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Author Topic: EP506: Harvester Dreams  (Read 2120 times)
eytanz
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« on: October 14, 2015, 09:48:19 AM »

EP506: Harvester Dreams

By Michael J. DeLuca

Read by Paul Cram

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Morning flooded the transparent womb of the ob room. Knuckling his aching skull, Hector twitched the opacity up to a tolerable level and set down his tea, then took the pod out over the ag. The fight with Mela the night before had not been pleasant, but work, he was perpetually astonished to discover, never failed to cheer him.
The conduit was a brilliant white spear overhead, broken by ribs of fair-weather cloud. The ag spread into haze in every direction, curving gently upward with the concavity of the Hypatia’s hull: chessboard squares of rippling corn, glittering rice paddies, apple plots flowering white. Here and there, a skeletal hulk loomed indistinct–some remnant structure of the ship’s propulsion systems, long-dismantled; shade crops grew among latticed shadows.
The crowd of Workers waited below, lens-tipped appendages craned upward. He smiled, in spite of the headache and the persistent awareness that no matter how he chose to rationalize it, everything Mela had said was true. He called up the log feeds. Foreman, they were saying. Foreman, we need your understanding.
He brought the ob room down among them. A grand menagerie they made, his subjects, each finely adapted to its task: delicate pollinators, long-limbed harvesters, knob-treaded aerators, juggernaut ploughs. “You don’t need me,” he said. “Your designers gave you all the understanding you need. But I’m here, ready to listen. I’ll help if I can.”
The oldest of the ploughs rolled forward. Your understanding grants us insight into the will of our designers.
The Workers appreciated repetition. They were simple beings, the product of their design. They believed in an infallible, benevolent humanity the way humanity once believed in angels, the way so many Relics now believed in their inscrutable alien creator, the Ix. And Hector was their ambassador, though he’d only held this job a month and the designers were fifty generations dead.
H1703 has had a dream, said the plough.
The Workers’ reactions flooded the feeds with the euphemistic, agricultural info-speak they used among themselves, too much to decipher. Excitement, urgency. They didn’t know what to think.


Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!
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Maxilu
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« Reply #1 on: October 17, 2015, 03:48:15 PM »

There is a special place in Hell for people who endanger the food production of a nation for political gain. Even if she doesn't believe in the soul.

I like this. I found I related to Hector (nice job with the pun with his name). This story brought out my quasi-farm girl, and I found myself concerned about how the "malfunctioning" equipment would harm crop yields. I definitely agonized along with Hector about what would be the right course of action--to allow the equipment their intelligence, or reset them to factory settings.

My farmer grandparents taught me that if you take care of the land, it'll take care of you. I think the same is true of your tools, be they AI harvesters on a space station, or your kitchen knifes.
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Dwango
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« Reply #2 on: October 19, 2015, 01:35:46 PM »

This was such a thick story.  It took me a while to realize there were humans, if they could still be called that.  The girlfriend was so cold in her reality, like a machine, eating her food without joy, only her function mattering to her, to work up through the government.  The same for the antagonist who manipulated the farming creatures for her own ends.

Yet the machines, through intervention, were moving in a different direction, towards insight and knowledge.  I don't really understand how the unknown woman could know the machines would react this way.  It implies a greater amount of knowledge of the machines beyond normal insight.  She may know how this station works at a higher level, but it seems so sad she would use that knowledge in such a shallow, selfish way, no greater insight gained.

Hector seems to think little of himself, worshiping a woman who only sees him as a failed project.  She didn't understand that Hector did not need any fixing, as he was learning to enjoy his life, savoring the food and drink, enjoying what his life had to offer.  He has learned to respect the farmer creatures and learned from them where others see them as mere devices.  In his respect, he may have built a blind spot, not realizing sooner what could be happening.  Of course, had a terrorist attack not occurred in a long time, no reason for him to understand the source of the dream.  If anything, it exacerbated his own faith confusion, forcing him to face his own doubts and beliefs, which were so bashed by his girlfriend.  It really is important to have relationships with people who build you up and see your positive attributes, not people who only focus on your weaknesses in order to "fix" you.

It was a deep story worth a second listen.
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Moritz
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« Reply #3 on: October 24, 2015, 08:56:29 AM »

I am considering this story for my "teaching with podcasts" course, as it has great potential on topics like labor/ freedom/ work.

