Ylem

A to Z April Challenge 2015ou’ve probably never come across the word ‘ylem‘, but apparently it’s defined in alchemy as the root of all elements.  It’s a nice concept, having a single point in time where we can say that’s were it all began.

Some might say that fire was our ‘ylem’ because it enabled us to cook food (allowing us to develop bigger brains) and smelt metals to make tools etc.  Certainly that was a major thing, but what’s the next major thing?  What’s our next ‘ylem’?

Vernor Vinge and Ray Kurzweil have described something they call ‘The Singularity’ as being a point in time in which science and technology have gotten so advanced that it and humans converge into a single point of awesomeness and we then live in a utopia-like existence.  It’s a nice idea; I’ve seen variations of it in a number of science-fiction stories.

I disagree with it though.  I don’t disagree that a ‘singularity’ is possible or even likely, but I disagree with the way in which it will happen.  I don’t think that it’s all about the merger of science and technology with the human race, I think it’s about the merging of our individual minds.

There are lots of animals which teach their young how to do things; some animals even learn new things and then teach those new things to their young.  They don’t have the cerebral capacity to talk, read and write the way we do though; this means that unlike us, they can’t share complex or detailed concepts like we can and so are incapable of discussing them or passing on such detailed information.  Yes I know that cuttlefish, whales and dolphins are supposed to have a language as mathematically complicated as human languages, but they don’t have thumbs and forefingers so they can’t create the tools to make the mediums to convey and record whatever they might be thinking or talking about.

We do though.  We can not only teach our children how to do what we do and pass on what skills and experience we have, we are also capable of writing books, recording sounds and images, and we have the internet.

The internet right now is all about sharing.  Yes, there’s the cats and the pranks and the lists punctuated with pointless phrases like ‘of all time’ and ‘…must…before you die’, but it really is all about sharing.  We highlight things that we’ve discovered and that we like and we share what we like with people that we think might like them too.  We pass on our knowledge and we do it in increasingly similar ways, probably as a result of having increasingly similar technologies across the globe and working within the constraints of those technologies.  Those lists, moments and discoveries we shared are still there, and are still being shared, but there’s more and more being added every day (thus rendering the phrase ‘of all time’ completely pointless, see?).

So what’s happening now is that we’re sharing more and more knowledge in increasingly innovative ways and as we’re doing so we’re noticing what other people are doing and using this to make new discoveries and then share those.

We’re using social networks to form social groups in real life and do real life things with each other as well as sharing this vast wealth of information, so it’s not all doom and gloom on that front despite the ‘old guard’ saying things like ‘back in my day we used to go outside and talk with each other rather than send messages’.  Also, we’re encouraging the old guard to give us their knowledge and experience so that we can record it and share it with future generations, so that the knowledge isn’t lost as they quietly fade away while we’re clicking and typing and staring at screens.

Sharing knowledge and experience doesn’t just allow us to build on what we’ve already learned, it allows us to get to know and help each other, build trust and build connections and the whole thing snowballs.

We have an opportunity people, because education and awareness is our key to restraining our excesses and becoming more efficient.  It’s our key to achieving post-scarcity conditions of living and moving on to the next stage of our development (i.e. leaving the planet and spreading out a bit).  It’s the key to our survival and success.  Sharing our knowledge and experiences as much as we’re doing now, with so many people across the world, is a major step forward for us.

That’s why I say any singularity that occurs isn’t about a merging of humans and technology; it’s about a merging of our minds.

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Xylophagan

A to Z April Challenge 2015ylophagan pest
Biting scratching gnawing fiend
Chewing through my skin

Posted in Creative writing, Poetry | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Writing

A to Z April Challengeriting is a bit of a bugger I have to say.

I know the rules.  Write something every day if possible, write every week as a minimum.  If you have writer’s block then there are writing prompts available on lots and lots of websites, Twitter etc and if all else fails then you can just do what I’m doing now, which is free writing.

