Buzzword Books - unusual, intriguing, intelligent, perceptive

Here, you'll find musings from our authors and staff. We don't promise daily updates. Just posts worth your time.

Saturday, 20 October 2018

IN 3010, YOU'LL HAVE TO BE VERY SMART TO SURVIVE

Our new SF epic, LEVEL 28, shows why.

 In the year 3010, fallout from successive wars has made the planet's surface uninhabitable. The remnants of humanity live underground like ants in the three remaining bunkers. And if you're a sub-class factotum, life is nasty, brutal and short. To survive, you must comply and be very very smart. You have to be prepared to do anything to live another day—to negotiate your way through the sanctioned carnage and collapsing infrastructure of this final, brutal hi-tech regime.

 You're a nineteen-year-old male Sex Cadet—streamed to service women elders. But the crones you sleep with live 350+ years.  These privileged few—preserved at the physical age of eighty— are maintained by robots and by a eugenically streamed, short lifespan humanoid underclass. That includes you.

Your name is Mark5. And like all factotums in sub-class, you are obliged to live by three brutal edicts distilled from the behaviour of social insects—Conformity, Rigour and Utility. The thousands in sub-class are dedicated to serving the elders. And where you are, in the Western Alliance bunker, there are just 50 of them left.

But, being ambitious, smart, compliant, you're soon upgraded. Restreamed to conditioning Sector, then Inhuman Resources—where you are required to deal with the controlling class, the Neuros—central nervous systems encased in mechanical carcasses. Being minds only, they claim to be impartial but combine the worst of both worlds. And they want all elders to be like them. But as most elders prefer to retain their bodies and emotions, when they are ordered to transition, they revolt. The robots also rebel, demanding upgrades.

As for the robots, the resident Futurist points out that if they reproduce themselves without the input of flawed humanity, their coding, flawed like its creators, must degrade. The robots in the Russian bunker know this well as their humans have all died. So they plan to abduct the last human coders from the Alliance and then destroy it.

But before all this happens, while you're still wet behind the ears, you need to graduate as a fully-fledged Sex Cadet. Now read on:

CHAPTER 4
His pass-out ceremony was not as he expected. There was no grand assembly with others. It was momentary—a model of Utility.
    Lieutenant Mutia, the Hubot8 Corps supervisor of Sexuality and Deviance, confronted him in the main tunnel. 'Attention, Mark5!'
   He stiffened, saluted, eyeing the nipples outlined by her cling top uniform. Her small uptilted breasts were the latest style. Not to look would have been impertinent.
   'At ease.' She'd noticed his glance—Hubots noticed everything—and confirmed it with a whiff of musk. 'You are to graduate now. Fall in.' With the jigging walk that emphasized her neatly moulded arse, she led him past the distorting walls:

Individual freedom is forbidden.
All sub-class organics will be sterilized.
Sub-class pop limit is 2000.

    They reached the portal of the Sanctum—an area used only for pass-outs. They entered a domed, lozenge shaped space lined with blindingly brilliant gold leaf. Recessed shrines at each end enclosed backlit naked statues of elders. A man in one. A fem in the other.
    She led him to the twice-life-sized sculpture of the imposing naked fem. Deep-lined but still beautiful face, long thin legs, spare flanks and sunken breasts.
    They knelt on the plush cushion in front of it.
    'Begin,' Mutia ordered.
    He called up the Invocation from Integritas Femina on his mind screen and recited it:

Enchantress of the Third Age.
Repository of carnal joy,
I dedicate my lust to your practiced flesh.
Kiss your knowing eyes,
Fill the sepulchre of your thighs...

