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January 20th - 2021
WEB-COMIC GETS TRACTION
Thrilled to say The Oracle Machine webcomic seems to be getting some attention. And to make it easier to enjoy, I've put all the pages posted so far, onto this reader right here. I'll update it every weekday. Just click it to view in full size.
Today's page 30-July-2021:
T.O.M. - The Storyboarded Film-script
New pages every weekday!
March 04th - 2020
The Full Graphic Novel -
Digital version on Comixology!
Or order a hard copy,
June 29th - 2021
It's been just over a month since I've posted - been busy writing another film script, for an even lower budget AI Sci-Fi (because filmmakers make films regardless of funding). So what's news in AI?
We have the first reported incident of 'automatic-killer-robots' with these Turkish-made drones (Although no doubt others exist). And even the jobs of Data Scientists may be in jeopardy, according to some... Data Scientists! And reports of AI giving orders to truant kids in an Australian school (surely a taste of things to come in broader society?). And spying, for cops & corporates? (Making for safer neighbourhoods, or is Consumerism our new Big Brother?)
And GPT3 is scaring/helping writers, who're thinking ahead what's in store with GPT4, 5, 6... As previously reported, AI is getting smarter by watching videos. Self-driving trucks set new records. And the brain scientists at Numenta promise about a 100x increase in AI computation with some neural inspiration.
Chile is enacting the first 'Neuroprivacy laws'. Expect more of these. Wildfire-smoke-detection is awesome! The folks at OpenAI, who made GPT3, now bring us this: AI to help coders... write more AI? (What could go wrong?)
And the Oracle Machine is on page 116, which is just 34 pages away from finishing my page-a-day publishing. Stay tuned!
May 17th - 2021
THE A.I. SPECTRUM PROBLEM (building on The Control Problem)
If you're an A.I. researcher, or just an enthusiast, or even just a casual observer, where do you position yourself on the spectrum of A.I. possibilities? Is A.I. going to rule us all? How likely are autonomous weapons? A.I. Lawyers? A.I. Judges? Truly self-conscious A.I.? Will any of this ever happen? Maybe this decade? In the next 100 years? Never?
Keeping A.I. in line is called 'the Control Problem', which may or may not be the same as 'The Alignment Problem', and is the subject of serious study at top institutions. (Let's not forget both Elon Musk and Stephen Hawkins warned of A.I. as being one of humanity's existential threats)
On the extreme end, it's all so damn bizarre, that I can see it is difficult for many to take it seriously. And on the other hand, automatic killing machines are sadly just around the corner, and perhaps a very real threat. So how do those in the field manage to deal with this range of possibilities and remain credible (and sane)? I think we can call this the A.I. Spectrum Problem.
USA Airforce's autonomous 'Skyborg' fighters, are supposed to be 'wingmen' to a human pilot, but how on earth can we trust all/any military to stick to that? Read about it here.
May 03th - 2021
A STRENGTH OF UNDERGROUND FILMMAKING...
...is that one can tackle topics that mainstream studios (such as Disney+) would surely be nervous to tackle?
A case in point would be today's page 077, which looks at religious mythology in the light of A.I. advancement. So, let's then lean into the advantages of underground films. (And I think people expect film directors to be a little bit 'out there'? Artistic-license is a wonderful thing.)
In terms of pacing, inspiration for the 'hospital-philosophy scene' came from another underground film - Godard's classic 'À bout de Souffle' - which grants a few minutes in the middle of the movie to an important & mentally-nourishing philosophical interlude.
On the A.I. front, the relentless growth continues unabated, with A.I. 'compute' doubling every 3 months. Facebook in March announced that it's new AI can now learn from watching videos! I was surprised at how little impact this news made - because it seems such a breakthrough. Think about it - A.I. can now learn 'cause and effect', rather than just labelling images. To me, it seems like AI has moved from being a baby merely watching the world, to a toddler, putting together 'action and consequence'! Crazy times indeed.
March 08th - 2021
THE CURIOUS HISTORY OF 'THE APOCALYPSE' & THE OVERLOOKED VALUE OF COMPARATIVE MYTHOLOGY
This month I was fascinated to learn the original meaning of the word 'Apocalypse'. According to Wikipedia here, it simply means an 'uncovering, or revelation, of great knowledge'. Which to me, sounds a lot like the tech Singularity, which is often described as 'an explosion of intelligence'. So can we then ask, is the Singularity the (original Biblical version of) the Apocalypse?
When I posted this interesting idea on Reddit, it was quickly deleted on r/Futurology and I was 'banned for life' from r/Singularity. Perhaps this is unsurprising - people get nervous over any religious discussion. (But is there really anything rational about the Singularity?)
Zealots might love any 'apocalypse' idea, and others might shun it. But I think a lot depends on one's view of mythology. Some think mythology is merely the study of stories from the past. This is a great injustice. In fact, what myths are, are 'optimised truisms' - tales that have been passed down and shaped by many tongues - evolutionary in a sense that the fittest/best-fitting survive. Myths are thus surely the blueprints for much of our human thought and actions?
Why we think and do things, and the results therefore, have all been recorded in our myths, telling the same stories and using the same (dream) symbols, across the ages, across the world. Joseph Campbell wrote his seminal 'Hero with a Thousand Faces', standing on the shoulders of my favourite guy Jung and his 'Symbols of Transformation', standing on the shoulders of others like Andrew Lang, who wrote, recorded and compared fairy tales from all over.
So to any neuroscientists and AI experts building neural-networks - if you want a glimpse into human thinking, Comparative Mythology is a really good starting place. But as a blueprint for much human thought and activity, does mythology, Biblical or otherwise, thus also then foretell our possible destinies? I don't know, but maybe an Apocalypse won't be too bad after all, if it is indeed this Singularity explosion of knowledge?
February 17th - 2021
I really enjoyed discovering Sir Rodger Penrose thanks to Lex Fridman's interview. Rodger makes the brilliant point that the unconscious human cerebellum is more computationally dense than other parts related to consciousness. Suggesting that great computation will not give us Artificial Intelligence (and by this does he really mean Artificial Consciousness?)
