My name’s Yudhanjaya Wijeratne. I’m a science fiction author and a big data researcher from Sri Lanka. I used to be a journalist. I now work at a nonprofit called LIRNEasia, which has research ops across Asia, Lat-Am and Africa (if you need representative demand-side data on aspects of tech access, for example, give me a shout). We’re a policy outfit - research, then policy suggestions, which we then try place in the right hands.
My specialty is mostly networks - communities derived from social media data and call detail records. I’ve been working this year with pseudoanonymized call data for ~10 mill people and with snapshots of the Facebook universe of friend links, analyzing how nations cluster together and then figuring out what this data can tell us about political blocs that we’re interested in. I’ve shown that these connections have high correlations to bilateral trade and migration - more research ongoing.
My writing: I would say I lean very strongly toward the cyberpunk - because the whole dynamic of the future being already here, but unevenly distributed is something I see daily in Asia.
Some time ago I did a very crude data scrape off twitter - about 75k tweets, reduced to 15k cleaned - looking for what people meant when they said “utopia”. My understanding is that there is not one, but several utopias - many fundamentally incompatible with one another; and our society is the tangent produced by agents constantly acting and interacting with these utopias in mind. I try to explore this thought with stories around different utopia. Operative word: try.
My most successful book has been Numbercaste, where I swapped out credit rating with social influence metrics (fairly easy if you assume a 2030s where everyone’s on social media, and those not face economic persecution). Pagerank for people, if you will. I wrote it from the perspective of a Silicon Valley corp pushing their utopia where the artist can be as important as the billionaire. Of course, every utopia is someone else’s dystopia, and because children inherit the social networks of their parents, what the world ends up with is an algorithmically enforced caste system of sorts.
Not a wholly original concept, but it turns out people like it. So I’m currently working on a trilogy for HarperCollins about a cyberpunk world loosely built off a history where Archduke Ferdinand never got shot. It’s mostly about a machine uprising on colonial Ceylon, so mostly John Searle / Peter Watts turf.
And I’ve run out of things to toot my own horn with. Glad to be here, and looking forward to learning from you all!