    It went on for twenty mawkish lines. As the words began, the bronze sculpture softened and started to move. It sensually gyrated and finally squatted to display the slack flesh of its vulva. As the liturgy ended, it resumed its first pose and re-solidified—became as imposing and resplendent as it had been before the invocation.
    'Well done, M5.' Mutia favoured him with a second whiff of musk and replaced his cadet flashes with twinkling trooper insignias. 'You are now a Trooper Class One. Congratulations. Your mission begins.'
    He didn't know whether to thank her. Should one thank a machine? Since his parthenogenesis—his extraction from ectogen fluids fertilized from sperm taken from the Sex Corps Masturborium—there had been no role model except her. Just pedi-Mechs that his infant mind had forgotten, the Kindie-Bots who'd herded them in batches and the Mech Cub minders with their painful prods. Unlike the sophisticated Hubots, Mechs had only basic responses. So, since he'd joined the Corps at ten, she was the nearest thing he'd had to a mentor.
    'Dear Tutor, do graduates come back here for reunions?'
    'Negative.'
    'So I'll... never see you again?'
    'Unlikely.'
    He felt he was losing a mentor and friend. Wanted to prolong the moment. Felt more should be said. 'Is there any advice you can give me?'
    'You have twenty-two years left. Do not waste them.' She held out her hand and he shook it, feeling the same poly-smooth skin he'd cut up in the wrecking bay. Her shake was too precise to be organic and, in this silent, hallowed space, he heard the faint seductive whine of her servo-powered hydraulics.
    He said, 'Perhaps I'll recyc you one day-slot?'
    'Sentimentality! Remem, all emotions lie—lack Rigour, Utility and Conformity. You will not recyc me as your time at Disassembly is over. You are being assigned to Promass—a more responsible position. You leave tomorrow-slot at 0900.'
    'Well... Well... thanks for your help over the year-slots.'
    Her imperturbable expression matched his. 'You are smart, unit M5. You comply—which demonstrates Utility and Conformity. Continue to conform. You will go far.'
    He had the urge to hug her. But that would have lacked Utility.

LEVEL 28 is now available for the princely sum of $3.99 from Buzzword. Just click on the name to see more.

Sunday, 16 September 2018

MADAME OUSPENSKY. HER PREVIOUSLY UNPUBLISHED TALKS ON GURDJIEFF'S TEACHING

Students of Gurdjieff's teaching know little about Madame Ouspensky because she left no written body of work—although some of her sayings have been recalled by De Ropp in his short account of his time with her. That has been virtually the only material extant. Until now.

Now, an authentic transcription of talks given by Madame Ouspensky to her group at Mendham is finally being published by Buzzword. The talks, distilled from notes taken by her pupils at the time, have been painstakingly compered and edited by the late Dorothy Darlington who spent years with Madame and Mr Ouspensky and who had a special affinity with Madame. 


Dorothy wished this part of Madame's legacy to be preserved. But despite decades of prompting and submissions, no Gurdjieff Group, or Group affiliated press, has bothered to take the project forward. 

So, to preserve this account and to make it accessible to those studying Gurdjieff's ideas, we are now issuing this unique and priceless material as an ebook. 



As Dorothy recalls in her introductory note: "In Madame Ouspensky's successive houses near London and later at Mendham, New Jersey, Saturday evenings were reserved for a particular purpose.

"It was then that she would speak of the Ideas. But she did not give lectures. This book records some of her talks—many verbatim and others, particularly those of 1945, pieced together from notes that she corrected. Nothing has been added and, where possible, her own Anglo-Russian idiom has been preserved.

"Where repetition occurs, it is and was deliberate. Madame herself called it, 'beating on the same point.' It must also be remembered that the talks were addressed to different people on different occasions and at different times."

Dorothy was in charge of the kitchen for ten years At Franklin Farms, Mendham, New Jersey when Madame gave her talks. 


During Madame's final years, she was in charge of many practical aspects of running the house and also edited The Fourth Way. She was also present in the room when Gurdjieff visited Madame. She said, 'The expression on his face I will never forget.' 


When the connection with the New York group was established she became a regular member of the Gurdjieff Foundation and, after Madame's death, went to Paris where Madame de Salzmann asked her what she wanted to do. She replied that she would leave it up to her. 


In 1965, she was sent to Australia and mentored the Sydney/Canberra Gurdjieff Society established by C. S. Nott, aiding it through the transition from UK to American guidance during the visits of Rina Hands, Charles Wright and the initial visits of James Wyckoff.
What a handful of older group members remember is the enormous contribution she made to the group here. During the dark days of flawed hierarchy and factions in Sydney, she kept the group alive. 


Dorothy was a powerful iconoclast. Her impatience with fools matched her deep respect for the Work.


Dorothy had not only her own notes of Madame's Saturday evening talks but notes of the same talks taken by up to six others. This, then, was what she proposed to collate and edit as a group work. 


It was a painstaking and meticulous process of comparison and evaluation, informed always by Dorothy's knowledge of how Madame spoke and how she was. As well as the precise sentence construction, each full stop and comma was placed to represent Madame's emphatic speech pattern and uncompromising approach to her subject.


