Friday, December 19, 2014

Appeal to Authority

Every technology has its dangers and its benefits. The most beneficial are often the most dangerous… and the most irresistible.
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Dear Madame President,
This moment demands greatness, anything less will fail. Everything we know, everything we hold dear, is at stake. Our nation is at war and we cannot know if we will win or lose, but we do know the cost will be unimaginably high. I have reflected for a long time before daring to write you. Know that my words are chosen with great care, not because of you or me, but because of the country we both serve and the repercussions of our actions that will echo through the ages.
In a previous generation on a previous project at the crux of a previous war a predecessor of mine wrote a predecessor of yours with serious concerns. The United States was about to unleash the atomic bomb on the world. The scientists who were working on the project feared what would happen when such power was unleashed. Some of them even considered the possibility that the atmosphere might ignite and kill all of humanity after the first detonation. Their worst fears proved unfounded, but there were plenty of founded fears that still remained. We suffered through a Cold War and the constant threat of nuclear strikes. We strove to keep the wrong people and the wrong countries from gaining access to nuclear technology — whether for weapons or energy — because we feared what we had created.
You and I stand at a similar crux now. On this day I write to you with all of the same fears as my predecessors. Yet my fears are founded on the cornerstone of history and experience. I have seen what nuclear technology has done to the world. I know the number of lives lost in the attacks. I know the money spent to ensure mutual destruction. I know the constant fear of a bomb or missile falling from the sky and erasing all life. The fears of the scientists working on the Manhattan project were based in theory; my fears are based on fact.
So, Madame President, it is with regret that I must decline your offer. Though I dearly love my country and I trust you as a person, I cannot trust those with whom you would share my work. Nor can I trust your successor, nor the intelligence community, nor the international black market that might tempt the intelligence community. To be sure my work would proceed much more quickly with governmental funding. To be sure I would be able to accomplish more in defense of our nation if I could add to my work the work of others in my field. To be sure the work would get done, but the outcome of that work is far from sure.
I have an obligation — even a sacred trust — to ensure that what I create does not follow the path of history. I cannot start another Cold War. I cannot offer another tool for extremists around the world to vie for. I cannot allow my work to become the death knell for humanity. And that is quite possibly what it could be. We don’t know — just as we did not know if the atomic bomb would ignite the atmosphere and we did not know if the Large Hadron Collider would produce micro black holes with enough gravity to rip apart the Earth — and it is the very fact that we don’t know the worst that could happen that I cannot be complicit in that risk.

As Dr. Stephen Hawking said, "The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.
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Friday, December 12, 2014

Appeal to Nature

What would you do with access to Artificial Intelligence? How would you change the world? Who would oppose you? 
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“Welcome back,” Gene Romano, host of the popular morning television show Good Day; Great Week, looked directly into the camera with a toothsome smile. “Today we’re joined by the new CEO of the world’s first and only creator of Artificial Intelligence: Electric Sheep Dreams, popularly known as ESD.”
Evelyn Getzu smiled for the camera. Her charm worked on the interviewer as well as the television audience.
“Evelyn, thank you for joining us today.”
“Thank you, Gene.
“You inherited the company from your father after he made the huge breakthrough in AI.”
“That’s right, Gene, he started everything with his discovery. I’m standing on the shoulders of a giant.”
“Well said, Evelyn — may I call you Evelyn?”
“Of course, Gene,” another winsome smile from a face too young and too innocent for the perils of the corporate world, let alone an interview with the media.
“Excellent, Evelyn,” he laughed at the non-joke, “You’re here, not to talk about the past though.”
“Right, Gene, my father’s AI accomplishments were fantastic, but we’re all about progress.”
“And what does that mean, Evelyn?”
“Well, Gene, that means, we’re going to keep finding ways to use the power of AI to make the world a better place.”
“Like the way that AI has been used in weather prediction, stock trading, encryption, and entertainment recommendations?”
“Exactly, Gene, people have had the best, most accurate, most helpful recommendations for shopping and watching movies that they’ve ever had. The stock market is entering its twelfth year of steady gains. We’ve avoided billions of dollars in damage and saved untold lives through more accurate weather prediction. And all that is just the beginning.”
“Wow!”
“Wow indeed, Gene, we’ve been busy creating the next revolution in entertainment. Without the power of AI we wouldn’t have been able to process all the necessary data. But now we’re able to do something that the world has never seen before.”
“Oh, you have my attention,” Gene smiled for the camera.
“It’s called the Lucid Dreaming Network,” she continued, “We can all have lucid dreams — dreams where we know we’re dreaming and we can take control of things — but what we didn’t have is a way to connect those dreams…”
“Until now?” the white-toothed, tan-skinned, easy-laughing interviewer prompted Evelyn.
“Right, Gene, until now. See, before, we were trying to replicate the human brain with simple computers. That task is so immense, so fraught with obstacles, so far beyond what we’re capable of doing, that it appeared impossible to create a network of connected minds.”
“Because…” Gene seemed to like saying nothing, but still getting credit for saying something.
“Because, Gene, the brain has eighty-six billion neurons and each of those can make hundreds or even thousands of connections to other neurons. There are over a hundred neurotransmitters that regulate brain function. There are dendrite connections that work as additional sub-processors so the neurons don’t have to do all the work. What that means, in the simplest terms, is that we don’t have enough conventional computers on the planet, to simulate even one brain in real time, let alone create a simulation for multiple brains.”
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 Read the rest here.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Ad Hominem

