Slated - Teri Terry (2012)|
Kyla's memory has been erased and her personality has been wiped blank: she's been Slated. The government claims she was a terrorist and that they are giving her a second chance as long as she plays by their rules. However, echoes of the past whisper in Kyla's mind and she starts to search for the truth.
Shouldn't Call Me Mommy - Susan Tsui (2012)|
Orphaned as a little boy, Jay was raised by an artificial parent to become an upstanding member of society. Jay's older brother Ian still remembers their real parents and has never understood Jay's connection to his nanny-bot. As Ian and Jay try to understand each other and themselves they explore the nature of attachment and family loyalties.
|Feedback - Robinson Wells (2012)|
The second book in the Variant series sees the teenage Benson Fisher, who thought that a scholarship to Maxfield Academy would be the ticket out of his dead-end life, discovers the school's real secret. He escapes, only to find a town in which he finds all the pupils who he thought had died, and learns that the academy's plans may be impossible to foil.
|The Future of Us - Jay Asher & Carolyn Mackler (2011)|
Set in 1996, two teenagers access the Internet and discover a site called Facebook which shows them what their life will be like fifteen years in the future; they are duly able to see the implications of their teenage decisions on their adult lives.
|i2 - James Bannon (2011)|
While creating a new procedure by which memories are uploaded, stored and transferred to a new body, the inventor is diagnosed with terminal cancer. He use the procedure on himself, preparing to begin life again. However, instead of being born to the woman he loves, he is born into the family of his rival: a man who has stolen his company and his family. As he reconciles his intellect being trapped within the form of a helpless child he embarks on rebuilding his life.
|Ready Player One - Ernest Cline (2011)|
In a dystopian future, the teenage Wade Watts spends his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a virtual utopia where people can live the lives they want. In his spare time, he is one of millions searching for the solution to a series of riddles concealed within the online world by its creator, in a bid to inherit his massive fortune. Players know that the riddles are based in late C20th culture and when Wade stumbles onto the key to the first puzzle he finds himself competing against many others in a competition which takes on real-world dimensions.
|Gamerunner - B R Collins (2011)|
The Maze is a virtual reality game but one game does not allow the player to start again when they lose.
|The Maze Runner - James Dashner (2011)|
Thomas only remembers his first name and is welcomed to the Glade - a walled encampment at the centre of a bizarre and terrible stone maze - by a group of similar male teenagers. None of them know why or how they came to be there, or what's happened to the world outside: all they know is that every morning when the walls slide back, they will risk everything (even facing the half-machine, half- animal Grievers) to try and find out.
|brainjack - Brian Falkner (2011)|
An extraordinarily skilled teenage hacker becomes involved in a world of espionage, intrigue and cybercrime when a remarkable hack grabs the attention of a secret government agency.
|Soul Beach - Kate Harrison (2011)|
When the heroine receives an e-mail from her dead sister she assumes it is a sick practical joke, but then she receives an invitation to join an idyllic virtual reality world where she is able to talk to her sister again but discovers it is only inhabited by the young, the beautiful and the dead.
|0.4 - Mike Lancaster (2011)|
A teenager's account of a life-changing event has been transcribed from audio tapes and appear to reveal the history of a world in which technological obsolescence becomes personal.
|You have seven messages - Stewart Lewis (2011)|
A year after Luna's mother, the fashion-model wife of a successful film director, was hit and killed by a taxi in New York, Luna, her father, and brother are still struggling with grief. Luna finds her mother's mobile phone and it contains seven unheard messages. As Luna listens to them, she learns more about her mother and realises that what she's been told about her death is not the whole truth.
|Scored - Lauren McLaughlin (2011)|
Set in a future in which teenagers are monitored by technology, they are all given a score which determines their ability to succeed. The reluctant heroine's scholarship- winning score is brought down by her best friend's behaviour. She is then faced with the decision between doing what feels morally right and her future.
|Delirium - Lauren Oliver (2011)|
Love, or deliria, is seen by society as a disease from which there is no recovery, but citizens receive the cure on their eighteenth birthday when love is eradicated and they meet their predetermined partner. The teenage protagonist, Lena Holoway, has always looked forward to the day when she’ll be cured but, with ninety-five days until her treatment, Lena falls in love.
