Technology and innovation drive our society towards a better tomorrow. But, what if someone misused the inventions? Edgar Scott presents a case of technology gone wrong in his upcoming dystopian sci-fi novel, “418: I Am a Teapot.” But is there light at the end of the tunnel? We’re about to find out.
Edgar Scott shares his technical insights, personal views, and scoops from 418 in a candid interview.
What does the title, “418: I am a Teapot” mean and how does it relate to theme of the book?
The title 418 actually refers to an HTTP response code. While its introduction was originally an April Fool’s joke, the “418 I’m a Teapot” response is usually ignored by web browsers; unlike a “404 Not Found” response. A crafty network admin may configure a server to issue a 418 response which allows the visitor to use the site while the 418 response is recorded in the server logs for programmers to analyze.
In today’s internet, we often program web services to have different roles, authentication, handling tokens, access data sources in addition to rendering HTML. Often what appears to be an entire web server is little more than a program written to respond to specific requests. In the novel “418: I am a teapot” we have immersive internet, which implies programmability. A practical aspect of 418’s world is that, to pay for being on the internet 24/7, we have to be programmed to carry out tasks. Happily, if we are in the immersive internet, we won’t even be aware what we are doing; we don’t need any skill to do what we are programmed to do and are paid accordingly.
In such a world, where you are not even aware of what we do, we might as well be a teapot. In fact, our protagonist, may have actually been a virtual teapot or a proverbial coffee maker, without even knowing it.
Why did you choose to write a dystopian sci-fi novel?
Having watched new technology, which normally improves our lives, think of all the truly mind shattering things that we can now do with computers, mobile devices, wearable tech. I can tell if my heart is beating properly, I know exactly how long my morning run was or how to avoid getting stuck in traffic. While I love new technology, coding, and toying with computers, I wanted to issue a warning that not always is everything as rosy as it appears at first blush. I felt compelled to write this novel because technology can be abused. It could be used to exploit or control us. I felt an extreme example would be useful for everyone to consider.
There is a second reason I wrote the novel: I had a lot of fun working with my characters and I wanted to use them to impart hope to anyone who feels that the onrush of technology is getting the better of them.
Without giving much away, what is your favorite scene from “418: I am a Teapot”?
My favorite scene is when 418 (who calls himself George) finally meets his wife Belinda (chapter 19), offline, for the first time. Their entire relationship, even the fact that they had a family, had been conducted online. He is surprised she does not look as she presented herself online. He is revulsed by the way that she behaves when she is brought offline. This is a major turning point for George in the novel he now starts to view himself as not belonging to the class of people who live online.
This scene also underscores how ill-equipped people who have spent their lives online would be with the offline world. They have not progressed, emotionally or intellectually, past childhood as they live in a world of make believe where, while they can be hurt, they can’t hurt themselves. Belinda literally freaks out because she is offline.
The scene shows how George has grown since he became damaged. He is shocked by her behavior, but it does not surprise him. At this point, his marriage to Belinda is over, he begins to refer to her no longer as “she” but uses the more conventional “it” pronoun used for persons who live in the immersive internet.
Besides the hero of your story, which character did you enjoy building the most?
I really enjoyed building Brian’s character. He manages George much the same way that one would manage a dump truck, a machine or any other piece of what economists would call capital equipment. Brian is immobilized in his life by not knowing how to progress. He is paralyzed by fear; if he stops doing what he is doing he could be forced to become like George. He always maintains his detachment —which I have seen managers do in the IT world— but is keenly interested in how his employee acts as it might give him insight into how to break out of his own economic class.
I particularly enjoyed that Brian asks everyone, including 418/George, to call him King. This is Brian trying to project an image he would like onto himself, but no-one, except 418/George ever refers to him as King, and George, when he does finally learn Brian’s name, is uncomfortable not calling him King.
In order for a manager to progress, they must understand and dissolve the barriers between themselves and their staff, and Brian has to do the same. The same insular thinking that keeps Brian away from George prevents Brian from finding a solution to his own problems, a delicious irony.
If your book is made into a Netfix movie, who do see playing the lead role?
I always dreamed that Irrfan Kahn would play it, but sadly he was lost to the world last year. But, I am certain there are a lot of excellent actors of South-Asian background who could pull off the deadpan humour that Brian Agarwal’s character requires.
As far as 418/George’s character Cathel Pendred, though George is defiantly not fit and ripped like Cathel, so he will have to act soft and flabby, but his face is very close to what I’ve imagined George to look like. It’s a bonus that Cathel is about the age that I imagine George to be (I only anticipate people living like George to live until 40-45) during the story, George should be in his early to mid-thirties.
If you could eliminate one piece of technology from your life, what would it be and why?
My cellphone. It occupies a definite slice of my mind at any one time. While it is stunningly convenient to be able to reach out to anyone at any time. I do miss the naïve bliss that we used to enjoy of being, not at home, or not able to take your call / read your message. I find the constant simulation of the cellphone to be tiring after a while.
It should be noted, cellphones are amazing! When I think of the processing power of the modern cellphone, the things you can do with it, it’s boggling if you stop and think about it. A full list, while impressive is boring, it’s an amazing tool. Being a good techie, I just have to have the latest tech and I never cease to be amazed.
Choose a movie title that best defines the story of your life.
I love this concept as fate is immutable, but re-invention implies ultimate malleability. I do believe in fate, but I do believe we get to choose our own and we can guide ourselves to our intended outcomes. We can have whatever fate we want, it only takes a bit of re-invention.
Rapid Fire time. Answer the following questions with the first thing that comes to your mind.
What was the last soundtrack you heard?
Your favourite day of the week
Friday, is there any other option?
Computer Game or Netflix
Milk Chocolate or Dark Chocolate
A preferred writing snack
Your biggest pet peeve is…
Your favorite movie of all times
Julie & Julia