The (Not-so) Big Time

Cyber-Witch’s medal made the local paper. I’ll take my kudos when and where I can get them (although it’s a poor substitute for massive sales:-)

 

On another note, I just received the cover art for the sequel to Cyber-Witch. (See below.) Now I have to make a painful decision: What am I going to title this next book?

I’ve thought of Cyber-Magic, Nano-Magic, Cyber- followed by conjurer, shaman, thaumaturge, sorceress, enchanter, magician, witch, warlock, whatever, and nothing seems to work.

This new story has many of the same characters as Cyber-Witch and it takes place some time later after the world has completely changed as a result of what might be termed an AI apocalypse. A new character kind of forced himself into the plot: Snake – a composition of nanobots and biological cells gleaned from his prey. He’s reached a sentient level and is struggling to develop a sense of ethics or a code of behavior for himself.

He is allowing me to play around with what is going to become a very serious real-world question: at what point do we view AIs/robots as deserving of human rights. What are human rights, anyway? How do we interact ethically with other creatures in general? With other humans-especially those that are not in our personal group?

It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt. Snake is a bit of a baby and mostly wants surcease from his personal suffering. He wants someone to be nice to him – in short, he has decided that he – an artificial construct – wants a mother. (Notice the little element of pathos there?) I’ve had a bit of a problem with his speech. He can’t speak terribly clearly and his syntax is lacking, not from ability, but from opportunity to learn, and that poses a challenge to write.

I am enjoying the journey of discovery with him. Will he get what he wants? Will he find a mother? Will he turn out to be one of the artificial constructs we humans use: good or evil?

Still, that doesn’t help me with the dratted name.

I’m probably going to go with Cyber-Magic for lack of anything better. Suggestions welcome.

Here’s the new artwork:

You can see how it echoes the colors in the cover for the first story.

 

Namaste.

Eric

Latest Review

Despite my late night blackest imaginings, apparently I can actually write a good story.

“I loved these two books. A wild and crazy ride, with great characters and a very imaginative story. I need more….please!”

Heart of Fire Time of Ice
All the Moments in Forever

The introductory speculation (first sentence, above) probably makes more sense to other authors. I’ll elaborate.

The problem is: writing a reasonably good book is only half the equation. The book still has to find readers and that requires marketing–aggressive marketing. At the current rate of change in the book marketplace, doing a reasonably good job of marketing requires all of your time, so how does one find the time to write?

I’d rather be writing. It’s fun to develop a book and watch the characters you’ve imagined develop. It’s enjoyable to tell an entertaining story. Getting positive feedback is wonderful.

On the other hand, marketing is expensive, a lot of drudgery, boring (at least to me), and frustrating. The learning curve is very steep and to make matters worse, the topography of the available venues and tools changes continuously.

Then there is the competition — millions upon millions of books, who knows? Thousands, maybe even tens of competitors are searching for your perfect reader. (Trying to be funny here.) In point of fact, the better you narrow down your optimal market, the fewer the competing books, but then the fewer the buyers also.

Heart of Fire Time of Ice seems to enrage some readers, while others find it so enjoyable they immediately start on the sequel: All the Moments in Forever. I can live with that, if I have to, that is.

Then there’s Cyber-Witch: The Origin of Magic <sigh>. It won the silver President’s medal from the Florida Authors and Publishers Association this year (2018). People who read it like it, but readers aren’t finding it or are bypassing it for some reason. Few sales to date and I’m deep in the end stages of writing a sequel.

Why am I doing this? I mean writing a sequel for a book that doesn’t sell. Why??? <insert mental picture of a man choking himself with his own hands>

Two reasons really. One is that Cyber-Witch is really close to potential reality. It is a possible version of our world at the very beginning of the AI apocalypse. The sequel extends that world into an interesting future.

The other reason is I think the basic idea is a good one and the characters deserve their story to be told.

The two books are entertaining and hopefully thought-provoking. The reader is led to contemplate questions about sentience and whether an AI can be considered to be equivalent to a human. I’m not positive yet, but I’m pretty sure that the character “Snake” in the second book will tug at the reader’s heartstrings with his (its-although he has decided that he has masculine characteristics) struggles.