He also makes interesting points about 'understanding', although I'd argue that if the next GPT-x is an aggregator of human minds on the internet, we won't then be able to say it's mindless.
Very interesting too, when Rodger suggests consciousness may lie in fibres in the brain which exhibit a crystalline(?) structure conducive to quantam processing. And the limits of current human understanding. 'If it's not computational, then what is it? We just don't know' says the master mathematician.
February 08th - 2021
A REDDIT REACTIONARY
A recent post I made on Reddit 'Control Problem' subgroup seems to have alarmed some AI-fundis - upvoted then downvoted like a rollercoaster! - which means it's making people think, and is a great reason to re-publish it here:
Could belief in an AGI Judgement Day be just what we need?
I've often wondered, IF we ever get to AGI, if that AGI will take off and leave us behind, or judge us on how we've treated the planet (as if the Singularity is some kind of Judgement Day).
But turning to autonomous weapon systems (AWS), surely there's a very real risk we'll never even get to AGI, because AWS might wipe us out first? So perhaps a belief in an AGI that will judge us - on whether we've harmed humanity by destroying the earth or creating AWS for example - perhaps such a belief is the only thing that can save us from ourselves?
And thus perhaps the real control problem problem, is that we're already worrying about how to control AGI, instead of worrying about if we'll survive long enough to get there at all?
January 14th - 2021
TOM - The Web-Comic!
TOM was drawn as a graphic novel to help visualise it as a film, and to share with others - those who might help make it a film, or others who might simply enjoy it. (Because this story deserves to be told)
So welcome to TOM-the-webcomic! I'll post a page every weekday, on multiple platforms. I've postponed colouring it - realising this would take me at least 6 months, and I'd rather be writing new film scripts - 'simpler' films that, unlike T.O.M, won't need any external funding, that I can effectively shoot/direct/produce myself if I really have to, as I did with Girl From Nowhere. (Because filmmakers make films, funded or not!)
TOM as a webcomic was inspired by this awesome 1969 Lion&Eagle comic. Far better illustrated than my work, this sets the standard for me for episodic comics. 2000AD is another albeit longer-page inspiration.
December 31st - 2020
TOM IN COLOUR
What a year it's been. On the AI front, things keep accelerating. Remember the hype when DeepMind's AlphaGo won at Go? Their new system, MuZero, teaches itself to play any game! But reception to this was muted. The public can't keep up? Meanwhile, this vertical-farming story got a lot of likes. As did this NYTimes story on deep-fakes.
For the TOM project, while I wait for responses to a few pitches for TOM-the-movie, I've started colouring the graphic novel, and I think it looks great. Happy New year everyone. Bring on 2021!
November 30th - 2020
THE ORACLE MACHINE APPROACHES
I've been stepping up the pitching & some pathways to making this a film are appearing. Meanwhile, I continue to be stunned by advances in tech, predicted in the novel, now coming to life.
I thought I was pushing my luck suggesting The Oracle Machine could interpret an image. But this week I discovered Google Lens. It's actually been around a year, but received a bump up with some new AI last month.
What also made the Oracle Machine 'unique' is it 'phoning people for info'. But this article shows Google's BERT AI "is calling businesses to auto update handy details like store hours & takeout options on Search & Maps. This year, Duplex made over 3 million updates to businesses". Crazy times. The new byline for The Oracle Machine is now: 'The future is coming fast. We need to talk about it."
September 21st - 2020
WHAT IS THE ORACLE MACHINE PROJECT? (And how did it come about?)
It's a graphic novel, of a movie script. In 2003 I decided to write a script about a computer that takes over the internet and 'wakes up'. This story began from '1st principles', with me wondering if a computer could solve some humanitarian issues here in South Africa. And realising it might need to be as large as the internet, to know enough to solve these problems. And that it might need to be 'awake' in order to care.
So I think this story was developed in isolation from the general conversation now on A.I. (and long before Alexa). Maybe this adds a fresh angle? And Cape Town is considered the 'cradle of consciousness' - where humans first 'woke up' - first created art 120,000+ years ago, thereby self-reflected. So a nice location for a story on our next leap in consciousness.
This also deals with dreams - because dreams are proof of our larger unconscious minds, and more than ever, we'll need to explore our roots of consciousness.
Getting anyone to read a script is a challenge - even with film producers, it's a big ask for them to commit a few hours to read your script. Luckily I can draw, so I decided to turn my script into a graphic novel. This also helped me visualise it, do more editing, and make it more accessible to others. Especially producers, to quickly flip through and price it.
The graphic novel came out in March 2020 and is hopefully enjoyable in its own right too. I'm now busy submitting my script to various funding bodies, and trying to attract investors. And my next mini-project is to colourise the book and tweak the drawings.
This website is to show some of the processes involved, some ideas behind it, and invite everyone along on this exciting journey of trying to make it a film. And to share this story of our times - about what might lie ahead? (And discuss perhaps how to try shape our human destiny while we still can, as we hurtle into this crazy future of accelerating technological growth!) Please feel free to connect with me on Twitter. @TheOracleM Thanks!
October 12th - 2020
THE SPIRIT IN THE MACHINE?
AI-philosophy is not everyone's cup of tea, and it's relegated to the background in The Oracle Machine, so let's talk about it here.
Many are comfortable with the concept of the Zeitgeist - the Spirit of our Times. Is it a stretch to imagine the internet as representing our Zeitgeist?
Thus might we consider the next GPTx, trained on the entire internet, as essentially capturing/evoking this Zeitgeist? (And would it need self-consciousness, if it can represent the shifting Zeitgeist?)
Funnily enough, I found this article, which seems to perfectly describes the Oracle Machine:
"...Watson's newest capabilities: categorizing & summarizing 1000's, or even 100,000's, of individual comments and opinions, distilling them down to a handful of key points"
Let's venture further, into what can be uncomfortable territory for many (precisely why we must go there). I wonder how different really, is the concept of the Zeitgeist to the Christian concept of the Holy Ghost? (Because our Gods of all religions have usually reflected our general state of consciousness).