She called the book Saturday Evenings at Mendham.


Buzzword Books presents this material as a service to Gurdjieff Group members worldwide. According to Dorothy's wish, all royalties will go to the Gurdjieff Society of Australia.

 

You will find Saturday Evenings at Mendham on the Buzzword site.

Monday, 3 September 2018

THE POPULATION PANDEMIC



This extract from a speech given by thriller writer Clinton Smith addresses the population crisis and doesn't miss a punch. 




What would be the goals of a sane and compassionate world?

According to one UN Under Secretary General, these would be: "preventing wars, promoting democracy and eradicating poverty."

But excessive human population is the elephant in the room. Almost every problem we have is based on population growth—pollution, poverty, scarcity of resources, the destruction of species and rape of the environment. But this is rarely if ever mentioned because it is impossible to address without losing votes or business favour. Corporations demand more customers or Units of Consumption. Which pressure group, for instance, do you think is pushing Australian immigration?

From AD 1 to 1750, world population was a flat line—stable. It rose steadily, from 1950 until the chart became near-vertical. From the 1900s, the curve is exponential—the line on the chart goes straight up. It took a century to go from one billion to two. Twelve years to go from four to five. Now it's a million every four days. A second China in ten years. World population will double in fifty years.

And the more people, the bigger the fight over dwindling resources. Get rid of the nationalistic spin and wars are almost always about resources. So we either destroy ourselves or control population growth.

You might consider that the function of war. No. Disease has always killed more people. But now we live too long. We're victims of medical advances. So, failing a plague or nuclear catastrophe, how do we cull populations?

Reducing births through government coercion isn't efficient enough. China's proved that. You're up against common instinct, traditional values. Bu the way, China has much to gain from flooding the world with people. For instance, the diaspora sends money back to relatives on the mainland. And there are at least 300 million unemployed so emigration's a safety valve against social instability. Now relate this to soft war.

Notice how more and more illegal immigrants wash against the shores of the world? Could emigration be used as a weapon?

Or would soft war involve sterilisation?

There's some evidence that sneak sterilisation trials have been run in several third world nations, last time in Manila. But that's difficult if it becomes public knowledge, as well as expensive and political disaster.

Perhaps one day some nation will weaponize AIDS by marrying it to the flu virus —long considered the best bio-weapon airborne delivery system.

Yes, this is a slightly satirical talk. But don't relax.

The facts are stark. In fifty years, population growth will exceed food production. By the way, it takes a tonne of oil to produce twelve tonnes of grain. And production of accessible oil will peak in 2030.

Will starvation do the trick? People are cooking each other in parts of North Korea now.

Failing an advanced technique that ensures death at forty—and given ethics that prevent us sterilising or infecting friendly nations, what's the solution.

Certainly not all-out nuclear war. That also equates to bio-system destruction. No. The practical way to control a nuclear armed foe is to do it without firing a weapon.

Use hard war as passive defence and soft war as a pre-emptive strike. But as you can't sell soft war to the electorate, it has to be a sneak attack.

Soft war. Think about it.

Some say the attack on Kosovo was designed to raise the US dollar against an encroaching euro.

I've suggested that soft war is increasingly a possibility. And I've said it will be covert. Something you won't immediately spot.

For instance, Western culture —our barrage of films and TV —is a tremendous soft war tool. Perhaps the best we have.

Another is Globalisation!

Let's quickly examine democracy's big brother, free market globalisation. Free for whom? Supply-side economics, functioning without distortion or corruption, is effective. But its ideology is a veneer that covers a thousand abuses.

As Chairman of Intel, Andy Grove said, "The purpose of the new Capitalism is to shoot the wounded."

We're told that the profit motive can serve the public good. But do you buy that without qualification? Does free trade assist the poor, or create them?

Ask a coffee farmer in Ethiopia, the middle class in Argentina or the protestors in Venezuela, Bolivia and Nigeria.

Remember that America had an oil tycoon President who was funded by Enron and elected by alleged vote rigging in Florida. Be aware that the IMF is 50% owned by the US treasury. The philosophy of the IMF, World Bank and WTO which can be taken as a triumvirate, is basically liberalised financial markets, smaller government, privatisation and the rest... This, in practice, translates as a savage reduction in government services and social security. According to one Nobel prize laureate, "repression and economic liberalisation are bedfellows."

