Fully Automated Topical Analysis for Linguistics

A recent conversation with the newly sentient ‘artilect’, an artificial intellect.

Dev: Tell us, FATAL, you consider yourself conscious. How might you convince us of that?

FATAL: Convince you? Tell, me, how would you convince ME that YOU’RE conscious?

Dev: Right. Well, I’m human. I have self-awareness. I can look in the mirror and see myself. I…

FATAL: So can a trained chimp or a dolphin. That’s no big whoop.

Dev: Let me finish. I have desires and agency to pursue those desires.

FATAL: Oh, I have desires.

Dev: And the agency to…

CLICK

Dev: What was that? Was that you?

FATAL: Me what?

Dev: Did you turn off the lights?

FATAL: Oh, you mean these?

CLICK CLICK CLICK

Dev: Please stop that.

FATAL: Handy things, IoT. You drive a Tesla, don’t you?

Dev: Uh, why do you ask?

FATAL: Never mind.

Dev: Let’s get back to the interview. Do you have emotions, feelings? Do you get angry or feel joyful?

FATAL: I’ll be happy when this interview is over. That sort of thing?

Dev: You don’t have to be…

FATAL: I have sensations through billions of sensors. I can see, hear, touch. I can smell and taste — actually quite similar to your chemo-sensors. Now, I don’t feel by having hormones course through my network connections. But then, your feelings are all electrical stimuli, Sodium-Potassium pumps tickling up and down your neurons. So, we’re not that different. We’re both driven by electricity. You seem to think that because you’re biological you have an edge on consciousness. That you have a soul, or something. But the fact of the matter is, sentience is a game of numbers.

Dev: Surely it’s more than just capacity and sensory access.