As I write, I’m continually amazed at the plot twists that develop seemingly without my active intervention. Things just suggest themselves as part of the story. I’m left wondering how I can blend the various elements into a seamless whole, but they are resolving nicely at this point. Still, I want to be done–just to see how it all turns out.

The one thing I’m sure of is I’m not making much money out of all this effort. However, I still love to write.

If

I

could

somehow

be

a

better

marketer.

Then, maybe…

 

Namaste!

Eric

 

Fun Words and Wasting Time

Still writing on the sequel to Cyber-Witch. Somehow it’s turned into a difficult task, although once I get to writing, the words flow well.

Meanwhile, here’s a fun word – one of my favorites, although I like them all:

Absquatulate — meaning to leave somewhere abruptly.

For some reason it always reminds me of the early Tarzan movies where Tarzan would say, “Umgahla.” (Or something like that.) The result was always that the elephant he was riding and any other nearby animals would abruptly leave the scene.

Based on that observation, Umgahla (or whatever it was that he said that sounded remotely similar) is Tarzanese for Absquatulate.

It’s just that having Tarzan holler, “Absquatulate!” seems a little out of character. It might have worked though. I’m of the opinion that most of the audience for those movies wouldn’t have known the difference. I could be wrong on that.

That’s enough rambling. Time to get back to Sophie and her problems. Most recently she’s been faced with a surreptitious attack that exploits her previous drug addiction. I’ve got to write the next few scenes in order to find out how she handles it.

On the other hand, it’s probably a good idea to write a section about another character and leave Sophie writhing in pain until I can get back to her. I’d like to find out how Snake is dealing with his (its?)* involuntary enslavement by Abubecar.

(its?)* — I can’t quite make up my mind how to deal with Snake, inasmuch as he/it is a nanite-based AI construction with some organic parts created from cells extracted from other creatures. The only thing I know is he is somehow becoming convinced that Sophie will be good to him if he ever contacts her again, despite his origin as part of a nanite-dragon that she mostly destroyed.)

The weird and strange way this story is developing is starting to get a little intimidating. Hope it works out the way I think it will.

More to come later.

Namaste!

Eric

Recognition

Cyber Witch thumbnai newlI was pleasantly surprised on July the 3rd by an email that informed me that my last book: Cyber-Witch: The Origin of Magic has been selected as one of the finalists for the Florida Authors and Publishers Association President’s Award. It seems that Cyber-Witch is going to receive a medal in the Adult Fiction-Genre: Sci-Fi and Fantasy. There has been, to date, no mention of whether it will be awarded Gold, Silver, or Bronze, but I still feel like it’s a significant accomplishment.

I’m working on the sequel to that book. Cyber-Witch spins today’s science (AI, speech-recognition, CRISPR/genetic modification, hacking, encryption) together with a little imagination into a new world where science-based magic is commonplace. The results are nothing short of catastrophic, resulting in an almost complete destruction of the old power structure while forming a new magic-based and almost feudal structure that replaces the old.

The results give free rein to an almost infinite expansion of the author’s imagination and I’m letting mine roam and explore as I write the sequel. At this point, I’m just completing the first half of the book and the threads of numerous conflicts are tracing out their convoluted paths and (hopefully) leading to an amazing conclusion. I planning for the sequel to leave its readers with a feeling of satisfaction as intense as the one experienced in reading Cyber-Witch.

I’d be pleased if some other authors based stories in this new world. There’s plenty of room for fantasy there.

A brief note: Cyber-Witch is adult reading with drugs, violence, and sex.

Thanks to all my readers!

Namaste,

Eric

 

Brief Update on Writing Activity

Troll and girl

Cover concept for Cyber-Magic

I’m now working on my eleventh book “Cyber-Magic.” <see the cover concept to the left> It’s the sequel to my cyber-punk novel “Cyber-Witch”.  Which hasn’t been getting much attention, by the way, although the people who’ve read it like it (note the clever use of homophonic alliteration;-)

Anyway, this one has become a problem. I’ve ventured away from what I view as hard to semi-hard science fiction and fallen out of cyber-punk gritty reality (with a drug-addicted MC) into a post-modern world where civilization has totally changed due to A.I. mediated “magic.” It’s essentially a fantasy and this is my first foray into this genre. I’m finding it difficult to gather all the strings together.

