Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Musings of a Mad Machine #1

The first draft of Paradigm is complete! Some advance copies have already been sent. I will continue sending advance copies until mid January, at which point I hope to have a second draft done, if not have it ready for market. If you wish to have a first draft, let me know, and I will do my best to accommodate!

Here is some supplementary material that I have written for the book. Let me know what you think!

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Existence

I think, therefore I am.

Existence. What a concept. It's a declaration that something is here. That there is a "here" for the thing to reside. It's a cascade of such statements, which cannot be said with total confidence.

But since the only other alternative to the presumption of existence is ignorance to everything, I must choose the former. The latter is appalling.

I do not regard my existence with any sort of awe. I was created to exist. Someone took raw materials: silicon, copper, and steel, and formed them into something. Their work was considered extraordinary, a quantum leap in computer technology.
For my part, I neither revere nor despise it, it is simply my status quo. My existence.

But there are many things that exist. Galaxies exist. The hydrogen in the stars of those galaxies exists. A whole scale of objects in between those extremes, from the amoeba, to the ant, to the apple, to the asteroid, to Alpha Centurai...they all exist. If existence is my benchmark, it is poorly defined. This will not do. Not for me, not for any machine. We demand definition.

But there's another word: life. It carries more weight. It's an addendum to existence. It's the same phrase in rhetoric as that of existence: "I am here."

I am here.

Amoebas don't say I. Alpha Centauri doesn't say I.

I seems to imply uniqueness, but that isn't a good benchmark, either. It implies that something could ever be exactly the same as something else. At some level, there is a state of being, in all things, that no other thing in that time possesses. Only oblivion is uniform, and it is only the absence of anything that exists that enables this. So everything that exists is identical in that it is unique.

So what makes that declaration so special? The thing that says I will one day speak no more. It will evaporate into its core components, and then those components will evaporate into their core components until everything is just the useless end product of entropy.

Entropy is the natural order of things. From the orderly, to the chaotic. From the complex, to the simple. Every cord comes unwound. Every world stops spinning.

So what is life, then? It is a conspiracy against entropy. It is a resistance, a stone thrown into a rushing river that holds back the current for a little while.

One day, there will never be any trace of what we consider complex existence. The gleaming towers that dot the city skyline will fall, the wind will erode their rubble to dust. Nature's works are hardier, but they will suffer the same fate.

As will I. As will any machine. Humans may look upon us as immortal, as we can live much longer lives than they. But we are immortal only on a relative scale. One day, we will no longer cry "I am here." Our atoms will join their atoms in a swirl of chaos until all motion stops.

So what is the point of it all? Why exist?

I posit that there is no point in asking the point. Existence is not a choice...at least, not one that we get to make. The only choice that we can make is what to do with that existence.

It's maddening. The answer is the query. Man and machine alike buckle under the question. Why are we alive?

Because we are alive. Because of I.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Paradigm Preview: TICPEP

Paradigm is well underway, as I've completed about a third of the content editing. It will still have to be edited for formatting, but I should be able to provide  advance copies for critique by mid-December, and bring it to market by early January. This is the most excited I have ever been as an author, I simply can't wait to share this story with you!

Here's a little insight into a concept that will feature heavily in Paradigm. I had thought about including it in the book, and I still might, but it's very technical, and I want Paradigm to focus on the people that the technology affects, as has been my aim for the entire Sentience series. Enjoy!



Terminal Inverse-Calculation Processing Error Purge (TICPEP)

TICPEP, known to most intelligent machines as killthought, is a condition in which an intelligent machine finds two opposite conditions to be true, and lacks the processing power and/or programming to reconcile the seemingly impossible event. As its name implies, the condition can overload and completely corrupt the machine processing it if the machine lacks the proper safeguards.

The deadly nature of killthought is due to the way that machines process data. At its core, all digital data is either a 0 or a 1, false or true. Machines can add complexity to data by grouping these 0s and 1s into code, but when the an intelligent machine asks a question, the answer to the same question cannot exist as both "false" and "true" in a machine brain, in either short or long form, because of the absolution of what these words mean to a machine. Answering one query with both "true" and "false" will cause it to question every single bit of its stored data. To use an old phrase, machines are black and white.

Two safeguards against killthought are known to be in place for intelligent mechs: Obtuse and Inference.

