Monday, June 5, 2017

Keep the A.I.s from Killing Us

Lotta Smart People Think It’s Going to Get Dangerous

Elon Musk, Bill Gates and Stephan Hawkings, among the Earth’s smartest people, are warning that A.I. has the potential to eat its creators.

Sci-fi types (I admit guilt there) have been saying it for decades. Remember HAL-9000’s, “I’m sorry, Dave, I can’t let you do that.”  Then give the A.I. weapons and we have SkyNet, killing off the vermin humans in all the Terminator movies. Grandmaster Isaac Asimov was the center of a cluster of sci-fi authors who recognized the threat back in the ‘40s and before. (Ahead of our time, we are.)

Back here in reality, we are already on (or over!) the cusp of giving weapons to A.I.s. 

The Harop Drone is a "loitering munition," drone that flies until it finds a specific kind of target, and then turns into a kamikaze missile.
Julian Herzog, via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 4.0

So what’s a wetware (human) to do????

Surprise!  A solution is proposed in A Reluctant god.

Operating systems for advanced A.I.s are fully overlaid with actual human personalities. 
The final system is called an “Artificial Personality,” an A.P.

The  inhibitions, instincts and values of humans are the safety stops in the programming.  There can be no us (the robots) vs. them (humans) if the A.I.s think they are human.

I invited one A.P. to write the Introduction to A Reluctant god:

“H.L. Mencken”

You may have heard my name. I am not me. The chap H.L. Mencken died early in 1956 and hasn’t been heard from since. Yet it is I who stands before you, at least in my own mind. Since I am not H.L. Mencken – dead and buried and all that – I find some small comfort in believing that I am pretty damn close to the man H.L. Mencken was. The folks who put me together studied old H.L. with truly psychotic intensity. They read every word he wrote, back to his kindergarten poetry. They read every word written about me (there!) by anyone of any stature. If my tailor scribbled “getting a paunch” about me in his notebook it was noted and analyzed.
     Never mind A.I., “A.P.”s (artificial personalities) based on real dead people (Belushi, Feynman, etc.) are state-of-the-art. I am an “ARTIFICIAL PERSONALITY.” You will see in the narrative ahead that there are a lot of Artificial Personalities in this distant future. We play an important role for that matter. The fact we are all based on various people who actually were once alive, then dead and buried, is quaint and would be hopelessly maudlin if there were not a reason.

You saw it here first (unless you read the book)! 

p.s. PLUS, I kept the humans one step ahead with direct brain/quantum computer interfaces.  Superboy Bobby gets hooked up at at thirteen.

Dr. Bot

Thirteen: At thirteen, Bobby had his first F.E.T. – Field Effect Transducer – implanted in his brain. The surgery robot worked with great speed and delicacy, constantly talking with the tall youth as he lay in a reclined bio couch. Optical leads of nanometer dimensions were threaded between neurons and glial cells to the special tiny organs scattered through Bobby’s brain that were maturing at the guidance of the DNA sequences crafted just for him by the master Fet genomic engineers.
“Impressions, please,” came the robot’s voice. The surgerybot was a modified humanoid machine. The voice came from its head. Its most visible light sensors – crystalline eyes – were on the head. Four arms reached out from an ovoid trunk, two holding Bobby’s head gently, like a caring friend, firmly, comforting. Bobby reported on visual, aural and other sensory sensations as the leads were attached.
When the operation ended, the bot slipped Bobby into a deeper state of anesthesia. There, his deepest consciousness centers awakened as the transducer was turned on. Isolated from his body and much of his mind, he reached out to the battery of nanoprocessors and adopted them as new limbs. It was a revelatory experience for Bobby. Nested in the flood of data was the knowledge of how to turn the Fet transducer on and off. The suggestion came that he turn it off now. He did, the attachment to the nanoprocessors was broken, and Bobby woke up.
Blinking his eyes, he looked around the operating room. There were all seven of his master tutors, smiling at him. He smiled back. “So that’s it!” he said. “I solved the three proofs that you said were nearly impossible, Dr. Sellers,” he said, grinning at his math tutor. The small man was standing next to the surgerybot. He put an arm around its shoulder, patting it.
“Good job, old bot,” he said.
“Thank you, Professor,” answered the bot.