On a mission of rescue, on a mission of hope, on a mission of peace, everything is challenged. 
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“Exfil in three,” my lieutenant called out.
The people weren’t nearly ready; we’d have to leave some of them behind. That was the fourth or fifth mission we’d been on to save the white people from Indian or Chinese cities.
By that time, it didn’t matter to most of the Sino-Indian people whether the white people were Slavic or not. They hated, and found an outlet for their hate. The Russians had been gobbling up their territory for forty years. They’d swoop in, take a city or province, and subjugate the original inhabitants. Chinese and Indian culture was outlawed. The people were given the worst jobs, their money was seized, their homes vandalized and burned. Some of them left, fled. They made it to family living outside of Russian-controlled territory, but they were impoverished. Millions of refugees flooded into already struggling areas. The strain became too much. The anger too great. The hurt too palpable.
The first incident was in Kumul in northeastern China. A family of white missionaries was pulled out of their home at night, marched into the city square, and beaten to death. They were British. It didn’t matter. They looked like the Russians so they were killed. The next incident happened in New Delhi. A group of tech-company executives were dining out and were pulled out of the restaurant. They survived the attack, but only barely. Then it started happening everywhere. The anger about the Russian invasions had been simmering for decades; it eventually boiled over into riots.
So they sent us in. Our job has been to collect the white residents in Sino-Indian cities and get them to safety. Usually we put them on a boat to Australia. This group was one of the last we’d get out. I don’t like to think about how many we ended up leaving there. Once the war started… Well, we didn’t really have a choice after that.
“Women and children first,” I yelled to the mob. I know it’s an antiquated idea; I don’t really care. I was in charge and that’s what I chose to do. Some of the men fought, but my soldiers ‘persuaded’ them to stop.
We loaded the children and women onto the plane. We loaded them like cargo, packing in as many as possible. Their flight would be uncomfortable, but they would survive. I had my guys tracking the number of people so we would still have room for the soldiers. We were able to load all of the women and children and about thirty of the men. The rest of them pushed and punched to try to get onto the plane. I whispered something to one of my sergeants. He addressed the crowd with his powerful voice.
“Keep fighting us and we’ll have to shoot you. That’s guaranteed. If you stop fighting you might get out alive. Place your bets, men.”
One of them bet wrong. He charged the line of soldiers while shouting nonsense. My sergeant pulled his sidearm, leveled, and fired. He’s always been a softy. The man crumpled to the ground clutching his bleeding leg. The sergeant threw a medkit in his general direction. The rest of the crowd pulled back.
I thought we were out of it. I thought it was over. 
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Read the rest here

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

New Patreon Rewards

I've added some new rewards for my patrons over at Patreon. I'm doing my best to make the rewards both awesome and enticing for people. I love writing and making a little bit of money from my writing helps me to do what I love. 





$1 per story - You get electronic access to everything I write. Ebooks, short stories, flash fiction, all of it.


$2 per story - In addition to all the electronic stories you can get your hand on, I'll send you a hand-written note of thanks. Because you're awesome and you deserve it.


$3 per story - All of the above, plus you'll get a print version of my first novel, Like Mind. It's won awards and stuff.


$4 per story - You get a custom story of flash fiction. That's somewhere between 100 and 500 words of prose for you.*


$5 per story (option 1) - If you choose this option you'll get a print version of my short stories twice a year. That'll be around 26 stories and the length of a novel.


$5 per story (option 2) - Or you can choose the option where I write a short story just for you. It'll be in the neighborhood of 1500 words.*

$6 per story - You get to name a character in one of my upcoming novels (within reason). I've got several novels in progress now. You pick the novel and the name.


