‘‘The notion of the World Wide Web gaining consciousness had been at the back of my mind because of those one-liners you see in pop-science magazines: ‘At some point early in the 21st century, the World Wide Web will have more interconnections than the human brain does.’ You file things like that away. One of the things that compelled me to write my trilogy Wake, Watch, and Wonder is the thought (or question) that at some point machine intelligence will exceed human intelligence. Unless you are of a religious bent and think there’s something magical about human intelligence, you have to accept that at some point it’s going to be replicable, and then exceedable, on another substrate.

‘‘In college, I did a minor in psychology, and through the years that I studied psychology, never once was the word ‘consciousness’ mentioned. At that time (I started in ’79), we were coming off the tail end of B.F. Skinner and Behaviorism. There was no scientific notion of consciousness. It was a black box: inputs go in, outputs come out. This always intrigued me because, as somebody who was writing fiction, I was doing what William James had called ‘the stream of consciousness’: trying to capture a process that clearly had depth and reality to it. Of course, since I graduated the science of consciousness has become very interesting – interesting for me in the same way that science fiction is interesting.”

‘‘A big part of writing science fiction convincingly, if it’s hard SF, isn’t just getting the science right but getting the atmosphere of science right: the politics of science, the culture of science, and what scientists are really like. In summer 2009, I was lucky enough to have a position created for me as Writer in Residence at Canada’s national synchrotron facility – the Canadian Light Source – in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. They gave me an office right on the main floor, full access to the facility, and I could spend two months talking with the experimenters, working on the experiments, doing whatever I wanted to do. I was also hanging out with them in the lunchroom, going to their houses in the evening, going out to whatever movies they wanted to watch. That was an immersion, which will bring an enormous level of verisimilitude to all the books I do subsequently.”

‘‘I’m liberal even by Canadian standards, and Heinlein was conservative even by American standards, so there’s a light-year between us. The guy I think of myself as most similar to – in terms of trying to accomplish things, not stylistically – is Kim Stanley Robinson. Like me, I think, Stan is totally of the H.G. Wells school of science fiction: that it is a medium for social commentary. I think my trilogies are a little more action-packed than Stan’s utopias, but they are utopian! The absolute goal is to have them be optimistic roadmaps for the future.

‘‘I think the human race is going to have a great future, but I do worry about the future of novelists. People quit their day jobs to become a writer, but the harsh reality is that it’s easier to sell your first novel than your fifth. With your first, you might be (as I like to say) the next Isaac C. Heinlein. By the fifth, they know you’re not, so why bother giving you a raise? They’ll go get somebody new, and try another lottery ticket.”