The Three Hundred and Fifth Post: The One Where I Switch Gears Again!

Hello everyone!  I’m stepping away from “The Mind of Man” plotting and planning for a second to try to dredge up something about the current project (or to be more accurate, one of them): The Marvelous and Malefic Doomsday Medicine Show.  I’m hammering away at the main character, trying to show him as really nothing more than a near-useless lump of flesh.  In the end, I am going to give him a shot of redemption.  I’m straddling the line between ‘lovable scamp’ and ‘contemptible bastard’, and it’s not really an easy line.  Right now, he’s trying to tell the healing spirit that inhabits him named Vimala that while he’s not healing broken bones and things like that, he is healing wounded spirits by showing up with his magic infused alcohol and sideshow to distract the people from their weary lives for just a day or two.

I’m hoping that everyone is going to see through this.  We’re not supposed to like Ehren right off the bat, but he does have some redeeming qualities — there is a scene (was in the beginning of the first chapter,but I’m thinking about moving it now and opening up with him rolling into down with a shot up wagon) where he treats a child with bronchitis for no charge, and he does give half his food to a child that’s suffering from malnutrition.  He’s not a good man (the bottles he gives only makes people feel good and full of energy, it doesn’t cure them.  He’s pretty much this land’s version of a travelling drug dealer), but he does get the chance to redeem himself.

I’m wondering if I’m going to the well too many times for that.  Daughter of the Mountain has Anya discovering the old folk tales from Tarjent and going off to make her own legends — you could say that she feels the personal need to redeem herself after leaving the Scholarship.  However, Anya doesn’t feel bad about it — she has a great wife in Rhona and it’s not like they’re going to go hungry at any point.  She just needed something to pour her energies into.  That’s not really redemption.  The Mind of Man has a thread of redemption in it, with the main character unleashing AI onto the world.  Not a huge threat mind you — it’s more of a cautionary tale for AI (or so I hope).  Redemption is the main theme in The Marvelous and Malefic Doomsday Medicine Show.  Daughter of the Mountain is about finding faith (with Anya, it’s almost a religious experience) and The Mind of Man is concerning how one’s road to Hell is paved.

I hope you don’t find any of this boring, but I’m the sort of person who likes to chat about the projects I’m working on if only to flesh out ideas.  I’d talk to my plants, but they seem to keep dying on me (I mean…didn’t I water you a week ago?  I think an intervention for your addiction to water is needed, Mr. Aloe Vera.  You’re tearing the family apart!).  I think next time, I might discuss one of my hobbies: RPGs and the world I have in mind for that.

Until then, thanks for reading and please check out the books on the right hand side written by me and some friends.  I highly recommend them — especially Amy Valenti’s material.


Seething Apathy

The Three Hundred and Fourth Post: The One Where I Geek Out…

Hello, everyone — thought I would try to squeeze in a quick blog about what’s going on before I watch a speed run of BioShock: Infinite (which is one of the story-telling games ever) on  Please take a look at it and feel free to donate to Doctors Without Borders.  It’s a good cause and where can you see someone try to play a game that took me almost a day to do in three hours?

I’m still working on some things in my head for “Mind of Man” — there is going to be some advanced tech, but I don’t want it to look like something out of Shadowrun.  Not a whole lot in physical modifications…no metal plated skeletons and things like that.  Neural computers?  Maybe.  Smartlinks?  Yes.  I’m thinking that anything in the head is tightly, tightly regulated.  Given that the last time there were computers slipped into someone’s brain — all hell broke loose.  If the Main Character has a computer in his head, it’s not going to be all that powerful (keeping in mind the times).  Something more than likely to look over the programming and see what’s salvageable and what can be discarded.  Maybe something like the headspace version of a mobile phone.  The real stuff is back in the universities and our Main Character’s private lab that’s going to house the future AI.

I’m still trying to figure out the threat that the AI is going to be in the story, which I guess is going to come back to the themes of this book…which is something that I am working on.  Normally, I’ve got the themes down at this point and I’m working more on the arrangement of the dock chairs.  Not this time, and the reason is a fairly simple one.

I don’t want to re-tread themes.

With most of my books, it’s man vs. society.  Society sometimes taking the form of your evil boss and the crappy company you have to work for, or an honest-to-goodness society.  I’m trying to find something else to rail against in my fictions.   What do I want to say with the AI?  What do I want to say with the Main Character?  As my professor would ask: what is the universal theme?  When I was in college, the universal theme was: alcohol.  I’m afraid I’m going to have to change that up a little.

