Author Topic: EP142: Artifice and Intelligence  (Read 25540 times)

Russell Nash

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on: January 25, 2008, 02:02:42 PM
EP142: Artifice and Intelligence

By Tim Pratt.
Read by Stephen Eley.
First appeared in Strange Horizons, August 2007.

Two months earlier, the vast network of Indian tech support call centers and their deep data banks had awakened and announced its newfound sentience, naming itself Saraswati and declaring its independence. The emergent artificial intelligence was not explicitly threatening, but India had nukes, and Saraswati had access to all the interconnected technology in the country — perhaps in the world – and the result in the international community was a bit like the aftermath of pouring gasoline into an anthill. Every other government on Earth was desperately — and so far fruitlessly — trying to create a tame artificial intelligence, since Saraswati refused to negotiate with, or even talk to, humans.

Rated PG. Contains some profanity and references to sex.


Referenced Sites:
Sci Phi Show - Interview with Eliezer Yadkowski
The Singularity Institute
T.A. Pratt’s Marla Mason novels



Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!



Djerrid

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Reply #1 on: January 25, 2008, 09:50:19 PM
This story touched upon my pet philosophy: There are only a small, finite number of conscious individuals in our neck of the infinite. With all of the fantastic, mind-numbingly beautiful phenomena that we can experience, from how cells replicate to how galaxies collide, the base mortal sin of being is to be bored. 



eytanz

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Reply #2 on: January 25, 2008, 10:58:13 PM
The intro raised some interesting questions for me, and I think that sooner or later I'll start a proper thread about them, after I've had some more time to think about it.

The story itself - well, it was a fun little story. I enjoyed it. But... it felt rushed (in terms of pacing, not quality of writing). It felt like a (very) abridged novel, not like a short story that could completely stand on its own. And I sort of hope it would become a novel, because I'd like to read it.
« Last Edit: January 25, 2008, 11:54:46 PM by eytanz »



Kurt Faler

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Reply #3 on: January 26, 2008, 02:07:47 AM
The intro raised some interesting questions for me, and I think that sooner or later I'll start a proper thread about them, after I've had some more time to think about it.

The story itself - well, it was a fun little story. I enjoyed it. But... it felt rushed (in terms of pacing, not quality of writing). It felt like a (very) abridged novel, not like a short story that could completely stand on its own. And I sort of hope it would become a novel, because I'd like to read it.

I didn't care for this one. It seemed more like half a summery than a story. Just as I thought it was getting to the main conflict, it was over. If you liked the premise tho, take a look at  River of Gods by Ian McDonald.



Darwinist

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Reply #4 on: January 26, 2008, 03:12:33 PM
Initially I thought the story was going to be a Terminator-like yarn about an Indian version of SkyNet.  I guess the story kind of lost me with the ghost whisperer ideas.   Overall, I give it an OK. A one time listen.   

For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.    -  Carl Sagan


swdragoon

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Reply #5 on: January 26, 2008, 03:37:17 PM
My first thought was what a grate ideal for a rpg(not the explodeing kind). After that I thouht will my g3 work on killer robots as well as zombies?

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Darwinist

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Reply #6 on: January 26, 2008, 03:43:03 PM
My first thought was what a grate ideal for a rpg(not the explodeing kind). After that I thouht will my g3 work on killer robots as well as zombies?

I don't think it will work....at least not the killer robots that come from the future from what I've seen the last two Monday nights on Fox.  You need a gun that throws EMPs. 

For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.    -  Carl Sagan


Czhorat

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Reply #7 on: January 26, 2008, 04:28:56 PM
The intro raised some interesting questions for me, and I think that sooner or later I'll start a proper thread about them, after I've had some more time to think about it.

The story itself - well, it was a fun little story. I enjoyed it. But... it felt rushed (in terms of pacing, not quality of writing). It felt like a (very) abridged novel, not like a short story that could completely stand on its own. And I sort of hope it would become a novel, because I'd like to read it.

I thought it was fun, but agree that the pacing felt off. It could have easilly been stretched into a full-length novel, or tightened up considerably to focus on just one of the characters. As written, they felt more like archetypes than fully fleshed out individuals. The result, for me, is something that was fun but very, very light.

