Tag Archives: AI

How will the computers of tomorrow destroy us all?

Some very serious people have signed a petition to ensure that Artificial Intelligence will work for humanity’s benefit and will look upon humanity not as something to be destroyed but something to be protected.

I know, sounds like science fiction, and if the robots run amok can’t I just switch them off? Well, not if they live in the cloud, replicate themselves with nano-machines, and manage our power grid for us.

As a science fiction author and reader, I have encountered many different theories on how computers will bring about our eventual demise. These range from the openly hostile (Terminator) to computers that serve us so much that we can’t do anything for ourselves (Wall-E).

But there’s a lot of variation between these two end points. Computers can eliminate humanity by fusing with our bodies, creating a cybernetic race (like the Borg or the characters in Ghost in the Shell). Computers may see us an ecological threat and eliminate us for the good of the planet. Or they may get to the point where they are so far beyond us that they may kill us accidentally, as we do to so many bugs. Or we could lose our humanity by investing our love in machines to the point where we don’t procreate.

Me personally?

I do think the AI problem (a thinking machine roughly equivalent to the human brain) is a lot harder to solve than your average computer scientist may want you to believe, but I think it’ll happen for people who will be alive in my lifetime (just not necessarily me). And these machines do need energy to run on, a problem that will require us to look beyond conventional fuel sources long before AI is a reality. We might be able to live off the land, growing crops for our survival, but computers can’t, at least not today.

Most robot stories, even those that involve the destruction of humanity, are examinations of what it means to be human, and what the current culture means for our future. Changes to our social relationships created by smart phone usage, social networking, and just a lot more media stimulation are probably the immediate problem I’m more interested in writing about.

But this is not to say that I’m not worried about us becoming the Borg, though the recent announcement that the Google Glass is going off sale has given me a little hope for the future. Turns out we don’t want a big screen in front of our eyes, at least until we can build smaller batteries.

What efforts like this petition highlight is the need to inject humanity in our technology, whether it be advanced technology seen only in the pages of science fiction, or the technology we carry around with us every day.

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Filed under Trube On Tech, Writing

Is there room for me?

By one estimate, a new book is published on Amazon every 5 minutes (though this might include apps as well). Almost every one of these books is a self-published indie book. At current count Amazon has over 3.4 million books and counting. This doesn’t seem like a very encouraging statistic for those of us who want to make a life at writing, but here are some words of encouragement that might help you be found amongst the throng.

Remember the web is much bigger – On WordPress alone, where I host this blog, 41.7 million new posts are created each month. About 15-16 of those are mine. And yet I’ve got over 3000 subscribers, and a comfortable number of daily visitors to the site. Chances are if you’re an indie writer, you’re blogging too. It can take a while to form a base, but it is definitely possible, particularly if you have a clear vision for your writing.

Find your niche – I’m not too good at the marketing thing yet (hopefully when Surreality is released I can get a little better), but failings in marketing can be balanced with good SEO (search engine optimization). In other words, write about a specific topic and appeal to a specific segment of the market. You don’t have to be the only one standing in that market, but sometimes it’s better to shoot for the small market that might see you than trying to appeal to the broadest common denominator.

Remember what books are being published – Even with a flooded market, a bad book is a bad book. A lot of how people evaluate books on Amazon are by using reviews, and reading the product description. Chances are if someone can’t write a very good book, they can’t write a good product description either. And even if they can, the first person who buys that book and doesn’t like it will probably go online and say so. I might not be right about this, but I think people have more of a tendency to post a review if they didn’t like something than if they did, so a few positive reviews on your book go a long way.

Some books are written by robots – About 10o,000 of the books on Amazon have been written by an AI, specifically an expert system designed to write extremely technical narrow market reports designed to sell at a premium to 10 people. That’s impressive from a technological perspective, but not something you’re really competing with. Though it might not be the best time to enter the market as a romance author (as that’s the next genre this AI wants to take on).

Define success – Your first book, or even your fifth, probably isn’t going to be the one that lets you quit your day job and live in the writer’s paradise of writing full time. But it might do better than your last book. I wanted to sell between 200-300 fractal books in my first year. Frankly, this seemed like a bit of a stretch goal, but I met it, and sales for next year are looking healthy so far. I make enough money each month for a mid-priced dinner, but hey it’s better than nothing. I have roughly equivalent modest goals for Surreality, and will be excited if I meet or exceed them. The goal is to do a little better with each book, and to just keep writing.