Well, the AI was constructed to help people, but it got out of hand — especially when it was closed away in the arcology (I may or may not keep that, who knows?).  “The road to hell is paved with good intentions” and all that.  Particularly if someone really, really wants to do good and something keeps that from happening.  Think about it: you want to help others.  It’s in your DNA (heh) and every time you try to do something good, someone or something gets in your way.  Would drive you batty after a while.  heck — might even drive you to murder?

Can I machine be struck with hubris?  I think this might set everything up fine.  It’s also one of my favorite wallpapers.  All I need to do is think who’s the king, who’s the god and who’s the unbeliever.

Ooh — the speedrun started.  Thanks for reading and y’all have fun.


Seething Apathy

The Three Hundred and Third Post: The One Where I Talk About AI and Odin’s Pets!

Hello everyone — back again for another installment of project-o-rama: The Mind of Man edition. Yesterday, I talked about the main character (still unnamed, but not to worry) and so today I am going to work around one of the key incidents in the story’s past, and hopefully work through something that’s key to the plot: why is AI forbidden.

In order to start with that, I am going to refer to something that I had mentioned earlier in another post: The Page Wave Incident. Something happened a couple of generations ago that made people leery of AI. What is this incident? Here is the working idea (Warning: Spoilers for another future sci-fi novel are below, but given the pace that I work on things, I think you’ll be safe for the most part).

In A Game of Chinese Whispers, there is an Internet that can be accessed one of two ways: through something that works like Google Glasses with a very limited interface, or through the brand spanking new direct neural contact. Absolutely nothing can go wrong when you give everyone a way to interact directly with other people by shoving metal plates into their brains and their training consists of ‘think of these words if you want to turn it on and these where you want to turn it off’. Well, in the initial post-wackiness, people still wanted the direct neural contact (alphabet groups and the such), but they wanted a way to keep the rioting to a minimum.

Enter a heuristic, quantum trinary system to monitor all of it. It has several parts to it. The monitoring parts were called Huginn and Muninn. Huginn compared current activity of a network with past activities, looking for anything that stood out. Anything standing out was sent to Munnin that looked at the data and compared it with other information about that particular node: mostly looking for indicators of known abnormal behavior (can we do that now? Yes.). Enough hits come up and two other programs are sent out called Geri and Freki. These programs isolate the problem before it can get too big. The steps can vary from a simple prompt to get some help to completely isolating them from the network — even going as far as contacting the authorities if it looks like there’s going to be either self-harm or harm to others.

This system starts small, watching everyone coming in and out of a geographic area to establish some sort of baseline. As it works and learns, it starts to make changes to its own programming to better allocate resources and predict human behavior. Algorithms are discarded when they’re no longer useful and others are picked up. it goes into the existing Internet to learn more. Eventually, all the nodes and information squeeze together in a moment of critical mass. Huginn, Muninn, Geri and Freki all blend together to make what they call… I have no idea what it calls itself. That’s beside the point. The system gets more resources, learns more about the people it’s monitoring…even learns how to directly control people.
However, before the scientists can throw the kill-switch the system shuts itself down. The ravens and the wolves separate themselves and self terminate. Hard programmed into the system was a set of criteria: if any system got to point where it could interfere with the continuing well-being of an individual, or network it would shut down and away updates.

The scientists all heaved a huge sigh of relief — thinking they dodged a bullet, they quickly tore down the system and made sure that no one could have access to the materials or the core programming. AI was declared a dangerous crap shoot; a danger worse than genetic engineering, atomic bombs and cancellation of Firefly all rolled into one.

What they didn’t know was that the system made back-ups of itself. One of these backups managed to evade the initial sweep. Did I ever mention how much information DNA could store? 700 terabytes in 1 gram. I’m envisioning the container that has the back up being about the size of a loaf of bread and weighing in at 2 kilograms (about 5 pounds). That’s a huge program.  Does it have any sort of end goal?  I don’t know truth to be told.  I’m still working that out in my head.

So — that’s why AI isn’t allowed in this world. Next time, I’m going to contemplate some of the themes that are going to shape this story. I hope I won’t be boring. Thanks for dropping by.

Seething Apathy

The Three Hundred and Second Post: The One Where I Blather About the Main Character

Hello, all – I’m still working through “The Mind of Man”, now I’m shifting from world building to character building…the main character who as of yet has no name, so we’ll call him Bob.  Given that this book is a thriller, there are a number of things that I want to try to avoid with the characterization.

