Saturday, June 15, 2013

Story Seed from a Dangerous Fantasy

I killed someone the other day.  
But it's OK.  It happened in another world.  
I was in Old Town the other day, taking a late night walk.  I took my nerdy "campaign hat," with the camouflage pattern and the flap in the back that keeps off the wind and sun.  I had my laptop and notebooks, pens and other stuff that I "just might need" in my laptop, "just in case."
I was painting a pretty nerdy picture.  Most of the time, I'm OK with that.  Sometimes, though, I am reminded that the rest of the world doesn't appreciate the "uniqueness" my kind bring into the world.  Like this night...  
I'm in my nerdy attire, approaching the corner of Colorado and Fair Oaks.  The intersection has a three way light, where traffic passes both ways, then the pedestrians cross whichever way they want to go.  I'm approaching the intersection with all the lights red and the walk sign green when it switches to its red count down.  "15...  14...  13... 12..."  
I start to run to beat the light.  I'm about halfway across, passing some guys going the other way, when I hear someone behind me yell out...
"Run, Forrest, Run!"  
I stagger, then immediately get pissed at myself for doing so.  It was that group of young guys I passed.  The tall, blonde one who was leading the way.  The one who knows how cool he is and who recognized just how much of a nerd I am.  
I continue across the street, but inside I'm fuming.  I'm back in Jr. High School.  "Hey, Melton the Monster!"  In case you don't know, "Milton the Monster" was a Saturday morning cartoon that airing when I was a kid.  It was my misfortune to have a name similar to his AND to be the type of person people liked to tease.  
And I'm fuming.  Just the way I did back then.  The same feeling of being incapable crawling through me.  Incapable of doing anything about it.  Incapable of letting it go.  This leaves me with the same outlet I used back then.  
I fantasize my revenge.  
It's a different world.  One inside my head.  A different Me running across the street.  Backpack jumping about the same way breasts of big-bodied women do when they run.  The same taunting call, "Run, Forrest, Run!"  The same stumbling to a halt.  
But I'm someone different.  Someone the tall, blonde, cool guy shouldn't be fucking with.  I'm some Psycho.  I'm a complete sociopath.  I'm someone who is dangerous just because of how unpredictable I am.  I'm also armed.  
Psychopath Me turns around in the street.  I walk back the way I came.  Cool Guy sees me and nudges his friends.  He waits for me with this confident smirk.  As I get within earshot, I hear him say to his buddies, "What does this old fart think he's gonna do?"
"This," I answer.  As I step up on to the curb, I'm also pulling out this big ass, Bowie knife.  With the same step that gets up out of the street, I'm driving it into the middle of his gut with the force of a someone swinging a baseball bat.  
Cool Guy never saw the blow, but he feels it.  The blood has left his face and is now streaming out of his stomach.  His eyes are wide.  Cheeks puffed up like he's going to throw up.  
As he goes down to his knees, I step behind him.  I grab him by the back of his collar to keep him from falling down.  I reach around and use the knife to slice his throat down to the spine.  I let him go, then.  Falling face forward into the gutter.  His blood is running like a river along the curb.  Psychopath Me remembers making paper boats and chasing after them when he sees a crumbled up wrapper riding the current of Cool Guy's life down the street.  
I turn to Cool Guy's buddies.  Their faces display the horror that Psychopath Me simply doesn't feel.  
"Guess he's the one who should have run, huh?"  I give them an elaborate shrug.  Then I tilt my head to one side and smile at them.  I feel no humor.  It's what I know will make the biggest impact on them.  "Maybe you should, too."  
They both turn and run, knocking and shoving people out of the way as they try to escape.  
Shifting gears now...
I watched A TED talk online this week.  It was given by a writer named Daniel Suarez.  It was about the direction the development drones are taking toward greater autonomy in the battlefield.  Today, whenever one of our drones fires a missile, the decision is made by the operator to do so.  But battlefield conditions are pushing designers to build robots that can make that decision without human interaction, as a part of their programming.  I heard a new term in the presentation: 
Lethal Autonomy: The ability of a robot to identify, track and kill a human target without a human making the decision in an unscripted environment.  
For those interested, you can listen to Mr. Suarez yourself here: 