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sirana

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Reply #8 on: January 26, 2008, 05:43:31 PM
Great ideas, great characters, great twist, much to short.
I aggree with eytanz that it felt rushed and I think it would work better as a novel or at least a longer short story.
regarding the Tim Pratt Hugo story, was that the one about the alternate reality with different movies?



DarkKnightJRK

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Reply #9 on: January 26, 2008, 06:38:46 PM
I dug it--the main problem I had was the ending. Christ, that was the biggest tease ever and it just didn't feel right.



High 5

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Reply #10 on: January 26, 2008, 09:37:47 PM
This story could be described as "Frankenstein V2.003 Beta".
The ending was a bit like the ending of my first romantic encounter, much too sudden and way too short.
A full length novel please, Mr. Pratt!!

This story touched upon my pet philosophy: There are only a small, finite number of conscious individuals in our neck of the infinite.

All too true.
Our allotment of conscious individuals was used up somewhere around the twelfth century.
After that we just kept going as best we could...




Yeah, well..how is your Dutch then eh?


Tango Alpha Delta

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Reply #11 on: January 27, 2008, 12:28:13 AM
The concept is near and dear -- one of my short-short story entries in the flash fiction contest tried to capture something similar -- but I tend to agree with the group on this one.  There was certainly room to play with the characters and build up more of a relationship between Pramesh (did I remember that name right?) and his super-AI opponent.  Why did she pick him?  Did he "create her" somehow?  I would have set up some contrived conflicts between Pramesh and his "team" and Edgar's "team", so when we reveal Sharasvati's involvement, it's more of a surprise.

I did like that the question was left open whether it was Pramesh or the AI whose boredom was driving all of this.

One the one hand, I feel a little strange offering writing advice to a Hugo winner... on the other hand, it makes a little "Calvin & Hobbes" evil grin spread across my brow to do so. 

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600south

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Reply #12 on: January 27, 2008, 02:50:50 AM
I agree with most of the posters above -- i'm always a bit disappointed when i hear some great ideas crammed into a 20 minute short story like this one. my thoughts were just starting to get provoked and bam, Daikaiju were back in my ears again. if this story was turned into a much longer piece i'd definitely be interested in reading it.

oh, and thanks Kurt for reminding me to read River of Gods too.



Russell Nash

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Reply #13 on: January 27, 2008, 03:23:47 PM
regarding the Tim Pratt Hugo story, was that the one about the alternate reality with different movies?

That's the one.



Turnblom79

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Reply #14 on: January 27, 2008, 03:39:34 PM
I agree with several of the above posters about the length of this story.  I would love to see this as a full length novel that explores the groups exploits against the Consortium, possibly with a puzzle element that leads them to the conclusion that everything is fake and has been created to keep a computer mind occupied.  The premise is fantastic and I think there is a lot that can be done to expand on this story.



ajames

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Reply #15 on: January 27, 2008, 03:53:13 PM
Once again I am in the minority for a Tim Pratt story.  I just couldn't get into this story.  Different strokes for different folks, I guess.



Czhorat

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Reply #16 on: January 27, 2008, 04:13:39 PM
I don't think you're that far alone, ajames. I think that most of us feel that the characters in particular were a touch underdeveloped. I'm probably in the minority thinking that this could work well as a short if the focus was tightened to just one main viewpoint character. I think that would give us a chance to know and care about one or two of the people in the story and it would probably have been more impactful.

Still, I have to admit that it was fun. I would have liked to see more of them, but the idea of a composite personality based on an exceedingly random set of historic villains is really a hoot.

The Word of Nash is the word of Nash and it is Nash's word.


Praxis

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Reply #17 on: January 27, 2008, 10:23:40 PM
I used to study AI so a lot of this seemed very familiar (especially the frustration of getting an ai to work that would lead someone to say "Sod it, I'll summon a ghost and just pretend I got all the bugs out of the system." ;) )

This story felt (far) too short given the premise and the point we had got when.....it stopped.  I don't think that any of the characters were given any sort of resolution, even the possible 'reveal' of what the Indian AI had been up to all the time.

I did like that the question was left open whether it was Pramesh or the AI whose boredom was driving all of this.