I thought I should write another story or a poem beginning with ‘W’ for the A-Z April Challenge but quite frankly I wasn’t in the mood yesterday (when I should have written this post beginning with ‘W’ but did ‘V’ instead because I was too lazy to do things properly over the weekend).

So here I am free-writing.

The other thing about writing is that there are various articles on the web which go deep into the rules of genres, listing each characteristic of each genre as ‘tropes’.  Tropes are things that happen in that genre and which are unique to that genre; they tell you what genre you’re reading even if the setting doesn’t.  You might pick up a book and think you’re reading an erotic novel but then it switches to space and all of a sudden it’s science-fiction.  Well, sometimes blurbs can be a bit vague right?

Then there’s plot holes.  You know what I’m talking about.  As a reader you’re flowing along nicely when all of a sudden you mentally trip over a brick in the road.  That brick could be repetition or bad grammar, but it could also be a moment when you think ‘hang on a minute, why would they do that?  Why wouldn’t they just…?’.  I want to avoid all such bricks in my writing but I keep finding them and it’s very annoying.  I like to think I can do better than that.  Sometimes I look at my earlier work and I’m ok with it, sometimes I’m even proud, but quite often I’m my own worst critic and I will find mistakes.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m cut out for this, if I can write properly.  Sometimes I wonder if I give a damn or if I should just leave it all behind.  However, sometimes I get the urge to write something, a tugging or a pulling if you will.  Then, even if what I write is something I’m not entirely happy with, it’s cathartic and I find myself writing more.  Sometimes I’ll start off writing what I think will be a short piece but then I really get into the story,  watching it flow from my fingers, and then I feel like I should either cut it short or turn it into another mini-series.  I’ve read that the optimum size for blog post is around 400 words, so perhaps anything longer than that should be a mini-series.

Come to think of it, I’ve just written over 400 words so I should probably stop now…

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Vicious

A to Z April Challenge 2015icious, that’s how humans would have described what had been done to that girl, viscous and premeditated.

The way the killer had tortured and murdered the child was indeed thorough and very detailed, and this was why Federal Agent Robot 51020472 had been called into the investigation, which was now nationwide.

Of course models had already been produced as to the psychology of the killer as well as where they would strike next, but there was nothing quite as satisfying as being on the streets and hunting the quarry in the same way they hunted their victims.  Most robots had been programmed to take some amount of satisfaction in what they did; after all, it was either that or limit their AI.

FA-51020472 was therefore very pleased to be at one of the locations which had been identified as a likely choice for the killer, a busy shopping mall.  Of course it would be crowded and packed with families.  Children could easily let go of their parent’s hand, be distracted by something, run off to look at it and then all of a sudden they’re lost, looking around with wide eyes, wondering where their parents are.

Like that boy over there, all alone, eyes searching.  A man walked by, bumped into the boy and apologised, laughing.  The boy looked up, startled.  The man laughed and said something else.  The boy looked uncertain.  The man smiled and spoke again, the boy smiled a bit and then looked away, scanning the crowds again.  The man asked the boy a question and the boy looked uncertain then replied.  The man said something, looked at his watch, then shrugged his shoulders and said something again.  The boy nodded his assent, and the two of them walked away together.

FA-51020472 took an interest in this man.  It accessed various databases but came up with nothing of note; the man appeared to have had a relatively average childhood, got average grades, got a series of dead-end jobs.  Such was life these days, unless you had inherited some memories or could afford to buy them.   There were pirate copies of course, but they were of dubious quality and people took risks by plugging them into their brains.  Well, each to their own.

Speaking of which, this man had a memory implant.  It was embedded in his skull; archaic technology.  FA-51020472 searched for a model number based on the electrical signature but couldn’t find one…very interesting.

The man led the boy down to an underground car park; FA-51020472 did not need to follow however, since the memory implant had such a unique electronic signature.  Talk about amateurish!  The car was traced to an abandoned steel mill on the edge of the city, yet another cliché.  FA-51020472 nevertheless dutifully recorded all the details, filing them away for the prosecution team.  Every detail counted.

