Overcrowded Spaceship

When the colony ship Telemachus arrived at Nala-27 it was clear that the predictions of the electronic Brain were wrong. The readings of the chemical traces left no doubts. The planet couldn’t sustain carbon life.

The Brain of Telemachus would have to find another viable planet for its passengers. The next candidate was Nala-99. It would take 5 generations to arrive.

The ship had already traveled for 8 generations at 99.9% the speed of light. The population had grown from 890 to a total of 31,435 residents. This was the perfect number for planet colonization but too large for space travel aboard Telemachus.

Ship robots had been programmed to control the population from growing beyond the limits what the onboard resources could sustain. To ensure a successful arrival at Nala-99, the Brain determined that the right number of passengers was 89 humans.

Telemachus set course for Nala-99 and the purge started immediately.

July 9, 2017 · 101ToF · Fiction · Flash Fiction

Last Bird in the Wild

Today has been announced that one of the two remaining Kingfisher birds from the island of Madagascar died last night.

The surviving Kingfisher bird, named Martin, is now 24 years old and is not expected to survive another year. Since the couple never reproduced, Martin has become the last non-synthetic bird alive on Earth.

The Committee for the Conservation of Animal Species did not consider birds “a species of significant cultural impact to the development of the Artificial Brain”.

It is still in question if the last couple of humans, who also happen to be Martin’s keepers, will ever be preserved for archeological reasons.

July 8, 2017 · 101ToF · Fiction · Flash Fiction

Word of the day: Logotherapy

A useful term for an existentialist like me:

Rather than power or pleasure, logotherapy is founded upon the belief that it is the striving to find a meaning in one’s life that is the primary, most powerful motivating and driving force in humans. —Logotherapy on Wikipedia

Viktor Frankl is a psychiatrist that introduces the topic of logotherapy based on his experiences as a Holocaust survivor.

July 7, 2017

Carl Richards On Judging Your Own Work

I had this experience enough times to realize that I was simply terrible at judging whether my work was good or not. And guess what? So are you. You’re just too close to it.

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to matter, as your job now officially has nothing to do with deciding if the work is good. Your job is to do the work, put it out there and let the world decide.

Now, I know that sounds scary. But let’s be dead clear about something: You’re not John Steinbeck (and neither was he, at the start). You have to get there first. And the only way to do that is through practice and criticism. But the only way to get practice and criticism is to make and share your work.

—Carl Richards, Free Yourself of Your Harshest Critic, and Plow Ahead

July 6, 2017

Michael Swanwick on Writing Short Stories

“The thing about short fiction is that it doesn’t really pay,” [Michael] Swanwick says in Episode 222 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “For the amount of time that I’ve put in on these stories, I probably have not earned back—even with the collection—minimum wage.”

[…]

Swanwick believes that short fiction serves as a proving ground for new ideas, and that more of it means more innovation and experimentation. He cites William Gibson’s short story “Burning Chrome,” which served as a test case for Gibson’s classic cyberpunk novel Neuromancer.

“It’s really a bad idea to write something new at novel length, because you don’t know whether you can do it or not,” Swanwick says. “But you can risk a short story, and if it works in a short story, you know that you can take it to novel length.”

Don’t Try to Make a Living Writing Short Stories

July 4, 2017

Book outlining and an icon timeline

“I’ve found that people who outline a lot spend more time up front planning. People who discover their story by writing it spend more time at the end revising. It tends to even out.”

—Brandon Sanderson

After my NaNoWriMo experience last November, I decided to plan my book. It’s been now about 3 months since I started outlining. I can’t believe it has taken me 3 months to outline a single book. I still feel I could do much more planning. But, tomorrow I am starting the draft. This is what I have to show for my outlining phase:

I wrote 37K words in early drafts, mostly pantsying. In the last three months I’ve written 90K words in notes (character bios, plot outline, setting descriptions, etc). It seems overwhelming when looking at those numbers.