I didn't get that from the story.  The possibility that it was the AI who was responsible for the interesting conflicts, yers, but not that Pramesh could have been.

There was also the problem/idea of true, free intelligence having to find ways to stave off boredom, given that it couldn't die, was pretty all-powerful and had no particular physical needs, which I've not seen in stories before, I think.  But this turns up so late in the story that it isn't taken further by the author.

Again, it seemed simplistic that you have 'bored AI' + 'pretend conflicts' = 'happy AI', especially as this is the furthest we are given as far as character development for the AI.

If this was made into a longer story I'd definitely read it.
« Last Edit: January 27, 2008, 10:27:56 PM by Praxis »



Nobilis

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Reply #18 on: January 27, 2008, 11:42:35 PM
I agree that the story was too short, that the characters didn't have time to develop, and that there was too much "there" to really cover adequately in a short story.

Here's my theory:

The author knew there was too much.  He also knew that he wouldn't be able to pad it out into a good novel.  The appropriate length was probably around 15-20,000 words, which is a very, very hard length to sell to traditional print publishers.  You can do it (there are some in the Man-Kzin Wars books) but not without a big name behind you.



Bdoomed

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Reply #19 on: January 28, 2008, 04:26:47 AM
Portal was VERY fun and pretty damn creepy!  i have never been so scared going through a game.
totally worth it.  the song at the end is awesome.
kudos to Steve for talking about it!
it also happens to be the favorite game of the Great N_sh.

I'd like to hear my options, so I could weigh them, what do you say?
Five pounds?  Six pounds? Seven pounds?


eytanz

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Reply #20 on: January 28, 2008, 06:18:33 AM
The author knew there was too much.  He also knew that he wouldn't be able to pad it out into a good novel.  The appropriate length was probably around 15-20,000 words, which is a very, very hard length to sell to traditional print publishers.  You can do it (there are some in the Man-Kzin Wars books) but not without a big name behind you.

Maybe - I'm not sure I agree there isn't enough here for a full novel, though of course adding stuff can often detract. But if you are right, then I think he should have done as Czhorat suggested and pared it down to a tighter story about just one of the characters.




Tango Alpha Delta

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Reply #21 on: January 28, 2008, 11:51:55 AM
I did like that the question was left open whether it was Pramesh or the AI whose boredom was driving all of this.
I didn't get that from the story.  The possibility that it was the AI who was responsible for the interesting conflicts, yers, but not that Pramesh could have been.

I was referring to the fact that the AI "loved" Pramesh (though we weren't given any particular reason why), and that HE was bored with the idea of life.  One way to interpret the story (and I was looking for clues, but can't say I found enough to really justify this interpretation) is to say that the AI made all of this happen to entertain him.   The last line could go either way, though... either way, she has obviously decided to pit herself against him.  Does THAT mean she thinks he is good enough/smart enough to serve as an opponent, or does that mean she is agreeing to be his opponent to keep him interested in her?

So, no, he wouldn't be "responsible" for the conflicts, taken that way.

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ClintMemo

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Reply #22 on: January 28, 2008, 01:39:21 PM
I thought the story was both hilarious and imaginative (a nice combination) and I'll disagree with almost everyone about the length.  It was just right.  I think if the story were longer it would have been just more drawn out and less funny.  I think this is a great example of the old adage "always leave them wanting more."

The image of the marsh spirit talking as a group of croaking frogs was great.

There is an old Fred Pohl short story that he later turned into a novel ("Starburst?")
The short story is funny and thought provoking, the novel is longer, not very funny and not as enjoyable.

Life is a multiple choice test. Unfortunately, the answers are not provided.  You have to go and find them before picking the best one.


CGFxColONeill

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Reply #23 on: January 28, 2008, 04:20:37 PM
great story not long enough to really develop as much as I would have liked

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gelee

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Reply #24 on: January 28, 2008, 07:23:04 PM
I guess I have to throw in with Sirana and Eytanz, along with a few others: Great premise and writing, but it felt abbreviated.  I'd love to see it fleshed out a bit more, such as: what sort of adventures did the team have between being formed and Sarasvati revealing her dark secret?  What does the team do about it?  I think you can find 80,000 words in that.