Inspired By Robotics And Ai
Meet Anna L. Davis
Science Fiction Author @ Open Source
Texas, United States
Anna L. Davis is an author and editor. Her novel, Open Source, is a sci-fi thriller with cyberpunk elements, featuring human microchipping, brain implants and twisted hackers.
She has a bachelor of science in biology from the University of Texas at Dallas, worked as a technical editor for a peer-reviewed international psychiatric journal, and published various forms of nonfiction before catching the fiction bug.
What is the story behind Anna L. Davis as a sci-fi author?
Science, especially biomedical science, has played a huge role in my life because I intended to go into medicine as my career.
I got a full scholarship to the University of Texas at Dallas and majored in biology. For a while, I even wanted to become a neurosurgeon. People who know me well are confused by this because I hate needles.
I’ve also been a writer for as long as I can remember, but my writing generally focused on essays and journalism. I was editor of the college newspaper for a year, then went into health writing and medical editing as a way to earn money.
After college, I started work toward a Master of Public Health degree.
Then 9/11 happened and my priorities changed. I became more family-focused. I didn’t start writing fiction until my early thirties.
At the time, I was a stay-at-home mom with two school-aged children, and a blogging friend — author Larry Nevenhoven—rather persistently suggested I try my hand at writing novels.
So one day while my children were in class I sat down at the computer and started writing. What emerged was a story about characters using neural implants to enhance their intelligence. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was writing in a genre called cyberpunk.
What inspired you to write your sci-fi book “Open Source”?
After 9/11, I kept up with changes in policy by looking online through corporate and governmental whitepapers about disaster response, thinking about how people will often too easily sacrifice freedom for safety.
Because of my science background, I was especially interested in biosurveillance like implantable RFID. I probably spent too much time getting myself all freaked out by stuff I read on the Internet, but for better or worse those ideas began stewing in my mind.
Today we have a whole portion of the population who subscribes to the conspiracy theory that Bill Gates wants to inject microchips into people under the guise of a COVID-19 vaccine, but I was researching this form of biotech long before the vaccine debate.
Once I began considering implantables and biohacking, everything was on the table. Why not the ultimate form of implantable – a brain implant?
The idea of intelligence-boosting neural implants initially captured my imagination because this form of augmentation plays on the best and worst of human nature.
Who among us doesn’t want to think smarter or faster? But with the good comes the bad.
For example, what if a nefarious actor could hack the neural implant, gaining access to your thoughts, your memories, and even your behavior much in the same way hackers today can break into a phone or network? The possibilities are truly terrifying.
Around the same time I was toying with writing fiction and researching implantables, I also volunteered at a local homeless shelter where I saw first-hand the cyclical effects of poverty on individuals and families. The homeless shelter has a computer lab, where people can use the Internet to apply for jobs.
As I watched those experiencing homelessness cope with an increasingly online society, I was struck by the necessity of technology in everyday life.
It was in the midst of this time when I got the idea for Ryker Morris, the main character in Open Source. Ryker is a young, struggling reporter who ends up homeless in a future Dallas, all because he doesn’t want to get an ID implant or a neural implant to compete with his chipped colleagues.
What Enhancement Series means and what it implies to your book “Open Source”?
“Enhancement” is about using human augmentation to become something more than human, to use technology in such a way that overcomes the limitations of humanity.
The Enhancement Series encompasses all of my novels and short stories set near Dallas around 2048 AD, in a dystopian future where brain implants and ID chips are commonplace.
“Upgrade” explains how reporter Ryker Morris first becomes homeless despite being a brilliant journalist.
My full-length novel Open Source picks up several months after “Upgrade.”
Open Source tells the story about how Ryker, while living on the streets, ends up being implanted with a NeuroChip against his will, becoming vulnerable to the schemes of a twisted hacker.
The Enhancement Series also includes a prequel and two more novels that are currently in development.
