Month: July 2015

Steal this novel idea!

Book of Revelation art

End of Days, per the Book of Revelation

While reading some dire prognostications about artificial intelligence the other day I came up with an idea for a novel I have no interest in actually writing.

Specifically it was this passage from Tim Urban’s article (see link above) that got me thinking:

What we do know is that humans’ utter dominance on this Earth suggests a clear rule: with intelligence comes power. Which means an ASI, when we create it, will be the most powerful being in the history of life on Earth, and all living things, including humans, will be entirely at its whim—and this might happen in the next few decades.

If our meager brains were able to invent wifi, then something 100 or 1,000 or 1 billion times smarter than we are should have no problem controlling the positioning of each and every atom in the world in any way it likes, at any time—everything we consider magic, every power we imagine a supreme God to have will be as mundane an activity for the ASI as flipping on a light switch is for us. Creating the technology to reverse human aging, curing disease and hunger and even mortality, reprogramming the weather to protect the future of life on Earth—all suddenly possible. Also possible is the immediate end of all life on Earth. As far as we’re concerned, if an ASI comes to being, there is now an omnipotent God on Earth

So the idea is this: it turns out that all that crazy Book of Revelation-type prophecy was basically right all along about the End of Days. It’s just that John the Evangelist was tripping balls and had no clue what machines looked like, so his batshit writing obscured the fact that was he was really describing were hyper-intelligent machines vying for control of the Earth, and that the Anti-Christ and Jesus he saw in his visions were actually God-like AIs. As the singularity happens some astute scholars figure this out but of course not quite in time to prevent it. Chaos ensues. The central question of the novel is that if machines have replaced God what prompted John’s original vision? And if there is another, non-artificial God out there lurking in the cosmos, how does it stack up against the machines?

I have no interest in actually writing this. In fact it’s kind of a rip-off of the movie Prince of Darkness, a terminally goofy (if under-appreciated) horror flick that also hinges on mixed-up Biblical prophecy.

So feel free to steal the idea! I only ask you let me know what you do with it.

Adaptation is scary. Even when it’s fictional.

I’ve watched or listened to work I’ve written be performed exactly four times now. The pieces consisted of two one-act plays (one staged in two different productions) and, more recently, my flash piece “Frankenstein’s Monster” narrated in podcast form. I consider myself fortunate in that I’ve never been totally disgusted with any of the final products. In fact, on the balance I think they’ve turned out quite well (which isn’t to say I’ve always agreed with every choice made in the production process).

Nothing is quite so exciting (or terrifying) as handing over your work with the knowledge that someone else intends to bring it to life. I say this after two one act plays and a podcast. I can only imagine what it’s like for authors who have their work turned into feature films.

I suspect many people find the process frightening because it necessarily requires you to give up creative control. It takes many people to bring even a short fiction piece to life, and like it or not you are trusting them not to deliver any cataclysmic fuck-ups.

Personally I am not overly concerned with control. What gives me anxiety is that a team of actors and others will breathe life into my work only to demonstrate that… well… the work itself is stupid.

There is a certain cognitive bias called the Dunning-Kruger effect

wherein unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their ability to be much higher than is accurate. This bias is attributed to a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their ineptitude. Conversely, highly skilled individuals tend to underestimate their relative competence, erroneously assuming that tasks that are easy for them are also easy for others.

So the really horrible thing about being a no-talent hack is that you are much less likely to realize you’re a no-talent hack. And if there are enough deluded, no-talent hacks out there some of them may decide that your crappy story would make a great (by great what they really mean is crappy) podcast/play/film/television series.

Of course this fear is completely irrational. You’ll probably never know if you’re actually any good, or if the work based on your work is any good. Which is why the only  measuring stick I hold to any performance based on my work is whether I enjoy it.

By that standard I guess I’m pretty happy with how things have turned out.