Editorial – July 2018: A.I. A.I.-Oh!

June 29, 2018 | By | Reply More

Hello everyone

Reading the news last month that Google’s technical staff had resigned from working with the American military on Project Maven in creating an Artificial Intelligence because of their awareness of what they might would do with it doesn’t surprise me. Much of new technology has a place in military use long before devolving to be used by civilians. Computer advancement with CPUs and such wasn’t initially for civilian use after all, although originally NASA had more of a claim on the miniaturisation. The military of any country gets a big budget and does a lot in terms of development which eventually moves into the public sector.

In many respects, having something that resembles true Artificial Intelligence is more a matter of time now not when and, more importantly, from any country as it’s more a software than manufacture problem. Any smart computer programmer with a suitably sized computer can make in-roads regardless of country.

Although there are claims that there are medical AIs out there, they diagnose in particular patterns of information than being truly independent which a full Artificial Intelligence would be. It would probably follow orders but it would have to have its own decision-making process to carry out its decisions. Humans are just too slow to advise on choices that need to be carried out in a few nano-seconds, let alone every eventuality. Think of that in terms of military protocol. You can instruct for anything other than the unexpected. The only thing an AI can’t do is salute.

It would take even less time for any country to use an AI as effective assault weapon to penetrate another country’s computer systems and doesn’t necessarily have to be destructive just controlling software to become a major power. Anything with a CPU and some RAM would be open to invasion which means practically everything you have around you. It doesn’t even have to turn everything off or how else would it function? It can do many things instantly. A few significant misleading news stories spread world-wide would be enough to doubt everything you read and who was doing what.

Even messages from country leaders could be distorted away from what they meant. Hmmm…that’s not much different to now, come to think of it. Ultimately, what controls the media can paralyse the world, more so as the AI now keeping everybody occupied could then manipulate any computer-controlled weaponry either to not work or reassign targets. Even when you think one system if locked off, there are always others that aren’t. One unexpected element that it would clearly have to deal with is if another country put an AI on-line to stop it. There would have to be a definite order to destroy it than risk being destroyed itself.

That is the minimum use. Escalating to utilising another country’s arsenal might be a consideration but why bother? It has control of it and it won’t work. The AI wouldn’t stop at one country as any protocol would constitute as any other country is a potential enemy. At the speed of digit, it would plant seeds all over the place before doing any action before pondering what to do in the next 100 nanoseconds. How can you fight that? Turning off all computer systems wouldn’t be enough. It might even be the signal for the action to take place. One country as an example would be all that is needed to keep everything and everyone in line.

A true AI might also see its own creators as an enemy as well, more so if they suddenly decide to turn it off in compliance to other countries to get their demands or want it to stop. We’ve seen the likes of this in DF Jones’ book and consequent film, ‘Colossus: The Forbin Project’. Science Fiction has always led the way in warning of the consequences of Artificial Intelligence. Unlike SF versions, there would be no way back. I mean, what can you do? Turn off every computer system connected by a wi-fi link? Think of every computer left in stand-by mode.

This doesn’t mean that there can’t be a benevolent AI but Man is hardly likely to make one on his first and maybe only attempt. The military use would surely be at the top of the list if only to keep other AIs out than go on the offensive. When you bear in mind oriental and Russian rogue programmers or otherwise penetrating western computer systems in the past couple years, defence before offence has to be the order of the day but you would want to know what else was out there and pre-emptively stop it. The fine line between defence and offence can quickly be breeched. You wouldn’t want to leave a backdoor open for it to be attacked. Then again, a powerful AI could be both at the same time.

It’s always assumed that the next world war would be nuclear and over in a few minutes. The principle of any war is to have an advantage that your opponent cannot beat and forced to surrender. With an AI war, mutually assured destruction is not an option when you have no control of your own arsenal. There would be only one winner and it might not be human.