Gotta cover all the bases, y’know.

*The da Vinci® Surgical System

Monday, May 29, 2017

Food Chainers Make Better Fighters

"Food" as an Alien Concept


In this excerpt, the sixth Emperor of the Empire of Earth ("E VI") is being briefed for the first time by the alien ally "Tay" and Bobby.  Tay's race evolved on a gas giant planet not unlike Jupiter. Bobby is the human "Reluctant God" of book title fame. N'Gai Toledo is E VI's genius toady.

“Perhaps I should continue the briefing,” said Bobby.

“I don’t think so,” said the emperor. Every eye in the room snapped into focus on his face. Bobby raised one eyebrow but said nothing. “I need to know a few things first. I need to know a bit more about our allies. I need to know why – as I understand it – the more senior civilizations we are associating with are apparently leaving the scene of the impending battle in great haste, leaving the confrontation with this Satan thing to a young and perhaps backward group like our little empire here.” E VI’s eyes were stoney as they zeroed in on Tay. “It looks like to me that you are using us to do the dirty work while you just do a little virtual consultation. Can you set me straight on this assumption?”

With no noticeable hesitation, Tay rumbled, “Food chain.”

“Food chain?” N’Gai Toledo practically barked. “You are saying we are lower on the food chain so we earn the position of sacrificial lamb while you run to safety?” His eyes actually bulged slightly with what was clearly honest outrage.

“A reasonable but incorrect assumption,” said Tay. It was clear to most in the room that this was an out-of-bounds comment, considering Toledo’s famous ego. But Tay continued, apparently not noticing the additional degrees of steeliness in N’Gai’s eyes. 

“The fact that your species has evolved in a food chain milieu makes you far better warriors than the likes of us, to whom food chains were incomprehensibly alien until we became spacefarers and witnessed them in various species. The inherent competitiveness of eat or be eaten in food chain creatures gives rise to far more aggressive and canny combatants. Your race is a prime example.”

E VI and Toledo were stopped cold. The Emperor was particularly struck with the “incomprehensibly alien” comment, as he realized that creatures not in a food chain were just such to him. 

“Ummm,” he said, considerably cooled. “You are saying that you … the Heglin … evolved in some way not in a food chain? You are not the top of your food chain?”

“Exactly,” said Tay. “We obtained our corporeal energy from our stars and from the gasses of our planets. There were other living creatures in our environment, but the idea of consuming them for energy or being consumed by them would have been considered ridiculous – not to mention impossible. It was actually never even contemplated. As I’m sure the briefest of analysis will convince you, we surely have radically different basic psychologies, you and us. Equally obvious should be two certainties. You make far better warriors. And Satan surely is a creature also born of food chain evolution.”

Tay stopped speaking. No one else said a word. There was a considerable span of silence.

Finally, Bobby cleared his throat and said again, “Perhaps I should continue the briefing.”

The Emperor nodded curtly.

As Jupiter data starts reeling out from NASA's Juno spacecraft, old guy sci-fi types like me just have extrapolation extravaganzas!

[Check it out at Amazon.   Be sure to go to "Older Posts" at the bottom.]

Life on a Gas Giant Planet

Intelligent life on a turbulent gas giant?

One of the main characters in A Reluctant God is "Tay," a composite intelligence reflecting the combined consciousness of billions of very advanced individuals from an empire of gas giants.

Raising the question, of course, "Could intelligent life - or life at all - actually evolve on a gas giant like Jupiter?" Now that NASA's Juno spacecraft is returning stunning data on Jupiter as it swings in and out of Jupiter space, showing an incredibly turbulent upper atmosphere, the question gets ever more complicated.

Clearly I believe life can develop - in fact that life is inevitable - in the cauldron of magnetic fields, intense radiation, and hyper-energetic storms.  In Reluctant God, the living space is below the surface maelstroms. Their energy source is from the planetary chaos above. The idea of a "food chain," and all its 'eat or be eaten' implication is completely alien to them.

The Heglin 
(Imagine super-intelligent, very large Daddy Longlegs)

In this excerpt, protagonist Bobby and his spacefaring crew of Artificial Personalities (A.I.s with human personalities as operating systems) are given a brief, virtual tour of a gas giant where the Heglin evolved. They have abandoned their home planets because of the inexorable approach of Satan.

