1. What was the most memorable but unexpected thing about your wedding?
We had invited everyone to both the ceremony (and short reception immediately afterwards) and the party in the evening. This was all on a friday afternoon, so we did not expect many people to turn up, aside from family. Imagine our surprise when it turned out that a lot of people had taken the day off to attend our ceremony!
The wedding hall in the castle (where the ceremony took place) had seating for about 45 people. It was only the day afterwards, when we saw the (digital) photos that had been made, that there wasn't even enough seating space for everybody who had turned up.
That felt very special to me.
2. How did you become interested in transhumanism?
I think as an extension of my interest in the social changes brought about by technology. In the early nineties, I read a lot of Cyberpunk stuff (you know the drill, Gibson and Sterling), which posits a 'system' (often technological in nature) that keeps society in check. Several transhumanist ideas are present in cyberpunk, with the merging of man and machine on top.
I studied cognitive sciences. We got a philosophy course (one of the few ways the University of Nijmegen expresses its catholic signature) and, as one might guess, the main issue of that course was: "What is cognition?" If a machine would exhibit 'intelligent' behaviour, is it alive? Would it be murder to shut it down? I had to formulate my own answers to these questions, and these were pretty inclusive: I'm willing to accept the behaviour of machines as intelligent -- even if I can inspect the 'rules' governing this behaviour. After all, humans exhibit certain behaviour that we are willing to accept as intelligent, and the only difference is that we don't know precisely what's going on.
My sister went to a laboratory school, and came into contact with stuff like genetic manipulation. An interesting field (she still works in that field, as does my brother-in-law. For a course I had to look at an expert system that plans experiments in the field of genetic engineering (MOLGEN), and I had some interesting discussions with my sister about gentech. I'm by no means an expert, but I think I know about the basic techniques, what is possible and what isn't.
When I worked at Cap Gemini, I had some dealings with the in-house futurologist. He sketched a 'connected future', where all sorts of devices (most with very modest processing power) would be networked together to form a 'smart environment'. My colleague at the time, xaviar_nl, graduated on a thesis on Ubiqutous Computing. As a geek, the idea of living in a Star Trek-like environment with lots of smart devices appealed to me -- and it also fulfills one of the promises of Cyberpunk: technology is getting more and more pervasive and closer to humans.
Then, a few years ago, I read Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy (Red Mars, Blue Mars, Green Mars), a hard SF story about the colonisation (and subsequent terraforming) of Mars. I don't think I've read much hard SF (most SF is space opera anyway), so the plausibility of it all appealed greatly to me. Also, the stories were not so much about the technology, but about the human condition -- conflicting interests, desires and visions -- that shaped the destiny of Mars as a planet. I am still impressed with this trilogy and I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone with even a passing interest in SF.
I also read The Diamond Age, by Neal Stephenson. This is about a post-cyberpunk society, with nanotechnology. The story is amusing but not that great, but it did demonstrate the power of nanotechnology to me.
I was a subscriber at Pyramid, Steve Jackson Games' weekly, online RPG publication. Via there, I read about the RPG 'Transhuman Space'. It all came together: cyberpunk, genetech, ubiquitous computing, colonising Mars, nanotechnology, RPGs. I have read the book with great interest -- not so much as an RPG, but as a 'manual to the future', so to speak.
It just clicked with me: today, we are seeing the movements that one day will give birth to things like nanosocialism or mechanimism.
I would very much like to see it all happen. Some of the changes will bring chaos, destruction and misery -- but most will increase the possibilities for the average human to reach his/her full potential, and I think that will be beatiful to see.
3. Why is your English so good? I haven't spoken to you, but your text is better than that of most of my co-workers...
We get taught English from age 12 to age 18. And being a geek, I read a lot of RPGs and SF and fantasy books -- most in English. American TV programmes on Dutch TV are subtitled, not dubbed, which also increases exposure to English. Most of my university texts were in English.
And I have a knack for picking up languages, which must help in some way.
Just this last Saturday, I was on the phone with my friend Murray. We speak English together, and I found that speaking English is still a lot more difficult for me than writing -- it takes me longer to synthesize my thoughts into English, and writing gives me enough time to complete that process. So while my writing ability is good, speaking takes more effort.
On more than one occasion I have gotten remarks that, while my English is not bad in any way, I use turns of phrase that a native speaker would never use. I'm not sure I'm bothered by that.
And I'm also a bit of a spelling-nazi. I put a bit of effort in my writing, even if it's a simple sentence on IRC or an email. I want to express my thoughts in a clear manner. Perhaps your co-workers do not put that much effort into their written communication.
4. What is your favorite science fiction coming-of-age anime, and why?
I'm not sure I've seen many of these. In fact, I can only think of Stellvia of the Universe and Last Exile as SF coming-of-age. Of those two, I like Last Exile best, because of the inventiveness of the world. The whole Victorian theme appeals to me too.
The coming-of-age aspect is a but muted (especially when compared to Stellvia), but the way Ravi learns how to let go of Claus (and the other way around) is a big step towards maturity.
5. What is your favorite magical girl anime, and why?
I don't think I've seen that many magical girl anime either. I can only think of Cardcaptor Sakura, St. Tail, Cosmic Baton Girl Comet-san, Full Moon wo Sagashite and Tokyo MewMew -- and of those, I've only seen CCS and St. Tail to completion.
I think Cardcaptor Sakura is my favourite of the bunch. Not because of the 'battle costumes', but because the emotions and motivations of the characters drive the story. It has occurred to me that the card often only turn up just before the eyecatch -- until then, it's all daily life. The characters (and their relationships) are well-rounded, the mischief the cards get up to is amusing and the mystery (especially the first series) is interesting.
I'm not sure Mahou Tsukai ni Taisetsu na Koto would qualify as a 'magical girl' anime, even though it's about a girl who is a magician -- but there isn't a single transformation. If it does qualify, then that is my favourite: the stories are 'small' (no world-shattering plots but 'slice of life'), with a strong theme of motivation and personal commitment. And beautifully drawn on top of that too!
The meme works as follows: if you want to be interviewed, leave a comment and I'll respond with five questions to you. Then answer them in your own Journal.