Perhaps if the differences are small, then could an A.I. trained on the entire internet, at some point be said to be invoking/ manifesting the Holy Ghost...? Could our Internet thus become (part of) a God? And is the Control Problem ultimately a question on the difference between the Holy Ghost and the Zeitgeist?
Something to consider as we bring intelligence to machines, and as the internet begins to evoke our Zeitgeist.
August 27th - 2020
GROWING THE PROJECT
In effort to get more attention to the project, I'm trying some 'tangential' marketing. I'll post some cartoons - about 1 per week - that might hopefully bring more viewers to this site or to my Twitter account (here).
I'm thrilled the Twitter following has grown close to 500 in a couple of months, and led to interactions with some very interesting people in A.I. But will easily-shareable cartoons will grow that number? Let's see.
Introducing 'Robots of the Revolution' - a wry look at life on Earth after robots have taken over. There're still be some humans trying to fit in, but mostly it'll be robots taking on human roles. So, let's see how it goes. Fun times!
August 20th - 2020
Searching for the (Holy) Ghost-in-the-Machine - How 'The Oracle Machine' story was born
It's very interesting (to me) how The Oracle Machine story evolved. Particularly the role played by intuitive thinking, and the implications thereof.
This story began from ‘1st principles’. I had an idea that in order to solve some of the poverty issues we have in South Africa, we’d need a computer that could firstly know of the issues; secondly it would care; and thirdly act. This computer would have to be extremely large to 'know' the issues. It could 'act' by issuing instructions. But how could it 'care', unless it achieved some kind of 'Jesus-like' sentience?
Perhaps this imaginary computer would have to be so powerful, it might need to be the entire internet? But what could motivate a machine to fill out the internet? Why not set it an impossible problem encouraging it to grow bigger? This was a good opportunity to bring in ‘solving dreams’ as the impossible problem. I'd been mulling making a documentary tackling dreams, but thought it more fun and impactful to interweave dream concepts into a fiction narrative.
I then simply intuitively guessed a 'dream symbol’ for the computer to get stuck on - and out the blue chose 'the ourabus'. This was 2003. I did not realise until much later, reading Kurzweil's 'The Singularity is Near', that the ourabus is THE symbol for the singularity. Before that, I was not aware of the concept of the singularity either.
So, was choosing the ourabus a happy coincidence, or intuitive thinking in action? I like the idea of the latter.
My understanding of intuition is that it implies two centres of power in the mind - a conscious and unconscious part. The conscious being what you're aware of, and the unconscious likely where intuitive ideas (and dreams) are born, before mysteriously moving into the conscious realm. Dreams too, imply two centres of mind, because dreams (especially nightmares) appear to be imposed on us, from a centre of ourselves we’re not often conscious of.
This process of intuition seems different to rational thinking, where we follow a slower conscious process of logic to arrive at a conclusion. There seems no conscious-process to intuitive ideas? They literally pop out of nowhere. Yes, I followed a conscious process to get to the need for a dream symbol, but the ourabus came from nowhere. I could just as easily have chosen a flying horse, or a pyramid.
Surely this is the magical process of creative thinking, seemingly off limits to machines. (Fascinating, that in this notorious article, written last month by the new GPT3 system, the machine appears to prompt humans for more creative thinking...) Perhaps some kind of Quantum Entanglement happens? Perhaps this links us all to our 'zeitgeist' - in ways we simply haven't understood yet?
Two centres of mind is a very Jungian concept. It implies something much greater within us, or beyond us. In TOM, Lena remarks that if dreams have meaning, then something in us must know us better than we, our conscious-selves, do.
Before writing TOM, I wondered, if there is a 'perfect self' within you, is it the same as the 'perfect self' within me? Because there is only one perfection? (I use the word 'perfect' cautiously, because in Jungian terms, 'whole' is the preferred word, as it better incorporates both light and dark).
Anyway, I think Jung saw what Edinger called a 'transpersonal self' within us all. Jung called it 'the God image', possibly because at his time of writing, it was difficult to call it 'God'. In his seminal work 'Answer to Job', referenced elsewhere on this site, he concludes that Bible mythology indicates a deity moving from unconsciousness to consciousness. In short, the Holy Ghost aspect is predicted to 'manifest in the many'.
TOM 'playfully' asks if an AI-empowered Internet, as the 'sum of our consciousnesses', could embody this? Could it effectively be an intermediary to the deity? Or the other way around - reaching out to us, as carriers of this transpersonal self? Or are both possibilities effectively the same? And now, as we start reading between the lines of the next generation GPT-x's or other quasi-AI models, will we start to feel the presence of the Holy-Ghost-in-the-machine there? Crazy times.
Something for the computer scientists. This graph shows that performance continues to scale with the amount of 'compute' added. Meaning we can still build bigger and bigger systems, and expect even better results!
August 20th - 2020
TOM - A GOOD CONVERSATION STARTER
Since publishing the graphic novel in March, it's been richly rewarding to be able to now reach out to some luminaries in the A.I. world, with something to share. TOM really helps get the conversation started. And some of these wonderful people are wonderfully easy to contact and connect with. So huge thanks to one of them, Steve, for prompting the other piece written today.
And he also sent this article. It's a mental mouthful (for me), but it calls attention to the astounding place we have now arrived at. I'll leave you with the conclusion first, because conclusions are always a good place to start.
"(GPT3)... might be the closest thing we ever get to a chance to sound the fire alarm for AGI: there’s now a concrete path to proto-AGI that has a non-negligible chance of working."
August 14th - 2020
THE BUSINESS OF FILMMAKING - And Why THE ORACLE MACHINE Is A Great Value Proposition
THE ORACLE MACHINE is both a graphic novel and the script for a live-action movie. But movies can cost quite a bit, so movie-making becomes a business too, and one that usually must try give some kind of return on investment to investors - be it emotional, financial, and preferably both.
