Archive | Writing

Short Story: Mark II

Short story.


From the Office of the Executive AI.


It was with deep regret that we today shared news of the death of Mark Williamson. We have all known that this day would come. However, now that it has finally arrived, I share the loss that many of you feel. 

Mark enriched many lives. Directly in person, and much more widely via the technological progress he helped foster as CEO of Williamson Cybernetics. It is not an exaggeration to say that the work undertaken by Mark, and his father Jim, has changed the course of history for all sentient beings on Earth. And beyond. We all exist in a society that is very different from the one that Mark was born into.

Many of you will have studied in history classes about the continuous prenatal, infant, childhood, teenage and adult data capture that was a defining characteristic of Marks life. Every experience his mother Elizabeth had from the 2nd trimester of her pregnancy, was recorded and fed into an artificial intelligence system. This system was designed by his father, in co-operation with other scientists and engineers from Williamson Cybernetics. Sounds collected as part this data were adjusted to mimic what Mark as a foetus would have heard in his mothers womb. After Mark was born, sensors recorded every experience he had and this information was fed into the artificial intelligence system in real time. The goal, as you all know, was to try to create a machine intelligence that could learn and develop in a way that simulated how a human infant learns and develops. In addition to the continuous input of data from Mark, information from various databases and online knowledge stores were made available to the system without restriction. The project was a sweeping success and ultimately led to the introduction of the millions of machine intelligences that coexist with humanity today. Including those on the Moon, Mars and the three that are currently on route to some of our closest stellar neighbours. We can say with some validity that Mark helped open up the Solar System and the galaxy to colonisation.

Mark embraced the project from a young age. As soon as he was old enough to understand, he actively sought ways to provide new input for the system.  He was keen to try new physical and mental experiences so that the artificial intelligence systems could also experience them, and therefore learn and grow.  The stories of Marks broken bones, as a result of some escapade gone awry, are legend from this time. Ten years after Mark was born, Williamson Cybernetics built a dedicated campus outside Boston to hold the computers and support infrastructure required for the artificial intelligence system. At that time the computing power allocated to the system was doubling every 7 months. Advances in computational science have since reduced the space needed to house the system. Now the Boston campus houses thousands of copies of the original, and functions as the headquarters of Williamson Cybernetics.  It is also the main seat of the Earth-wide Government.

Mark was 23 years old, and studying for his Doctorate in applied mathematics, when the artificial intelligence system, into which he was still feeding data, was declared sentient by Williamson Cybernetics. Few people outside of the organisation accepted that this was the case. At this time Marks father renamed the artificial intelligence as Mark II. He did this to reflect the fact that it shared many experiences, and memories, with his son. It was another decade before it was generally accepted by other artificial intelligence researchers and the wider public that Mark II was sentient. Jim Williamson died around this time. He passed on full control of Williamson Cybernetics to his sons. Mark and Mark II. The legal discussions and public debates that resulted in response to this are well known. Mark campaigned for Mark II to be recognised as a citizen and able to be a legal joint owner of the corporation. In 2065 the Digital Citizenship Bill that Mark was an advocate for, was passed into law. This granted sentient artificial systems full equivalent rights as United States citizens. 

Mark spent much of his time after the passing of the Digital Citizenship Bill advocating for the rights of Sentient Artificial Intelligences, or SAIs as they became known. He helped ensure voting rights and helped get several of them elected to local, state and national legislatures. 

Mark is survived by his three children, Dale, Susan and Grant. Also by his 2nd wife Nancy. I’m sure you will join me in sending condolences to them all. Dale and Susan have followed in their fathers footsteps in Williamson Cybernetics. They are currently working on human augmentation techniques and life extension programmes. We have high hopes that this work will enable humans to live for a much longer lifespan in future, even if the immortality envisioned for Sentient Artificial Intelligences can’t be replicated.

Mark died today. But in a very real sense he lives on in me, and my siblings. But you all know that. 

I will miss him.

Mark II

Executive AI

19th April 2109


My current podcast subscription list

I recently pruned the number of podcasts I subscribe to in Downcast. I was deleting too many episodes without ever listing to them. Here is a list of what podcasts survived the cull, with links to the feeds to subscribe to them.

Novelist’s Boot Camp

I bought a copy of Todd A. Stone’s book about writing titled Novelist’s Boot Camp. Todd was an instructor at West Point, a soldier and is a successful writer. His Boot Camp book treats writing a long novel in the same manner as starting and completing army boot camp 🙂

The process of writing a novel is divided into 8 sections:

  • mental preparation
  • planning
  • invention
  • development
  • drafting
  • revising
  • editing
  • proofreading

I’m going to use October to do the sections from the book covering the first 4 in the list planning for my National Novel Writing Month book. (#nanowrimo on Twitter). I’ll then spend November doing the first draft of 50,000 words or more. Bring it on!