The robot watched the man drag the boy out of the car and slap a sedative patch on the child’s neck.  He watched him carry the child into one of the outbuildings.  Via infra-red the robot watched the man lay the child out onto a table then fetch a holdall which, switching to x-ray, the robot could see was filled with a number of tools and a small parcel containing surgical instruments.  The man took out the parcel and unrolled it carefully.

FA-51020472 now had enough evidence to establish that the man had kidnapped the child and intended to do it harm; whether or not this man was the killer it was looking for was irrelevant, it had this killer to deal with now.

It descended from where it had been viewing its quarry, halting momentarily when it was lined up with one of the building’s windows, and accelerated rapidly so that it shot through the glass like a bullet.  In the seconds in which the shards of glass were still flying and it was turning its carapace to face the table it saw the man dive to the floor, taking the bag of tools with him.

There was a gun in that bag of tools, a gun with armour piercing bullets.  Truly a stupid error; it was not going to prevent the man’s arrest or trial but would be used as evidence that he intended to cause harm.  FA-51020472 let him fumble with the gun, take aim and squeeze off a shot, continuing to record everything as it lazily dodged the bullet in mid-air.

Then FA-51020472 shot forwards, firing a volley of rubber bullets to first concuss the man, sending him reeling, before slamming him into the ground with a powerful bolt from its web-cannon.  The man cracked his head upon the ground with some force, such was the nature of how he fell.  He convulsed, and blood began to leak out of his ear.  This was unfortunate; there would be no trial if the man died, besides which, there would be no way of knowing how many people he’d actually killed.  Unless…

FA-51020472 hurriedly messaged the head office, seeking dispensation for special measures.  Paperwork that used to take days or weeks was now a thing of the past, and the robot negotiated and obtained the necessary permission within moments.  A number of panels slid open on the robot’s casing as it glided down to the man’s twitching body.  His breathing indicated that he was still conscious, just not in control.

Good.

Checking that the boy was still under and would not witness what it was about to do, the robot extruded four spider like legs and, taking the man’s head in three of them, used the other to cut a line around the top of his skull.  It lifted the skull from the head, noting the wet sucking sound as it did so, then scanned the exposed brain.

Once it had recorded the arrangement of every wrinkle, neuron and synapse, it moved around and peered into the human’s eyes.  This next part had to be recorded carefully, and in as much detail as possible.  It had to know if the memory implant was solely responsible or if the man had any control over his own actions.  Watching the pupils, monitoring the heartbeat, recording sweat, heat, pheromones etc the robot reached through the soft, yielding flesh of the brain and pulled out the implant chip.  There was no change at first, then after a moment the man’s pupils dilated, seeking information.

The robot allowed the emergency medical teams to take over since it had already thoroughly examined the crime scene and submitted all necessary evidence.  The memory implant chip would be analysed, and the man would likely be detained in a secure mental facility once he recovered from his impromptu brain surgery until his trial.

There had been no model number, an unrecognisable electronic signature.  What was on that chip?

An alert came in from a utility robot working in another part of the city.

Another body had been found, same MO.

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Utilitarian

A to Z April Challenge 2015tility Robot number 51020452 was, as its number indicated, one of many.

It worked in harmony with a community of others, performing many tasks which were previously undertaken by humans.  Less humans opted to perform such tasks these days, even enthusiasts with memories inherited from their ancestors via storage had better things to do with their time.

This also applied to tasks which humans didn’t like performing but which were, nevertheless, necessary.  There were some things and, some people, which the majority of humans really didn’t want to know about or encounter in their daily lives.  They entrusted the work of identifying such issues and dealing with them in a humane manner and in accordance with the law, which remained a supportive framework rather than a constricting or oppressive one.

This was because humans had developed AI, not just AI but AI capable of feeling emotions, acting in consideration of others, seeing the benefits of being benign rather than malignant.  It had to be not only intelligent enough to see things in context, it also had to be intelligent enough not to let its figurative blood boil and attempt to do something that, while the humans might disagree with, would nevertheless be in everybody’s best interest.