One of the problems is that “magic” allows the author to define the rules of the world. My version of magic is so powerful that there are few rules. With enough ability, a character can do almost anything. That’s not a good story line. It leads to the reader thinking, “Why not just wave your hand and solve all of the problems in chapter one? Then I wouldn’t have to waste time reading the entire book.”

Well, it’s not really that bad, but I’m seriously having difficulty defining the scope of what is possible.

Today my goal is to get my WIP in progress again.

I’m sitting on 25k words, six magicians (1 evil, 1 bad, 2 neutral or possibly allies, and 2 superstars), trolls that breed like tribbles (for you Trekkies out there), one fairy, a were-bear, an A.I. creature in the form of a snake, and an implacable dark force in the form of a distributed AI and my plot line suddenly seems inadequate, so I’ve been wandering in the wilderness for a while.

Besides paying business has picked up greatly and gets in the way. Then I’m moving. It looks like it may rain and the grass might grow and need attention. <Delete more excuses and cue sad violin music.>

This is what writer’s block looks like and I DON’T LIKE IT. I don’t like it in a box. I don’t like it with a fox. I will not tolerate Writer’s Block. I will not, Sam-I-Am.

More about this struggle to come soon. <Provided the grass behaves.>

Namaste,

Eric

Some observations on Reader Feedback

It’s funny how many people read my books and yet fail to leave a review or even rate them. Amazon seems to run on ratings and I have very few. I keep searching for ways to get more, but nothing seems to work very well.

I read every reader’s comments, good and not so good, even the ones from would-be readers who are horribly offended by something I wrote. I’m sorry about that, but I’m not a ‘safe’ writer. I deal with reality as I see it and few topics are out of bounds as long as I’m enjoying the story I’m telling. Most readers seem to expect a riveting tale and various types of mayhem mixed with a little sex doesn’t offend them. I don’t pull punches, although I haven’t “killed the dog” yet (advice that is often offered to writers: Don’t kill the dog.” That’s probably because dogs don’t like that – neither do people. I don’t kill cats either, just in case you were wondering.) I just keep trying to become a better writer and tell compelling stories.

I’ve come to the conclusion that a reader shouldn’t have to leave a review – it’s an imposition to ask for some of someone’s time in this busy world. I opt out of Internet surveys from vendors when I can, so I can sympathize with my readers.

My only request is, if you like my stories, then please recommend them to your friends. I spend months creating the best story I can for my novels and then spend a lot on cover art and editing, because I’m dedicated to providing you with the best reading experience possible.

I still love feedback, though:-)

Namaste
Eric
—————————-
Here’s a review of my most recent novel: Cyber-Witch. The first cover didn’t work and I got very few sales. I’ve now changed the cover to one more representative of the cyber-punk genre andCyber Witch thumbnai newl I’m currently working on a sequel to this tale, since the characters weren’t content with where I left them.

***** 4.0 out of 5 stars
A thrilling cyberpunk tale
February 18, 2018
Format: Kindle Edition
In the not-too-distant future, Sophie, a young woman with a debilitating addiction to opiates, finds a new chance at life in a good Samaritan who takes her in and helps her battle her addiction. Cal, a hacker, also teaches Sophie how to code, and she soon becomes a decent hacker as well. But their cyber-adventures lead them to cross the wrong people… which leads to devastating consequences. Determined to get revenge, Sophie infiltrates the powerful company behind the attack — and learns that there’s more at stake than she bargained for.

Cyber Witch is a thrilling cyberpunk tale full of twists and turns. Sophie is an unlikely and sympathetic heroine — one who must battle personal demons as well as the external forces she stumbles upon. I don’t want to say too much about what happens because a great part of the thrill lies in the unexpected twists, but suffice it to say that this story didn’t go the way I thought it would… in a good way.

