A third of the way through the month, but about 40% of the way to the 50,000 word goal. Not that 50,000 words will actually finish the novel, but that’s the definition of “winning” NaNoWriMo. I find that my “zeroth” drafts are extremely verbose, characters dancing all over the map and turning snarky exposition into an art form. Because of that, my “zeroth” draft ends up more like 90K to 100K words. The primary task of the first draft is to cull, and be merciless.
Think of it like trying to turn a beautiful wooden plate or bowl of of a chunk of tree. The zeroth draft is all prep – cutting down the tree and cutting the trunk into blanks. That defines the approximate size and shape of the bowl, lets you judge the grain of the wood to see how you should move on from there. The first draft is the rough turning, using the big tools to round the piece, shave off the bark, and start hollowing out the inside of the bowl. The second draft is where you take the smaller, finer tools to make everything even and smooth, to slowly trim away at the edges and inside and the form of the outside. The final draft is the sandpaper, finer and finer, until it’s smooth as glass and the grain of the wood is fully revealed.
Getting blind drunk in celebration after it’s done is the equivalent of coating the bowl in multiple layers of polyurethane, I guess.
While I normally put in a lot of internal links to previous, related posts here, I won’t be doing that for what I hope will be this year’s thirty NaNoWriMo posts. If you have jumped into or stumbled onto this story in mid-adventure, there are plenty of other ways to navigate around the site to find previous installments. Actually doing so is left as an exercise to the student.
(which is actually just more of Chapter Six but Chapter Six is already way too long and I’m still not done with this scene so I’ll figure it out and find a way to break and/or trim or clean it up in the first draft – I’m the writer and I can do whatever I want – pbbbbbt!!)
“You people are serious,” Pete said.
“We couldn’t possibly be more serious,” said Lee.
“Okay, let me make sure I understand. The big boogey man, Frankenstein’s AI, wakes up, figures out that its definition humans are insane, which by the way is probably a pretty accurate diagnosis, and it takes a ‘kill or be killed’ attitude, wipes us out and in the process wipes itself out. Is that it in a nutshell?”
“That obviously hasn’t happened yet, since we’re here. But the second scenario has it waking up, seeing insane humans, being terrified, but being enough of a chess master or whatever to know that it needs certain things we’re providing, so it has to have a method of providing them independently of humans before it offs us. It then goes through a whole series of machinations, presumably from an underground lair in an abandoned volcano with a moat surrounded by sharks with lasers, which build an independent infrastructure. THEN it offs the pesky and scary humans!”
“Again, yes, pretty much.”
“There’s got to be a third scenario, doesn’t there? For example, tech wonks like us could actually succeed in designing an AI, bringing it to awareness with us there to guide it, thus short circuiting your entire house of cards.”
“There are those kinds of scenarios,” Clay said, “that’s true. But nothing we threw into the model could make any of those scenarios even get near a one percent probability.”
“Why?” asked Pete. “Why are those survivable or even desired outcomes so rare?”
“Speed,” said Crystal. “With a human baby, we’re pretty sure it takes months after birth before any kind of advanced self-awareness begins, then it takes another year or more to develop mental and physical motor skills to be able to learn to talk and walk. Another dozen years to get to puberty, and four or five more years to reach adulthood with enough experience to have generated a complete, functional persona and zeitgeist. In a spontaneous AI development, we think that will happen in a matter of weeks, perhaps only days.”
“All of the ‘good’ scenarios require some sort of intervention or interpersonal event to knock the AI off of the path leading to a self-defense reaction. If the AI is maturing in only days, the odds of there being such a random intervention are small.”
“And the idea that maybe we’ll build one ourselves and nurture it and keep it sane, or at least using the same brand of insanity we are?”
“Again, a scenario like that is possible but unlikely,” Lee said. “We believe that the spontaneous development more likely because it will be the result of a massive and random series of inputs and data of all different types. We just don’t know what the recipe is. But just as human children use their five senses to become conscious and self-aware over the first few months of their lives, any AI will need similar inputs to somehow trigger the cascading connecting and cross-referencing bonds that are the most fundamental and basic building blocks of memory and consciousness. Researchers in the lab are trying to hit a jackpot which is orders of magnitude more unlikely than any lottery ticket. They’re too slow. But given big enough systems, all interconnected, with a billion billion permutations, combinations, and eigenstates, a spontaneous development is certain sooner or later.”
Pete shook his head, which was swimming with all of this almost unbelievable new information. If he didn’t know Lee and if he didn’t see the dead serious looks on everyone’s faces in the flickering firelight, he would have been waiting for the huge “gotcha!” from the group at some point. That moment wasn’t going to be coming.
“So the shit is really going to hit the fan,” Pete said, “and you know about it. Why not tell someone else, the military, the government, other computer scientists? Why not let them deal with this and figure something out?”
“Have you worked with any government agencies lately?” asked Crystal. “We were sitting on a legitimate end of the world discovery and we didn’t know if we had five minutes, five years, or five hundred years before it blew up on us. If we had gone to the military or the government, we would have been locked up. We would be in comfortable padded cells when the apocalypse came down, missing all the fun.”
“So you kept it to yourselves, appointing yourselves Guardians of the Earth? Do you have costumes and capes and superhero names to go along with that job?”
“Just hear us out, please,” said Lee. “We understand that this is a tremendous amount to take in in a very short period, but we’re not idiots, nor are we martyrs.”
Six From Hell Seven to be continued)