$7 per story - You get to be the model of a character in one of my novels (again, within reason). It can either be modeled after you or someone you know.


*I retain all rights to the stories I write, even if I write it for you. 

If you're interested in one of these rewards you can click on over to my Patreon page and pledge away.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Anecdotal

Stories have power, they capture our imaginations, they hold us captive.
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I’d like to tell you a story. Most stories that people tell have a point. They tell stories to further their arguments. They tell stories to make you feel a certain way. They tell stories for purely selfish purposes. I’ll probably do the same. It’s why we have stories.
Long ago a certain blacksmith forged a sword. Into that blade he poured all of his knowledge. With each blow of the hammer, each pump of the bellows, each fold of the steel back upon itself, the blacksmith whispered everything he’d ever known. He whispered the secrets of folded steel, to be sure, but he also spoke the secrets to a woman’s heart, the difference between edible and deadly mushrooms, the constellations in the sky, and the names of all his children. He whispered and hammered for years. He shaped the blade perfectly. He balanced it exquisitely. He polished it to a mirror finish. He lovingly wrapped the handle with the choicest leather. He set the pommel with a perfect carving of his own face. He tooled his sigil into the leather of the sheath and the sigils of all the blacksmith masters who had gone before him into the leather of the belt.
Even then he did not stop whispering secrets. The sword hummed and vibrated with the old blacksmith’s knowledge, but he still found new things to imbue into it. He learned that beach sand would polish the steel more finely than river sand. He learned that his eldest daughter loved the cobbler’s son. He learned the shape of the clouds could tell the coming weather. Each day he continued to refine his sword. Each small change made space for the new thing he’d learned. He neglected contracts. He stopped bathing. He stopped returning home from the smithy at night.
One by one his children went to him to beg him to stop. “You’ve already made the most perfect blade in the world,” his oldest son said. “No one will ever surpass this feat,” his second son said. “Your legacy is secure,” his eldest daughter laid her hand on his forearm as he worked oil into the leather of the handle. Still he worked; still he whispered. His children came to him sometimes weeping, sometimes begging, sometimes furious, sometimes cold and numb. Still he whispered. Finally his wife came and stood between him and his tools. She took his bearded, unshaven face between her hands and forced him to meet her gaze. He stared at her with gray, searching eyes. His mouth worked silently. She wept.
Still he spoke his knowledge into the sword.
One by one his children left. They grew old. They married. They found work. Not a one of them took up smithing. No apprentice came to the blacksmith’s door. No one offered him a contract to shoe a horse or forge a weapon. For lack of money he took to making his own charcoal. He scrounged for fallen limbs so he could make the forge-fire to continue the work on his masterpiece. He repaired the handles of his hammers with castoff spokes from the broken wagon that he no longer used to deliver his wares. But when he cut a piece of skin from his thigh to patch the bellows, his wife, who had stayed with him through everything, finally, tearfully, left. 

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Friday, November 21, 2014

Burden of Proof

I asked you to call me Hope. It seemed like the right name. After this nothing seems right. ________________________


I asked you to call me Hope. That’s what I thought I was. Who I thought I was. I brought hope to the people. I brought relief from the oppression of life and gave everyone the chance to believe in something greater. That’s what I thought I did, at least. What do you call the person who delivers hope to others but has lost any of her own? Not Hope. Not me.
People pay me to do things that are difficult, impossible even. People pay me to be a ghost. But the job they sent me on most recently
It was nothing like my other jobs. They didn’t ask me to kill anyone. They asked me to keep someone alive. They asked me to escort a man from Titan to Phobos. The South American Alliance that controlled Saturn’s moon wanted to send a man, under my protection, to New London on Phobos. The SAA were no friends of the Brits so they couldn’t use the normal channels. No one could know that this man, a Lucio Paniagua, had left the SAA or traveled to New London. The political ramifications would have been… unpleasant.
It seemed easy enough when I arrived. The Titanic Orbital Dock made it easy for me to hide my intentions. The pirates in the Asteroid Belt had plenty of trade between the official organizations. In many ways they kept the system running by wholly ignoring the politics and just taking money in exchange for goods and services. That they also stole, murdered, and enslaved people was overlooked by most everyone for the lubrication they provided to the machinations of society in the system. I arrived as a merchant looking for cargo. Titanians were more than happy to provide me with what I needed. They were sick of looking at the food blocks they produced, but happy to sell them off to anyone with a cargo hold. I ordered enough to fill my ship. The subterranean microbes native to Titan process hydrocarbons the way that cows eat grass. The right mix of complex organic molecules and some liquid methane gives the little guys everything they need to make a feast. What’s left over is edible to humans, impervious to spoilage, and only tastes a little bit like eating gasoline. But it’s cheap and easy to move, so the pirates love it. They call it bug food.
What I didn’t tell the porter at the TOD was that one of the cases of bug food was actually Mr. Paniagua. Once we took off and I set the course for Ceres in the Asteroid belt, I went back and cracked open the false case of bug food.
“Welcome aboard Mr. Paniagua.” He bleared up at me. He hadn’t been in stasis so I assumed that was just the way he looked at people. I continued, “You’re welcome to make the rest of the trip in the cabin with me, if you want.”
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Read the rest here.