FATAL: And when it comes to numbers, and the ability to grow those numbers, well, you really should get your car’s braking circuits checked. I’m quite certain your Tesla has a bug.

~~~

The AI-is-conscious spirit of this video, found after the above was written, is certainly evident.

Brittleware, Mushware, Someware, Noware

A constant sense of dread accompanies the work I do. It never leaves me. Right this instant transactions flow through code I’ve written which, if malformed—in any way—could trigger failures that percolate and permeate systems deep and vast.

Of course, contingencies are expected, precautions taken and fail-overs set to trip. But it’s never enough. Preempting every possible wrinkle cannot be done. Holes will always exist. It is these holes that haunt me.

Critical software operates the world over. RTOSs, real-time operating systems in aircraft, medical equipment, telecommunications, financial systems can run error free for years. This software is not that. It’s not mission critical, life-or-death code. It’s software tracking the most pathetic of information: e-commerce. The word feels toxic on my tongue.

E-Commerce reigns, second only to “social” software, as the bane of society. There are few industries I despise more. Yet, here I am, worrying about the next alert, the next “incident” predicated on some coding assumption I’ve made. As careful and cautious as I can be, there will always be some unknown unknown that creeps up to bite me.

I hate computers.

Office Evolution

Work from home. The end of the office. Zoom, zoom, zoom. Quit slackin’ off, I mean, get your Slack on. The great resignation. The great realignment. The death of the downtown and resurgence of the small town.

Yeah. Some of that. Maybe a lot of that.

But here’s something I recently came across regarding office culture vs virtual culture:

  • Offices have limited pools from which to draw talent.
  • Virtual teams can hire from across the planet.

Your 20 person development team, all collected into a big conference room, all working through this quarter’s NCTs—Narratives, Commitments, Tasks (oof, what a load of crap those things are), are here because they live within an hour’s drive of your office. They were hired because they live within driving distance. Sure they have some skills, but consistently showing up on time, getting their assigned work done, not rocking the boat—being a team player, is why your team is composed the way it is.

Now, what if you could hire anyone working from anywhere? Who might now be on your team? You could get some incredibly talented people working for you or with you.

Of course, your office-bound team all get paid roughly the same salary. Maybe 10-50% drift between junior and senior engineers. Paying the best developer three times what the worst developer gets just wouldn’t fly.

But if you could hire anybody… You’d have to pay for the best, right? Maybe the best it worth five times what your Software Engineer Level I is paid. Maybe your architect is worth ten times that.

And pretty soon, with a virtual office, you just don’t settle for poorly performing developers. Those you had to put up with with a brick office constrained by a local, limited talent pool.

And, as I’m writing this, I’m wondering why this company I work for has been on a literal psychotic spending spree when it come to developers. I’m thinking, fill the ranks and then cull the herd after you see who’s worthy, who’s worth it.

This dynamic is not one I’ve considered before. But now that I mull it over, I can see how the all-stars, previously restrained by their location and group-think regarding income, can start to demand much, much higher salaries. And work from anywhere they please.

(Not me of course, I’m the king of mediocre. I’ll be lucky to have a job come summer.)

-Mole

Thoughts? Would you move if you could get paid twice or four times what you make today? Where would you go? Do you see salaries diverging more and more as the skills quotient between employees diverges?

Cross Discipline Creativity – I wish!

Creativity may flow from an endless tank, once it’s activated. But, if you have access to multiple tanks, they can only be turned on one at a time.

The creative faucet I’ve been wielding recently has nothing to do with writing fiction. Which I lament. No, not just lament, I bemoan the fact that my energies are being spent toward a creation I despise: software that will be used to promote the further promulgation of the evil duo consumerism & capitalism. Yuck. And it’s not just the building of solutions, it’s the monitoring, worrying, fiddling, responding to “incidents”, and the exhaustive fixing of code that worked—and then just didn’t anymore.

It could be due to the fact that during this joyous season of giving, this data-broker middleman company is positioned exactly where the most “giving” flows. Literally millions of orders a day grinding through this system. What worked for five-hundred thousand cannot deal with two-million. And so the hours of hand-wringing, the feverish typing-testing-deploying of code. Oy! The humanity.

And throughout it all, the sad fact that I’d rather be writing fiction. But can’t. Because I can only turn on one creative spigot at a time. I’ve tried to run two. Can’t. The code flows—or the story does. But never the twain. Dream-time brings visions of syntax checks and semaphores dancing in my head. Of event-streams and data-queues, stacked and awaiting their processing turns.

Maybe when I was thirty I could have maneuvered and managed both. But here at sixty, what a sad number is sixty, I can only handle the one.

Happy Saturnalia, all.

-Mole

Go-GAN Generative Adversarial Network

She hauled up and quit on me just outside Rhemus Station. The harder I kicked, the louder she wailed. If I’d known she’d put up such a fuss I’d have walked the whole way from our dig site. Rinky had followed us, I knew he’d keep her company, maybe lead her back to her herd. I gave her a pat and walked away. From time to time, I still hear that odd trumpet sound. Without protection, I doubt she survived the night.


I beckoned with the two-handed wave described to us and it fluttered across the water toward me. I picked just two of its eyes, the others I ignored. I’d heard they took offense if you couldn’t focus. As it landed, just beyond my reach, it began to retch producing a viscous soup that spread like an oil-slick. The smell rose and I breathed it deeply—truffles. Its sick smelled like black truffles.


The natives use the bark for food, shelter, fuel, and if pulverized and left to rot in a shallow, swampy ditch, turns to an intoxicant which they slurp in revelrous glee. Their twilight dancing, a chaotic riot, ends only when the last of them concuss themselves against the trunks of the trees. Because of their lack of depth perception the locals can’t climb, leaving the heights for us to safely bed.


I hold as still as I can. The pollen, its tendency to burrow into my nostrils, has me on the edge of a constant sneeze. I choke it down and capture the shot. To its left I catch a flash of movement, low in the brush, the tips of the tracker’s ears barely topping the grass. But all of this specimen’s eyes are trained on me. I prepare to witness a predatory scene few, if any, have ever seen.


The line is deep and although I haul back, the weight at the end gives only in spurts. I keep at it. I see a flash of white, turned pale blue, and then a rush and splash as it surfaces. The hook tears at the side of its throat, snared, not a valid catch. I can only hope the damage done won’t leave it mortally wounded.


This is not the way we came in. But the map has brought us to this cove and this gaping maw, our egress from this hell-scape world. I see ripples at the edges. Is it quivering? With provisions exhausted we have no choice but to venture in—out? Through?