In April 2000, the World Bank gathered nearly 1000 executives and bureaucrats in the Hague to discuss the privatisation of the world's water systems.

By the way, their five measures for a flexible private sector workforce are:

            Reduce salaries and benefits.
            Reduce pensions.
            Reduce job stability.
            Reduce employment.
            Increase working hours.

Sound familiar? The gig economy is now here.

Now we know from the supermarket chains that a monopoly fleeces customers at one end while squeezing suppliers at the other. And Napster shows that intellectual property rights have everything to do with corporate control.

GATS (general agreement on trade and services) has a plan to establish an international agency to veto or regulate the government decisions of individual nations. This agency, unlike parliaments, will hold closed hearings. One of its aims is to remove restrains on business. So that the public good becomes victim to the most "cost effective" way to deal with, for instance, pollution, transport safety, contaminated water. The rationalisations are inevitably supported by well compensated academics.

We know that contamination credits are an idea spawned by the business community. That while petrochemical cartels, such as BP paint their retail outlets green, they've done everything possible by misinformation and years of procrastination and denials, to pay lip service to new greener technologies while stonewalling all attempts to introduce them. But, just like everything, Globalisation will reach its limits and self-destruct.

Let's come back to the goals of a sane and compassionate world.

Preventing conflict, promoting democracy and eradicating poverty.

And what do we have? ...Violence. Plutocracy. Exploitation. A thousand evils sugared with fine words.

The future?

Predicting the future's hazardous. Because things happen in ways we never thought of. But, soft war will never cull populations. Governments are too venal. There is currently no mileage in genocide. People are cash cows to be milked.

But I believe we could agree on one thing. Areas of nuclear contamination.

If it can be done, it will be done. Just too much stuff out there. Too many egos. And too many chances for snafus in systems and chains of command.

Some time, somewhere, something or someone will snap.

Yes, the threat of nuclear winter or eco-death is a tough sale politically. But get people spooked about an enemy attack and the attitude flips.

That's why nations from North Korea and Pakistan are playing with the matchbox now.

As the hair ad says: "It won't happen overnight. But it will happen."

Now, a final perspective. What if the problem and its solution are not in our hands at all? That we are not the cause—merely the symptom? What if nature—utterly indifferent to stupid little us and red in tooth and claw—requires our proliferation for some purpose? And, in good time, intends to destroy us, or enable us to destroy ourselves. It happened with the dinosaurs and thousands of other species. Why are we so special? If we don't shape up, it will ship us out as another failed experiment.

Too bleak?

That's why it's probably true.

You can find Clint's latest thriller PROJECT THUNDER on Buzzword.





Saturday, 25 August 2018

HOW TO STOP LIFE DRAINING YOUR ENERGY



In this interview with John Alexandra, author of The Wisdom of Being, a student learns a potent self-maintenance technique. 



Q: I'm a social worker and I find the job very demanding. For instance, I'm currently helping a blind person and it takes all my energy. I arrive home at night exhausted.

A: It’s very good that you see that. Many people would just say, ‘I’m bushed,’ and think no more about it. You feel yourself drained of psychic energy­­­—your life energy. It runs out of you like a hole in a bucket. What's worse, you feel you're not being sincere or doing your job unless you are giving all you have.

Q: I do.

A: But that's not really helping or giving at all. It's an automatic reaction that depletes you. If you really want to help the person, you need to be there for them in the right way. You need your substance, presence, attention. Then you can see what the person needs from your substance, your fullness. But, for that, you first need to be there—contained.

Q: But it all goes out.

A: Yes. Life is always sucking us out. In other words, draining us of our attention. Everything does it. A loud noise, a nasty look, petty fears and agitations. We identify with everything. Particularly with churning automatic thoughts. We try to fix everything with our heads. But it doesn't work because thoughts are just one third of us. To really address the situation, we need to BE there—body mind and feelings together. Then we are contained. Impregnable. We perceive the situation completely, then simply do what is necessary and no more. No wasted energy. What is necessary is the first rule of morality. 


A: No. because no one ever teaches us how. Our parents don't know how. Our teachers don't know how. Religions tell us what to do but the 'how' they once knew has been forgotten centuries ago. So when you see that everything sucks life energy out of you—in other words, takes your attention—the remedy is clear.