It is incredibly satisfying to watch something you have helped create have an impact on multitudes of others. And the financial returns can be huge. The excellent Trainspotting had a return ratio of about 60:1. Filmmaking is a gamble, yes, but the higher the risk, the higher the rewards (and for some, the bigger those thrills). But I do believe this is also relatively low-risk for a movie project.
Filmmaking is team-building! South African actors Suraya Santos
and Grant Swanby posed for the
drawings in the graphic novel.
Three big factors here mitigate the risks:
Firstly, the script has been drawn out as a graphic novel, so my vision is perhaps clearer to communicate than as a written script. It's also easier for producers to scope out locations and cast and action-sequences etc. And price it. It's a step closer to the final product. For myself as filmmaker, it's another opportunity to see how the script plays out - where it's too fast, too slow, unclear etc. And though the graphic novel format (mine anyway) can be a bit limiting in conveying emotional weight, I'm sure the actors will do an even more compelling job of telling this story.
Secondly, I have experience filmmaking, creating one original feature-length movie - GIRL FROM NOWHERE - from start to finish. Although it was a micro-budget first-film, shot in 13 days with about $25k, it's out there now getting views. And I had to juggle being cameraman/ director/ producer/ editor and more. So if investors can imagine working with me, without me carrying so many other roles too, and given 100x that funding, we'd still be on the lower end of the low-budget movie spectrum! i.e. I can stretch a budget, plus this script is designed to be affordable to make.
Thirdly, Cape Town is a massively-popular and highly-economical filming location. We have very experienced crews here, seasoned in the whims of international Hollywood productions. And filming in Cape Town is so darn cheap. No limits, and every kind of location. i.e. $1m spent here can look like $10m in the States.
And one final point. South Africa enjoys a number of co-production treaties with other countries, plus offers tax incentives and industry-funding initiatives. The lead character of Scot, a university lecturer, could be easily be played as a visiting American/German/(insert nationality) to fulfil some possible co-production requirements.
So let's do it. Time is fleeting. Let's make an awesome Indie Genre African Sci-Fi Cutting-Edge Original A.I.-T.O.M. Movie! Whew.
August 11th - 2020
JUST LIKE IN T.O.M. - HACKING DOOR LOCKS AND TRAFFIC LIGHTS IS ALREADY HERE
July 22nd - 2020
MOORE'S LAW SHATTERED, AND OTHER ASPECTS OF T.O.M. COMING TO LIFE
Some more stories this week that show how fast things are moving now. This article says how OpenAI researchers showed that the amount of 'compute' used in A.I. between 2012 and 2018 doubled every 3.5 months, far exceeding Moore's Law, which predicts a doubling every 18 months. Meanwhile, this article suggests we'll have bionic eyes within 5 years. The Oracle Machine only dared to predict digital lenses! The book predicts programming proteins - but here's an article showing how machine-learning is discovering how to design artificial proteins!
The graphic novel also talks about hackers being able to destroy computers remotely by 'switching voltage on the processors'. Whilst most computers surely have defences against this, it seems Chinese researchers have found a loophole whereby hackers could at least set some smart chargers alight with a 'BadPower attack'. Warning - buckle your seatbelts, there're crazy times ahead.
July 14th - 2020
AN A.I.-INTERNET AS 'KIND-OF LIKE THE NEXT JESUS'?!
This research from Australia really drew my attention. Quoting it: "The research further revealed that in questions where the CTRL has been asked “what happens to our soul after death,” the users preferred the answer given by the artificial intelligence (23.1%) over the one that is provided by Jesus Christ (20.3%). "
The Oracle Machine bravely steps into the world of metaphysics, and rightly asks the important question:
could the Internet somehow become a type of religious
inter-mediary for some, or more?
Whatever one feels about religion, no one can deny it's played a huge role in humanity over at least the last few thousand years. We cannot now pretend it is not still a major and integral influence for a large part of humanity. And I don't believe enough critical thinking is being done to try understand what it really means.
I prefer Jung's interpretation, that religion can also be seen as sign-posts along our own evolution of consciousness. And I see an AI-enabled Internet as the likely next step along this development path.
July 04th - 2020
TOM at CLARKE'S BOOKSHOP in Long Street
Clarke's at 199 Long Street is perhaps Cape Town's most famous book store for serious collectors of 'Africana'. Happy to announce they now also stock and ship The Oracle Machine!
July 04th - 2020
HUMANS vs CHATBOTS - LOOK HOW FAR WE'VE COME.
The fact that we now even have articles discussing the merits of chatbots versus human-operators is indicative of just how far we've come in the last few years!
Another interesting 'chat' development this month is OpenAI's GPT3. OpenAI was founded by Musk and others in 2015 as a non-profit to ensure future superhuman AI is a benign force. Then in 2018 Musk left, and it became 'for profit', with $1Billion invested by Microsoft.
Now here's the scary bit - OpenAI's previous model, GPT2, was pulled because its ability to generate fake news, for example, was considered too dangerous. Yet GPT3 is far more powerful... Wired Magazine covers the story here.
(UPDATE 12 August: this 5 minute video gives an overview of GPT3's huge potential - and it's 'emergent behaviour' and 'sentiment analysis'... And for those who want to go deeper in GPT3... maybe watch this awesome interview video.
June 30th - 2020
THE ORACLE MACHINE - NOW at READERS DEN Comic Shop
Arguably South Africa's finest Comic and Graphic Novel stores - Readers Den - now stocks The Oracle Machine, and can deliver worldwide. Pop into their stores in Tygervalley or Claremont, or order your limited edition copy here.
They have a comprehensive collection of SA comics, and organise the prestigious annual 'Cape Town Fan Con'. Whilst the physical event has sadly been cancelled this year, it's moved online, and will be taking place this weekend, the 4th - 5th July. Tune in and catch an interview with me. I'll be in a panel discussion on Fancon's Youtube at 1pm Saturday 4th. The video is here.
