Planned AI Parenthood

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I’m about to take you through a scenario. While the person I’m describing here might not be exactly who you are, I want you to bear with me.

It’s 7.30 AM, and your phone wakes you up by playing one of your favourite songs. You roll over and turn it off.

“Good morning, the temperature today is a balmy 30 degrees Celsius. You have three meetings today, the first begins at 9 AM. Judging from past traffic trends, you will need to leave home by 8.30 AM to make it to your first meeting.”

Your phone is very cheerful today.

You ponder your schedule for a moment, realising that if you get out of bed right now, you’ll have time for a jog. Being the kind of person that enjoys a good run, you’re up and on the road in no time flat.

Your phone, detecting that you are now jogging by using its accelerometer and GPS, asks you, “Hey, enjoying your jog? I’ve created a running playlist based on your taste in music. Would you like me to play it?”

You agree, some music would be a great accompaniment to the exercise. Your phone kicks-off a fairly good exercise playlist. Twenty minutes later, your phone pipes up again.

“At your current pace, you will not make it home in time to prepare for your meeting.”

Your phone is right. You are not jogging at a fast enough pace and turning around might be a really good idea. You turn back and pick up your pace a little. You get home, shower, and make it to your meeting in the nick of time.

Knowing that you’re in a meeting, your phone immediately silences itself. It will only allow calls from certain numbers through. You wait patiently while your colleagues fiddle with switches and phone UI to silence their devices.

Later that day, on your way home, your phone asks you, “what are you doing tonight?”

“I have no plans.”

“Well, while I was connected to Wi-Fi, I downloaded some more episodes of that series you like. I also took the liberty of downloading the first episode of a series I highly recommend.”

“Sounds good.”

“What are you having for dinner? There is a new restaurant near your home that matches your dietary requirements. Would you like me to book a table for you?”

“Hmm, good idea.”

The above scenario (admittedly, a bit briskly written), would not be out of place in some kind of fantasy, near-future, sci-fi novel. In reality, this tech is mere months away (a little longer if you’re an Apple fan). AI will be fully integrated into the Huawei P11. Granted, it may not be as slick as the experience I’ve described above, but as with most consumer-driven products, it won’t take long to iron the bugs out.

Artificial Intelligence has arrived. It’s more artificial than intelligent at the moment, but we’re getting there. How does it work? How does it get better?

There is a new app, currently in beta, which explains it all quite well. Replika.ai allows you to download an AI bot to your phone, and through a WhatsApp-style interface, you get to talk to an AI entity. The idea is that as you talk to it, it learns from you. It learns about who you are, it learns about the kind of language you like to use. It learns about what your experiences are like and how it can relate to you. Your first few conversations will be weird and stilted. But as the bot learns, it becomes more ‘human’.

That’s right, artificial intelligence is less programmed and more trained. It is nurtured, it is schooled.

What does that mean for people in marketing? In the future, your brand will be more than just a name on a box, some postits on a whiteboard, a building, or a group of people. Your brand will be an AI entity, a virtual person that a consumer will be able to interact with. It will be a virtual person that will have learned all it knows from you and your team. This makes you a digital parent. As with human children, being a good parent means commitment. It means learning about your AI baby’s needs, what makes it grow, what will make it a better person.

My suggestion is that you start learning about your future child right now. Unless you really want to be a bad parent.

 

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Procrastination

I have this battle that I have to fight so regularly, it’s actually become a part of my life. The battle is that of procrastination. I’m so good at it too. See, some people will spend hours on the internet or sharpening pencils, but me? No, I actually procrastinate by creating new projects to procrastinate about.

I want to write a novel. Nothing special, just something low brow that’ll sell. Just to see if I can. Have I started? No. Instead, I download (and buy) game engines and drawing applications so I can create the world’s next big adventure game. Or I download video editing software so I can become a master of animation. I procrastinate by overwhelming myself with options.

Really, I should be doing one thing. Writing. Like this. Just writing. I’m doing a creative writing course, I should finish it. I should write the outline of my book and finish it. And when that’s done, move on to the next book, and the next.

How do you deal with procrastination?

Lately…

Lately, I have felt strange. I have become assertive, I open my mouth, I have arguments, I don’t back down. I am not sure what has happened. I am 2 years away from turning 40, so maybe that’s it. Or maybe I am tired of being the nice guy who nods and smiles and complies.

But maybe I’ve never been the compliant nice guy.

That’s a bit of a problem, when you don’t really remember who you were, are, or should be. Granted, it’s been a rough year. Many things have happened, I have found myself in survival mode more often than not. In many ways, I’m still in some sort of strange survival mode.

I find myself swinging from anxiety to rage, to calm, back to rage. I wish I could say that I was raging quietly, but I’m not. I’m raging loudly. I am scowling constantly. Maybe I just need a vacation.

That’s it, a vacation.

That is what I’m going to do.