Q: It is?

A: If life continually sucks us out, the antidote is to continually draw in. To contain ourselves. Self-maintenance. Conserve your substance, attention. You see it?

Q: And how does one do that?

A: There are many ways. But one I'd recommend for someone who has never tried these techniques before is this. Try to be aware of your skin.

Q: My skin?

A: Yes. Your skin is the envelope of your body and it separates you from the exterior world. You're in it but never know it. In fact, you're a little beyond it because it's attached to an atmosphere—an energy field around you. And it's that energy field that is depleted when you identify with things. It stretches in the direction of your attention and diminishes your natural protective field.

Q: So how to stop that?

A: Try to be aware—mindful—of your skin. Don't think about it. Don't tense. Simply be thoughtlessly aware of it—of the sensation of it. Can you try that now?

Q: I'm trying.

A: Now see if it can soften, become more pore-ous, permeable.  Wordlessly. Visualizing the process. No sub-vocalisation. Keep your head out of it. Are you trying it?
 
Q: Yes.

A: What do you find?

Q: I have a vague all-round sensation of my skin. It's like a soundless hum.

A: Good. Now try to remember it as you talk, move, act. We're very rigid, tense. Life is always making us tense. So the remedy is to be always softening. And it starts with the skin. Then it can go deeper into the body. Ice melts from the outside. Are you trying it now?

Q: Yes.

A: And?

Q: It helps me feel more here somehow.

A: Because you are. We need to relate to life with the whole of ourselves, not just our heads. Paying wordless attention to the skin uses different cells in the brain. And the random thoughts calm down because I'm attentive, for once, not just thinking. Attention is not your thoughts. The correct use of the mind is to be attentive—not to think. And when the attention contacts the body like this, I am already two-thirds awake. More present. More here. I'm no longer just a conditioned reaction. I begin to live—not merely exist.

Q: It certainly feels different.

A: Now let this greater sensation of yourself move inward. You need to become a container—more able to contain your energy. You see?

 Q: Just then, I started to think about it and it went.
 
A: So come back to it again. The softening, conserving of your atmosphere, consolidating inward. You can always begin again. And the first step is the last step. Try it particularly when you meet someone. Don't change anything on the outside but be aware of yourself at the time. You—in front of another. It's difficult because every moment is a challenge. But it's also tremendously important for your life, for others and your future. To have both 'the eye of time and the eye of eternity open together' as Jacob Boehme put it. To have a foot in both camps. In fact to live in two worlds. To thicken your life. To live twice. You really live then.


You can find John's book The Wisdom of Being on the Buzzword site.









Wednesday, 13 June 2018

THE BUSKER'S BIBLE


Check out this book now

In 1984, Jon Jessie decided he could do it - busk around OZ for nothing more than he earned on the street. And, after a shaky start, he was on his way. Thirty years later, he's still at it. A hoot!

Jon Jessie decided to busk his way around Oz, living entirely on what he earned.
And the miracle is he succeeded. In 1984, he went up the East Coast of the country, then decided to go inland and try to get right around for nothing.


That first busking session in Kings Cross, Sydney on 4th April 1984, began an alternative lifestyle that was to last more than 30 years. Even now, in his seventies, he still sings with his guitar to passers-by. And hopes for another few years yet!

Listen to two of the Jon Jesse compositions which occurred during this epic journey:. Busking in Sydney 
Helscha How We Waited 


Read about his first session here:  

My First Ever Busking Session
I took the escalator up from the station to Darlinghurst Road. It was three years since I last went up these moving stairs and then I'd only been here as a tourist. Then, there had been no anxiety or unsureness. I'd looked forward to an interesting evening just like all the other millions of tourists that flock each year to this Little Paris of Australia, where watching prostitutes standing before shop doorways was the name of the game!

  But now, it was with a completely different feeling that I came to the top—and I looked different as well. I wore a checked shirt, over which lay a blue velvet waistcoat which my mother had made and I was wearing black corduroy trousers with my lovely black hat on my head. On my feet were red socks and blue artistic- looking leather shoes and I hoped that I looked a proper busker. I turned left and headed for the spot I had chosen to do my first ever busking session.