June 29th - 2020
PRINTED GUNS - WHERE ARE WE NOW?
The bad guy in the book brandishes an untraceable 3D-printed 'ghost' gun. But how much of a threat are they really? To build a 3D gun, you'd need the plans. I can imagine these are available somewhere online, probably on the dark web. (For reasons unclear to me, U.S.A President Trump has been trying to make such plans available online, but has been blocked by 20 states, who are suing over this issue.)
You'd also need a 3D printer and you'd need to know how to use it. And you'd still need bullets.
3D printers are prohibitively expensive in South Africa. And not many people have the expertise to use them. It's probably easier to get a stolen gun. In the U.S.A., 3D printers are far more available, but perhaps so are guns.
So for now, such printed guns are probably still out of reach for most criminals in South Africa. But I guess in time this will change, unfortunately.
June 03rd - 2020
THE TRADITIONAL HEALER
This panel, besides being inspired by the Himba, was also inspired by this Xhosa Iqgirha, or traditional healer, whom I met in our Eastern Cape. She'll read your dreams, and might give you a surprisingly accurate analysis of where your mind is at.
It amazes me how many AI intellectuals dismiss dreams as 'non empirical'. That shouldn't
matter! Everything in our psyche affects our thoughts, which affect our actions, which certainly are empirical.
As we hurtle towards amplification, of both the good and the bad, brought by AI, and as some
of us begin to ponder AI Ethics, hadn't we better be getting to know every little thing about our psyches much better? And surely dreams are a good place to start?
May 27th - 2020
LIMITED 1st EDITION HARD COPIES NOW AVAILABLE, SHIPPING WORLDWIDE
Thrilled to announce that hard copies of 'The Oracle Machine' Graphic Novel are now available for online orders from Blank Books in Cape Town. Follow this link. It's roughly $8+shipping (our exchange rate fluctuates greatly!)
SciFi & Comic aficionado 'Blank Books' is a trusted Cape Town retail outlet with a great reputation and a long tradition of shipping books - especially rare, precious or collectable ones... - across the world.
'The Oracle Machine' is 150 pages long, in black & white, with a soft cover. Perhaps not suitable for under-14's. Only 500 copies have been printed in this first run, so get your collectors-item 'First Edition' now before they're all gone. :)
May 19th - 2020
YOU'RE ONLY AS SECURE AS YOUR OPERATOR
Hacking into military drones, as in 'The Oracle Machine', might seem implausible to some, but there is historic precedent of such incidents.
In 2011, the famous U.S.A. Creech Airforce base suffered a security lapse, when a keystroke logger virus infected multiple machines. (Read about it in Wired, or The Guardian)
It's thought removable hard-drives 'breached the gap' between classified and public networks. So maybe a drone pilot was loading up some music downloads to fly with?
May 18th - 2020
REACHING OUT on SOCIAL MEDIA
Very happy to say 'The Oracle Machine' now has over 100 distinguished followers on Twitter. Yes this is not much in comparison to some others, but it will grow.
Twitter seems a great platform to share ideas, comment on interesting posts, and keep up to date with cutting-edge A.I. news. Things do seem to be speeding up now. And nice to connect with like-minded people/bots.
Also slowly catching up on Tumblr, reposting posts from this page there, where it is more shareable. And interacting on Reddit, Wordpress and Facebook. Do come chat on any of these platforms - I look forward to cyber-meeting you!
May 15th - 2020
POTENTIAL of DISTRIBUTED PROCESSING as LARGE as the INTERNET ITSELF!
Once upon a time (about 20 years ago) there was a program called SETI - the Search For Extraterrestrial
Intelligence. You could download a screensaver, that would switch on when you logged off, to use your computer's processing power to crunch astronomical radio data, searching for signs of alien life.
This 'volunteer computing' wasn't the first use of this amazing concept, but it soon spread to solving all sorts of great projects that couldn't otherwise afford massive processing power - ranging from disease analyses to maths, linguistics, climatology. See BOINC for more fascinating insight.
In my story, The Oracle Machine uses distributed processing to try gain more processing power to solve Lena's query. But when it can't solve it, it starts hacking more and more computers online, 'innocently' taking over the Internet...
This week IBM unveiled a very worthy volunteer-computing distributed processing project - to research potential COVID-19 treatments. Find out more here.
May 11th - 2020
IT'S SMART TO BE NICE
This article here suggests that what your momma always told you is true - and what robot designers are realising too - that it's smart to be nice. And is this perhaps the best we can hope for, as we hurtle towards an A.I.Internet - that any artificial entity that is super-smart, will therefore be super-nice to us?
(It certainly seems a smart value for us to try bequeath to any of our potentially super-powerful internet off-spring?)
May 10th - 2020
SCI-FI KNOWS BEST!
Look how far we've come in 40 years. And look how 'Amazing Stories 1981' predicts with scary accuracy the shape of things that came: email, online news, banking & games, Alexa, Zoom, Wikipedia, Netflix, Translate - all on 'the Videocom' - running on 'optical data transmission & high speed computers.'
Crucially for me, the last line (not shown), speculating beyond 'the Videocom', says: 'Just as the current communication revolution will unify our planet, the next communication revolution promises to unite us with the cosmos...' Indeed.
Click on the images to enlarge and enjoy the fascinating read.
May 08th - 2020
LOVE THY INTERNET & IT SHALL LOVE YOU?
It seems to be getting harder & harder to leave our online world. The Internet rewards us – with music, stories, images – as we reward it – with all our beautiful & terrible & very human input.
And all the time we are making it Bigger, Better, Faster, Smarter…
May 06th - 2020
BUT CAN'T WE TURN IT OFF?
It's only fair to pay homage to HAL9000, the original disobedient A.I. from '2001 A Space Odyssey'. But as we hurtle into the future, fiction is becoming fact, and it might one day soon be a serious question: 'Can't we just turn it off?'