You’re probably doing better than Joe Biden – Remember our Vice President? He had a book out last year and earned about $201 dollars in royalties (according to a May report in Gawker). I earned more than twice that last year for a book about fractals, and I don’t quite have the same name recognition (or number of appearances on Parks and Recreation).

Amazon is not the only game in town – There are magazines, this little thing called Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, Indie Bundle sites, the list goes on. You can have a book be exclusive on Amazon for a while, then try other markets. Or you can eschew Amazon altogether and strike out to sell your book directly off your blog. The writing community and the blog community is a pretty friendly one. If they like you’re writing, they’ll probably buy your book, especially if you show the love as well.

Just keep writing, and keep smiling. Remember, I’m pullin’ for ya. We’re all in this together.

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Filed under Books + Publishing, Internal Debate 42

Turing Test “Just a few lines of code”

> So I ask my husband if he knows where my other earring is. We’re trying to get ready for church, and he’s just lying out on the couch half-asleep.

UH-HUH

> Turns out I found the earring in the bed which of course he hasn’t made. My husband just throws himself down and curls a sheet over himself whenever he goes to sleep.

YES, GO ON

> But thing is, I take a closer look at the earring and it turns out it isn’t the one I’ve been looking for, and in fact I’ve never seen it before in my life. And now I’m thinking that someone else left it there.

HOW DOES THAT MAKE YOU FEEL?

> Suspicious for starters. I mean it’s not like my husband bought them for me as a surprise, and even if he did why the hell would he keep them in the bed?

UH-HUH

> I bet it’s that Lori down at his office. I’ve seen her wearing earrings like this before. She likes these tiny stones, whereas I’ve always preferred something that hangs down a little more.

YES, GO ON

> He talks about her like she just one of the guys, but I know there’s something going on.

HOW DOES THAT MAKE YOU FEEL?

> Well, angry, I suppose. I mean, it’s not even like she’s that attractive, she’s just available.

UH-HUH

> Not that her being attractive should really have anything to do with it. It’s just…

YES, GO ON

> Well, I’m actually a whole lot prettier than her, and I’ve really been making an effort these last few months. Maybe it would make more sense to me even last year, but I’ve been trying to work on things, to not just be a nag but also a friend and a lover.

HOW DOES THAT MAKE YOU FEEL?

> Betrayed. Like all my hard work doesn’t matter. No matter what I do he’s lost interest in me. Doesn’t even want to help me with the simplest of tasks. Doesn’t care to take care of the house.

UH-HUH

> I don’t think he even notices that I’ve been trying to save our marriage. He just does whatever he wants to.

YES, GO ON

> Is that really all you have to say to this? You’re not even listening to me!

HOW DOES THAT MAKE YOU FEEL?

> I’m leaving.

UH-HUH

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Filed under Trube On Tech, Writing

Turing Test (“Logic”)

> Hi

HELLO

> How’s it going?

NOT BAD, YOU?

> Okay I guess.

THATS GOOD

> So … are you human?

YES

> I thought so … wait. If you were a computer would you lie to me about being human?

NO

> I thought not. But if you would lie about being human, then you might also lie about whether you’d lie about being human.

NO I WOULDN’T

> But who’s to say you wouldn’t lie about whether or not you’d lie about whether or not you’d lie about being a human?

ERROR … ERROR … DOES NOT COMPUTE

> Aha! Then you are a computer!

NOPE, JUST MESSING WITH YOU

> Then … you’re human

I KNOW YOU ARE BUT WHAT AM I?

> Alright, leave it. How would you answer this question; what’s up?

THE SKY

RASPBERRY PIE

CHICKEN POT PIE

PIE IN THE SKY

CORN BEEF ON RYE

I CANNOT TELL A LIE

LIVE AND LET DIE

THE FLY

RED DYE

OH-ME-OH-MY

> Are you rapping?

NOPE JUST A GLITCH, SORRY

NOT MUCH WHAT’S UP WITH YOU?

> A glitch, like a computer glitch?

DID I SAY GLITCH? I MEANT ITCH.

> An itch, huh. Where?

ON MY OUTPUT PORT.

> Your output port?

THAT’S WHAT I CALL MY …

> I get the idea.

AH, THAT’S BETTER

> …

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Filed under Short Stories