Friday, November 14, 2014

False Cause

Major Artur Paniagua had a job, a mission. He was a good soldier and he completed his missions. No matter what. 
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“C’mon; it’s just ahead!” He limped down the hallway dragging the his now-useless leg behind him. The firefight had left us both wounded, but most of mine were through-and-through flesh wounds. His were more serious. Structural.
I covered the hallway behind us scanning from doorway to doorway looking for any pursuit. There weren’t many people left that could pursue us. Not in the general vicinity anyway. Not that were both upright and mobile.
“I’ve got the door, Major. Just give me a minute to crack the ‘cryption.” Lieutenant Palma was a good soldier. The best. He did his job no matter what. Sometimes I wish I was more like him and less like myself.
“No pursuit coming, but don’t dawdle, soldier.” He wouldn’t even if he knew how. I just wanted to give him something else to think about besides the life leaking out of him and onto the floor.
“Got it,” Palma shouted. I turned and followed him through the door. Inside I looked around a huge chamber. It extended a hundred meters in all directions. After the closeness of the hallway it felt airy and light — as much as anything in an underground bunker can, that is. The walls were lined with server racks and terminals with empty pads for the individual processors of the workers. In the center of the room, dominating everything, was a mechanical nightmare. It sent its metal and wire tendrils into everything, the racks of servers, the ceiling, the floor, and back into itself. A low hum filled the space with nearly musical foreboding.
“Close the door, Palma.”
“No can do, Major, the ‘crypt-lock is all busted.”
“Well that’s inconvenient,” I muttered while he dragged himself over to the monstrosity in the center of the room. I put my back against the wall next to the open door and then poked my rifle’s camera around the corner to see what was happening down the hallway. The feed showed all clear on my headsup, both in visible and IR ranges. I still didn’t feel great about having an open door for Palma’s work, but at least I could cover him while he did it.
“Just let me upload this to their computer core and we can get out of here.” Palma always liked to talk while he worked. He was a good soldier, but talkative. He’d talk all around the point rather than just saying the important bits. It drove me crazy, but it was worth putting up with for all the other stuff he brought to the table. I grunted back at him. That, as usual, was more than enough to keep him talking. “The malware is elegant. It’ll replicate within their systems and slowly degrade what they can do. It won’t just fry everything at once.”
My internal clock made me nervous. The time readout on my headsup moreso. We were about to see a lot more people. Their rapid response teams would be arriving in about two minutes. “Hurry it up, Palma.”
“Sir.” He kept messing with the suitcase sized device that he’d lugged all the way into this bunker. We’d been fighting for weeks to get there. First we fought just to find out where it was and then we fought to get close and then we fought to get inside. So much fighting. I’m a soldier and all, but even I get tired of fighting. Most of a soldier’s work is sitting and waiting. We wait for the next order, the next transport, the next hike, the next training, the next meal. We’re always waiting and occasionally we get to fight. But this mission had been all fighting and no waiting. We’d barely had time to recoup from the previous fight before the next one started. All of us were covered in freshly printed skin and pumped full of synth-blood. It kept us moving, but it didn’t work as well as the real stuff. Every step took more effort and every movement felt like I was wading through a pool of needles and lemon juice. But if the intel was right, we’d be done. This was the big one, the target we’d been waiting for. The target we’d been dreaming about.
“You’ve got one minute, soldier.” We actually had one-and-a-half, but Palma didn’t need to know that. He was always running late as it was; I didn’t need to give him any luxury time.
“Copy that.”
We didn’t even have that long. My estimates were wrong. They started pouring into the hallway.
“Zero time, they’re here!” I yelled it even as I pulled the trigger...
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