One point Mr. Suarez presented that I have been mulling around the most is that how the manner we resolve conflicts has a direct impact on the nature of our society.  In the feudal ages, the power to enforce one's will on the battlefield was concentrated in the hands of a few.  A few knights in shinning armor on horseback could impose their will upon a much larger number of peasants.  With changes in technology, such as the invention of gunpowder, such power was spread out.  Society became democratized because that much larger number of peasants became valuable as soldiers to impose the nation's will on others.  
The trend to increase the lethal autonomy of military drones, Mr. Suarez believes, will reverse that trend.  Basically, if fewer humans go to war, due to being replaced by lethally autonomous robots, then the power to resolve conflicts will once again be concentrated in the hands of a few.  
This is similar to a thought I've been having myself.  Forget the battlefield.  Increasingly, we are living in a society where automation is replacing human workers.  ATMs and online banking have taken jobs away from tellers.  Most heavy manufacturing is done by robots.  Expert systems will even one day replace professionals like doctors and lawyers.  No one's job is safe.  When robots take over all the work, what will the rest of us do?  The only people who'll have means will be those who own and run the robots.  
Add to that the ability to control robots with a thought, something already in development for paraplegics and the like, how far removed will a thought be from an action.  
Shifting gears, again.   
I worry about the future.  About retirement specifically.  I have a 401k through my job.  I am hoping Social Security will be around in some form for me to make use of, but there is a part of me afraid that I may have to rely on whatever I can set aside for my future.  
I've reached the point where I think I'll never retire.  "Retirement," where a person stops working and lives a life of varying degrees of leisure, will prove to be an aberration of the twentieth century.  Going forward, the majority of people in society, those not wealthy enough to be able to afford to do nothing, will have to find a way to scrape a living as best they can up until they don't have to earn a living any more.  
And if robots are doing all the jobs that can be done, what does that mean?  Doing something for them that own the robots.  
Not a shift, but a start: 
Karlo Mendeley looked down at the body of his jester, Adaline.  Though her chest was pressing against the reflective surface of the marbleline floor, her face was facing the ceiling.  Eyes startled.  Mouth open.  He'd seen that expression a thousand times just before she'd left forth one of her spearing jests.  
"The damage to the neck was the cause of death," Dugan, his security-bot intoned behind him.  Karlo could imagine the joke Adaline would have made for such an obvious observation.  "The breaks to her arms and legs..."  
Karlo eyes went to Adaline's limbs.  The impossible turns, making her look like a gigantic pinwheel. 
"Were inflicted postmortem."  
That brought Karlo's head up and around.  He looked back at Dugan.  His upper torso was humanoid in appearance.  The lower half, with the wheels, were meant to make him obviously mechanical, in compliance with current regulations.  Karlo had made several changes to Dugan over the years as upgrades advanced and regulations, which changed as often as fashions at time, shifted.  
"By one of our service bots?"  
"Why, yes, Mr. Mendeley?  How did you become aware of that?"  Before Dugan could answer Karlo's question, his eyes flashed.  "Incoming message.  The police are at the front entrance.  They are asking to see you."  
"They have no authority here."  Karlo turned around and looked past Dugan's shoulder toward where the entrance to he estate would be located.  "This is on private property.  Adaline was contracted to me directly."  
"Ms. Adaline's relatives reported the crime."  Dugan tilted his head to one side, an indication he was correlating data.  "The savings plan provided to Ms. Adaline listed these family members as her beneficiaries.  They've contracted with the local public law enforcement office to protect their interests."  
"See them to the east library," Karlo commanded.  "Tell them I'll be there shortly."  
"As instructed."  Dugan bowed, his eyes glowing bright with what was supposed to be the fervor of obedience.  When he lifted his head back up, though, he asked, "How was it you surmised that the police were here due to Ms. Adaline's demise?  I ask to study your logical processes for my heuristic programming."  
"What else could it be?"  Then, before Dugan could inquire more.  "See to the police."  
Dugan bowed, turned and rolled away.  Karlo turned back toward Adaline's body.  As he looked down, he asked Dugan's questions to himself.  How he had know it was a service-bot that had done the deed?  How did he know the police had come so quickly due to her murder.  
"Because," he thought to himself.  "I imagined it.  The night before.  And somehow, it came true."  
Karlo pulled himself straight, tugged his coat into place, then turned to make his way to his library and face the authorities.  


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