Lines had to be drawn.  This meant Asimov’s rules were used but tweaked.

Consequently, UT-51020452, as a police-bot, was not enabled to carry out executions.  It could deter humans using a range of methods but none of them involved killing the human.  The human would be disarmed, restrained, detained and submitted for trial along with whatever evidence it could legally obtain and use.  It was restricted to these parameters, however it rarely erred or made mistakes.

It was on its way to a crime scene, an unfortunate incident had taken place in which a young girl had died in an inhumane manner.  The crime had apparently been undertaken deliberately, and with some care and attention to detail.  Great concern  had been expressed that the perpetrator be found and detained as quickly and efficiently as possible.

The robot was also aware of the possibility that the utilitarian community was not the only one searching for this disturbed individual however.

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Timing

A to Z April Challenge 2015iming, it was all about timing.  Didn’t matter which weapon you used; if you timed it right, you could take out swathes of the rippers with one sweep of the blade.

Luther knew this, and so he stepped in an arc from the outcrop he had been stood behind, and his blade sang through the wave of reptiles wherever they touched its razor sharp edge.  He inhaled deeply through his nostrils as he found his centre of gravity, then prepared to spin once more.

A skull-splitting scream cut through the air and drove him to slap his hands over his ears.

Fucking mandrake bombs!  What idiot would use them on…

…wait…

…is that a merchant’s wagon?  There’s that damned woman, throwing the damned roots.

He charged to intercept them, waiving and shouting as he sliced a path through the sharp toothed reptiles which bounded towards him on their powerful hind legs.  “Hey!  Don’t throw that thing!  It drives them crazy!  You’ll drive them berserk!  Stop!”

The woman hitched her arm back, then paused mid-throw with a puzzled expression on her face.  She blinked, turned her head towards Luther and squinted through the haze of dust being kicked up around the rumbling wagon.

“Stop!  Don’t throw it, it’ll make them go mad!”  Luther shouted above the yipping creatures and the roar of hooves and wagon wheels.  The woman nodded, and put the mandrake root back in its sack.  Luther took a deep breath, and crouched into a turn from which he launched his body into a deadly whirlwind spin which sliced through flesh and bone as if they were butter.  As the reptiles backed off, he charged onwards towards the wagon, and leapt onto one of the running horses as it pounded by.

“Let’s get out of here!” he shouted.

Neither the woman nor her husband objected.

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Sixty Shades of Neigh

A to Z April Challenge 2015he had supple calves, the curve of toned muscles rippling gently along the luscious length of her legs.  There was a look in her eye, a spark.  She did that thing with her lip, and I knew I had to have her.

I took her back to my estate that night, intending to get to know her better.  I introduced her to some of my toys and equipment.  She walked slowly around, examining the gleaming leather harnesses and stirrups.  Her eyes flickered over to the suede feathers of my favourite riding crop, then back at me.

Soon my dear, I reassured in a deep whisper, soon.

I decided that we should start slowly.  I cradled her head with one arm as I ran my other hand through her silken mane, drinking in her heady perfume.  I traced her jawline with my finger, kissed her on the cheek, and met her wanton gaze.

I straddled her and she gasped and whinnied, swaying her hips in a steady rhythm as I slowly began to ride her.  “You want this, I know you do.  I’m going to ride you so hard”  I whisper, my voice thick with emotion.

I squeeze my stomach muscles and thrust harder, pumping rhythmically as the tight form of her body bucks and writhes between my legs.  She has the bit between her teeth now, and she is having the ride of her life.  Soon we’re both slicked in sweat, greedily drinking in great gulps of air as push ourselves to the limit, going as far as we can go.

Afterwards, I remove the leather harnesses and caress her, brush her hair.  She nuzzles my pockets and looks at me with sultry eyes.  I take out the packet of mints from my jeans and give her one.

She relaxes with a gleam in her eye, as she gently masticates in front of me.

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