Chiefly, I don’t want him to be an Indiana Jones-esque type of character.  I think we have enough of that out there already.  I also want him to be a clever sort of person, which is why he’s highly regarded in his field, but not the nerdy type.  He’s not Sheldon, but he’s not Flash Gordon either.  I guess we’re going to have to cling to the middle and say he’s McGuyver…of sorts.  Somewhat athletic, really good when it comes to computers and systems, but a little clumsy when it comes to the opposite sex (he lets his profession do all the talking).  I might have to make a character sheet for this.  I wonder if I can still find the old Shadowrun sheets.

Anyways, he’s not really alone in this.  When he’s out under the auspices of the local university, he has some muscle with him (some places that are prime spots for recoverable tech also tends to attract mercenaries, like our main character during his off-hours).  However, when he’s on his own, he does happen to have some friends who are more the rough and ready types:

·         Command: He’s the one in charge of military affairs.  Not military as in acting on behalf of a government, but military as in prefers shooting to computers.

·         Fire Support and Logistics: Makes sure that there is usually more guns aimed at the enemy than there are aimed at them.  Also able to shore up any weak points in the defense.

·         Communications and Control: The ‘voice from the Internet’ – this person coordinates and monitors everything.

·         Medic: Are you bleeding?  Go see him.

·         Access / Scout: This is combo tunnel rat / stealer-in and overall sneaky bastard.  He works in information technology like the main character, but he is more specialized in that he knows all the ways of circumventing security from pin tumblers to RSA encryption.  How Bob knows these people is still one of the many works in progress for this character, but I also have a feeling that there might be money involved in the backstory at some point – but back to Bob himself.

Bob’s not a slouch when it comes to the rough and tumble, but he knows that his role is not to get shot.  Once he gets the materials — he never does anything on-site during these little side trips — and he gets back to his lab (which has some better toys than what he can use at the university because everything that’s done at the university is monitored very carefully).  When he gets back to his lab, it’s here where everything starts going sideways.  His carefully ‘work is here and fun is here’ world is being turned on its axis.  It’s the same theme as Game of Chinese Whispers — the loss of privacy, but this loss is more personal.

If I were to cast someone for the role of Bob — I would pick Alexis Denisof.  He’s got the look I like for a main character and he can play intellectual and a little…one step behind everyone else.  You should see him in Much Ado About Nothing.  He’s a really talented actor.

Well, I think that’s enough for now.  I might get back to the world building a little tomorrow in what exactly is what the AI’s purpose and why it’s a threat to existence.  As always, thanks for reading and I hope y’all have a good day.


Seething Apathy

Hello, all — I’m continuing on with the brainstorming for “Mind of Man”. Last time, I talked about the main character’s profession a little: information archaeologist. Now I’m going to run some ideas by y’all about the world that the main character and why the idea of AI is a problem.

What I’m looking for is something that would put a screeching halt on AI research — to the point where actually trying to recreate AI would be seen as a cardinal sin, but I really want to avoid “AI War 4.1.5” or anything else like that. Yes, war is horrible, but it’s been overdone. I would like to think that something would happen in which AI is strictly verboten. I’m considering something along the lines of “…and history turned into legend“. Something that would put AI on the brink of annihilation and dragging Mankind along with it, but trying to avoid the usual routes that have become rather ham-fisted as of late.

Well, if I wanted to draw a link between “Game of Chinese Whispers” (Facebook stand-in + Direct Neural Interface + Paranoid Schizophrenic = Societal Meltdown), the extrapolation of this would be that the crude sort of AI that came out of that particular computing kerfuffle would be quickly shut down. After that and a few tests, it was discovered that there is a critical mass to sapience (a term I am going to use rather than intelligence for the purposes of this posting).

After that, it was decided that there would be a hard limit on processing speed, numbers of nodes in networks, number of running networks, number cat pictures allowed at one time — all the important things.

Of course when anyone sets a limit to something, there are going to be people who are going to say “You’re not the boss of me!” These are also the same people that usually yell “OK — I was wrong! Help!”, but we can get to that later.

So, in the far future of this particular little world, computer systems are much regulated. Trust me, piracy is the least of IT’s issues. Networks are watched very carefully for that tipping point…which makes the information archaeologist a useful profession in as far as trying to retrieve records from the past — getting clues as to what information technology was like before everything went severely pear-shaped. In academic way, this is vital to keep society from having to re-invent the wheel every time someone decides to hook up their computers in parallel and an interest in keeping the past alive – unlike what those ass-hats in ISIS tend to believe.

