This is the first of a series of blogs, exploring the emerging debate on Artificial Superintelligence (ASI).
Whilst researching my novel, ‘The Seed of the Violet Tree’, [Amazon UK Amazon.com Amazon AU], I had time to read, explore and contemplate the possibilities and risks superintelligence presents to humanity. My interest began after reading Nick Bostrom’s, Superintelligence: Paths. Dangers, Strategies and also, The Singularity is Near by Ray Kurzweil. More recently I’ve been grabbed by ideas in, The Future of Humanity: Terraforming Mars, Interstellar Travel, Immortality and Our Destiny Beyond Earth by Michio Kaku. After desk-top research and discussions with those in the IT field, I pulled much of this into a soft, science fiction novel with the aim of introducing some of the issues to a wider audience.
‘The Seed of the Violet Tree’ attempts to bring the key discussions around ASI’s to a general readership. I believe superintelligence to be a matter with profound implications for every individual on this planet. It troubles me that most people I know, whilst happy to mull it over in the pub as an eccentric idea, don’t take it too seriously. In weaving the issues into a soft, science fiction format, I’m aiming to spark a more lasting debate and foster deeper awareness. As the ASI in my novel points out, “People will pay more attention to a parable, don’t you think? If they’ve had to go to the trouble of working it all out? Documents of fact can fail to spark the imagination; too dry, too accessible, no personal investment.”
Here’s an example of what I’m basing my premise on. I belong to a book club made up of very intelligent women with high profile jobs. We take it in turns to pick a book. I’m attempting to introduce them to Science Fiction. It’s not going well. After putting forward Eon by Greg Bear, I got mixed responses from, “This has opened my eyes to a genre I would have previously dismissed.” to, “So, you believe in UFO’s then?” I’ve discovered that my companions, whilst prepared to enter fantasy worlds in their reading, are unwilling to completely suspend reality. Think, The Time Travellers Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. At best I’ve been able to get them onto the author Christopher Priest, I’m thinking of introducing Connie Willis. The club often picks non-fiction books. These stimulate interesting reflections and debates. So, I produced Nick Bostrom’s Superintelligence from my handbag. The look of horror on their faces suggested I’d best stick with novels!
So there you have it. An introduction to my reasons for writing ‘The Seed of the Violet Tree.’ I’ve just asked two book club members to take a look at it. I’m probably jumping in at the deep end. I’ll let you know what response I get, or at least the gist of it. They’re very open, honest and frank, so I’m girding my metaphorical shield.
I’ll be following up this blog with some of the most concerning findings from my research, including an exploration of the ethical and governance issues surrounding the creation of superintelligence, the emerging science, the potential possibilities and benefits of ASI and the undoubtable risks involved. I’ll also be touching on the pros and cons of blogging and self-publishing too, (as I discover them).
Join me on this journey. Follow me. I’d love to have you along and would value your comments, advice and feedback. Let’s add our voices to the collective debate.