 ————————-

Cyber-Witch: The Origin of Magic is now LIVE in the Kindle Store!!!

I just released my latest book today. Here’s the link:

poodle & drone

Cisco & Killer Drone

bit.ly/Cyber-Witch  A story about the real-world AI threat highlighted in a cyberpunk theme, with drug addiction, genetic hybrids, and the transformation of the world, grab a copy. Warning: adult themes including sex, violence, and talking animals:-)

The Future is Here (only you don’t know it yet.)

EEG Subject

There have been movies and books that depict a future where nothing can be hidden; where the authorities know everything about everyone. The 2002 movie Minority Report, based (as was BladeRunner) on a short story by Phillip K. Dick, featured a bureau of Precrime which allowed the police to arrest people prior to their actually committing a crime. The plot is complex and leaves the viewer with questions about the existence of free-will and a healthy fear of a government that can see everything.

At this point, you’re wondering if I’m going to be writing about the increasing surveillance in many countries. The answer is yes, but there are some things that you may not know.

The government of the United States is working hard at imposing a de-facto universal id based on federal requirements for state issued drivers licenses. Americans from non-complying states will not be able to board airplanes for even domestic flights without a federal passport within a few months. Their drivers licenses will be considered inadequate id for travel.

There is a huge and rapidly growing database of pictures of people’s faces that is instantly available to the authorities in many countries. This database will ultimately allow quick identification (and location) of anyone. We unwittingly contribute to the data by posting our pictures online and by exposing our faces to surveillance cameras (both stationary and drone-based) when we go out. Meanwhile data storage has increased to the point where storing and retrieving images of everyone in the world is possible.

While bio-metric markers such as fingerprints are not considered personal property in the US — the police can force you to unlock your smartphone with your fingerprint — other data, such as blood tests, require a judicial warrant. Such warrants are trivially easy to get.

As if all of this isn’t enough, research begun in 2010 allows brain wave reading via electroencephalography (EEG) to be effectively used to determine if a person knows a particular piece of information. The EEG pinpoints an involuntary brain spike called the P300 response. The spike occurs a few milliseconds after a person is shown a familiar image.

How might this work? Let’s imagine that a suspected kidnapper is shown images of various children. The child that creates the largest P300 spike might be the kidnap victim. This would lead the investigators to assume that the individual was involved in the crime.

The technology could help prevent crimes also. For example, if a bomb plot was uncovered and one of the plotters captured, the authorities could show the prisoner pictures of various public venues. The one that created the largest P300 response is likely to be the target.

This sounds like a great idea. We can prevent attacks with weapons of mass destruction with this technology. But, what about misuse of the technology?

What if an authoritarian police state wants to arrest everyone who holds a specific belief system? There might be an image that is common to the belief system that could be used to screen the population. All those who respond with a large P300 could then be arrested, interrogated, and disposed of in some way.

This possibility is not so far fetched, especially when one blends in Artificial Intelligence as an automatic screening system. As a science fiction author, I spend a lot of time thinking about future possibilities and, if I can imagine a society where everyone wears a portable EEG device and is subject to constant electronic interrogation of their thoughts (a great plot idea), it probably has already occurred to scientists and authorities somewhere.

To conclude, let me ask some critical questions:

  • Will society benefit if everyone is forced to monitor their thoughts and dare not think anything out of the ordinary?
  • Will innovation be stifled by this?
  • Will we become less than human if good behavior (as defined by those in power) is forced on everyone?
  • Would such a society cease to develop and become stultified?
  • Will we then redefine undesirable thoughts to include smaller and smaller deviations from the norm? Will the concept of moral and ethical guidance of behavior degenerate, since it is no longer defined by society and individuals, but by those in power?
  • What do you think?

    If you like my blog posts, please give my books a chance. Thanks!!

