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Author Topic: EP588: Rocket Surgery  (Read 611 times)
eytanz
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« on: August 11, 2017, 07:08:06 AM »

EP588: Rocket Surgery

AUTHOR: Effie Seiberg
NARRATOR: Summer Brooks
HOST: Divya Breed

---

We’d tested plenty of missiles before, but Teeny was the only one that convulsed when we cut him open.

Oh, your viewers need more background? OK, I’ll back up a bit. Lemme tell ya, kids today don’t know their history. Even locked up in here for the past ten years, I can tell. No education. Good thing you’re getting the real story out.

Now. This was back when Hamazi was the supreme dictator of the Ambridian Republic, enemy number one. The whole military was buzzing about overthrowing him, and General Pitticks – I guess he’s Presidential Candidate Pitticks now – wanted to make a name for himself. So the weapons division got a lot of money to make something spectacular.

Previous missiles had AIs, of course. Precision navigation with plasma propulsion that could turn on a dime. Facial recognition to find the target and follow them. The Azimuth5900 could detect genetic debris to avoid hitting decoys, and the Tarzon-A-80’s nano-scales could rearrange to make the outer shell take on any shape to blend in with its surroundings, so if it needed to land to gather more intel it could camo without suspicious shadows giving it away.

But Teeny was something else altogether.


Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!
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aiogden
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« Reply #1 on: August 23, 2017, 06:39:29 PM »

So pleased to see this one reprinted here! I love The Little Ballistic Missile That Could. Effie's stories are so good at endowing non-humans (missiles, robots, gods) with their own peculiar kind of humanity!
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Katzentatzen
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« Reply #2 on: August 25, 2017, 11:59:33 AM »

 You did good, Teeny! I felt sorry for the imprisoned technicians, though.
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"To understand a cat you must realize that he has his own gifts, his own viewpoint, even his own morality."
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esanderson
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« Reply #3 on: September 05, 2017, 02:06:21 PM »

^^This. Agreed.  Smiley Smiley
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acpracht
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« Reply #4 on: September 06, 2017, 08:37:35 PM »

I wonder whether anyone else had a suspicion that there might be some aspects of an unreliable narrator here. It is, after all, coming entirely by hearsay from the 1st person narrator with nobody else really contradicting her.

That's not to imply that she is a bad or nefarious person, but it makes me wonder how much of Teeny's deviation from intended behavior was emergent ("wetware is unpredictable") and how much was an intentional programming decision on the part of the narrator's team...

That is to say: did this team intentionally alter Teeny to be an instrument of peaceful change from the beginning, and the story is a slight distortion on the truth?

Food for thought...

Adam
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Ibba Armancas
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« Reply #5 on: September 09, 2017, 02:29:38 PM »

I adored the hell out of this story -- as someone who gets pretty tired of science fiction with an underlying message of "oh no technology is evil and will destroy us", it was so refreshing to read a story of a smart bomb so smart... it no longer acts as a bomb. Humans may claim that the object of war is peace but I don't think we ever entirely believe it, and it was neat to see that when someone (Teeny) did, he could cut out all (or at least a lot) of suffering of the middle men.

Adam, I think your comment about a potential unreliable narrator is fascinating. I didn't read it that way personally (the scientist just seemed so personally flabergasted and proud of the results as she went along) but what a neat twist.
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Constance
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« Reply #6 on: September 16, 2017, 12:04:08 AM »

This was really cute. It had a Hidden Figures vibe about it and in doing so challenged gender roles, even though Teeny still becomes this group of women's "child." Like others have mentioned, it was lovely how Seiburg took this high tech missile (something drenched in masculine symbolism) and essentially told a story about raising a little boy to defy toxic masculinity with international effect.
« Last Edit: September 16, 2017, 12:05:53 AM by Constance » Logged
Ichneumon
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« Reply #7 on: October 23, 2017, 11:52:04 AM »

I did enjoy this one. The typically mean General was a rather one dimensional character. It is much more concerning to me that more Teenys could be made and corrupted under less well-meaning technicians than that a blockhead general wouldn't recognize the missile's potential. Especially since the narrator mentioned some of the wet-ware pets come out inexplicably mean...
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effie
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« Reply #8 on: November 06, 2017, 01:54:08 PM »

Hi folks. Thanks so much for reading/listening! I really appreciate your comments.

It had never occurred to me that we had a potentially unreliable narrator here, Adam, but it's definitely possible! And if not the narrator, perhaps some of the rest of the team teaching Teeny philosophy/ethics might have been a little bit on-purpose  Smiley

I'm also really digging the Hidden Figures comparison - didn't see that toxic masculinity connection until you pointed it out, Constance!

Ibba, I COMPLETELY AGREE. Tech isn't inherently evil. Personally I see this as Teeny optimizing the overall problem of achieving peace with his own resources, which is a different optimization problem than the General was dealing with. I believe a pure logic calculation would lead to using Teeny's resources more, which means not blowing up. Middlemen suffering is an inefficient route to peace if you want to get to nobody suffering.

--Effie
writermonkey
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--Effie
writermonkey
Fenrix
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« Reply #9 on: November 16, 2017, 07:49:27 PM »

This was a really nice optimistic piece, and the work of the development team was effectively drawn. It hit all of the right emotional beats without feeling manipulative. Also awesome that the author popped in to say hi!
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acpracht
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« Reply #10 on: November 20, 2017, 12:08:28 AM »


Ibba, I COMPLETELY AGREE. Tech isn't inherently evil. Personally I see this as Teeny optimizing the overall problem of achieving peace with his own resources, which is a different optimization problem than the General was dealing with. I believe a pure logic calculation would lead to using Teeny's resources more, which means not blowing up. Middlemen suffering is an inefficient route to peace if you want to get to nobody suffering.

--Effie
writermonkey

Thanks for responding about the unreliable narrator. Always interesting to hear what the author was intending. Smiley

I am reminded of a story by Asimov in "I, Robot" about optimization of a robot in achieving a task, and the unlikely routes to get there. it's the one where the the robots delivering energy to earth get some weird religious ideas about their work, and the humans are freaked out that they're going to accidentally kill people as a result. Turns out, the quasi-religious ideas, while incorrect, still were functionally effective in reaching the ultimate goal...

-Adam
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