The short story Ten Digit PIN is also part of the Enhancement Series featured in the anthology Road Kill: Texas Horror by Texas Writers (Vol. 1)
How do you want to portray and live to up modern science through your books?
As a SciFi novelist, part of my job is to think about the worst-case scenario, because conflict is an important part of storytelling. All kinds of horrible things happen to the main characters that I hope would never happen in real life, so my writing is somewhat cautionary in that regard.
We are living in a time of rapid technological acceleration—and nowhere is this more obvious than in healthcare cybersecurity, where our biotech advancements often move faster than our ability to secure them.
I feel like we should have a healthy dose of fear when approaching modern science but at the same time foster a sense of hope that we can continually improve our situation through it.
Implantable RFID microchips are a good example of this. In the worst-case scenario, such chips could be used to track the world’s citizens in a draconian measure, violating our privacy.
Some opponents even argue that implanted chips could be the Mark of the Beast as foretold in the Bible. Because my books feature two kinds of implanted chips—ID chips and neural implants—I’ve spent a good deal of time thinking through the positive and negative implications of each one.
To be honest, I let myself swing into paranoia to such an extent that even a simple telehealth appointment triggered me.
Recently I wanted to hear from someone who has a chip, so I reached out to journalist and transhumanist Zoltan Istvan.
Since 2015, Zoltan Istvan has used a chip in his hand to wirelessly open the doors at his house. He said that he still uses it daily.
When I asked if he’s taken any precautions to avoid hacking, he said that he’s no more concerned about hacking than he is of someone stealing physical keys from his hand. To me as a paranoid sci-fi writer, this sounds incredibly risky.
But I need to remind myself that people like Zoltan are routinely benefitting from this and other types of biotechnology without incident.
What are your thoughts about the brain using neural implants like Elon Musk’s project, Neuralink?
Neural implants have many real-world potential benefits. Some of the most exciting research centers on neural implants as a treatment for Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, among other conditions like addiction and depression.
Elon Musk says that his company Neuralink will be ready for human trials within the next couple of years and has famously said that his neural implants will make language obsolete because we’d essentially communicate using our implants in a form of telepathy.
Elon Musk also believes that in the future, we will need something to enhance our brain function to communicate and coexist with a superintelligent AI.
His view is that AI will eventually make humans obsolete if we don’t do something to increase our intelligence.
But of course, I have to think, how could this technology go wrong? Mainly, is anything about Neuralink hackable, and are we willing to take that chance? The cybersecurity of brain implants is paramount.
Mention an author that is your inspiration to write stories related to robotics and artificial intelligence?
Because I ended up writing science fiction as an offshoot of my scientific background and interests, it’s difficult to name just one author who inspired me.
But as a science-fiction novelist writing about a future dystopia where technology runs rampant, I also found inspiration in the readability of popular, mainstream writers like Stephen King, Robin Cook, Dean Koontz, and Michael Crichton.
If I have to pick one author, I’d say that Michael Crichton most inspired me to write about robotics and AI.
His novel The Terminal Man (1972) is among my favorites because it rather presciently unpacks the reality of living with an anti-seizure brain implant for the main character who eventually learns how to manipulate it.
I also enjoyed Sphere (1987), in which the characters interact with an extraterrestrial object at the bottom of the ocean that can read into their deepest fears and psychology.
Crichton was a master at presenting scientific, cutting-edge technological theories in a way that captured the imagination.
A Note from the author of R3plica:
I bought the book "Open Source" in 2016 and I must say that books by science fiction writers like Anna L. Davis were influential in me to what is now R3plica.
R3plica is my mission to present the stories of the brilliant minds who are shaping the future of artificial intelligence and robotics.
I am honored by such amazing and brilliant people who have agreed to be published on R3plica.
In the same way, I am honored that Anna L. Davis has accepted this interview.
Thank you, Anna, for those kinds of words you wrote on the first page of my ‘Open Source’ copy 5 years ago.