My story “The Marsh of Camarina” will appear in a future issue of Lightspeed Magazine. “The Marsh of Camarina” concerns a young woman graduating at near the top of her class in computer science, only to find that AI and automation have replaced most programming jobs. With a huge debt and no prospects, her career advisor suggests Askuwhetau, an experimental farming commune in northern Canada. The story was originally published in the anthology Shades Within Us: Tales of Migrations and Fractured Borders.
The dog was in the alley again, sniffing around the empty trash bins for scraps she wasn’t going to find. Martha would be late for work if she fed her again, but she couldn’t bear to let the animal suffer. The mutt huddled behind the bar-coded trash bins as Martha put out a dish of microwave rice and a bowl of water. She’d have to remember to pick up some real dog food on the way home.
“Come on, girl,” Martha said, wiping her brow. It was already ninety-eight degrees and getting hotter. “This is for you.”
The mutt, a scrawny little thing, hesitated. God only knew what troubles she had been through.
Something skittered behind her—a rat—and they both jumped. And when she turned back around, the dog was gone.
“You’d better come eat this,” she said to the empty alley, “before the rats do.”
You can read the whole thing here, or you can listen to a podcast narrated by the fabulous Kate Baker here.
I’m very happy to announce that my story “Your Future is Pending” will be appearing in a future issue of Clarkesworld Magazine. This will be my fifth story in Neil Clarke’s superb magazine.
“Your Future is Pending” is about AI and automation and our over-reliance on algorithms to make decisions for us. More and more in our lives, often without realizing it, algorithms are making decisions for us in place of humans. And while this of course can have many beneficial effects, there’s also a dark side to letting systems make “opaque” decisions, that is, decisions in which it is impossible for people to determine exactly how the AI came to its conclusion, only that it did. Imagine being denied a loan, necessary surgery, a great job — all because an AI determined in a way its human operators will never understand that you are unfit or unqualified. And lest you think I speak of some far future dystopia, remember this is already happening.
“Your Future is Pending” will be appearing in Clarkesworld soon.
I’ll be attending Readercon this July 11-14! Here’s my schedule in case you’d like to come to my reading or panels:
Reading: Matthew Kressel
Fri 4:00 PM, Sylvanus Thayer
Amal El-Mohtar (mod), Carlos Hernandez, Matthew Kressel, Natalie Luhrs, Kestrell Verlager
Sat 10:00 AM, Salon 4
In a 2018 tweet, Amal El-Mohtar described the artificial intelligences in Martha Wells’s Murderbot series and in Jeph Jacques’s Questionable Content webcomic as “gorgeously compassionate.” This is a reversal of the long-running trope in SF of characterizing AI as cold, scheming, and murderous. Where else can readers find compassionate AI, and what makes these depictions so vital and appealing?
Whatever Happened with That Singularity Thing?
Ruthanna Emrys, Matthew Kressel, Jess Nevins, John O’Neil, Romie Stott (mod)
Sat 11:00 AM, Salon 3
The development of artificial superintelligence doesn’t seem to have brought about the sudden and unfathomable changes to human civilization that so many people hypothesized. Is the singularity yet to come? What other possibilities are being imagined for futures in which humans and AIs mingle and merge?
Making First Contact with Your Local Speculative Fiction Community
Rob Cameron, Crystal M. Huff, Matthew Kressel (mod), Jim LeMay, Lauren Roy
Sun 12:00 PM, Salon A
Readercon and other national conventions are great, but what’s happening in your backyard? Local cons, reading events, workshops, classes, and critique groups are just a few examples of places where you might find other speculative fiction fans. If those things don’t exist near you, it might be time to create them! Panelists will share their experiences with joining and building in-person fannish communities, including joys, perils, and practical advice.
I’ll be attending the 2018 SFWA Nebula Conference in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania from May 17-20th, 2018. And I’ll be doing panels and podcasts and autographs and (hopefully!) doing some sightseeing around Pittsburgh, since I’ve never visited the city. Here’s my official schedule:
Saturday, May 19, 2018
A Users Guide to Writers’ Workshops, 1:00pm – 2:00pm
Speakers: Mur Lafferty • Fran Wilde • Curtis C. Chen (Curtis C. Chen) • Matthew Kressel (Tyrell Corporation) • John Kessel, Moderators: James Patrick Kelly
Health and Happiness for Writers, 2:30pm – 3:30pm, Speakers: Rekka Jay (writing as R J Theodore) • Lara Elena Donnelly (Ms.) • Matthew Kressel (Tyrell Corporation) • Patrick Rothfuss
Moderators: Theodora Goss
Skynet, Matrix, Other: Where Will AI Lead Us?, 4:00pm – 5:00pm
Speakers: Kenneth Chiacchia (Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center) • David D. Levine • PJ Manney (PJ Manney) • Matthew Kressel (Tyrell Corporation)Moderators: Martha Wells
Sunday, May 20, 2018
Mass Autographing, 1:00pm – 3:00pm
Sam Linton Grand Ballroom
Hope to see all you crazy cats there!
First, read this article, “What Would the Average Human Do?” at The Outline. I’ll wait here.
So: it sounds scary, teaching some mindless AI program to execute an ethical routine that coldly calculates who should live and who should die, like a digital Unetaneh Tokef. But it shouldn’t, because this is exactly the same thing we do with children. We impart our cultural values and morals onto our offspring, and we hope that when the time comes, they will make the same ethical choices we would.
Yes, the ethical sampling pool in the above article may have been self-selected, but isn’t it always true that, when imparting values onto children, the pool is small? Who imparts ethical values onto children? It’s the ones closest to them: their parents, their closest friends, their teachers. Maybe a few significant persons in the community such as a rabbi, priest, or friend. All they are doing differently with AI is transferring that ethical knowledge onto an algorithm, for quick access.
The other important thing to point out is that in the milliseconds of reaction time a human being has to decide how to react in an accident, they are not pondering a long Talmudic list of ethical dilemmas, so that they may decide on the best course of action. They are slamming on the breaks, they are swerving, and reacting primarily from instinct. Yes, that instinct can be affected by one’s morals, but in general an AI performing this ethical calculation can do so much faster and in much more depth than any human could. By imparting our ethical codes into a machine, we actually make the world more ethical (and safer) than if a human was behind the wheel.
Yes, my ethical code may not overlap 100% with yours, and probably doesn’t overlap much at all with someone from ISIS, but in any society, there is usually a strong general consensus about what is considered ethical behavior. So for example, cars in Italy should have ethical sampling from mainly Italians. Cars in Saudi Arabia, from Saudi Arabians. Etc. At the end of the day, these machines will just be extensions of us. There is no cold, brutal calculation here. These are our values expanded into the world.
We should welcome this.