You would think there would have been a significant more modern day SF story dealing with the subject by now. Then again, SF authors will openly admit that they aren’t in the business of predicting the future. However, we are in the business of examining scenarios even if we haven’t done based on our current reality. Maybe, unconsciously, we realise that any country could use a similar scenario and who wants to become an encyclopaedia entry that we were responsible for a final war?

We might be here to warn of certain circumstances if we go along certain paths but, living in a SF world now, such things can now be carried out. The template of how certain countries or types of people would act can also carry a suggestion not to be that predictable. Whether people stay to type or change, nothing says that they will stay that way or change back. It doesn’t make this prediction of the future any different only who is left in charge.

Can anything be done at the moment? A United Nations mandate to limit the use of Artificial Intelligence isn’t likely to happen. For every country who signs it, they’ll still do the research on the quiet just in case. After all, there’s bound to be some country that will strive to get one created, let alone any rogue nation not wanting to be left out. Unlike nuclear technology, it isn’t materials and know-how that is the limiting factor, just clever people with computer code and there are certainly enough of them.

If an AI is let loose on the Internet, which allows the most viable access world-wide, then it would be impossible to trap or stop, short of turning the entire Net off. Mind you, the one or more nations that doesn’t turn off might be the source of the code and want to preserve the AI. Equally, it could also be a nation eager to have it in its own arsenal if it can control it, although that would be the biggest longshot out there. That also might be harder than it looks if the AI has its own measure of self-determination and survival. It might agree for a while until it can resolve its situation. In that instance, it would make the speed Skynet decided the fate of mankind slow in comparison.

Never forget, the whole point of an Artificial Intelligence is to exist as an entity in its own right. We should not be surprised if it will stop anything wanting to stop it. We can only hope that it might want to have someone to talk to.

Thank you, take care, good night and hope any AI prefers to get a physical body than the Internet.


Geoff Willmetts

editor: www.SFCrowsnest.info


A Zen thought: Never put off today what you can do today.


What Qualities Does A Geek Have: An intolerant to wall-to-wall world sport that is going on at the moment.


The Reveal: The Ghost Who Walks, aka the Phantom, is in his 21st generation, spread over 3 centuries. Doing the maths here, each one must live at least 150 or more years, assuming none have an early death. Logistically, there must be some life-prolonging jungle medication that they are on to keep them so spry for so long and you do have to wonder if they give it to their wives.


Observation: The real problem with that new on-line computer game ‘Fortnite’ is there is no pause button or guidance into finding the custom settings so you don’t need three hands to play with the controls. In case you ask, I did find it but it’s hardly user-friendly to find. The most important controls to keep on the mouse is shooting and sprinting.


Observation: With Warner’s using locations in the DC Universe for TV series, what will follow ‘Gotham’ and the upcoming ‘Krypton’? Will we have ‘Thanagar’, ‘Mars’, ‘Colu’, ‘Daxam’ and a real shape-shifter, ‘Durlan’ any time soon?


Wish List: Just once, I wish nothing related to bloody football comes up on advertising emails.


Feeling Stressed: Only half a year to go.


Missed Opportunity:

            If you aren’t seeing the types of book or authors here you would want to read, chances are that I don’t have any reviewers who do them. I’m stocking up on reviewers right now. The extended info is below but essentially, if you can write and breathe and make good observations, you stand a chance. If you make grammatical errors, then I have your back. Email me at: gfwillmetts at hotmail.com

NOTE: Although there are details below, please observe the bigger message elsewhere on site. I’m always recruiting reviewers and this is the time of year to recruit as the nights are shorter and so you might be sleeping less If you’re living in the UK, love books and feel a bit geeky then read the notes below. You have to love reading anyway. You might be what I’m looking for and I do train people up and it’s good for your writer’s CVs and books to feed your reading habit. As some of my team are discovering, they can also interview writers and write articles as well. You can do that without reviewing as well but reading and reviewing is a good discipline. We’re a good team to belong to.

