“People are gradually turning into cyborgs. Cities in hives. The planet, in a hot chessboard of a huge conspiracy. Is there room for freedom, love, dreams? “This is the description of the fourth cover of the first volume of the Terra XXI series, The Age of Innocence. Published in May 2017 at Nemira Publishing House, this description made me curious about the debut of Adrian Mihălţianu. Maybe you’ve met him in the ProMotor magazine or on the international drivemag project. Or, more recently, in PressOne, where he writes about technological areas. Coming back to the Terra XXI series, I waited for volume two before reading. And I can say it was worth the wait. The series has all the ingredients of a captivating novel, with heroes and anti-heroes, science and anticipation. To find behind the scene information I talked to Adrian Mihălţianu about the Terra XXI series and what awaits us in the near future.
Spatial exploration, AI, politics, ecology, all you develop in the Terra XXI series. How did the book begin?
I have the feeling that mankind is, more than ever, at a crossroads. We are at the moment when we have to change as a species if we want to survive and that pretends to make huge and very fast jumps in all these areas. The book began as an exercise of imagination: what should the 21st century look like if we want not only to survive, but also to thrive?
Do you consider the book, in the current political context, a work of anticipation or a realistic vision of mankind?
I tried to stay in realism as much as possible. Let’s anticipate trends that will shape our immediate and medium-term lives. So yes, it’s an anticipatory SF card. But it’s not a book of prophecies, I do not really take it seriously – it’s a fictional universe, it might be the century we’re gonna live on.
Being an alert book, an SF thriller, I thought it would have the ingredients of a serial. Who would you like to work with for screening? Would you like to do this?
That’s exactly what I hope, that the Terra XXI series will be taken as SF action. Netflix, HBO, Amazon Prime, any great streaming network that knows how to produce at the highest level. But as a Romanian writer, this is harder. First I should get the series to the English audience …
What do you recommend in film / SF series?
The Expanse, Counterpart, Black Mirror, Altered Carbon, Electric Dreams – among the new series. The best SF of all time, however, remains for me, the Battlestar Galactica, the new series. Who missed it cannot understand modern science fiction.
What brought you close to SF?
I grew up in the 1980s, with lots of SF books, then I grew up with Star Trek and other series that marked a whole generation. It was a time when mankind looked forward to the future, and technology was the thing that would make us all better. Well, it has gradually moved from the literature of anticipation to one of the neuroses, in which everything collapses. I strive to keep an optimistic thread in my books in remembrance of this childhood, and my dream is for them to be read by adolescents, not just adults.
Tell me a little about Circulation cities. How did they start, as an idea for you? Are they feasible with current technology?
Circular cities are not only feasible but also desirable. Okay, maybe it does not fix the way I imagined, but at least close. Apple has built its circle headquarters, probably inspired by Jacques Fresco’s circular cities, with its Venus Project. My circular cities are ten times larger, both horizontally and vertically, compared to Apple’s headquarters, but would retain the basic ideas: generous residential buildings overlooking huge parks, the commercial area integrated into the residential one, and the office area just a few minutes’ walks away – none of this is impossible.
You were a finalist in the A New Shape competition, organized by the Global Challenges Foundation, with the Global Lives of Sustainable Cities project. Are circular cities the final step in the evolution of cities?
Cities can be reinvented in several ways. I do not claim that only ring-shaped cities are the solution, but the basic idea is that we can not continue with the waste of resources (energy, time, space) of the current cities. Worldwide, it is already known that cities need to be densified, the vast suburbs should be abandoned, recreation areas combined with production facilities and recreation areas. The final step on the cities is still far away, but there are plenty that has already started on the road and are turning massively: Stockholm is a good example, with its concrete and almost completely pedestrian center, but accessible quickly on bicycles in green residential areas.
Do you have writing habits? Do you prefer pen and paper or a computer?
Strict computer. I have not been writing on paper for long, I use my phone to write down my ideas as soon as I come. Otherwise, I forget them.
What future plans do you have in terms of writing? Will we have a sequel?
The Terra XXI series is thought to last five books. We will see how long it will actually take, but now I’m working on Volume 3 and it’s gonna be big enough to crawl into it.
You have recently started a collaboration with PressOne, where it covers the technology field. A heading that I read with interest and which I consider necessary. What has been the feedback from PressOne readers so far?
It’s not easy to write long-form articles of synthesis for Romanian audiences, who can taste can-can or journalistic stories. I’m a little shaky about what’s usually happening on PressOne because I’ve never written immersive or narrative journalism. On the contrary, I am struggling to synthesize extremely complex technological domains in 2000. Sometimes I get out of it, sometimes I do not catch as well. PressOne’s audience is diverse and some very interesting conversations have started from my articles – which makes me very happy. Essentially, this is the point of the PressOne, to raise some major topics for Romania.
Are we approaching a future where China becomes a superpower?
China is already a superpower. It has a tremendous force, but above all it has a much higher dynamics than any other country because its leaders have managed, at least so far, to coordinate the efforts of hundreds of millions of people in clear, concrete, beneficial directions both in the short term both in the long term. They have beaten huge amounts for this, which is not even the case in the European Union.
I am afraid that China’s advance cannot be stopped without a reformation of the Euro-Atlantic system, which has lost its strength and dynamism and is now crushed by a cruel illness, a lack of confidence in its own values. If we do not wake up in time – and we do not show signs of doing it – our liberal-democratic values will be quickly replaced by the value of money and technological advance without morality, of a world in which the individual only counts as a mass of maneuver.
Are you afraid of a human annihilation by AI?
Hard to answer this question. Artificial intelligence has much to do before it becomes an equal partner, but from the moment it will do it until it becomes our master, it will pass very little. From what I read in the field, the only way we continue to exist is that we integrate IA into ourselves and become, in fact, another species.
So yes, humanity, as we know it now, will be annihilated by IA in the sense that Homo Sapiens will be replaced by Homo Deus. This is the happy version of the events. As this happens sometime after 2060-2070, I do not know if it makes sense to fear, I will be over 90 years then …
Do you think that people like Bezos, Musk, etc. could create a society on the model shown in the Terra XXI series?
I would love it a lot, but billionaires like Bill Gates or Soros have already created something similar. It’s just that their involvement in politics is less than the billionaire in the other camp, such as Koch, Peter Thiel, Robert Mercer and others who support politicians like Trump or disasters such as Brexit.
The “good” focuses on how technology can help the human species progress rapidly and solve problems related to poverty, disease and the environment. The “wicked” ones are focused on preserving a state of the fact that leads us all to the grave. They do not necessarily have Societies, but only temporary or longer-term alliances in which they try to promote their agendas. It’s a real fight, it’s not about movies or conspiracy theories. And we are caught in the middle.
Leaving the bunker and going to the Monastery church, which was deserted. A strange silence reigned in the flower-filled courtyard that she was passing fast. The smell of flowers still felt in the air,
although the darkness had gone out. Far from the sea, the thunder of the reaction engines of the fighting planes patrolling the Russians waited. Quote from the Apusul by Adrian Mihălțianu