Outline

Following the advice in The Novel-Writing Training Plan, I wrote a synthesis of plot, a kind of “draft zero”, with all the story fully detailed, but with none of the narrative. I’m sure by the time I write my draft one, the plot will change again. The outline is simply a map, the discover is in the writing journey itself.

This outline represents the different arcs, characters and themes of the story. It is helpful to see how well distributed the conflicts (⚠️), the revelations (⭕️, ❌) and the character’s goal (🚀), and other ideas like robots (🤖), drugs (💊), etc. This is just the condensed version, the full outline has one section per scene and one line item per topic.

Tools

Planning and outlining can be an obsessive form of procrastination. I am looking forward to writing the book. My goal: 2,000 words per scene per day.

March 5, 2017

Orson Scott Card on beginning and ending a story

Mr Card, tells us about the mistake that many writers fall into. That of beginning a book with one story and ending it with another.

"[T]he beginning must make the audience ask questions that are answered by the story’s ending, so that when they reach that ending, they recognize that the story is over. The beginning of a story creates tension in the audience, makes them feel a need. The ending of that story comes when that tension is eased, when that need is satisfied. So in determining your structure, it is essential for you to make sure your beginning creates the need that your ending will satisfy; or that your ending satisfies the need that your beginning created! —Orson Scott Card, How To Write Science Fiction and Fantasy

January 25, 2017

Ralph Waldo Emerson on self-reliance

“What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think. This rule, equally arduous in actual and in intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness. It is the harder because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it. It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson

January 19, 2017

Absolute best quote from all of Westworld Season 1

They say that great beasts once roamed this world. As big as mountains. Yet all that’s left of them is bone and amber. Time undoes even the mightiest of creatures. Just look at what it’s done to you. One day you will perish. You will lie with the rest of your kind in the dirt. Your dreams forgotten, your horrors effaced. Your bones will turn to sand. And upon that sand a new god will walk. One that will never die. Because this world doesn’t belong to you or the people who came before. It belongs to someone who has yet to come.

—Dolores, The Bicameral Mind, Westworld

January 18, 2017

How to find peace in a busy world

How to survive in a world designed for full schedules, and multi-channel, always on communication? Well, it is hard. And it takes time. The answer is you can’t just learn to remain calm and avoid anxiety overnight. But it can be done, and this is how I work my way there:

Minimize noise

Define ‘noise’ as everything that doesn’t give you satisfaction. William Morris says to get rid of everything that is not beautiful or useful. It’s hard, yes, but be ruthless nonetheless. It’s a skill I still need to master, but I’m getting there. I don’t shop much for clothes (I hate to admit it, but I wear a uniform most days), I don’t use facebook, I don’t read the news, I am getting rid of everything I own that I can live without: clothes, mementos, knicknacks, etc.

“If you want a golden rule that will fit everything, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” —William Morris

Turn off notifications

Turn them all off. Specially your email and calendar, but most everything else as well. For every notification that you get, answer this question: Does this notification give you pleasure or does it add to your stress? If the answer is “stress” you know what to do. Realize that you can’t live your live being always on call, not for work, not for gossip, not for urgent news, etc.

“Mobile notifications put people in a state of perpetual emergency interruption - similar to what 911 operators and air traffic controllers experienced back in the ’70s and ’80s.” —Douglas Rushkoff

Accept perfection is unachievable

I’m sure it’s not very scientific, but there is a rule of thumb that say that you get 80% of your results from 20% of your energy (loose interpretation all mine). It then follows that it takes that 80% left of energy to finish the rest 20% of work. The way I see it, is: invest 20% of your energy, get 80% of the ideal results and jump on to the next thing (or simply disconnect and relax). You will never get to 100% results. Accept it and be happy.

“Do the hard jobs first. The easy jobs will take care of themselves.” —Dale Carnegie

Nd that’s it. No more, no less. Take on meditation if you’d like. I think it’s a great idea. The points above are my practical takeaways from my meditation practice. I’ll talk about the spiritual take-aways another time.

Accept that you and everyone you love will die one day. Truly accept it. Then you will be able to take control of your anxiety.