|Divergent - Veronica Roth (2011)|
Reaching the age of 16, Beatrice has to decide which of five tribes she will join for the rest of her life. Turning her back on her family she discovers a new and violent life and duly has to make choices about where her loyalties lie.
|The Predicteds - Christine Seifert (2011)|
The experimental Profile programme is able to determine students' future behaviour, and the 'bad kids' names are kept on a list of Predicteds. The protagonist, Daphne, falls for Jesse, but his name is on the list.
|Variant - Robison Wells (2011)|
Problem child Benson Fisher wins a scholarship to Maxfield Academy, but when he arrives there he finds himself trapped in a school surrounded by razor wire and monitored by an external agency. He eventually discovers the reason why he and the other students are cut off from the rest of the world and that escape may prove impossible.
|iBoy - Kevin Brooks (2010)|
An accident leaves the teenage protagonist with an iPhone embedded in his brain but rather than it killing him, he harnesses the iPhone's capabilities.
|Mockingjay (Hunger Games Book 3) - Suzanne Collins (2010)|
Katniss Everdeen has, against all odds, survived the Hunger Games twice, but although she has made it out of the arena alive, she is still not safe. The Capitol is angry and wants revenge. She becomes the figurehead of District 13 and the rebellion against the Capitol and sees the life she wants becoming increasingly difficult to achieve.
|Matched - Ally Condie (2010)|
A dystopian society is controlled by technology and people's seventeenth birthday sees them given their perfect partner as dictated by society. Cassia's allotted partner turns out not to be the perfect match that society demands.
|Monster Republic - Ben Horton (2010)|
An explosion in a nuclear power plant leads to a class of visiting teenagers being patched up with scavenged body parts and bionic implants to create an army of superhuman soldiers.
|Metagame - Sam Landstrom (2010)|
Computer gaming becomes a way of life and the players' limits are explored in the virtual world where the winner takes all.
|Wired - Robin Wasserman (2010)|
Set a further six months after Crashed, this is the final part of the Skinned trilogy. Lia discovers that everything she thought she knew is a lie and everyone she thought she loved has been stolen away. With her life - her uploaded consciousness - and those of her Mech friends, she sets about trying to save everyone.
|Dot.Robot - Jason Bradbury (2009)|
Technologically proficient children are recruited to use the latest technology in a classic tale of good versus evil.
|Catching Fire (Hunger Games Book 2) - Suzanne Collins (2009)|
After winning the Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen returns to her district, hoping for a peaceful future, but she hear rumours of a deadly rebellion against the Capitol which she and Peeta have helped to create. As they are forced to visit the districts on their Victory Tour they have to convince the world that they are still in love with each other or the consequences will be horrifying.
|Skinned - Robin Wasserman (2009)|
A popular teenage girl is involved in a near fatal traffic accident, and her brain is downloaded and installed into a new body and she has to discover her new identity.
|Crashed - Robin Wasserman (2009)|
Set six months later, this is the sequel to Skinned. When a voice from Lia's past cries out for revenge, she is forced to choose between her old, human, life and her new one. As she reaches her decision issues of mortality, technology and morality are all considered and explored.
|hero.com: Rise of the Heroes - Andy Briggs (2008)|
While surfing the net during a lightning storm, a group of teenage friends discover they have access to superhero powers at the click of a mouse, although they don't know what the powers will be until they try them. They learn that having super powers brings responsibilities and when a weather-altering super-villain kidnaps their mum, they have to decide to save her or the world.
|villain.net: Council of Evil - Andy Briggs (2008)|
In the partner series to hero.com, school bully Jake Hunter receives a mysterious email inviting him to join a scheme for world domination and the prospect of unlimited power and wealth proves irresistible. However, to get it he has to become an arch-criminal, entangled in a plan that threatens the planet and he has to make some decisions for himself.
|The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins (2008)|
Twenty-four teenagers are selected at random and are placed into a reality TV game in which the winner is the last person alive.
|Little Brother - Cory Doctorow (2008)|
Set in contemporary San Francisco, the teenager protagonist stands up for civil liberties having been falsely accused of a terrorist offence and plays a game of cat and mouse with the government in which both sides are using technology to their advantage.