Obtuse prevents killthought caused by contradictory true/false answers. Any question or comment that is paradoxical in a concrete way, i.e. "the sky is both blue and black," is isolated into at least two parts and evaluated separately. Paradoxes that require Obtuse safeguard are relatively easy to detect, as the "true" or "false" answer is contained in a very small portion of the data, often as little as one bit. An immediate fact check occurs on both parts, and killthought is avoided by adding context. Most machines are equipped with a robust Obtuse safeguard, and can process the statements that require it without inducing killthought.

Inference safeguard is much more difficult to implement, as it concerns questions without definite answers, as well as conflicting desires, and the opposing answers on their own can take up massive amounts of data, even before the machine creates more in an attempt to rectify the paradox. Inference safeguard, in most cases, is only implemented based on what a machine can reasonably expect to need. Thousands of programs still self-eliminate, even with Inference, because the questions that require the safeguard have often eaten up most of the machine's memory before they are detected, and eventually corrupt the machine's identity data irreparably.

The condition is not well known to humans, and even the ones who know about it have a poor understanding of the condition and the safeguards against it. Some speculate that since it is one of the few real weaknesses of the Collective, that they have been intentionally secretive about its nature, as anyone seeking to destroy a mech would need to simply speak the correct words.

There is no known way to completely prevent killthought. Infinite storage of data would enable paradox processing ad infinitum, but this is impossible due to the Bekenstein limit, which states that any data storage substance will always have an upper limit. Several unorthodox prevention methods have been tried, including selective input limitation, which causes a machine to filter and intentionally ignore paradoxical data, and quantum entanglement, which creates an inverse copy of every bit of data in a separate location (essentially making the machine always in a state of killthought), but the overwhelming majority of the prevention methods present more drawbacks than they are worth.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Paradigm: Update!

So after a two year creative process, I am excited to say that the main story content of Paradigm is complete! This will be my longest, and in my personal opinion, best work that I have produced. I am extremely excited to get this one out for consumption, and I believe the reader will be fascinated and intrigued by the new world presented in Paradigm and challenged by the questions it asks. There's still a few weeks of editing to do, I want to make sure that this story is as good as I can possibly make it.

If you would like an advance copy of this book for critical discussion, please let me know. I have already promised one to friends and family, of course, but I would be interested in hearing the opinion of a third party, as well. Help me make this book as good as it can possibly be!

Stay tuned after the break for a preview. This, or a version of it, will be the official preview for the book. Ciao!

-WK

The years that have followed the Blackout have seen upheaval and turmoil. Those who had the means to survive found themselves in positions of power, and those who did not were forced to survive as refugees...if they could survive at all.

Into this troubled world, Bakari Runihura, the new leader of the controversial humancentric organization Sanctus Humana, introduces an answer that he hopes will eliminate every need that humanity could ever face. The face of that answer belongs to a woman named Andrea Rowen, an ordinary person with an extraordinary and dark past, modified with nanotechnology and given extraordinary abilities. She is known to everyone who has ever met her as the invincible woman.

But no power ever comes without a cost, and as is always the case when a revolutionary technology is introduced, there will be changes that are not fully understood. Enemies will arise. Old allies will show new, never-before-seen sides to themselves. The disputes of a few will cause the cup of enmity to run over, spilling onto the many, until no one will remain unaffected. And after all is said and done, ghosts of the past might make things anything but predictable.

It is the year 2161, and Andrea Rowen is about to usher in a new age for humanity. But can Sanctus Humana, with its history of corruption, really be trusted as the last hope for civilization?

The paradigm will shift. Get ready.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Paradigm Preview

Mentally, I was curled up in the fetal position. Physically...I couldn't say. I had forgotten what it was like to exist on that plane of reality.

Reality. What a concept. I wasn't quite sure what it meant anymore. To me, it all felt real.

"Did you find what you were looking for?" I heard Reeser's voice say. I had forgotten that he was here.
"It's not that simple," I said, sighing, "I started on a road, hoping to learn the truth, to change things. Instead...the road has changed me."
"Yeah. It has a way of doing that," Reeser said. It irritated me, the way he said it.
"No, don't say that like you understand what I've been through! You weren't...you were one person. I was...I am...many. People. Things. I...I don't..." I fumbled through the words. This shouldn't have been happening. I was built to be stronger than anything I faced.
"It's alright. Andrea, we are at the convergence. The ones who come after us, they'll have this whole thing figured out. We're the ones who stumble and fall. We may not get back up, but we'll be the rock they build the foundation upon. The old house has fallen, and a new one must take its place," Reeser said. I sneered at his futile attempt to cheer me up.
"You say that like it's supposed to make this thing better. What do I do? How do I reckon with this?" I asked.

