The second of a series of blogs, in which I discuss Why I Felt Compelled to Write My Novel, The Seed of the Violet Tree: A Science Fiction Mystery [Amazon UK Amazon.com. Amazon AU ]. The introduction to this series of blogs can be found here
Whilst conducting background research for my novel I revisited a sociological theory, the Tipping Point, which I first came across decades ago during sociology studies, long before the explosion of globalisation. In my novel the antagonist, Dr Dot Bentley, is motivated by her obsession to prevent a global tipping point through the promotion of superintelligence.
A tipping point occurs when a stable system moves into an unstable state and/or when a critical mass of people begins to act or think in a way which dramatically changes the system itself. The premise is that all systems, including societies, have a natural complexity and/or saturation point beyond which they cease to function as they used to. The change may be neutral or positive but the danger occurs when it is negative. In such an event the early cracks that occur in the system can create a feedback loop of stress and chaos, leading to instability and ultimately a downward spiral. Outputs and outcomes become unpredictable. Let’s think here of climate change, the 2008 financial crash and maybe even Brexit.
In my novel the antagonist character, Dr Dot Bentley, is obsessed with preventing the mother of all tipping points. Her virtual scenarios predict that globalisation, as a complex system, will inevitably reach a tipping point. This will be so catastrophic it will lead to the total destruction of humanity. Her quest is to prevent this, and her solution is superintelligence in the form of a singleton: a single entity, intelligent enough to control all human systems and resources and able to detect and predict how an isolated action in one area, will impact on others. For example a singleton would have easily identified that the invention of plastic would lead to the future pollution of our oceans.
One question my novel asks is: what choice should we make? Can our limited human minds continue to safely control and coordinate the intricate global systems we are creating? If not, is the solution artificial superintelligence? If so, how can we trust it and make it dance to our tune? By necessity an artificial superintelligence will be smarter than us, surely we would be continually manipulated, wrong-footed or duped by it? I’ll be discussing this issue further in a future blog.
As an aside I said I would update followers on my progress as a new self-published author and blogger. I’m still waiting to hear back from my beta-readers (the most ruthless critics in my book club). I’ll let you know how it goes. But something else very interesting has happened since my initial blog. When I launched my webpage I had an immediate influx of attention, 1 visitor from each of the following countries: UK, USA, UAE, China, Ukraine and Canada. As the setting for my novel is a UK Secret Service science project exploring superintelligence, do you think I’m getting paranoid? The UK has just had an international spying spat with the UAE and Canada has just launched a symposium, very similar to the one in my novel, which will be overseeing the development and implications of superintelligence.
Now, something even stranger has happened! As I am in the throes of reinventing myself, from a senior nurse to an author, I thought it was about time I deleted my LinkedIn profile as a nurse, especially as I’m no longer practicing. I haven’t been on that site for ages, it’s dormant. But the history showed that around the time I launched my novel I had an influx of strangers, mostly anonymous, viewing my profile. One of them was cited as, ‘a member of Bletchley Park Trust’, depicted in the film The Imitation Game and the historical home of MI6, the centre which launched the UK Secret Intelligence Service. A quick look at the staff list on the Bletchley Park Trust website was enough to make me swallow my tonsils. I’ll leave it for you to explore this list for yourself if interested. I probably shouldn’t be putting in a link here! Easy enough to Google! Why would someone at Bletchley Park Trust be interested in the LinkedIn page of a retired nurse? I’m off out to buy a headscarf and a considerably larger pair of sunglasses than the ones I currently own. I’ll be doubling back on myself during my drive to the supermarket, just in case. I’ve got the binoculars out on the new neighbour across the road. You hear about the scrutiny authors are under from certain organisations and governments, but I wasn’t quite expecting this level of interest with my first self-published novel! Quite a sinister turn of events. How exciting!