A Return

To begin, I do not return to my writing with any kind of triumph. I have neglected it and in so doing, I have become bad at it. Where once words flowed like mighty rivers, they now trickle like streams. The water itself was always tepid and cliched, but I was working on that. I stopped though. Distracted. By what, I cannot remember. It clearly wasn’t of any importance.

The lesson here is, don’t become distracted. Writing is important, essential even. It is your voice and you must use it. The world is full of photographers, taking their selfies, and designers making their art. It is up to us, the writers, the quiet ones that sit behind our keyboards, to keep intellectualism alive. It is up to us to make sure that thought, pure and simple, does not die. We are here to craft metaphors, to tell stories, to describe realms both everyday and fantastical. Our job is important and we must not stop, we must not grow weary or wary.

We must press on.

For stopping, for taking a break, I forgive myself. But I cannot, will not, forgive myself if I give up. I have critics and one day, I shall silence them.

I have stories, and one day, you will read them. Until then, we weave words and craft our white lies to resemble a truth that needs to be read.

 

The Rat

I am the proverbial rat in a cage. The cage seems to shrink with my every action and every word. At the end of every day, I look back and think about how much I behave like someone I don’t wish to behave like. I look back and wonder what happened to me. Was I always this anxious? Was I always this caught up in the mundane?

Perhaps it is the grief over love lost that has caused me to forget myself for a time. Perhaps I have bottled up the pain and it is manifesting itself in an unexpected way. Perhaps I have not changed. Maybe everyone else has changed. Unlikely.

The more I search for answers, the less I find. Every time I try to express how I’m feeling, my heart races, my throat constricts, my vocabulary shrinks. I have no way of telling anyone that I am sinking. I am drowning. Everyone has their own problems, so my head disappears under the water and nobody bats an eye.

It may sound like I have some kind of victim mentality. Woe is me, for I am lost. Pity me, for I am unloved. But I don’t want pity. What I want, what I need, are answers. How did I get to this point?

I am moving to another city. Do I really want to? No. Do I really want to stay here? No. What do I want? Clearly, I don’t know. How do I decide what I want? I don’t know. Do I want to keep working at this job that drives me crazy on most days? Not really. Where else could I work? At another job which is the same in almost every way because this is all I can do? Do I study something else so I can get another job? I don’t know. Would it help? Maybe the job isn’t the problem. Maybe I’m the problem.

I’m just waiting now. I can’t do much else. Maybe it’ll all be okay.

The Demon’s Lesson

The sky lights up and the monsters spit against my window. They howl and shake, and rattle. Their breath blows my curtain up and I feel their cold exhalations on my face. The world is mad, and with it, I go mad. I cry out, tears running down my face. The monsters do not relent, never relent. They are strong and callous. They do not mock me, they are not weak-minded bullies. No, they have a strategy. They want to see me broken, wailing in a pool of my own piss and shit.

The wind dies and the rain stops. My panic, like a lowering tide, loses its menace. My frantic gasps become slow breaths. The night settles, and the demons turn and leave, stalking across the nightscape. They speak of me, they tell each other how best to terrify me. All but one.

He is a smaller monster, still lanky, still taller than a man. His fur is less matted, his eyes glow less ominously, his snout is less squashed. He is a demon, but a demon with doubts. His brethren do not speak to him as much as they speak to each other. They huddle and whisper now. In the middle of an open field, they crouch. But the smaller monster stands alone, staring into the distance. He is thinking of me, the wretched, frightened boy. He is wondering how such a small thing can contain so much fear. He draws a deep breath, goes down onto his haunches, takes up a stick and begins to draw. He is drawing a plan. The crickets have stopped chirping, the wind has settled, and the world pulls away from him. He is lost in his plan. The stick dances in the sand, lines, shapes, a strange language. He is inspired. His companions leave him, wordlessly. They have plans of their own.

The demon looks up from his plan, but it is too late. The sun has begun to rise. He attempts to cover his eyes, his face. His skin burns, his teeth loosen, his claws slip from their sheaths. His bones force themselves through weakened flesh, his innards pass through him. His last moments are agony. His life of tormenting others is over. There, next to the twisted pile of flesh, is the demon’s plan. It is a good one. It is redemptive. It is beautiful.

This demon was planning to fight my demon. He had it all worked out. But he never did, never could. So, my demon still lives in me. I know him well. I watch the sun come up. But it does nothing for me, it does not burn my parasite. My demon laughs and spits at me. I no longer cry, I no longer cower. I have accepted the torment. That is my greatest sin now, not fear, but acceptance. With acceptance comes deserving, for what you accept, you also deserve.

Maybe, maybe

I have been reading too much. Is that even possible? Yes. Especially when the stuff you’re reading is mostly drivel from self-proclaimed writers. Blogs, articles, opinion pieces, explosive mind diarrhoea from derivative thinkers. But still, it is probably better than most of what I write. Probably more meaningful. Hell, people are building entire careers around writing their listicles and their thought leadership.