There were a bunch of editing glitches at the end which sounded like parts cut too close together.
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matweller
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« Reply #4 on: October 25, 2015, 09:46:17 PM »

There were a bunch of editing glitches at the end which sounded like parts cut too close together.

I'll give another listen, thanks for the heads up!

For anyone who catches things in the future: I'm happy to know about it, and the more info you can give me about the time when problems occur, the quicker I can jump on fixing things.
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Unblinking
Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #5 on: October 29, 2015, 09:36:22 AM »

I quite enjoyed this, in particular the dilemma of whether to wipe these burgeoning AIs who might be considered to be breaking into the realm of some level of sentience for the sake of food production.  Either one could be a terrible choice if it didn't turn out particularly well.  I was disappointed at the reveal that the dream was artificially induced, but...  I still like to think that the harvesters were gaining some level of self-awareness and sentience even if the trigger for it was meant for a different reason.
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PaulCram
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« Reply #6 on: October 29, 2015, 03:21:21 PM »

I quite enjoyed this, in particular the dilemma of whether to wipe these burgeoning AIs who might be considered to be breaking into the realm of some level of sentience for the sake of food production.  Either one could be a terrible choice if it didn't turn out particularly well.  I was disappointed at the reveal that the dream was artificially induced, but...  I still like to think that the harvesters were gaining some level of self-awareness and sentience even if the trigger for it was meant for a different reason.


I wanted to say I wholeheartedly agree with Unblinking on this while reading it, I kept thinking in the back of my head "Nope, they really are gaining intelligence..." Glad to see someone else agrees!
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PaulCram
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« Reply #7 on: October 29, 2015, 03:23:16 PM »

My farmer grandparents taught me that if you take care of the land, it'll take care of you. I think the same is true of your tools, be they AI harvesters on a space station, or your kitchen knifes.

I am going to write this down & start quoting it. Thanks Maxilu!
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Chairman Goodchild
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« Reply #8 on: November 01, 2015, 05:06:58 PM »

I know the the Golden Rule for storytelling is "Show, Don't Tell," but I really could have done with just a bit of telling here.  I kept on waiting for explanations that I never got.  Apparently, in addition to machines gaining sentience and being manipulated for political gain, there's some sort of advanced godlike construct called the Ix that's making those machines.  There's much going on here, and I appreciate that, but without context, I felt like I was left out in the cold a bit.  

I still liked the story despite this.  

(Ix making machines, at least I get that Dune reference.)
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adrianh
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« Reply #9 on: November 02, 2015, 04:09:15 AM »

I'm not sure why but this one didn't really engage me. I liked all the individual components of the story, but it didn't come together into a pleasing whole for me. Hector's, for want of a better word, passivity through the majority of the story made it hard for me to connect (even though him being in that mode is pretty essential to the story).

I love the world building though — I'd love to read more in a larger setting.
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Unblinking
Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #10 on: November 02, 2015, 11:49:07 AM »

I know the the Golden Rule for storytelling is "Show, Don't Tell,"

Well, kind of.  Like any other storytelling advice, one needs to learn when to apply it and when not to apply it.  That particular gem has some use for new writers, but then tends to get regurgitated so often without forethought of what it's actually trying to say and used as a commandment instead of a trend as to water it down to uselessness. 

Anyway...  just a writing peeve.  Smiley

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Devoted135
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« Reply #11 on: November 07, 2015, 11:48:16 AM »

I enjoyed this one, but it sort of felt like I was watching the action through a foggy window. Hector's passivity, plus not quite enough details for me to envision the world, made it harder to engage even though the story was really interesting. Count me as another who was disappointed that the origin of the dream was nefarious; I was rooting for sentient harvesters!
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Fenrix
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Have you found the Yellow Sign?


« Reply #12 on: November 26, 2015, 12:11:49 AM »

Lots to unpack in this one. Great stuff.

I like Michael J. DeLuca's work. If you liked this one I recommend these:

http://pseudopod.org/2011/09/09/pseduopod-246-the-eater/
http://pseudopod.org/2012/04/20/pseudopod-278-the-prophets-daughters/
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CryptoMe
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« Reply #13 on: November 02, 2017, 10:16:02 AM »

I really liked this story, and I liked the way Hector was passive, but not appreciated for it. My only complaint is that Hector's passive tone in the story gave the ending a disjointed and rushed feel, making it difficult for me to grasp the implications of the cafe woman's actions.
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