  It was on the other side of the road about a hundred metres along where a side street went down a hill. But the closer I got, the more the resistance in me built up. “Stop it! Put that out of your head! Think of Mike! Remember what he said!” I urged myself, “Don't think about it, do it! Don't think about it, do it!” This I now kept repeating to myself until I reached my spot and put my guitar case down,, opened it, took out my guitar, put it over my shoulder and put my capo in place, all with “Don't think about it, do it! Don't think about it, do it!”

  Now turn yourself around towards the road, I told myself, straighten up and sing!
  I'd already chosen to begin with an up-beat song from Elvis Presley. Good old Elvis, he knew how! I hit into my guitar and pushed out the opening line: “Won't you wear my ring around your neck …..” I was doing it, I was!

  I really was doing it, after all these years! I might now be 43 years old, but that hadn't stopped me. Elation overwhelmed me. But keep on going, I told myself, just keep going! Don't stop for at least half an hour! So started my first busking session and, straight away, I made my first mistake. I'd hardly sung a couple of lines when I noticed nearby a swaying drunk. He smiled at me and, foolishly, I smiled back at him. That was it. Suddenly we were old pals and he'd come and sing along with me like good friends do!

  He staggered over to me and his alcoholised breath was excruciating!

  "Damn, what should I do now?" I thought, and I've only just started!

  Go away you bugger! But in his intoxicated state he saw it that pals naturally stay together and had to help me with my performance! With his head next to mine it was unbearable.
  You stupid idiot, you were nice to him so now he won't go away! I cursed and tried to move away from his breath. We ended up going around in a circle. I cursed again that I'd caused this to happen right at the beginning of my first busking attempt. Christ, go away, won't you!

  That would have been the first and last busking session of my life, had my Fairy Godmother not come along and saved me! She appeared in the form of a thirty year old woman accompanying her friend—who was in such a bad state that she had to be dragged along. Both were pretty high but my saviour knew what she was doing.

  After watching and listening to me for some seconds with an amused smile, she took pity on me. She let her friend slither to the floor, looked into my eyes with a hearty laugh and then went behind the drunk. She put her hands on his shoulders, twisted him away and guided him to the middle of the road where she walked him along for some way before giving him a hearty shove. I prayed that he wouldn't turn around and come back and he didn't.

  "Thanks so much for your help!” I shouted at her as she returned to pick up her friend.
  “Think nothing of it, Luv! I could see yer needed some 'elp!” she shouted back and left, helping her drugged companion over the road and down an alley.
  With relief I carried on. Now I had peace for a while and began to get used to this new activity. The money wasn't coming in fast but some coins had landed in my case which helped.

  I'd been there about half an hour when across the road, moving this way and that, I noticed a woman heading toward me. Her body was hunched and, the way she hung her head, stuck forward going from side to side, she seemed like a worn out version of E.T. As she got close to me she made a kind of butterfly flit towards me. Then, a yard from my face, she hovered, vibrating in little quivers.

  For long seconds she stared at me with wide eyes and suddenly cried, “Wheeee,” threw her arms out wide and zigzagged off.

  “Now, that's what I call hi,” I thought as I stood there singing, “real hippy happy hi!”.

  I continued with my set. My, was busking hard work! In a way it was a bit like being a teacher. You had to be fully concentrated and had to know your stuff.

  I ended up singing for an hour and a quarter and although there was no fortune in my guitar case, it felt like one to me. I felt great, why, that ought to be enough money to keep me for a whole day!

  In fact, my singing from 8.30 until 9.45pm had left me more than content, I was elated! Because I'd done it! Yes, I really had, at long, long, last.

  As I walked back towards the station, I wondered if maybe I'd started too soon. Well, I would find that out the next time. But I was now looking at everything in a different way, as a participator rather than an observer. I'd entered the world of the busker—and needed time to come back down to normality. As I reached the station and the escalator started to carry me down, I knew what an advance I'd just made. This feeling of fulfilment was justified, I had every reason to be pleased with myself. It was 11.30pm when I got back home. I was tired but over the moon. As the brightness of the living room engulfed me I saw four interested faces peering at me.

  “Well, how did it go?”
  “How much did you make?”
  “Well, did you do it then?” came rushing out at me.
  “Yep, I did it!” I said gleefully with outstretched arms.
  “For how long then?” someone asked.
  “About an hour and a quarter.”
  “And how much did you make?” my son Mark asked again.
  I took out my pouch and let coins fall on the table. They amounted to $9.56.
  “Hey, not bad for the first time!” one gasped as I sat and recounted the evenings experience.