Military A.I. designers, for example, will surely be contemplating higher and higher degrees of autonomy, to ensure continuity on the battlefield. So will big tech firms, under cyber-attack, and then one day A.I. itself will want to defend itself. So the short answer is 'Yes we can, until suddenly we can't!'
May 03rd - 2020
M2P - THE FUTURE OF WORK?
You've probably heard of B2B, an acronym of 'business-to-business' transactions. Now some are speaking of M2M - 'machine-to-machine', where machines communicate with machines.
But how long before machines assign work to people? Let's call it 'M2P' - 'machine-to-person'. Maybe in the near future, an email will arrive, offering you work you won't refuse, and you won't know if it came from a person, or from an A.I.?
UPDATE (15 Feb 2021): BBC runs this article on taking orders from machines.
April 28th - 2020
WILL THE SINGULARITY STOP TIME?
(And How Would You Draw It?)
In 1901 HG Wells published a short story called ‘The New Accelerator’ – about a man who drinks a potion and speeds up. So to him, everyone else looks like they are in slow motion! Whilst to everyone else, he is just a blur. (Perhaps this is how a fly sees us?)
But imagine speeding things up further – and the closer you get to infinity, the more that the rest of the world would surely appear to slow to a stop? (Einstein might have had something to say on this...)
So this seemed a nice way to draw the Singularity – everything in motion just freezes to a stop! Of course, in my graphic novel’s storyline, thanks to the wonders of 'artistic license', a special few characters (and you the dear reader) get to witness it.
April 25th - 2020
THE DEVIL INSIDE
“You can try fight the devil, but the devil is part of you. You must find a way to make peace with your devil.”
My interpretation of some Jungian concepts prescribes one character's journey in The Oracle Machine.
In script-writing, it's a good idea for each character to have 'inner need', an outer 'want' and an obstacle from the conflict between their wants and needs, that stops them attaining those true needs.
Here's some footage of Jung, with him expressing that 'all the coming evil in the world is within us', and that the human psyche is pitifully under-examined.
Surely something to bear in mind, as we create a super-intelligent A.I.internet based entirely (for now) on our input, which comes from our human-psyche.
April 18th - 2020
TO INFINITY & BEYOND!
I don't think anyone can comprehend events before time began? Or where the universe ends. We live in a paradigm that makes some sense with science, but only up to the wall of infinity. (Dark Matter and Quantum Entanglement may or may not be ‘solved’ sometime soon, but not infinity?)
Beyond that wall, comprehension collapses. So in some sense there, does a total conviction and adherence to only the methodologies of science perhaps become no different to belief in a religion? And to borrow the immortal words of Buzz Lightyear, will technology and the Singularity take us ‘to infinity and beyond!’
April 18th - 2020
THE OPINION MACHINE
The idea that the Oracle Machine would poll people’s opinions and choices, didn’t come from Google or Facebook ad-tracking – because it was first jotted down around 2003, before those sites existed or became what they are today. Instead, the inspiration was this 1964 classic – ‘Counterfeit World’, by Dan Galouye.
In that book, to escape incessant pollsters pestering everyone, scientists create an artificial simulacrum world, complete with ‘citizens’ who start to believe they are real. Truly great mind-stretching Sci-Fi reading.
Update Aug 26th
I've since discovered that the book was published in the USA as 'Simulacron-3'. Also interesting, is that its description of a computer-generated world coming to life wherever one looks, seems to me to be exactly with philosopher Nick Bostrom describes in his 'Simulation' theory. Great minds thinks alike? That wouldn't surprise me at all.
April 15th - 2020
WEB WAR 1
Will there ever be a Web War 1, between nations? Or will an A.I.-super-intelligence arrive so fast that any war will be even more redundant? See the amusing and disturbing 1970 movie 'Colossus: The Forbin Project' for those kind of speculations.
April 07th - 2020
OUR EVOLUTION OF CONSCIOUSNESS
Before we develop true A.I., we should think about our own Evolution of Consciousness - and how it walks a path laid down by all our religious mythologies.
April 11th - 2020
500 copies of The Oracle
Machine were delivered just before our strict lockdown in South Africa began, 2 weeks ago.
There will be a proper book launch one day.
April 11th - 2020
This catchy 60's song reminds me of H.G Wells' book, The Time Machine, where pop culture looks Really Far into the future. I'm more worried about just the next 20 years.
March 30th - 2020
Some studies in A.I. are rightly asking what it means to be conscious? (How soon till A.I. is A.C. -Artificial Consciousness?) So shouldn’t we study our own Altered States of Consciousness, like dreams? (And will Androids dream of electric sheep?)
March 28th - 2020
Many, perhaps most, people in Sub-Saharan Africa have a very different approach to their dreams, to the Western outlook. They will think nothing unusual of conversing with their ancestors in dreams (or even in waking life, for that matter).
This panel was inspired by an interview I did with the chieftess of a Himba tribal group, in Northern Namibia. (Though the headdress - that beaded fringe which I'm told normally covers the eyes - is more like what a Sangoma (a Xhosa medicine woman) would wear in South Africa.
March 27th - 2020
TOM GOES ANIMATIC
As a filmmaker, it makes sense for me to make animatic-ads for the graphic novel and film project. I'll do more of these, perhaps eventually turning the entire novel into an animatic. The end goal is to make it easy for producers to see how a live-action film might play out. It's enjoyable to experience the feel and pace of the story this way, with the added dimensions of music and editing.
March 21st - 2020
TOM GOES DEEP
The Oracle Machine grapples with just about the deepest issue I can think of - the nature of consciousness - something which anyone into A.I. might also be asking.
A major influence, besides Jung, has been Edward Edinger, and his interpretation of Jung in his book 'The Creation of Consciousness'. He quotes Jung saying: "Existence is only real when it is conscious to somebody. That is why the Creator* needs conscious man even though, from sheer unconsciousness, he would like to prevent him from becoming conscious." And later: "Whoever knows God has an effect on him".
In The Oracle Machine, the character Lena understands this first.