Bobby and all the APs felt as if they were transported to another reality. They vividly perceived a world, clearly a gas giant, from great altitude. The atmosphere was clear but viscous. Layers of opaque clouds shelved down into great darkness. Their point of view moved deeper into the atmosphere until across the top of one of the cloud shelves could be seen a distant moving mass like thin smoke. As the point-of-view moved closer, it was soon apparent that the smoke was a cloud of individual creatures. It was like nothing so much as a disturbed nest of Opiliones, daddy long legs. Simple pentagonal bodies with extraordinarily long multiple legs with end segments moving in treading-water motions. They tumbled over one another, legs interweaving and sliding apart with confoundedly smooth motions, like a tangled knot constantly knitting and unknitting itself as it progressed along the cloud top.

Bobby spoke. “And each of these creatures is an individual? This is not some sort of multipart creature?”

Tay laughed – his first, Feynman later told Bobby. It was a rich, delighted sound that could only be a laugh. “Individuals. This scene to us is a family portrait. The planet is typical of those we colonized. There are many gas giants in this galaxy, but only those with this particular atmospheric mix pleased us. I am showing you the atmosphere as transparent to your eyes as they are to our senses, but in reality, the gas passes no light in the spectra you see.”

“The coordination between individuals is so perfect, perhaps you have neuronal links?” asked Bobby.

“Or a form of telepathy?” asked Feynman.

“Or a lot of rehearsal,” came the voice of John Cleese, rarely heard from. He continued, “Tay, I’m sure you have observed our physical abilities make this clotting your people do quite astonishing to us.”

“Did that, John,” answered Tay. “It has been hundreds of thousands of your years since we have known the joy of weaving ourselves in a traveling flow.” There was a tinge of very human melancholy in Tay’s voice.

The scene from the past of the Heglin Empire faded and the smiling Buddha face reappeared. “Actually,” Tay continued, “I shouldn’t mourn what we have abandoned. It has been supplanted by far greater joys of total communal experiences, not the least of which is our continued existence.”

So there you go. If you believe, as I do, that life is the inevitable outcome of vast time, sufficient complexity and available energy, then it should be easy to accept gas giant lifeforms... maybe as impressive as the planets where they evolved!

[Check it out at Amazon.   Be sure to go to "Older Posts" at the bottom.]

Friday, March 17, 2017

Quantum Com is Here - In China

The "Quantum Statistical Network" Up & Running?

One of the assumptions in the book is that an instantaneous form of communications has been developed.  It has essentially infinite range, huge bandwidth, is totally secure and error free. Pretty good, eh?  Way sci-fi.

Nobody I know seems aware that the Chinese put up a quantum communications satellite last August. I just found out myself.

Here is a report from January this year saying it's working fine!


So, NASA, DARPA, Prez Trump.... where's the U S of A's response? In A Reluctant God, the "Quantum Statistical Network" was a huge military edge.

(Seems like if one wants to spend a bunch of buck$ on Defense, this would be a starting point.)

Should you get a copy of the book - GREAT idea! - you can read all about the "Quantum Statistical Network" in the "Historical Notes" at the end.

Wait, There's More...

Just as the Chinese seem to be skipping past us (see above), the good guys - the U.S., Canada and Switzerland - are pounding more research stakes into claims rich with quantum gold. To accomplish the communications marvels fictionalized in "quantum statistical networks," gazillions of atoms must be "entangled" (look it up), and that's what is happening. Right. Now.

Read about it here.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Apocalypse 2060

Being Specific

I decided that if I was going to use a "do over" for human civilization - as I clearly do in A Reluctant god - I had better do a full commitment to The Apocalypse, dates and all. Especially I should define how my do-over heroes survived the thing.

So I did. 