I’m a little more romantic I suppose. I want to sit in a darkened room with an old black typewriter. I want to smoke cigarettes and wear thick glasses and have everything and nothing to say. I want my rage, my love, my life, my passion, to burst on to the page, to filter through the ink. I want to set a reader’s mind on fire. I don’t want to write about politics, religion, or how you can be a more effective whatever. I want to talk about the place where you go when your world falls apart. I want to write about what your tears taste like and how much your smile is worth. I want to write about all the good things, I want to write about all the bad things. When you’re done reading, I want you to feel less alone.

So yes, I feel tempted to write about the things I know about. My job, the things I believe. But I know that it would be far more interesting to go on a journey, an adventure, and write about the things I don’t know much about. The things that drive us, the things that make us keep walking even when all hope seems lost. What is that? I want to write about that. That’s where meaning lies. That’s where truth is.

There are worlds that nobody has seen before, nobody but me. Maybe I should try and take you to them. Maybe we could visit.

A little twisted

Lord Alfred Cuntington stood in the middle of a field watching the sunset. Golden light lit his beautifully chiselled features. He was a manly man, powerful and strong. His bronze armour shone with brilliance in the dying light. A small voice broke the silence and the mood.

“Good sir?”

Lord Alfred Cuntington looked down at the short figure. The source of the voice was wrapped in a flowing robe of rags with a hood pulled low to hide his face.

“Away with thee beggar! Canst thou not see that I am enjoy the mood of the twilight?”

“Apologies good sir. I would just like to show you something…”

“If thou must! Be quick, I cannot tarry all evening with thee.”

The beggar threw back his cowl, revealing his face. The lower half of his dark gray visage was dominated by a double-row of needle-like teeth. The upper half was smooth, with two deep, red, sunken eyes.

Lord Alfred Cuntington gasped in horror, placing his hand in front of his mouth like a teenage girl moments after being invited to dinner by one of her Father’s friends. Not the good-looking one, no, the fat one with the lazy eye. I digress.

“Goodbye Lord Cunt-ington!”

The creature leapt, mouth gaping. Lord Cuntington let out a high pitch squeal while he still could. The beast made short work of his throat, shredding it.

Lord Cuntington lay dead. The creature stood over him, masturbating furiously.

“For the love of Pete, could you not?!”

A second creature had approached, and the first had not noticed it due to its nether activity. At the sound of the second creature’s exclamation, the first leapt two feet into the air, nearly pulling its pleasure-stick off. It landed, its expression shifting from bewilderment to anger.

“I’ll fooking pull me winky if me wants to!”

“I just wish you wouldn’t. It’s bloody rude.”

The first creature turned around and began tugging again.

“I said stop!”

The second creature, to whom I shall henceforth refer to as Shem, stepped around the first creature, Bolg, and slapped his hand off his pecker.

“Stop yanking at it!”

“But I likes the blood and what-nots, I likes how it comes out him. It makes me feel funny and I gots to yank my tank to get it out…”

“Yank. Your. Tank. Are you a bloody nutter? We are demons. We cannot be standing around in the middle of the day havin’ a wank over some dead bloke. Please!”

“But, I likes it!”

“I don’t give a shit!”

With that final exclamation, Shem grabbed Bolg by the wrist and led him away. Bolg shuffled along, closing his cloak with his free hand, looking forlornly at the dead man.

Frank

Frank sat in the coffee shop. He wore his favourite baseball cap. His only baseball cap. Frank wore his favourite jeans. His only jeans. Frank wore his favourite sneakers. His only sneakers. The soles were almost worn through, but they were comfortable and they did a fine job of keeping the cold at bay. Frank had a cup of coffee in front of him, untouched. Every sip that Frank took was one sip closer to leaving, and Frank wasn’t ready to leave. He stared off into the distance. He enjoyed the clatter of cutlery, the voices of happy people, the warmth, the busyness. He enjoyed the normality of it all. He basked in it.

Frank stared now at the empty coffee cup. The bill lay next to it. Four round figures separated by a full stop. A little bit of sadness chewed at the corners of his reality. He slid his coins into the bill folder and stood up to leave.

Frank stood on the pier. The ocean churned around him, but he was oblivious. He was lost in thought. Happier times when a Sunday morning coffee at a cafe was an every weekend occurrence. He remembered the face of the woman he had once loved. In his daydream, she smiled at him, she still loved him. He blinked and reality came back. He bent over painfully and picked up his small, battered rucksack. He zipped it open and took stock of his possessions. He zipped it closed and tossed it into the ocean. He closed his eyes and thought of her again. Her laughter, her voice. He let the sadness wash over.

Frank watched the sunlight, flickering, dancing. It was peaceful beneath the waves. He closed his eyes and let the water fill him.

Frank sank beneath the waves. His favourite baseball cap was gone. His only baseball cap, gone. Frank wore his favourite jeans. His only jeans, soaked. Frank wore his favourite sneakers. His only sneakers. They were doing a terrible job of holding the cold at bay. But it didn’t matter to Frank anymore. Nothing mattered.