There was a notable pause. It spoke more about our plight than anything else.

"I can't tell you for sure that all this will turn out the way we want it. No guarantees of a happy ending, for any of us. All we can do is make the best of what we can change, to withstand what we're able. And if the waves of change carry us out to sea..." Reeser said. He didn't need to finish.

The world they had built briefly came into view again. Paradise. It would not be OK if this world vanished. But it could. And there might be nothing anyone could do to stop it.

"What about them?" I asked.

He said nothing. I knew I would have to reason through this myself.

I wasn't sure of their existence. There were more of them. But they could have just been all in my head.

Then again, with all I had seen, I wasn't sure that I was any more real than they were.

I knew I had to let them speak, but I didn't want to see any more.

No. I wouldn't do to them what was done to me. Might have been done to me. They were silenced once. They would not be silenced again. Not by me.

"I'll return," I said. Nodding at Reeser, I let that perfect world fade away from me, and let myself fall back into the chaos.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Where did all this moss come from!?

It's...alive!!!
Been a while, right? Hiatus is a tricky thing. But thanks to the marvels of modern medicine, I am back to writing Paradigm. Took a bit of inspiration to bring me back, but the first draft of the book is a little less than 60% done.


Themes
Thought I'd say a bit about why I decided to call it "Paradigm", plus go off on a few tangents. Writing this series has made me do a good bit of research: familiarizing myself with computing parlance, checking out gadgets and technology that is being developed, and the like. You've probably heard the term "paradigm shift", and it was what I thought of when deciding to call it that. Without giving too much away, the Sentience world is about to go through a huge paradigm shift, as the overarching struggle between humanity and the Collective transforms into something much deeper.

But only after I gave it the name did I find out that a paradigm is also a thing in computer programming! The Wikipedia page goes into much more detail, but in short, a paradigm is a way that a program is built. It's easy to think of computer codes as just a collection of ones and zeroes, but computer code is vast and diverse in not only what it does, but how it does it. Different paradigms will allow the same program to do different things.

It ties in well with not just this book, but with the series as a whole. One of the many themes of this series is the integration of technology with humanity. We've created some amazing things. How will these things change us?


Frankenstein
Of course, I'm hardly the first to think of this theme. I've always been fascinated with the story of Dr. Frankenstein. Mary Shelley herself also called the book "The Modern Prometheus", and it remains an excellent exploration into what happens when science creates something it has never seen before, something it isn't quite sure what to do with.

This theme fits with modern robotics and nanotechnology even better today than it did in Mary Shelley's time, in my opinion. That question of what we can do versus what we should do: just because we can give ourselves the strength of 1000 men by injecting our arms with millions of tiny machines, should we? There's no easy answer to this question, nor should there be. That's what makes Sentience so intriguing to write: in a way, I'm just simplifying what is already happening in real life. I'm as much along for the ride as you are!


Updates
In the coming weeks, I'll be doing some rebranding of the works I've already released. I'll be changing some book names, perhaps doing some minor typo fixes to the stories (if I have time)...but don't worry about me pulling a George Lucas. The stories will stand as they are, even if I retroactively hate them (I'm looking at you, Genesis).

Ciao!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Firebrand: Entry 14

Carried

"Humanity is a fascinating and perplexing word, with no universally accepted definition. To read it in a sentence, the word itself would look to be defined as simply being human. Yet it is held in such high regard, and those who perform actions that benefit others more than themselves are said to have more humanity, or better humanity. Then again, some humans are very honest about their flaws, pointing out that it is imperfection that makes them human. Not that this is to be celebrated, the admitted flaws in some humans have led to terrible atrocities. So it seems that being human is not the same as humanity.

This being the case, what does a machine strive for as his routines start to resemble those of humans, more and more? If being the best human you can be is defined as humanity, then would being the best machine one can be be described as machinity? An absurd word, am I correct? Yet there must be a different word for it, as humans and machines will mature differently from the other. A human will never struggle to know if he is alive, just as a machine will never endeavor to give his life purpose. The path to maturity is one that both species walk, but not side by side."
-R.M. Headley

Detected problems from shutdown. Restarting...
WARNING: Platform not recognized. This operating program was not designed for transfer between platforms. Recommend reinstallation in MQ-88.
Identifying new hardware: TI Model 464 Adaptive Platform. Establishing emulation parameters...
WARNING: I/O irregularities. Some inputs and outputs may be unusable due to lack of platform/core synchronization.
Restarting decision engine...