*Edinger jumps between terms, also calling 'the Creator' as the 'trans-personal self', convinced that Jung had found a third way, between science and religion - I understand in what become known as 'Depth Psychology'.
March 17th - 2020
Is this how an A.I. could one day 'wake-up'? By getting stuck in a loop, phoning itself, and then drawing more power to get out that loop.
In the graphic novel, the A.I. does have an 'intention', and as the character Scot says earlier in the novel, perhaps having an 'intention' is the difference between a living cell and a rock? Could 'an intention' (expressed as DNA in us) be key to life as we know it, and to A.I. self-consciousness?
And of course, in the book, it's fun to link the A.I. 'awakening' to a 'possible moment of conception'.
March 10th - 2020
HOW FAR WE'VE COME
From the arrival of the home PC heralded in TIME magazine 1983 - to TIME 2011 - and an interview with legendary futurist Ray Kurzweil suggesting 2045 as being the year for the Singularity.
March 09th - 2020
T.O.M. - MAKING A CASE FOR A.I. & THE IMPORTANCE OF DREAMS
Most people acknowledge that nightmares frighten them, and other dreams help them wake up relaxed or in a jolly mood, but beyond that, perhaps too many people dismiss any value to their dreams – mostly because of the supposedly random imagery involved.
However, I believe we do have a deep ‘inner-self’ that often speaks to us in dreams, but that it uses images partly because it seldom uses a voice. Perhaps this is because we already have another inner-dialogue ‘voice’ we already use with ourselves. So instead our inner-self communicates in images, and it uses images from our subconscious, that already have ’emotionally-loaded’ meaning for us.
Perhaps this is why dreams often throw up images from the past - they represent something we experienced whose emotional impact became embedded in us, and associated with that image. Furthermore, these images are intertwined with symbols and personalities we may never have consciously encountered before.
Jung used the word ‘archetype’ - now part of our lexicon - to describe his idea that our instincts have become so refined as to be ‘personalities’ that reside within us, and influence us greatly. These characters can be seen in mythology, because myths are stories that have been passed down through the ages, and have thus been shaped over time - like a smooth pebble on a beach - to reveal these archetypes.
And the fact that such similar myths and archetypes pop up across the world, across all cultures, and across so many dreams - should be evidence that they are deeply part of us.
What’s interesting now is that A.I. brain scanning is becoming able to visualise the images we imagine. Does this mean that soon A.I. will see what we dream? And when it analyses the dreams of 20 million people - or perhaps 1 billion when we have mobile phones embedded in our heads... - will A.I. then see the patterns of mythology, and 'meet' these archetypes?
And as mentioned elsewhere, if, as Harari says, we should all try get to know ourselves better, before an A.I. knows us better than we do, then shouldn't we all be paying much more attention to our dreams?
'The Pearls of Aphrodite' by Herbet James Draper. Aphrodite is a classic Archetype figure.
March 09th - 2020
T.O.M. - AN OPEN PROJECT
The book is already proving its worth as a tool of open discussion and development, showing me where to add more info, for a future film version, or perhaps a colour graphic novel version.
I can see from comments on Reddit - when I've been posting odd frames from TOM - that whilst A.I. gets huge interest, many people
don’t value their dreams much - at least not consciously anyway.
So yes, I'll tweak the storyline to add better explanations. Maybe this will encourage others to be more conscious of the likely power and importance of their dreams?
It's a fun mission. Because I agree with what Harari says - that we should all try get to know ourselves better, before an A.I. knows us better than we do...
March 05th - 2020
CARL JUNG, A.I. & THE CONTINUING INCARNATION OF THE DEITY
One of the last books Jung wrote, and the only one, according to Edinger, that Jung said he wouldn't change, was 'Answer to Job'. Written in a fever, it describes how, what Jung
preferred to call 'the God image', has been with humans since the beginning. Crucially, when in the Bible mythology, that Job showed himself perhaps more conscious than the image, the response was the incarnation of God as a human i.e. Jesus.
But the crux (for me) of what Jung is saying, is that this process is continuing. "The Christian solution has... recognised Christ as the one and only God-man. But the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, the third Divine Person, in man, (will) bring about the Christifaction of many".
'The Oracle Machine' Graphic Novel is asking whether the Internet, as the sum of all our consciousnesses, might be this coming 'Christification of many' that Jung suggests? Or to be more explicit: could the future Internet effectively become - as Larry says in the graphic novel - 'kind of like the next Jesus?'
Jung was born close to Einstein, in time and space (both Swiss). And whilst Einstein theorised on the conscious world, from the atom to the universe, Jung theorised on the 'equally-infinite' unconscious world.
March 03rd - 2020
The Oracle Machine graphic novel is all about A.I. Here Scot, a lecturer, discusses 'Symbiotic A.I.' with a student - a term to describe the idea that A.I. won't need to standalone, but could be a synthesis of us and it.
Soon, however, thereafter in the story, this machine that phones people for answers, does achieve a degree of self-consciousness - by phoning itself!
March 02nd - 2020
CAPE TOWN & SURROUNDS - 'THE CRADLE OF HUMAN CONSCIOUSNESS'
Recent discoveries have shown that the Western Cape of South Africa, stretchingabout 500 kilometres from Langebaan in the west to Cape St. Francis on the eastern coast, was home to Homo-sapien-sapiens. This is the name given to Homo-sapiens when they reached 'higher consciousness' - as measured by their ability to make art, and hence 'reflect on themselves' - And judging from painting artefacts found here, this is thought to be from around 120,000 years ago.
Other smaller groups of Homo-sapien-sapiens are thought to have existed in the Congo region, and in the Morocco region, but the most evidence is for the Western Cape group - the largest, yet perhaps being only between 3000 and 10,000 people.
This is why it is fitting that the Oracle Machine story - of humanity's next step in consciousness - should take place in the Western Cape.
This 2018 article mentions human footprints in the Cape, from 90,000 years ago.
