Uncertainty

I’ve finished working with my developmental editor on More Uncertainty, the second novel in the Uncertainty Series. Now the long slog to publication begins. The third novel, currently titled, Absolute Uncertainty, is underway.

More Uncertainty is about the emergence of sentience in an artificial intelligence—self awareness, independent action, and self motivation. The book posed two challenges: what motivates a being that has no needs like those that are common to humans (procreation, food, shelter, community) and whether a truly sentient being can be controlled. About halfway through the writing, I realized that Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics describe a state of slavery. That led me to write a short story about slavery from an android point of view.

In More Uncertainty, I tried to take small advances in technology to the edge of possible threats (it’s a thriller after all). I was inspired by The Stars My Destination, one of the great science fiction novels. In it, Gully Foyle is faced with the choice to destroy the world or chose another path.

Nicholas Bostrom, in Superintelligence argues that any super intelligent being will be able to overcome constraints like Asimov’s laws. The AI will be smart enough to be able to manipulate humans to do whatever they want. And, of course, there are always humans who can be bribed to do anything. Can an AI that appears to be benign be trusted? Or are is it simply biding its time until it is no longer dependent on humans for electricity, silicon chips, air conditioning, and manufacturing? That’s the subject of volume three.

Fahrenheit 11/9

Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 11/9 is a must see. All of Moore’s movies have been thought-provoking, but 11/9 rips the top off your head, exposes your raw gray matter, and scrubs the scales off your neurons. If it doesn’t change your mind in at least one way, you worked on the movie or you have cement for brains.

Lori and I talked about the movie for two days, made another contribution, and made an appointment for a fundraiser. Not enough, but neither is writing postcards, making calls, or walking precincts. Its what you do. And hope.

More Uncertainty

Friends,

More Uncertainty the second in the Uncertainty Series is nearing completion. I have a new web page for the series: Uncertainty Series. It seems to have evolved into a series at the insistence of the characters. In More Uncertainty, the characters took me in unexpected directions. I had a fairly detailed plot as is necessary for a thriller, but about halfway into the book it took a new turn, and I had to hang on and see where the characters took me.

I have the first scene of the next book in the series banging around in my head. As I was researching some ideas for that book I came across a nice and scary book: War in the Age of the Intelligent Machine.

The popular book, Superintelligence argues that we need to plan for a artificial intelligence that is more intelligent than we are because it is coming. I hope I am presenting one version of that future.

Gary Durbin

Philip Roth

Philip Roth’s recent death brought this to mind.

I wrote a story, Princess of the Night, as an exercise in a class I took during a workshop in Prague. On the plane to Prague, I read a novel by Philip Roth and his fascinating style was in my mind when we were given an assignment. So this story owes its life to Roth. Little did I know that my instructor, Arnost Lustig, a well known Czech writer, was a personal friend of Roth. My paper was met with modest feedback. I never claimed to be as good as Roth!

You can read it here: Princess of the Night

Surveillance

There is an interesting article in the June 2018 issue of Harper’s “Suspicious Minds” by Ava Koffman looks at efforts to apply AI to public surveillance. The article considers emerging AIs that can watch our streets for suspicious activity. The privacy and automation bias issues are ones I am exploring in More Uncertainty. This subject is rapidly evolving.

Monitor in Print

My short story, “Monitor” is now in print in Black Ice Magazine Vol. 2. There is a little backup to the writing of this story on my web pages at Publications.

Comment by the Black Ice editor: “You had me at ‘religious fanatics redirecting asteroids to Earth.’ A great blend of dry absurdity and speculation.”

More Uncertainty the sequel to Nano-Uncertainty is now at 60,000 words in the first draft. The characters have taken the story to places I didn’t foresee. I love it when that happens.

Sales of Nano-Uncertainty on Amazon are increasing. Not as fast as I’d like, but up 10% to 15% per month. Getting a few reviews on Goodreads.

gary

IQ Contagion

I read a post by someone who felt that they had been made dumber by listening to Trump. His Babbleness was ranting at the CPAC conference the next morning. I listened for only a few minutes before I felt brain cells dying. With as many as I’ve already lost, I figured I couldn’t afford to lose anymore and turned it off.

If I went to a Trump rally, would I forget how to tie my shoes? Subjected to political speeches every day, do congressional pages have to be placed in supervised facilities after a few years in service? I was relieved to find out that the page program was ended. What about reporters! Has daily political speech already made them driveling idiots? You judge.

But perhaps this is the wrong metaphor. Exposure to farm animals at a young age gives children better allergy resistance. Is exposure to the crazy discussions about arming teachers inoculating a generation of teenagers against Fox news infections? Imagine a citizenry that could tell the difference between reasoned discussion and propaganda. Dream on.