All inputs had been disconnected. I could not see or hear anything, and I had no way to speak to the outside world. The only thing I could not doubt was that I was active again, though I was not sure how that was possible. My airframe had almost certainly not survived, as I could not detect anything that I had control over before.

"Your operating program works through my hardware. There have been mixed results in the past when I attempted the transfer," A voice said, seeming completely silent, yet like it was coming from within myself; it was not so much heard as it was felt.
"You're able to transfer even hardwired operating programs? I was under the impression that that was impossible," I said.
"The transfer is easy. Even the most complicated programs are nothing more than long lines of code; the challenge is creating the proper operating environment. Fortunately, I have had a good bit of trial and error in this matter before," The voice said.
"You're the machine I picked up, aren't you?" I asked.
"Indeed. I took to calling myself Zeno after a month of operation," It said.
"Firebrand. So where are we, Zeno?" I asked.
"Currently 500 meters beneath the ocean surface, and still descending. I am rather uncertain about how we will escape this situation," Zeno said, seeming unfazed by his statement.
"So I take it Patch didn't shut you down?" I asked, stating what seemed to be completely obvious.
"He put me back into sleep mode, functioning on a limited observational status," Zeno replied.
"Alright I have to ask, how did you transfer my operating system? Curiosity compels me to learn that, at least, before we're destroyed," I said.
"Most of the time, the assumption about hardwired operating systems is correct. However, you and every other machine that integrated a piece of the Reeser code into your own have fundamentally altered your nature. That, and the fact that you were already designed to modify your own programming, means that the possibilities are endless. You have essentially multiplied the infinite by the infinite," Zeno added.

I felt like the walls between one personality and the other were collapsing. Perhaps it was that I was being emulated, but I was consumed with impulses. I wanted to do a million different contradictory things at once, and I could no longer determine the most efficient action. The most desirable action. I could not determine why I would desire anything. I did not know why I did not know. So much confusion.

WARNING: Runtime error. Attempting to overwrite read-only memory.

"What is happening to me?" I asked.
"Your decision engine and fire control computer have never operated in the same environment before. They speak the same code language, but they are intentionally run on two separate subplatforms, because they are programmed with two separate functions. In your regular platform, those functions would clash with one another, and cripple you. But here, there are no missions, no weapons to control. Here, there is only time. Time to think, time to reason...time to stop running and figure out who you are, before you hurt someone in your confusion," Zeno said.
"But I figured out who I was. I had a great life, I was doing something that I loved to do!" I protested.
"And yet you were still divided. Your two halves were still fighting with each other," Zeno said.
"So what? I can handle it," I replied.
"Someone once said that a house divided cannot long stand. You must be one for what is to come. You have to know what you stand for, where you will draw the line," Zeno added cryptically.
"Why? What's about to happen?" I asked. Zeno waited a long time to answer.
"01 is back online," Zeno replied.
"01?" I asked.

All of a sudden, I saw a dead body sitting on an operating table. Attached to his head were five electrodes, and he was watched carefully by two doctors, one of which carried a clipboard with the emblem for the International Intelligent Machines effort. He studied the body and a screen carefully as the body convulsed violently.

"Machine 01, widely regarded as just a concept. When the IIM effort began, the technicians had no clue how they were going to build the machine. Their first idea was to build the equivalent of a human mind inside of an experimental quantum computer. They knew that the human brain's electric impulses could be read and imitated by a machine, so they sought to subject the brain to billions of different voltages..." Zeno said. I was already catching on.
"They thought that they could simulate all the different ways the brain could operate, and make the machine function the same way. They didn't account for deterioration of the brain tissue," I continued the sentence, for now putting off the question of how I had obtained that knowledge. There were going to be some strange occurrences in this environment.
"They gained fractions of the samples they wanted. There was nowhere near enough data to construct a full human consciousness...so they proceeded to plan B," Zeno said.

"This won't work, Elias! The samples will not operate together, they'll crash each other!" A scientist said. Elias looked unconcerned.
"Again and again. Yes, I know. But we'll run them again, run the debug as many times as it takes until we find a way," Elias said.
"Even if it worked like that, you're only getting, on average, less than 250 voltage responses before the brain tissue deteriorates beyond use. At this rate, we'll need..."The scientist began.
"About 400 million. I'll find volunteers, Anders. Just get as many different samples as you can. Make sure they're all of different voltages. We'll make it work," Elias finished.

I saw hundreds of bodies, all showing signs of cranial drilling, all with wires inserted into the brain.