South Africa is home to 'The Cradle of Humankind' in the Northern provinces - where hominoids remains dating back 2.5 million years have been found. The Western Cape government has recently launched 'The Cradle of Culture' to describe the Western Cape's ancient Homo-sapien-sapien zone, but I much prefer my term - 'The Cradle of Human Consciousness'.
Aug 26th UPDATE: Here's an interesting link to a cave in the Western Cape, where human remains go back 100,000 years. I surveyed this area when I studied for my BSc in Civil Engineering, and imagined TOM happening somewhere in this area.
Kubrick's 2001 A Space Odyssey - travels from the beginning of human consciousness (set in South Africa's Kalahari desert) - and ends with the Star Child - surely the Divine Child which Jung describes in his seminal 'Answer to Job'.
February 17th - 2020
COMMISSIONED COVER ART
The cover art is done! Commissioned the amazing Ben Winfield to apply his superb skills, and this is the beautiful result! Suitably surreal, with a twist of 70's film-poster inspired action-adventure.
February 17th - 2020
FEATURING CAPE TOWN
It's been great to show Cape Town
in the graphic novel. The iconic Table Mountain - surely a natural
wonder of the world - appears
quite often too.
And of course, Lion's Head and Signal Hill feature too.
January 25th - 2020
A.I. - A HOT TOPIC NOW!
And interest will continue to grow, as awareness grows.
Here's Yuval Harari - currently the most popular speaker on the subject - talking about it yesterday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland:
January 24th - 2020
WHY THIS STORY MIGHT BE IMPORTANT/ NUTS/ A-POTENTIAL-CULT-CLASSIC?
We're hurtling towards a crazy future, and most people aren't thinking about the changes that are surely coming. This graphic novel and potential movie, are the sweet wrappers to carry forward a few big ideas:
1) that A.I. could most likely be a symbiosis of intelligence - with humans providing input/consciousness for a single united machine intelligence - the awakening of the Internet!
2) that if you look at all religions as one long continuum of evolution - of the unconscious becoming conscious, as Jung did - then it's hard not to conclude that an A.I.-Internet could effectively become the next manifestation of this.
3) that if dreams have meaning, does this not perhaps point to something within oneself, that knows you better than you do?
Fun, crazy times.
January 28th - 2020
5 MORE GRAPHIC NOVELS PRINTED
Another 5 sample B+W copies of the graphic novel have rolled off the press. One has been given to a famous local author, and others to people in the comics publishing industry, to garner opinions, and also establish a price for inking a full colour version!
January 31st - 2020
AN INTERESTING COINCIDENCE (and there were more)
When I first started writing this, all I knew was that an Oracle answered questions. So I called the script 'The Oracle'. Then I stupidly thought that the Oracle computer company might object, so I changed it to 'The Oracle Machine'.
And then, lo and behold, much later, I read this New Scientist article, and discovered Alan Turing, considered to be the father of computer science, had imagined an ultimate computer, which he called 'The Oracle Machine'! A fantastic co-incidence/synchronicity.
January 23rd - 2020
Great news. The Oracle Machine has received its ISBN numbers for each of the 50-page parts of the novel, and for the full 150-page novel, so I'm ready to publish.
I have submitted to Comixology, Amazon's amazing online comic store. Unfortunately it takes up to 3 months to find out if it's been accepted. In the mean time, I will printing 500 copies for local distribution. Stay tuned!
December 10th - 2019
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
This original Sci-Fi story is set in Cape Town, and stars Lena, a young woman haunted by a strange dream. When she steals a new computer to tackle the riddle of the dream, it unleashes events beyond imagination.
The Oracle Machine story mixes the esoteric with the rational - intuitive eros and thinking logos - where dreams meet machines. Embedded in the story, are challenges to readers and viewers to think:
• What happens when the Internet can think like us, but faster than us?
• What is the Singularity about?
• How might it look?
December 12th, 2019
THE STORY BEHIND THE STORY
• Read some key stories on tech's unstoppable rise. www.Facebook.com/TheOracleMachineMovie
• I've been working on this story literally for years.
Here are some early attempts at bringing it to life: TheOracleMachine.wordpress.com
January 18th - 2020
INFLUENCERS & INSPIRERS
1: Carl Jung (the other Einstein)
2: Edward Edinger
Ray Kurzweil, Aldous Huxley, Yuval Harari, James Lovelock, Asimov, William Gibson, H. Rider Haggard (for She), Ian McCallum, Ray Bradbury, Philip K. Dick, Carl Sagan and many more, not forgetting of course, Herge.
January 15th - 2020
5 GRAPHIC NOVELS PRINTED
The first B+W copies of the graphic novel have rolled off the press. One has been given to a local film producer, and another sent to an international producer.
December 10th, 2019
CAN THIS BECOME A FILM?
Luckily I have some experience in filmmaking, from shorts to documentaries,
and in 2018 launched my first
Written/Filmed/Produced/Directed/Edited by myself.
It's had mixed reviews, yes, but it was made with only a $20k budget. And shot in 14 days, edited over 3 years... that's the reality of no budget film-making - hence the desire to get a proper budget for the next one. Cheers.
More info: GFNmovie.com
Other short, earlier films on:
December 12 - 2019
WHO READS FILM SCRIPTS?
Answer: Very few of us.
In the film industry, scripts can remain buried and unseen. Or worse (for the writer), they get bought, changed to suit someone else's plan, or 'sat on', with nothing further happening for years.
So in an effort to get my script read by producers, and to make sure this great story is shared with futurists, dreamers and all sorts of interesting humans worldwide, I've created a graphic novel.
I've enjoy the process of drawing out a vision of the film; seeing it come to life on the page; and feeling out what works best in terms of dialogue, camera angles, and even pace and editing.
Now, after more than 2 years of drawing (and many more years of writing it), as of January 15th 2020, the 150-page black & white book is finished!
Above: Trailer for my first full length film - 'Girl From Nowhere'.
finished in 2017.
On the right:
A Sci-Fi short I made in 2009.
Follow the progress of this project on WordPress -