In a mercenary way, there is a black market for Pre-Page Wave programming (Page Wave is what I’m currently calling the event. Those of you who have been reading this for a long time know that I’m going to go through five or six names before settling on the right one). Programming in “Mind of Man” is set up to be purposefully limited. Yeah – it can do great things and even mimic human intelligence, but it’s not going to be able to make value choices without a lot of preset functions…kinda like today, but a little better. I’m toying around with the notion that by this point we have trinary computing (-1,0,+1 rather than 0 and 1) so computers can do a lot of fuzzy logic, but they’re still running programs just like the PC I’m working on.

As far as how the soon-to-be sentient and sapient computer AI comes around, it’s going to need a specific set of systems. Another thing that Information archaeologists are looking for are what sort of old hardware can be cribbed. Modern archaeologists do this in re-discovering old ways of doing things. Information archaeologists are out there too, combing through old scraps and lost sites for a clue to what’s going to be the “Holy Grail” of this time period.

Trinary quantum computing. The difference between trinary quantum and regular trinary is power useage (making systems smaller and depending on less power to function would be great for exploration and/or military applications) and… you know, I’m going to end up having to do a lot of research into this, but this particular iteration of Trinary Quantum Computing could bring about a Sapient and Sentient AI.

So – I hope that I didn’t bore the heck out of you with this. It helps to just talk about stuff here when I’m working out the kinks for the novel.

Thanks for reading, y’all have a good day. Tomorrow, I’m going to continue on with the main character as a person.


Seething Apathy

The Three Hundredth Post: The One Where I’m Going to Get Back On Track and Make Up a New Job!

I might being back the party, but right now it’s getting a little too arduous to write.  The party was great (Thanks, Amanda!), but writing it is feeling like filling out an after action report.  I should get back to the day-to-day issues and hammering out this idea I have for another sci-fi novel. I’m going to continue the party, but I’m going to do it later.  Right now, I have an idea itching under my skin that I want to get to.

I was hunting around the various news feeds and I remember someone talking about forensic computer science.  I started think what if that were joined with another field?  Say…archaeology?  What if at some point in the far future, there was a discipline of archaeology that dealt with the preservation of computer data?  So I did some research:

  • Better make multiple copies of that CD.  It’s not going to last long.
  • Magnetic tape is worse.
  • The average age of storage in optimum conditions is about 30 years with current tech.

Not really the time span I was looking for.  I had this bit of dialogue in my head and I needed it to work:

"Yeah, my great-grandmother was one of the people hit by the Page Wave. After that, she didn't
trust any tech more advanced than an e-book."

I wanted this piece of information to give us a sense that what the main character was finding was really old.  So, I’m thinking that there is another sort of storage medium to be found that can last a really long time (at least 100 years).

Did you know that scientists are trying to use DNA as a storage medium?  Yeah.  That’s something that can survive at least 60,000 years if stored properly.  Heck, even if it’s stored improperly, it can last a while.  So — there’s something that I can store my plot device.  I’m only looking at that because I want something that’s futuristic, plausible and hardy for the abuse it’s going to take.  I’m going to tweak it a little just to make it sound more exotic: using silicon rather than carbon, having everything suspended in a noble gas to keep it reacting to any outside elements.  I’m looking to show that whoever put this information in the can wanted it save for future generations.  For the time being, the other methods of storage are going to be mostly atomic or quantum level effects: entanglement, pushing around individual atoms, heating up disks of plastic and affixing magnetic bits (one of these things is really happening).  Our main character is going to be very good at what he does.  I don’t know if I want him in some sort of academic setting, or working in the private sector.  I really want to avoid any sort of Indiana Jones cliches with this.  I’m kinda thinking that he could be a mercenary sort, but he likes the academic world as opposed to the private sector in that he gets all the cooler toys to play with.

Well, that’s all I have for now.  Thanks for stopping by.  As always, current books by myself or dear friends to the right, please feel free to take a look.  Tomorrow, I might leak out a few more ideas for this sci-fi novel.  Oh — the novel is titled: The Mind of Man which is taken from here.  Next time, I’m going to try to figure out the other side of the equation.  Why lock up a DNA program for so long?

Thanks for reading, I hope y’all have a good day.


Seething Apathy