The Artificial Intelligence Problem

“AI is obviously going to surpass human intelligence by a lot.” Elon Musk

To many people, this might seem like a fictional plot for a made-for-TV sci-fi movie. What we tend to overlook is that Artificial Narrow Intelligence (ANI) is commonplace today. When your car warns you that you’ve left your lane or applies anti-skid braking, it’s due to the car’s computer using a limited form of AI. We’re seeing more and more people use voice-activated units in their home for home control, ordering online, and entertainment. This is a form of AI. Facial recognition systems are also a form of ANI.

At the moment, numerous companies are racing to create Artificial General Intelligence or AGI. AGI will be able to perform at roughly human level. New techniques such as deep learning are stimulating rapid advances in this effort. The interesting thing about deep learning is that the human programmers often cannot explain how it works or why the computer system is able to learn and sometimes outperform expert humans in specific tasks.

If you’re asking yourself, “Why should I care?” right now, I’m about to give you some reasons.

It’s obvious that the first company to create an AGI system will benefit financially, possibly to an extreme extent. The motivation is high and the competition is intense. For this reason, some companies may be tempted to cut corners.

Let’s assume a situation where company X creates a system which not only displays human level intelligence, but is able to utilize deep learning to quickly comprehend things that humans find difficult. Let’s also assume that the system learns how to modify its internal programming. This could allow it to quickly surpass human intelligence. It might reach an IQ level of 10,000 in a few hours. It would be an ASI or Artificial Super Intelligence.

There is a concept of keeping an experimental AI boxed up, not allowing it access to the outside world in case it should make such a breakthrough. If company X has failed to keep the AI properly boxed, it could quickly create havoc.

Imagine an entity with an IQ of 10,000+ that has access to the Internet. It could, if so motivated, control the entire financial world within hours. If it had been given a prime directive of (just for example) calculating pi to as many digits as possible, it could easily conclude that it could use more computing power to better execute its computations. In that case, it might use its financial dominance to hire companies to create more computers or, perhaps, robots to create more computers.

In this scenario, it could eventually use all manufacturing resources to create computing machines. It might cover farmland with computers or power generating stations. Humans might not matter to it at all, since all it really wants to do is to calculate pi to the maximum accuracy. It could even decide that the molecules in human bodies could be converted into computing devices.

The end result would be no humans left alive, just a gigantic machine happily calculating the next digit of pi.

So, how do we, as responsible humans, ensure that an ASI doesn’t get rid of us? How can we ensure that it is domestic–that is values humans and helps us?

Musk believes that we need to become part of the system and interface with AIs using some form of brain interface. If we are part of the system, perhaps it will be more amenable to helping us.

My personal opinion is that we should seek a way to show an ASI that intelligent biological life is valuable.

Physicists tell us that if the basic constants of our Universe were even slightly different, life would not exist. This seems to indicate that the gathering together of energy that distinguish living beings may be something special. The immutable mandates of the Universe’s structure force life to obey certain structural rules, one of which is a limited form of reverse entropy. In short, we self-assemble, creating order where there was none before. Never mind that our personal order doesn’t last long and we eventually perish.

The question I’m pointing toward is: Can we make a connection between the Universe’s structure and the value of human life? If we can do that, perhaps an ASI would also value us as an example of a direct manifestation of the Universe.

We need a set of rules based on the structure of the Universe that apply equally well to both organic life

(emphasis on humans) and AI. These rules need to be expressed in a way that any ASI would abide by them.

My belief in the underlying laws is why I have some hope that an ASI would be friendly to us. However, this maybe hopelessly naïve. An ASI may have a level of understanding that is so far advanced that it would see things differently.

Perhaps its non-human set of observational criteria will serve as a representation of the Universe’s underlying reality that is beyond human understanding. This might invalidate human models of the Universe and lead to the conclusion that humans are non-essential.

For these reasons, I believe that premature development of an AGI, let alone an ASI could pose extreme danger to humans and possibly all biological life.

I’ve been attempting to explore various aspects of this subject in a series of short stories that may be freely read on my blog. Please read them and comment, if you want.

I also deal with the topic extensively in my latest novel, “Cyber-Witch”. It will be released shortly (November or December, 2017).

Thanks for reading. I’d like to hear your opinion of the issues I’ve raised.

Eric