|The Adoration of Jenna Fox - Mary E Pearson (US: 2008; UK: 2010)|
A seventeen-year-old girl wakes from a coma and is told her name is Jenna Fox. Initially, she has no other memories, but she gradually begins to rediscover her identity and starts to find out what happened to her.
|Unwind - Neal Shusterman (2008)|
Unwinding means the end of a teenager's life, but such unwanted individuals are kept alive for their body parts. Three runaways fight the system and for their right to their life.
|Incarceron - Catherine Fisher (2007)|
Incarceron is a futuristic prison world where the descendants of the original prisoners; it is a mix of high technology (a living building pervades the novel as an ever- watchful, ever-vengeful character), and mediaeval torture chamber. A young prisoner, Finn, has visions of an earlier life, and cannot believe he was born in Incarceron. He makes contact with the daughter of the Warden, Claudia, in the Outer World, and his escape is planned.
|Hybrids - David Thorpe (2007)|
A virus infects humans causing them to fuse with an item of technology they use a lot and the resultant hybrids are feared by the uninfected humans.
|Hacking Harvard - Robin Wasserman (2007)|
A group of high achieving geeks accept the ultimate challenge to use their technical and social engineering skills to get a fully unqualified slacker into the most prestigious college in America.
|Uglies - Scott Westerfield (2005)|
When teenagers reach the age of sixteen they are made Pretty and they are told this is their lives' purpose. Not everyone agrees and this novel follows the story of a girl deciding to follow the rebels.
|The Game of Sunken Places - M T Anderson (2004)|
Two boys visit the mansion of a distant relative and their discovery of a board game leads to an adventure which takes place beyond the confines of the board.
|ttyl - Lauren Myracle (2004)|
Written entirely in instant messages, the lives and loves of three girls are shown through their conversations over a few weeks.
|Be More Chill - Ned Vizzini (2004)|
A teenager ingests a squip - a new organic supercomputer purchased on the black market - which advises him how to behave in order to win the girl of his dreams.
|So yesterday - Scott Westerfield (2004)|
This novel explores the world of following fashions and the creation of new trends in contemporary New York.
|Feed - M T Anderson (2002)|
In a dystopian vision of the future, everyone who's anyone is connected to the feed. The typical rich boy/poor girl story follows a teenage couple's relationship when their feeds are hacked.
|e-love - Caroline Plaisted (2001)|
Sam, the teenage female protagonist meets 17 year-old Dan in an online chatroom and they soon become the closest of friends. They eventually meet in person and e-love charts the 'highs and lows of internet love going real-life'.
|Hex: Ghosts - Rhiannon Lassiter (2000)|
The third book in the Hex series in which those with the Hex gene are being hunted down by the security forces. However, they also find themselves facing a new form of an old enemy within the net on which the world relies for communication, and only one Hex can save them.
|Dangerous Reality - Malorie Blackman (1999)|
The Virtual Mobile Interactive System developed by the hero's mum is the subject of industrial espionage and people's obsession with technology is shown through their actions.
|Hex: Shadows - Rhiannon Lassiter (1999)|
The second book in the Hex series. Having rescued Revenge, their sister, from the government facility where she was tested for her Hex powers, Raven, Wraith and her are now outlaws on the run from a government set on the destruction of the Hex gene.
|Hex - Rhiannon Lassiter (1998)|
Set in 24th century London, the government is hunting down Hexes who are mutant humans whose mutation gives them an ability to interact with computers. The female protagonist, Raven, is a young Hex hunting for her younger sister.
|The Night Room - E M Goldman (1995)|
A group of seven high school students are chosen to participate in the Argus project which offers them a virtual reality projection of their possible tenth high school reunion. However, one student is not at the VR reunion and the others try to find out why Argus predicts she will be dead.
|All Geared Up (Not Quite Human Book 2) - Seth McEvoy (1986)|
The protagonist - Chip - appears as any teenage boy, but in reality he is an advanced robot. His sister knows and helps to protect his secret as he becomes the school's best drummer, but with a girl thinking he is really special and a rival drummer set on revenge keeping his identity secret gets increasingly difficult.