January 17, 2017

Gene Wilder’s Final Monologue from Rhinoceros (1974)

“Humanism is dead, those who follow it are just old sentimentalists” —Jean, from Rhinoceros (play)

When the sickness is conformity, the remedy is madness.

January 15, 2017

How robots could easily manipulate us

Apparently humans can be manipulated basically by anything that moves and that we don’t control. So, yeah, as soon as robots are a daily thing we are screwed, unless we build some really strong moral system into them.

“Our brains tend to be hardwired to project intent on any movement that happens in our physical space and that seems autonomous to us,” Darling said. People are aware the machine is not alive. Yet they respond to the cues these lifelike machines give them, as if they were alive. … One can imagine, for example, a home assistant interactive robot that can get people to reveal personal details they might not willingly enter into a database, Darling said. … She also cited the possible use of robots in behavior modification therapies. The flip side is that robots could also be used to desensitize people to violence. “If people are taught to become violent toward lifelike robots, do they become desensitized to violence in other contexts?”

Living With Robots Will Change Humans in Unexpected Ways

January 11, 2017

Is consciousness a requirement for super-intelligence?

In this article originally titled Extraterrestrials May Be Robots Without Consciousness, Susan Schneider questions the necessity for a super-intelligent being to have consciousness the way we understand it today (emphasis mine).

Further, it may be more efficient for a self-improving superintelligence to eliminate consciousness. Think about how consciousness works in the human case. Only a small percentage of human mental processing is accessible to the conscious mind. Consciousness is correlated with novel learning tasks that require attention and focus. A superintelligence would possess expert-level knowledge in every domain, with rapid-fire computations ranging over vast databases that could include the entire Internet and ultimately encompass an entire galaxy. What would be novel to it? What would require slow, deliberative focus? Wouldn’t it have mastered everything already? Like an experienced driver on a familiar road, it could rely on nonconscious processing. The simple consideration of efficiency suggests, depressingly, that the most intelligent systems will not be conscious. On cosmological scales, consciousness may be a blip, a momentary flowering of experience before the universe reverts to mindlessness. —Susan Schneider, It May Not Feel Like Anything To Be an Alien

If you want to hear more from Schneider, check out her TED talk titled Can A Robot Feel? (I see a theme starting to appear here).

January 9, 2017

John C. Lilly, biocomputers and the difficulty of studying consciousness

It is my firm believe that the experience of higher states of consciousness is necessary for survival of the human raze. ― John C. Lilly, The center

John C. Lilly wrote the books The Center of the Cyclone and Programming & Metaprogramming in the Human Biocomputer and is the father of the term bio-computing.

Many of the things he explored in his life are entry points to areas where science hasn’t reached yet. But here is the thing, the deeper you go into researching Lilly, the more bizarre the story gets, the more he disregards the scientific method and the more esoteric it all becomes. In any case, Lilly introduced some very interesting concepts that are all that more relevant today than ever and we should take his ideas as inspiration, not as a dogma.

Biocomputers

Lilly proposed that the brain is a huge biocomputer, of certain universal quality that can run many series of programs, that come loaded with programs but can run many different kind of them.

All human beings, all persons who reach adulthood in the world today are programmed biocomputers. No one of us can escape our own nature as programmable entities. Literally, each of us may be our programs, nothing more, nothing less.

—John C. Lilly, Simulations of God: A Science of Belief, in preparation, 1972.

Metaprogramming

One of the most important consequences of the idea of the brain as a computer is metaprogramming. This universal biocomputer has—theoretically—full control over the programs it runs and can alter said programming itself.

To avoid the necessity of repeating learning to learn, symbols, metaphors, models each time, I symbolize the underlying idea in these operations as metaprogramming. Metaprogramming appears at a critical cortical size — the cerebral computer must have a large enough number of interconnected circuits of sufficient quality for the operations of metaprogramming to exist in that biocomputer.

