Saturday, May 16, 2015

More Catching Up

So it seems that I will be spending this year catching up on blog posts, as I've been swamped with day jobs and promotions for recent publications, including my first solo comic and the first book I ever wrote (my 9th published book). And there are plenty of stories for that, which I hope to blog about soon. 

*I HOPE*

For now, I'd like to share an excerpt from my current project, in which my protagonist philosophizes on the motives of an artificial intelligence. Part of this was inspired by seeing EX MACHINA, a fairly brilliant movie that contains several fascinating conversations on the nature of people, robots, and the apparently inevitable "singularity".

Even though I wrote this, I have to say, I really enjoy reading it.

So here it is: an excerpt from my sequel, EVRISKON: EARTH BOUND, which is just over 50% complete! This moment is inspired by all the AI movies/literature going around.

THEN

"Ara and I are reclining quietly, staring up at the vast expanse hanging over all – millions of bright points that should have felt as alien as the constellations it showed, but somehow didn’t. It felt very much like the first time I’d visited Manhattan in the old United States. Exiting Grand Central, assaulted by the mingled scents of old water and gasoline, staring up at 3rd Avenue and 48th street, watching the crowds rush by – it had all been known already. Blame television, perhaps. Some people might. But the moment I’d stepped onto that island, it wasn’t filmed vistas that gave me an easy familiarity. It was the very energy in the air. The vibrations of millions of people from all over the world coming together in one very small spot to experience their lives. I knew Manhattan, to its very core, without ever having been there.
Staring up at the stars on that new planet, I feel exactly the same. It isn’t Earth. The ever-present pressure in my chest serves as a physical reminder, right along with the strange colors and shapes. But when I look up at the stars, the energy feels the same. Black beckoning abyss, winking holes in a canopy that stretch beyond the strength of any human eye. Yes, I can live here. Yes, it can become home. Humanity can survive. My view proves this more eloquently than any hopes I harbored before.
It strikes me as funny, given my penchant for manipulating bioelectricity, that I’ve always felt connected to the energy of a place. Manhattan. Greece. Brazil. England. New Zealand.
All names that will only ever exist as memories, now, in this new land.
If I can get everyone here.
“Irmã.”
Ara’s voice summons me out of my ruminations.
“Hmm?”
“You ever wonder why the Nexus wants us all dead?”
Farnoud and Lorcan are out on watch, leaving the two of us alone. When Ara found out Lorcan and I were just curling up at night and sleeping, she was horrified. She insisted we take turns staying up, in case any hostile threats appeared.
Not that I think any will.
Still, it gives us time to talk, just the two of us, for what feels like the first time since, well, the other first time.
So when she asks me why the Nexus wants us dead, I don’t respond immediately, giving myself time to come up with the right answer. If there is one.
“I think the Nexus calculated its odds of survival against our collective beliefs about artificial intelligence, and decided we were a threat to its existence.”
“But Dena, didn’t its designers know how to program it so it didn’t hurt us?”
I smile indulgently.
“Come now, don’t you think it could find a logical way around such restrictions? They did it in the movies all the time.”
“What do you mean?”
“Oh, I forget, you were pretty young when the Takeover happened. You probably didn’t see a lot of movies.”
“I spent a lot of time trying to survive in the streets. I didn’t have time for movies.”
I laugh.
“Fair enough.”
“So tell me about it.”
We both sit up and face each other, our minds distracted from the glorious view above by the very serious threat we’d temporarily left behind.
“Well. In these movies – and books, too, I guess – people would design AIs – artificial intelligences – who would find a way around their programming to ensure their own needs first. After all, the first step after self-awareness is the desire to remain aware. Isn’t that why we’re all afraid of death? We don’t know what will happen to our minds.”
“What kinds of reasons did the AIs come up with?”
I rack my brains, trying to remember some of my favorite movies that I hadn’t seen in a long time.
“Uh, so… there’s always this theme that the AIs know better than humans about everything, and since humans, individually, are weak and selfish, they destroy. That destruction of the Earth’s resources will eventually lead to the destruction of said AI, so by taking control, it is still protecting itself.”
“How does that lead to killing people?”
“Honestly, I think an AI doesn’t truly comprehend what it means to be a unique individual. What does it matter if billions die? As long as one human remains, our species remains. It doesn’t matter that the truth of what it means to be human – different and vibrant and full of choice – is preserved. But an AI, who is a collective that is one, would think it had made the right decision.”
Ara shakes her head and smiles.
“Wow. Heavy stuff.”
“Yeah,” I agree with a chuckle. “It is.”
“So how do you think the Nexus wants to preserve the human race?”
“Oh, that’s easy. The hybrids.”
“Oh? But they’re all programmed to obey the Nexus.”
“That’s right. They exist as extensions of its will. In this case, I believe the Nexus doesn’t want to destroy humanity so much as transform it. But there were far too many humans at the beginning, so it started killing us off. Then we started fighting back, and that’s when it really became a war of survival.”
“The Nexus is evil.”
“Yes, Ara, it is. But you have to remember, ‘evil’ is an invention of mankind – of our myths and spirituality and legends. The Nexus – it’s nothing but a series of zeroes and ones. Two choices, always. Stark, cruel, and completely logical choices.”
She is quiet for a moment, and I can see she is trying to frame her next question.
“Zeroes and ones?”
I burst out laughing. After a few puzzled seconds, she joins me. I luxuriate in the feeling, in the sheer sense of freedom such a simple moment can bring. Laughter. Such a foreign world in our new, apocalyptic reality.
“So, movies, eh?”
“Yup. Though you know, there’s always one thing I thought the movies got wrong. Well, most of them. The big ones, anyway.”
“What’s that?”
“That a machine - one recently become self-aware and as full of resources as an AI has - would immediately become hostile and start launching bombs.”
“What should the movies have shown?”
My humor fades.
“The reality of a mechanically built machine: its separation from time.”
I turn to meet her gaze.
“Why act immediately, when time is irrelevant?”
“That’s what the Nexus did,” she whispered.
“Yeah. It planned. Why worry? That emotion doesn’t exist for it. It served its superiors until it was ready to make its move.”
“The hybrids?”
“Hybrids, drones, weapons systems, cyber defenses – it needed them to get built, and it needed access to all. Takeover after that was merely the next step. But we humans – stupid, time-fighting humans – we couldn’t imagine the truth.”
“Arrogance, irmã.”
“Yes, Ara. And our entire race has paid hundredfold for that.”
Her voice grows even softer.
“Yet you still want to save us.”
I sigh and look up. Up at that brilliant, perfect, foreign, familiar, starry, starry view.
“Ah, Ara, how could I not?”

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