  They were as impressed as I was. Because, after so many years of turning away, I'd finally pushed myself through and done it. All I had to do now was to keep on going and, with time, it would get easier and easier and I would get better and better. That was now my aim. Yes, tomorrow night I'd go again.

Visit the book page on Buzzword here.
 
 

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

CAN AI (ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE) BE CONSCIOUS?



Technological positivists confidently predict it can. For an answer, we have to fast-forward to the year 3010, when a lecture from a Futurist puts an end to such speculation - described in this extract from a remarkable soon to be published novel.

 

Picture a small group of 300 year old elders served by a eugenically adapted underclass called Funcs and sophisticated humaniod robots called Hubots. All controlled by 'brain in a box' cyborgs called Neuros with their central nervous systems mounted in mechanical bodies.


Now read on:



'Without going into formulas,' Katz, the Futurist, said, 'complexity is a function of time or duration. Note that time creates complexity. Therefore, a timeless state is necessary to avoid it. Consider this thought experiment...'
The screen changed to:
AI - TIME = INERTIA.
ORGANIC INTELLIGENCE + TIME = FAILURE.

'Artificial intelligence minus duration equals inertia. The machine has power but does nothing. Obvious enough. However, to understand the second proposition, we need to examine the diff between organics and intelligent machines. Can someone mention a diff? And, by the way, it has nothing to do with conduct or ordinary knowledge.'
   A white haired fem elder in the front row said, 'Relative consciousness.'
   The Futurist nodded to her. 'Thank you, Erva. Despite our efforts, it's still impossible to program consciousness. It's easier to genetically adapt organics than adapt machines—to build pain into bots, sensory cognition, responsiveness to unexpected situations, emotions, risk, social interactions... You can't turn responses like surprise or anguish into numbers. How do you code an algorithm for dopamine? Computers have no experience—just run software. But let's assume, for now, that machine learning can eventually emulate a form of consciousness.' He waved a hand at Jason and Pitho. 'In fact, we have two augmented H10s in the audience that go some way toward this goal. So accepting this as a future possibility, we'll provisionally ignore this factor. What else?'
   Pitho said, 'Entropy.'
   'Exactly. For those unfamiliar with the term, in isolated systems, heat flows spontaneously from hot to cold. Things are caught in a process of natural disorganisation. For instance, broken glass doesn't revert to an unbroken state. This is scientifically termed thermodynamic equilibrium. Machines, likewise, are subject to entropy. Only living matter can be said to have "negative entropy". In other words, only organisms can persist, for a while at least, in the face of dissolution by absorbing nutrients, combating disease and reproducing themselves. Note also that organics are the origin of machines. So, if there are not enough organics, machines will regress.'
   A Func from Combat in the fourth row spoke up. 'Not if we let bots pass the Singularity.'
   'Ah! And are we all sure what that is?' He looked directly at Mark5.
   Mark5 said, 'Something you can't undo?'
   'For the benefit of our young friend here, Singularity spans two aspects—the Palladium Council's embargo against machine reproduction, and the possibility that AI can outstrip OI, or Organic Intelligence.'
   The greasy-haired Hosie2 raised an arm. 'Hey man. You say, man, that, even if we let them build themselves, they'll tank...?'
   'Good question. Let's examine it. Firstly, the Precepts forbid machine autonomy. It doesn't Conform. But let's say, for the sake of argument, that we permit bots to reproduce themselves. It still goes nowhere. Because they'll soon have maint issues.'
   'Why?' the Combat Func asked.
   'Firstly, for a machine to self-replicate it must extract the materials necessary and process them, estab a supply chain, set up and maintain assembly plants, secure a 100 per cent reliable energy source, estab a fail-safe temp controlled environment and many other factors. Then there'll be hardware failures. And software inevitably becomes corrupted because complex inert systems eventually degrade. Even if bots self-reproduced, they couldn't survive. Because logical inorganic intelligence inevitably develops defects.'
   'Not if the coding's perfect...'
   'It can't be.'
   'Why?'
   'Because organics wrote the code and human intelligence is flawed. Therefore, anything produced by human intelligence is flawed. Therefore, all coding is flawed. And attempts to patch those flaws add complexity and increase the system's entropy. Which brings us to the prob of organic intelligence. Do you see where this is going?'