The first mention is early in the book ... like this:

The Do Over: After the Climax Battles, 2056 - 2060, the Apocalypse, the surviving bits of humanity were scattered over the planet in desperately defended pockets of livable space, most of which had been designed explicitly for survivability under wartime conditions. They had names like Mount Yamantau, The White House II, Raven Rock Mountain, Xishan Mountain, Site 911, Amhurst Hole, Fordo Qom, The Bunny Bunker, Northwood, Goldman Sachsdown, Q, Cheyenne NORAD and many others. All heavily shielded, deeply buried, redundantly self sufficient, these fastnesses usually doubled as command centers, though some were sybaritic hidey-holes for the extraordinarily rich. Survivors very slowly stuck their heads up. From 2093 through the end of the century, people came out of the protected places to see their ravaged world.

That's the "survived the thing" part.  Specific description of the thing - the nuts and bolts of the apocalypse - is in the very back of the book, like this:


We thought The Great War was bloody, and it bloody well was, but it was a cakewalk compared to what we cooked up about a century after I died. We greatly improved the efficiency of dying.
H.L. Mencken

The Climax Battles
HistoryFet Ludwig Armour

Toward the end of the 21st Century CE, events occurred that were so disturbing to the human population that it led to a massive shift in the behavior of the race.
Between 2056 and 2060 over 99.99 percent of the human population died. Countless other extinctions occurred in the animal and plant kingdoms. Those creatures and plants which avoided extinction underwent sometimes startling changes in their battles to survive.
Whole continents were rendered mostly uninhabitable by virulent toxicities that sprang from the Earth itself, boiled out by disruptive climate changes, but mostly from the weapons of an astonishing number of wars known as the “Climax Battles.” Wars and sub-wars and small, isolated conflicts abounded. As world populations continued to explode, until the climate of the planet spiraled crazily, then warfaring became the occupation of choice for the usual suspects until it metastasized into the only occupation left for practically everybody else.
What remained of journalists labeled these conflicts sectarian wars. However, every descriptor of humanity found adherents, qualifying the co-believers as “sects.” These people desperately formed common cause and gathered together to fight for it. 
In the grander category of nation states, the wars were more focused, and much, much larger. There was a severe decline in inhibitions about using weapons “of mass destruction.” The first barriers to collapse of these inhibitions were with chemical then biological arms. There was a deeper restraint about using nuclear weapons. 
Understandably though, the first response to the ravages of a really successful bioweapon attack was a nuclear riposte. As millions were dying slow, ghastly plague deaths in the first country to receive a full scale bio attack, millions others died rather more rapidly under unspeakably hot fireballs in the counter-attack. The first time it happened to be aimed at the wrong country – failed intelligence at its worst – but it hardly mattered in the big picture of the Apocalypse.
After that historic exchange, everything deteriorated fast. Fear of being attacked simply overrode the last of the sane pickets advising national leaders. “Preemptive” attacks were launched at an ever quickening pace. The atmosphere of Earth thickened with exotic chemical gases and virulent clouds of modified viruses, bacteria and fungi. The vacuum above the atmosphere was aswarm with missiles, decoys and sizzling beams of focused radiation. Armies, Navies, Air Forces, guerrilla bands and lone wolves dispatched themselves into hopeless killing fields, killing who they could before they themselves died.
Making inadvertent history, adventurist journalist Devon Martin, in an armored survival suit watched a city in the American South flash away in nuclear atomization and reported to her diminishing audience, “This is the climax battle. It is the end of Birmingham. I can see the shockwave coming toward me, so I'll say goodbye as I lose my own little climax ba … ” Ms. Martin uploaded everything to the sudden end. The 'climax' term went viral before all networked communication ended around the world. Climax battles they were.
The Net was soon gone, most cities of over 50,000 were gone, small town and rural people were gone to one of many kinds of death, leaving seas of bodies, starting their journeys into final decay from many starting points, but all on that road. 
As in any mass extinction, not everything died.
The surviving bits of plant and animal life that escaped annihilation were luck-driven to various refugia left randomly scattered over the land and in the water of the wounded planet by the random will of Fate.
The human survivors, the few of them there were, came forth from their safe rooms and set about to restart their lives in a ruined world. 
They were alive but psychologically bent. New beliefs were inevitable. They sought comfort in new basic values transmuted from the dross that had grown in the era of uncontrolled ambition and greed, self righteousness and blind certainties of the early-21st century. There were new golden rules. 

