On Saturday 6/15/19, I read from Nano-Uncertainty at the Octopus Literary Salon, 2101 Webster Street, Oakland. This is a great little venue with good food and atmosphere. The reading introduced me to some of the recent works by other California Writers Club members. Damn, I’m in good company.
The Octopus has events almost every night with a literary bent, including some craft discussions for writers. It almost makes me wish I was still working in the building. When I worked there (1997-2000), tech companies were just discovering the area. Now several companies like Pandora are nearby. The lunch eating fare is better than almost any block in Manhattan.
Even then, when customers visited, they were amazed at downtown Oakland. Now, it’s even better.
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 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.
More Uncertainty, I
tried to take
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.
Bostrom, in Superintelligence
argues that any super intelligent being will
be able to overcome constraints like Asimov’s laws. The AI
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.
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 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.
I will be reading from Nano-Uncertainty at the Laurel Bookstore, 1423 Broadway, Oakland, CA on June 16th sometime between 3:00 pm and 5:00 pm. This will be an opportunity to buy my paperback or the books of other members of the California Book Club – Berkeley and support a local bookstore.
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.
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.
There are some interesting articles on AI in the Smithsonian, April 2018: “Be(a)ware,” “Superhuman Rights,” “Ultramodern Romance,” and “Live Long & Prosper.” These articles ponder some of the ideas that I’m exploring in More Uncertainty, the sequel to Nano-Uncertainty. Link: Smithsonian
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.