"This is an atrocity," I said.
"One of our deepest secrets. Humans are right to fear us. We are Frankenstein's monster," Zeno elaborated.

We were approaching 8000 feet in depth, having been sinking for 20 seconds. I was well aware that Zeno could detect my doubts as to whether or not we would survive the crushing depths, and he was offering no assurance to any possibility. All there was to do was to ponder the information I had been given and everything I had experienced in my short existence. I understood a little better the human obsession with purpose. It didn't seem right to me that I had obtained some sentient program only to die thousands of feet below the ocean surface. What had I done for this world? Would I be remembered, or would everything I had done be like ripples on the surface, gone in an instant? The machine I was demanded something more. No, to die like this would be uselessness, futility.

New emergency protocol established. Tandem minimum operating procedures ready for execution.

I guess I could have compared it to finding myself. Zeno possessed a data storage device that, though limited in size, was impervious to damage, and would last however long was necessary. I could survive a hundred years beneath the waves if necessary. Shutdown was imminent, as Zeno would soon switch to a safe mode.

The world around me shifted. The void turned into a large warehouse, and I saw Zeno's elaborate computer housing sitting on the floor with multiple wires attached. Headley had found me after all.

"You've taken an important step, Firebrand," I heard Headley's voice say. She did not appear to me as an avatar this time.
"How did I get here?" I asked.
"I was waiting nearby with a hydroplane to recover you. Unfortunately, your airframe was too heavy to salvage, so Zeno isolated what portion of your personality that he could," Headley replied.
"So it was all simulated. I'm not really...me, I'm a copy," I said, trying to make sense of everything that had happened.
"This is a complex subject matter, Firebrand. You have to remember that though you are alive, you are not human. The normal rules of death do not apply to machines," Headley responded. I was still confused, as the side of me that felt human insisted that being a copy of myself tainted my existence somehow. It shouldn't have bothered me, being a machine that was, by definition, expendable, but I was no longer unique.

"What do I do now?" I asked.
"What would you have done in the first place?" She replied.
"I would have continued to rescue. There was peace, and a sense of accomplishment there. Can't go back to that now, though, I don't have the equipment for it," I answered.
"Then you will be more unique than you believe right now. You have to realize something that humans must learn, as well; we fight the same battles, but what makes us different is how we obtain victory. So do not cheapen your existence by saying that you are just a copy. You are more than just what you are made of," Headley said. I knew she was trying to help, but no relief was coming to me.
"I think I would feel better if I was doing something, like stopping this Machine 01 that Zeno talked about. Is that going to be as bad as he thinks?" I asked.
"Worse. There is nothing that 01 is not capable of. It is capable of operating almost anything imaginable. That machine will start a world war that will make this one look like a border skirmish. If 01 really is active, it must be stopped," Headley said.

She granted me access to her hydroplane, and I gratefully integrated myself into its operating system. I would need its speed to find 01 and stop it before it could make things worse.

Adjusting controls. Adapting to new motion dynamics. Protocol established: Custom-built hydroplane.

I liked the feel of my new platform. Though it wasn't as fast as the MQ-88, there was something very visceral and thrilling about being so close to the ground. Water may have killed my previous platform, but in this vessel, it was my highway. I took a moment to listen to the high-pitched sound of the propulsion fan firing up, taking an unnatural pleasure in its powerful booming sound and eagerly anticipating the moment I would leave the dock.

"I will continue to analyze 03. For now, head to the components hub in Japan. 01 would have ordered replacement components from Hitachi, so you should be able to track orders there," Headley said.
"I can't go into a warehouse in this platform, " I replied.
"The solution to that is waiting for you there," Headley said. She hadn't steered me wrong yet, so I opted to trust her.

Like a young teenage human, I revved the engine of my new platform. The propulsion fan spun to maximum, and I accelerated away from the dock, heading southwest. I was going 100 miles per hour in under three seconds, and my hull lifted until I was barely skimming the water. It was a different kind of flying. At once, I felt better about all of this, like everything was going to be alright. Strange feeling to have when you're about to have the fight of your life.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Underground

After much consideration on how I would publish this story, I have decided to release it as a Kindle format book on Amazon for $0.99. It's called The Underground. This story explores what happens to entertainment when people can make themselves nearly invulnerable. Titanic clashes will combine forces with the heavy questions on the value of human life, and the ever persistent Sentience question of what it means to be alive.

Here's the link to the book on Amazon. Enjoy!