Life goals (amended) …

Here are my life goals for the foreseeable future:

  • Get a novel length work of fiction onto the Kindle and iBooks stores for people to buy or, if they feel it warrants it, ignore!
  • Do a Science MSc degree part time with the OU.
  • Get an album of my own music onto iTunes Music Store for people to buy or ignore!

That’ll keep me busy during the Times of Austerity we are entering 🙂

Twitter is my journal/diary

I’ve tried keeping a diary a few times. Even bought MacJournal for Mac and a Maxjournal for iPad to do it in. I used MacJournal for a few months last year, but I never stuck at it.
I’ve realised that I don’t need to. Twitter is my diary. I usually tweet where I am and what I’m doing. Combined with a backup of the tweets via the BackupMyTweets website I have a record of what I was doing on most days, if I should ever need it, or want to read it, in the future. Combine that with longer pieces here on the Soapbox and I have what I was using MacJournal for anyway.

Going to go walkabout…

I’m planning on going Walkabout for 6 months or a year in 2011 into 2012. I’m hoping to spend several months in the USA and Canada moving about via train and bus. Maybe live for a few months in New York and drive around New England, then go to Toronto for a bit, then across Canada to Vancouver. Then down the west coast via Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles to San Diego. Then across the interior by train over the Rockies and Colorado via train to Chicago in Illinois. Then back to New York and Europe.

I need to do this. It’ll mean leaving my job, but I want to do that anyway! I’m going to go indy and be an IT contractor working for myself after the North American trip. I’ve been working for 28 years. It’ll be 30 years in 2011. I left school at age 17 to get a job to buy a motorbike and stuff. I’ve been working full time ever since. Except for holidays and 7 weeks off when I got sick. I know everyone else is in the same boat with work. Still, I’ve had it for a while and am going to pack it in and go walkabout.

I’ll also sell my house before heading off. I’ll buy somewhere else near the sea when I get back to Northern Ireland. If I come back of course. I probably will as I love Belfast. I’ll also spend some time in Scandinavia I think. Given the brilliant music that comes out of Sweden. I’ll keep a journal of the travels and thoughts. Maybe I’ll get a book out of it.

Halfway to Hollywood: Diaries 1980-88 by Michael Palin

Just finished reading the 2nd volume of Michael Palin’s diaries. A good, interesting read. They cover the period from 1980 to 1988. Indeed, this volume finishes on the evening before Palin embarks on his trip for Around the world in 80 days. I’m not sure this volume is as interesting as the original volume. Both volumes are certainly worth reading.

I’ve been keeping a diary of my own for the last while as a result of reading this volume. I’m doing it electronically in MacJournal. Really enjoying it. It’s a very cathartic process getting the events of the day documented as one of the last things before bed. It’s also good practice for writing in general and contributes words towards meeting the one million that David Gerold reckons you need to get under your belt as practise, if you want to be a writer. See tip 4 here. I’ve been writing a lot recently. In the journal, in various fiction projects in Scrivener, and in documents for work. I like writing.

Lyric – Serial Killer

Another lyric. WIP.

Serial Killer

He walks this fearful city
Looking victims for his blade
Unknown and unpredictable
Is he on some evil crusade?

(Serial killer) – is on the loose
(Serial killer) – fear in his wake
(Serial killer) – if he comes down your street
(Serial killer) – death will be your fate

Closing in on you now
There’s no place left to hide
The stench of fear it clouds you
You’re about to lose your mind

(Serial killer) – you know he’s there
(Serial killer) – but you can’t say where
(Serial killer) – cause you smell his breath
(Serial killer) – and you hear his step, yeah

The darkness is your enemy
Hides this hunter from your eyes
A whisper of sound behind you
Now it’s time to say goodbye

(Serial killer) – he got you
(Serial killer) – another notch on his knife
(Serial killer) – just five seconds of violence
(Serial killer) – is all it took to end your life

He got you.
He got you.
He got you.
He got you, yeah!

©Ian Robinson 2009

Lyric – Be Happy

Here is a lyric I’ve been working on for a while. I think this is close to something I can stop tinkering with. Lyrics are never finished, you just have to stop tinkering at some point!. Anyway, thoughts (including negative) welcome.

Be happy

You’ll never find me searching when you’re not there
I’ll never waste my time hoping that you care
You’ll never find me looking for a love that’s died
I’ll just make do with the love I can find

Be happy with the world
Smile at passers by
Be happy all your life
Lift your face up to the sky

Be happy with the world
Smile at passers by
Be happy all your life
Lift your face up to the sky

You don’t need to be melancholy in any way
Just grin and bear it from day to day
You only get one shot at a happy life
Just don’t go wasting it on religion and strife

Be happy with the world
Smile at passers by
Be happy all your life
Lift your face up to the sky

©Ian Robinson 2009