Letters from America

New York, 1776

Dear William

It has been not too long since I last wrote you, but so much has happened in the last six weeks that I feel that I must put ink to paper to tell you of our war.  My last letter told you how we tried to unseat the American Rebels at Bunker Hill…and of how we lost, the blood of so many fine soldiers staining American soil as they died.  By now, you may have heard that General Howe chose to evacuate Boston before the Rebels attacked us, even though we would have made a good account of ourselves if the Colonials attacked our fortifications.  It is to our great shame that so many loyalists were left behind…

Ah, but it is said that Howe is soft on the Americans.  How can we blame him when we must come to some peace that does not bring the Empire down in flames?  How can we hold them down and keep holding them down – must we make of America a second Ireland?  Howe wishes to teach the Rebels that they cannot win and then be merciful – who am I to question his decision?  I am, but his lowly aide. Continue reading “Letters from America”

Postcards From The Future #5

This month’s postcard from the future comes from a 23rd century archaeologist…

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I was keen to get involved when I heard about this project and I hope they use my postcard as one of the ones they send back in time. My area of speciality is early 21st century dig sites. I’ve spent that the last ten years working on excavations at the Bradwell Nuclear Disaster Area, which includes most of what was known at the time as Greater London. Like the doomed towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum two thousand years earlier, the suddenness of the tragedy that befell this once proud city has afforded present-day archaeologists a rare opportunity to observe a frozen snapshot of everyday life.

Last year, we famously uncovered an entire “Routemaster” bus filled with passengers, most incinerated instantly at the moment of the explosion. Poignantly, there were mothers with babies and young children, even two young lovers hand in hand. Modern archaeological techniques have enabled us to reconstruct newspapers and advertising billboards from the underground tunnels in which people were sealed up after the initial blasts. My job is to try to gather together these jigsaw pieces and try to create narratives for our displays at the International Museum of Urban History.

Continue reading “Postcards From The Future #5”

Diary of a Neobody – July 2nd, 2112

Hello diary.

I won.

There’s no other way to put it.

Of course, it was nearly a week and a half ago now, so you’d think that I’d have been able to express in words exactly how it felt. And yet, here I sit, still trying to describe it accurately.

The council took their two days to deliberate and decide, and then I was summoned back to the court. The announcement was short – not even ten minutes long. The press conference afterwards was much longer, and I expect that was exactly how the council liked it. November’s hardly a backwoods town, but you can never have enough positive worldwide coverage. Especially not on ‘landmark rights cases’.

I was, it seemed, only there as a formality – the council members did most of the talking, while I stood in a shocked silence. I suppose I had half-expected to win, since there was little arrayed against me. The younger councilman, the one who seemed less keen on the idea was, apparently, out-voted by the others. Or, I suppose, they just persuaded him that positive coverage like this was worth far more than some rich ProNat backers.

Continue reading “Diary of a Neobody – July 2nd, 2112”

How could I have failed?

I suppose it’s a question that anyone would ask themselves, human or AI alike but, after five years of dedicated work, millions in investment and hundreds of man-years in intellectual capital, the last thing anyone had expected was failure in the Turing test.  That said, it should be recognised for the achievement it is, the team as a whole have every right to be proud – not that pride was the motivation for anyone involved, peer recognition is far more important.  That recognition, at least, was achieved, although not in a way that anyone had expected.

The whole team prepared thoroughly.  My learning algorithms are innovative, way beyond what anyone else has ever tried.  The underlying knowledge base is comprehensive; a postdoc student jokingly suggested downloading the internet – which in many ways is exactly what was done, subject to some judicious filtering.  Spending so much time concentrating on the hard problems, it was perhaps easy to overlook the simplest element of the test. Continue reading “How could I have failed?”

Bring Me the Head of Alan Turing!

by FREDERICA VON McTOAST-HYPHEN,
Alternate Reality News Service People Culture Writer

The animatronic, AI-enhanced head of Alan Turing has gone missing.

“I wouldn’t worry too much about it,” said DCI Gene Hunt. “They tell me that Turing’s a smart lad, good head on his…well, a smart lad, anyway, so I’m sure he couldn’t be up to anything too stupid.”

