How does it affect time travel if you start with the assumption that reality as we know it is a computer simulation?

In this case, time travel has nothing to do with physics, and everything to do with software simulations.

Time travel backward would require that the program saves all previous states (or at least checkpoints at fine enough granularity to make it useful enough for time traveling) and the ability to insert logic and data from the present into states of the program in the past. Seems feasible.

Time travel forward would consist of removing the time traveling person from the program, running the program forward until reaching the future destination, then reinserting the person.

Forward time travel is relatively cheap (because you’d be running the program forward anyhow), but backward time travel is expensive because you keep having to roll the universe back, slowing the forward progress of time. In fact, one person could do a denial of service attack on reality simply by continually traveling to the distant past. Then, every time you come back, you would have to immediately return to the past.

Cover of Kill Process by William HertlingGoodreads Choice is one of the few completely reader driven book awards.

Kill Process was not part of the initial ballot, but thanks to enthusiastic write-in votes, it has made it to the semifinal round! Thank you so much to everyone who voted during the initial round.

Now that Kill Process is on the ballot during this semifinal round, I hope you’ll consider voting for it. (Even if you voted for it during the initial voting round, I think you need to vote again.)

Vote here:



When I finish a novel, I always need a break from writing for a while to recharge. Sometimes I take a break from long-form writing and do a series of short blog posts, or sometimes I bury myself in programming for a while.

This time around, it’s been a little of everything: My day job has been busy. I’ve done a few small programming projects on the side. I’m networking with film and TV folks in the hopes of getting a screen adaptation for one of my books. And I’m researching topics for my next book.

In the last couple of months, I’ve experimented with different ideas for my next book. I have about 10,000 words written — that’s about 10% of the average length of one of my books. I don’t want to say too much more, because it’s so early in the process that it could go in almost any possible direction. But I have general ideas I want to explore, and a tentative story arc.

That’s usually enough for me to get going. I’m not a big outliner, even though plenty of writers swear by the process. I tried outlining a novel once and learned that once I had finished the outline and knew how the story ended, I had no interest in actually writing it. Now I stick to a loose story arc, and let my characters take me where they want to go.

I will find out more about their destination in the coming month. November is NaNoWriMo. If you are not familiar with it, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month, in which people aim to write a 50,000 word novel in one month. I’ve never written a whole novel in November, but I often like to use the month to build momentum, so I’ve set myself a modest word count goal for this November. It should be enough to prove out many of the concepts I’m planning for the book.

Kill Process Cover

I’m excited to announce that my new novel, Kill Process, is now available!

Here’s where you can get it right now:

More storefronts, such as iBooks and Barnes & Noble, will be available in the coming days. I’m also very happy to announce that, thanks to in part to fast work from Brick Shop Audio, the audio book edition is already available!

The concept:

By day, Angie, a twenty-year veteran of the tech industry, is a data analyst at Tomo, the world’s largest social networking company; by night, she exploits her database access to profile domestic abusers and kill the worst of them. She can’t change her own traumatic past, but she can save other women.

When Tomo introduces a deceptive new product that preys on users’ fears to drive up its own revenue, Angie sees Tomo for what it really is—another evil abuser. Using her coding and hacking expertise, she decides to destroy Tomo by building a new social network that is completely distributed, compartmentalized, and unstoppable. If she succeeds, it will be the end of all centralized power in the Internet.

But how can an anti-social, one-armed programmer with too many dark secrets succeed when the world’s largest tech company is out to crush her and a no-name government black ops agency sets a psychopath to look into her growing digital footprint?

A few of the early endorsements:

“Awesome, thrilling, and creepy: a fast-paced portrayal of the startup world, and the perils of our personal data and technical infrastructure in the wrong hands.”
Brad Feld, managing director of Foundry Group

“His most ambitious work yet. A murder thriller about high tech surveillance and espionage in the startup world. Like the best of Tom Clancy and Barry Eisner.”
Gene Kim, author of The Phoenix Project

“Explores the creation and effects of the templated self, the rise of structured identity and one-size-fits-all media culture, and feasible alternatives.”
Amber Case, author of Calm Technology

I hope you have a blast reading Kill Process. I certainly enjoyed writing it.
— Will

ChildrenOfArkadiaI read Children of Arkadia, by Darusha Wehm, over the weekend. This was a fascinating book. The setting is a classic of science fiction: a bunch of idealistic settlers embark on creating an idealized society in a space station colony. There are two unique twists: the artificial general intelligences that accompany them have, in theory, equal rights and free will as the humans. There are no antagonists: no one is out to sabotage society, there’s no evil villain. Just circumstances.

Darusha does an excellent job exploring some of the obvious and not-so-obvious conflicts that emerge. Can an all-knowing, super intelligence AI ever really be on equal footing with humans? How does work get done in a post-scarcity economy? Can even the best-intentioned people armed with powerful and helpful technology ever create a true utopia?

Children of Arkadia manages to explore all this and give us interesting and diverse characters in a compact, fun to read story. Recommended.


The Turing Exception, book four in the Singularity series, is now available from Audible and iTunes. Narrated by Jane Cramer, this unabridged audio version of The Turing Exception completes the Singularity series.

In the year 2043, humans and AI coexist in a precarious balance of power enforced by a rigid caste reputation system designed to ensure that only those AI who are trustworthy and contribute to human society increase in power.

Everything changes when a runaway nanotech event leads to the destruction of Miami. In the grim aftermath, a powerful underground collective known as XOR concludes that AI can no longer coexist with humanity.