After the Apocalypse, bloody war – a basic human behavior – retreated entirely to a game of the mind. In simple terms, the vast majority of humans were possessed by a basal urge to become better. New sacred texts were written and old texts cherry-picked for articulation of the new values. It was a very big deal.

I must note, it is a humbling thing to contemplate the apocalypse. 
But we do it so often, it must be a fun thing too.

GIF credit: Photobucket

  • Peacefulrain09's Bucket/
  • Explosions
  • Tuesday, May 17, 2016

    What Will We Do When There Are No Jobs At All?

    Games, Games, Games

    Sci-Fi can tackle the humongousest of topics. Today, we are seeing the early phases of an employment sea change. "Jobs" as they have evolved from man-pulled plows and sweating forge workers to coders and designers, are beginning to be assumed by our creations. AI and all its progeny will do the work, thank you. Even art and intuitive invention will be done for us, perhaps better than we can do it, a potentially discouraging state of things.

    So how will humanity deal with this? We will be unshackled in a sense. So we must move to a different reality.  Below is how this problem is addressed in A Reluctant God. One of many possible futures.

    Here we discover how odd humans can get. In my day if you had no job you were thought worthless. A great many were, but they thought differently and worked to remedy the situation. In this future where I now unwillingly reside, the unemployed just go to sleep.

    H.L Mencken, A.P.

    Cultural Impact of The Dream Game
    SociologyFet Marcus Singulus

    Over 99 percent of humanity spent most of their lives in the Dream Game. Their bodies were maintained at reasonable fitness levels in their sleep pods, heads resting in induction webs. When a person died in his pod, the Dream Universe took note of his passing. Or hers. Their friends and acquaintances, typically all developed within the Game, held memorials appropriate to the deceased's status. Sometime exceptionally vivid copies were recreated as Dream Artificial Personalities (APs) in tribute.

    Fertile females left the Game for several days to give birth. The centuries of pressed procreation to populate the earth and the expanding empire had faded, but some new blood was needed to replace the passing. Infants were raised by exquisitely designed mamabots that nourished their charges with cloned breast milk from the natural mothers. Almost all of the education and socialization of the children happened in the Game.

    The unavoidable statistic about the population was almost ninety-eight percent of all common citizens spent at least twenty-three standard hours out of every twenty-four sleeping, fully engaged in the planet-wide Games.

    Sleep had been eliminated as a necessity in the sixth century PA. That ancient inheritance from the diurnal crucible of evolution had served purposes from organizing the mind, to embedding memories to renewing libido and defining neuroses, to cleaning protein debris. Then, as the brain was more fully understood it was found that the same benefits could be derived from cleverly designed neurochemicals dispensed from embedded biochips plus programming from embedded nano computers. 

    Still, vast majorities of people chose sleep because as the mysteries of sleep were being solved, there were parallel advances in personal dream control. Dreaming became the superior form of virtual reality. VR, in all its verisimilitude, lacked the direct connection to the primitive brain that dreams have. Dreams to the practiced dreamer were more vivid, more real than reality. Early in life, all citizens of the Empire became expert dreamers. Above all there were the shared dreams, the Dream Game.

    It was this multi-dreamer game that changed the world. It was a godsend to the emerging populations on the Empire planets because there was very little work to be done after each planet was tamed. Artificial intelligence machinery did all the work from manufacturing to distribution to construction to engineering design. Without the Dream Game, citizens would have drifted in self destructive whirlpools of frustration. But the dream universes were conceived by the most creative humans, and one and all were invited to occupy them.

    These dream universes had rules and values, economies and careers, opportunities for entrepreneurs and for criminals, for saints and sadists, for scientists and sensualists, lots of warriors, artists and dilettantes. There were cliques to be formed, hierarchies to be scaled, power to be acquired, fortunes to amass. To a far greater degree than existed in the undemanding reality of most lives, these dream universes were real. The Dream Game was a game in name only. To most of the population it was the more real reality.

    Just as the Fets were being developed to do more and more of the hands-on mind work in the Empire of Earth, the multi-player Dream Game was how a no-work population remained occupied. And very productive in ways not fully understood until the war with Satan.
    - - - - - -

       When I read the tech news today, it seems we are closer and closer to this. Those "novelists" that design today's games are as creative as any writers of fiction ever.