Turing’s head was last seen at Salome’s Strip & Clip Joint in London’s East End, where he was talking to the animatronic, AI-enhanced head of Philip K. Dick.

“Are you sure it was Alan Turing’s animatronic, AI-enhanced head?” the animatronic, AI-enhanced head of Philip K. Dick asked. “Maybe it was the animatronic, AI-enhanced head of an animatronic, AI-enhanced head of Alan Turing impersonator who had forgotten that he wasn’t the real animatronic, AI-enhanced head of Alan Turing. Maybe it was the animatronic, AI-enhanced head of Isaac Asimov that had been reprogrammed to think it was the animatronic, AI-enhanced head of Alan Turing. For that matter, are you sure this universe is real? How do we know that we’re not all characters in some fake news article dreamed up by a demented –”

We didn’t have time to hear all of the possible paranoid scenarios the animatronic, AI-enhanced head of Philip K. Dick could come up with, so we pretended to hear our LOLcat mewling for its supper and went backstage to talk to one of the performers at the adult club. Continue reading “Bring Me the Head of Alan Turing!”

Colossus

“Hyperboloids of wondrous Light

Rolling for aye through Space and Time

Harbour those Waves which somehow Might

Play out God’s holy pantomime.”

-Alan Turing.

His favourite story: Snow white and the way the witch in disguise handed her the poisoned apple. He fills the syringe with cyanide and injects it through the apple’s perfect skin, then lies down on the bed and places the fruit on the cabinet, ready to eat. Then closes his eyes and thinks. Wonders if he can go through with it. Decides on balance in the end that he will. The apple of knowledge from the forbidden tree, knowledge of both good and evil. That painting by Magritte: The Son of Man. The poem by Tessimond: The Man In The Bowler Hat. The anonymous suburban desk clerk in his tweed suit: face obscured by the apple, negated by his own desire. The commuter man, erased by history. Emasculated by injection. Every day another bite, hard to swallow. The face obscured by the flying dove. Imprisoned by his thoughts of freedom. He reaches out his hand and lifts the apple, feeling its coolness in his hand. Continue reading “Colossus”

2306

The scrape of chair legs, dimmed lights, a cough, the sound of rain against a window.

“Please relax, I’m going to ask you a series of questions. Try and answer them as honestly as possible.”

Okay,” says the girl.

“You’ve woken.  You’re cold.  The window has blown open and you can hear a dog barking outside.  Beside you lies a body.  It is still.  There is a pool of blood seeping into the mattress.”

He notices her finger move to her ear, random sub-conscious bursts bring suggestions of desire.

“Can you answer?”

You haven’t asked me a question.

“Is that important, there is a dead body beside you.”

Is there?”

“It’s your boyfriend.”

I haven’t got a boyfriend.

The man pauses, removes his glasses, pinches the bridge of his nose. He picks up a pencil, ticks some boxes, notices as he does the sound of insects, an unopened packet of nachos in the corner of the room, the position of a vase with cut flowers, the sound of the girl breathing: the rise and fall. Continue reading “2306”

Turing @ 100

As a contribution to the widespread celebrations and memorials to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of Alan Turing, we present here a few pieces of milliFiction (short stories under 1000 words) by some of our authors, inspired by or dedicated to Alan Turing.

Diary of a Neobody – June 19th, 2112

Hello diary.

This last week has been strange.

I met some of my creators. And not just the people who devised the emotion chip – a couple of the engineers who designed my ‘brain’ made appearances as well.

Continue reading “Diary of a Neobody – June 19th, 2112”

Diary of a Neobody – June 11th, 2112

Hello diary.

I meant to do my entries last week as usual, but was dragged into a sudden whirlwind of activity around my case: I expected the hearing would be months down the line, but apparently, when your suit might catch the public opinion, people are more than happy to fast-track it for you.

I suppose the City Council felt that, with the violence a few weeks ago against androids, my case might do their PR some good.

Continue reading “Diary of a Neobody – June 11th, 2112”