Essentially, metaprogramming is an operation in which a central control system controls hundreds of thousands of programs operating in parallel simultaneously. This operation in 1972 is not yet done in man-made computers — metaprogramming is done outside the big solid-state computers by the human programmers, or more properly, the human metaprogrammers. All choices and assignments of what the solid-state computers do, how they operate, what goes into them are still human biocomputer choices. Eventually, we may construct a metaprogramming computer, and turn these choices over to it.

—John C. Lilly, Simulations of God: A Science of Belief, in preparation, 1972.

Consciousness, ego and many minds

Lilly explains that the ego, the thing we call self is a high-level program that runs all the subroutines of the brain.

As out of several hundreds of thousands of the substrate programs comes an adaptable changing set of thousands of meta-programs, so out of the metaprograms as substrate comes something else — the controller, the steersman, the programmer in the biocomputer, the self-metaprogrammer. In a well-organized biocomputer, there is at least one such critical control meta-program labeled I for acting on other metaprograms and labeled me when acted upon by other metaprograms. I say at least one advisedly. Most of us have several controllers, selves, self-meta-programs which divide control among them, either in time parallel or in time series in sequences of control. [O]ne path for self development is to centralize control of one’s biocomputer in one self-metaprogrammer, making the others into conscious executives subordinate to the single administrator, the single superconscient self-metaprogrammer. With appropriate methods, this centralizing of control, the elementary unification operation, is a realizable state for many, if not all biocomputers.

—John C. Lilly, Simulations of God: A Science of Belief, in preparation, 1972.

Rejecting the study of consciousness

“Being driven to a set of assumptions because one is afraid of another set and their consequences is the most passionate and nonobjective kind of philosophy.” ― John C. Lilly

I suspect that one of the things that turn off most people interested in the studies of the mind and consciousness is the lack of rigor from most intellectuals in the field. I’m afraid Lilly fell in that trap as well. Sharing his learnings becomes meaningless when those teachings are entirely subjective. I propose looking at the teachings of Lilly, Leary, and others simply as sources of inspiration for more meticulous studies.

I appreciate anybody who dedicates their life to exploring the questions that science is not focused on or can’t find an explanation for. We need to be cautious, and approach the research in a methodological way, and apply the scientific method. Will we ever get to an absolute truth when talking about subjetive states of consciousness? I don’t know, but at least I hope we will be able to find a framework to study the mind that is reliable.

“In the province of the mind, what one believes to be true is true or becomes true, within certain limits to be found experientially and experimentally. These limits are further beliefs to be transcended. In the mind, there are no limits.” ― John C. Lilly

Final words

“My philosophy: Don’t get caught with a fixed philosophy, a set of safe beliefs, a particular way of life.

Experiment! With life, with love.

Run an exploration of the real and the true degrees of freedom of life, of love, of the human condition, inside self and in one’s style of life.

Move! Into new spaces beyond one’s present concepts of possible/probable/certain real spaces.

Far vaster than I now know are the innermost/outermost realities.

Far more interesting than I now feel are the deeps of the space, the beyond within, the infinite without.

Love and loving are basic.

Hostility is redundant.

Fear is non-sense.

“Death” is a myth.

I am I.” ― John C. Lilly

Resources:

January 8, 2017

Doris Lessing on writing self-fiction

“Once, all our storytelling was imaginative, was myth and legend and parable and fable, for that is how we told stories to and about each other. But that capacity has atrophied under the pressure from the realistic novel, at least to the extent that all the imaginative or fanciful aspects of storytelling have been shuffled off into their definite categories. There are magical realism, space fiction, science fiction, fantasy, folklore, fairy stories, horror stories, for we have compartmentalized literature as we do everything. On one side realism—the truth. On another, in another box, imagination—fantasy…. When in the realistic novel that other dimension forces its way in, because it has to come in somewhere, then often it is admitted in the shape of madness.” —Doris Lessing, Walking in the Shade

Lessing continues talking about writing faction (a word bending of “fact” & “fiction”):

Nothing is personal, in the sense that it is uniquely one’s own. Writing about oneself, one is writing about others, since your problems, pains, pleasures, emotions -and your extraordinary and remarkable ideas- can’t be yours alone. The way to deal with the problem of “subjectivity”, that shocking business of being preoccupied with the tiny individual is to see him as a microcosm and in this way to break through the personal, the subjective, making the personal general, transforming a private experience into something much larger. —Doris Lessing, Walking in the Shade

These quotes were extracted from http://www.atlantisjournal.org/old/Papers/v22%20n1/v22%20n1-6.pdf

January 8, 2017

The levels of Show Don’t Tell

There is a writing maxim that says that authors should show and not tell.