AI pioneers Catherine Matthews, Leon Tsarev, and Mike Williams believe that mere months are left before XOR starts an extermination war. Can they find a solution before time runs out?

I hope you enjoy it!

Google announced a new analytical AI that analyzes emails to determine their content, then proposes a list of short likely replies for the user to pick from. It’s not exactly ELOPe, but definitely getting closer all the time.



Hertling_AVOGADRO_CORP_EbookAvogadro Corp, book one of my Singularity series about artificial intelligence, is on sale for 99 cents in the US from all retailers. Similar sale prices apply in UK, Canada, and India. This is for the ebook, obviously.

If you know someone who might enjoy the book that Wired called “chilling and compelling” and Brad Feld called “a tremendous book that every single person needs to read”, please let them know! Here are US links to the major online retailers where it is already on sale:

These will take effect on November 1st:

It’s on sale through November 7th, 2015.


This was the first Worldcon I attended. For those who have no idea what Worldcon is, it’s a science fiction and fantasy convention that roughly 50% professional conference for writers, artists, and creators, and 50% fan celebration of speculative fiction and geek culture.

One key part of Worldcon is the Hugo awards, which are fan-selected awards for novels, short stories, dramatic presentations, magazines, podcasts, and numerous fan roles. They have long been speculative fiction’s highest honor.

Since I’d never been to Worldcon before, I knew very little of the history behind the awards, or really grokked the significance of them. They were mostly a tool that I used as a reader to help me find good books to read.

Actually being in attendance at the awards was a really amazing, emotional experience. As I’ve gotten to meet people in the spec fiction community over the last two years, I knew many of those who received awards. It was just amazing to see these people get recognized for their contributions. Not only is the award itself an aspiration dream for most of those in the community, it’s obviously very validating for their creative contributions.

There was a huge amount of controversy surrounding the Hugos this year that stemmed from a small percentage of Hugo voters who wanted to push conservative values and conspired to manipulate the nomination process in some categories. Fortunately, the voting process includes an option to choose “no award”, and the voters overwhelming selected no award for those categories where the nomination had been compromised. This was satisfying, but the manipulation still hurt many folks: authors whose eligible work didn’t make the final cut because it was pushed out by the rigged nominations, authors who withdrew to protest the manipulations, and the community at large, who had to suffer with months of stress and conflict because of the actions of a few.

George RR Martin threw a party after the Hugo Awards, and gave out awards of his own creation to those people he thought had been unfairly treated by the whole fiasco. One friend said that meant even more to her than winning the Hugo would have.

All in all, it was an amazing and beautiful experience, including learning about history of Worldcon and the passion and love of the community that surrounds it, seeing the recognition of people and their contributions, and getting to watch friends achieve their dreams. I’m grateful to have gotten this close up viewpoint.

Trends in Hardware, Software & Wetware
Daniel Dern – Moderator
Greg Bear
Ramez Naam
Allen Baum
Mark Van Name
  • How small can hardware become?
    • RN: The limits of physics are extremely distant: many orders of magnitude improvement left. But we don’t have any idea of how to get down to the level of quarks and stuff like that. Every decade we get a 100x improvement in cost, 100x reduction in energy. If it continues, we will one day have supercomputing grains of sand.
    • AB: One of the limits is batteries. Do you want to carry the equivalent of a nuclear power plant in your pocket?
    • DD: One of the constraints is heat dissipation, brownian motion (randomness interfering with the work you want to get done).
    • RN: Smallest computer someone brought me was smaller than the stem of a wineglass. What was the limiting factor to reduction in size was the USB port.
  • How about jacking into our brain?
    • RN: There’s lots of science going on now, starting with implants for disabled people.
    • GB: Voice recognition is becoming far more effective…80 to 90% of the time you can ask a question and get a useful answer. That’s better than most human communication. Computers don’t have real needs. What if computers become socially aware, and know what your needs and it’s needs are? All of a sudden, the interface to it is much better/easier.
    • GB: Proteins are small computers. Wetware does astonishing stuff. Lots of analogies to human interactions. A protein is more complex than even a giant Boeing factory full of workers.
  • Small things only need to do small tasks. Small, purpose built devices: your toe keeps you balanced, let you know if it gets hurt. Doesn’t do cognitive tasks.
    • GB: cells have their own lives. They don’t know they are part of a bigger organism.
  • GB: Quantum computing has the potential to blow all of these assumptions out of the water.
  • MVN: Even microphones can only get so small before the sound waves don’t fit.
  • RN: I write scifi about people having telepathic abilities via technology. But the thing that excites me the most is the democratization of technology through cell phones: the first phones cost $4,000 and were limited to the rich. Now the average cell phone is owned by someone in India, and it’s providing access to information, it prevents abuse of power through the camera, etc.
  • AB: I hope there are lots of people here supporting EFF. There are democracies, but then there are non-democracies who use these same technologies to control people. The internet of control. It’s governments and corporations. This worries me a lot.
  • RN: When we put a brain implant in someone, there’s two different adaptions that must happen: configuration of software (“when I pulse this neuron where does your vision light up?”) as well as the time for the brain to adapt to the signals: several weeks during which it doesn’t function at all.
    • Current state of implants is that they degrade over time. electrodes erode, break. High voltages cause neurons to retreat. Bleeding in the brain. Today requires very invasive surgery.
    • But advances too: neural mesh implanted in mice was rolled up into a tiny tube, injected with syringe, and then unroll inside brain.
  • Best brain interfaces today are ~256 electrodes. And we have a billion neurons. DARPA program is asking people to tackle 1 million electrodes, and some scientists think that can be done in 5-10 years.