Here are some levels of exposition, from just telling and no showing to all showing and no telling.

Bad:

The hero finally understood what she meant and realized that he needed be more generous in life.

OK:

“You take from all those around you and give nothing back.” Mary said looking at him with her sad dark eyes. “You are gonna find soon that your times is running out, Peter.”

Best:

They left the restaurant in silence and faced the storm in the street. Mary said goodbye and walked away wrapping herself in her coat. Standing immobile in the sidewalk Peter looked at her figure disappear. Cold and wet, he stood contemplating the night when he noticed a man crouching in a nearby doorway. He recognized him. Through the window of the restaurant Peter had watched the man panhandled while Mary delivered her news. The man had stood unprotected under the rain for the whole duration of her break up. Walking towards the man, Peter opened his wallet, pulled out a $100 bill and left it on the man’s lap. “Happy New Years, pal.”

January 7, 2017

Leave Life Exhausted

Most people think the are immortal or they think they have many more lives coming after this one. And so they live safe normal boring lives. they don’t know that this is their only chance, that there is not second Act and that they gotta give it all they have.

So you could live a normal, save boring live by pleasing/pandering to the the majority, by doing what you are supposed. Trying to make it, and succeed at life. So that at the end of the game you can say that you did it, that you won, that you were successful.

Or

You could realize that you have one and only one ticket. And thank yourself for how lucky you already are. And then making the most out of this ticket, and skish it for all it’s worth. So that when you have to leave the stage, you also leave life behind, in bed, exhausted.

January 6, 2017

My character needed a flaw, and this is what I got

In The Negative Trait Thesaurus its author, Angela Ackerman gives some helpful hits to craft a character’s flaw for a novel.

Behind a hero’s flaw there really are three different elements:

To find the best flaw for the hero and for the story, take those three elements into consideration.

January 5, 2017

2016 Failures

I am somewhat not hesitant to call a failure a failure. My mom taught me that as long as you make your best effort you have nothing to blame yourself for. Now, I tried. I setup the best goals that I thought I had to complete and didn’t complete them. I can make excuses, but the point is, I setup a goal and I failed. But instead of excusing myself, or not confronting the results, I want to look into the eye of my failed projects and ask like an abandoned lover “where did we go wrong?”

So here are a couple of things I planned for that I didn’t fully complete:

Not that bad, not that bad.

January 5, 2017

Not A Resolution, But A Plan For 2017

Writing a book seems at times like a mountain of monumental proportions. I know that a book is written one word at a time, but the mountain is not any smaller because of it. Many well intentioned folks are now declaring their resolution for 2017. I am sceptical of life changing decisions made in a rush over a few drinks of champagne, so I like to keep my resolutions somewhat abstract. I think of them as a philosophy rather than a specific goal.

So rather than making the resolution to write a book in 2017, I have, instead, a plan.

I am now preparing for a second draft of my first novel, and I have decided to create a calendar for the book as a whole, and plan out all the tasks and milestones ahead.

This is my book laid out for 2017:

This is basically 9 months of work including planning of the book, writing, editing and publishing. I tried to make it all fit in half the time and I had to accept that I can’t commit to that goal. Estimating projects is quite complicated and estimating the time for a project that you have never done before is even more so. So 9 months it is!

When I first thought about writing this book I wanted to complete it in 3-4 months. Then after failing, I decided that NaNoWriMo (1 month), would be even a better idea (genius, I know). Now that I failed a second time, I decided to make a detailed plan of how I am planning on getting to the top of this mountain before I lose my oxygen.

So that’s it. A roadmap to a novel.

January 4, 2017

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