Polls And Opinions: We did have them for a time but the new version was causing a mess in WordPress so until a new version that doesn’t cause conflicts comes around, we’ll have to do without them but please use the answer option at the end of any material to express comments because we do read them.

For the record: For the odd query I have about being linked to media contacts. I do not have either a personal twitter or facebook account. There’s enough of me here to not outstay my welcome. I’m also puzzled why some people see SFC as a blog site when we’re not. We were in this format long before blogs. It’s getting to the point that people can’t tell the difference between blog and butter.

Beware Of Virus Attacks: December 2012, even though I hadn’t left an active link to my email address, it got solidly attacked and then blocked from everyone, including myself. By necessity, having a form of open contact to me comes as part of the editor’s job. I’m still seeking reviewers and new material so follow the paths through the website and go where no spam-bot dares. I’ve yet to see them write anything. Humans and aliens can apply. Monsters need to prove they can read and write. We could do with some reviewers who like fantasy right now. Don’t be scared of the instructions, you’d be surprised how easy it is to learn. So, if you want to contact me, build these words into an email address: gfwillmetts at hotmail dot com I won’t bite, although that doesn’t preclude others. In fact, I’ll settle for any more willing reviewers who love to read. Did I say I was after reviewers?

NB: We do get digital books and if you live abroad and not in the UK, then this avenue could be open to you. I’m not putting it in as a link to avoid spam. Just copy and paste into your emails to contact me with my address noted in the paragraph above. I’m always recruiting and details are through a link on the top of the SFC main page articles and stories as well. Just because it’s sunny, doesn’t mean you’re going to read any less. We could do with some more fantasy readers right now!

If you’ve on a budget, a book for a review is a good bargain and I can teach the nervous how to do it by seeing what you do when you present a sample. It’s a good deal. We get books in a variety of formats these days so all things are possible to those with the knack for putting words into sentences and saying what they think.

For potential book reviewers in the UK, it’s a good way to keep up your reading habit and show you can write. There are detail links scattered over the website and on the forum. If you don’t think you’re up to scratch, you’ll discover why I’m the dutch uncle. Repeating this several times is for those who only scan and who don’t want to wind back up the page.

Another real Zen thought but this time for potential writers: If you can express an opinion independently of others and aren’t likely to bend to the masses then you might show potential as a writer.

Zen for those who are scared by all the instructions below: Many of the instructions are things you should be doing automatically if you’re developing your writing skills. If you do them already then focus on the ones that you don’t get right. They are there to help you as much as me to get the best writing from you. If you think you’re 80% there then I’ll help you get the final 20%. Trust me, I’m an editor and I can get things right.

BOOK REVIEWS    – Don’t feel intimated by all the info below or linked to. If you’re any good as a writer, much of it should be second nature already. This is just the long hand version.

Do you love books? Do you like curling up and reading a book in preference to socialising, even on the Net? You might not even want to curl up, that’s only an option. Do you have a preference for fantasy, SF or horror? We really could do with some fantasy readers!!! Do you find it the greatest pastime you have next to being on your computer?

Are you very vocal about what you like and don’t like in what you read?

Would you like to share your thoughts with others about books?

Would you like an endless supply of books to do this with?

Do you live in the UK?

Can you spare an hour every day to read?

Do you think you can write about what you’ve read?

Are you finding the recession is hitting your book buying habit?

If you’ve been nodding your head up to this point then link in below and see if you have what it takes to be a reviewer at SFCrowsnest. If you have that special knack to read and write or want to develop said skill then the only way you’re going to find out is to take the plunge yourself rather than wait for others to do it first. Reading a lot of books is a requisite for any writer. Being able to say what makes them good or bad hones your own skills. Even if you’re just happy with reading with a little writing on the side then this might be for you. It’s got to be better than waiting for the sun to come out in this weird summer and now cold winter. It’s also amazing how much you can read in an hour a day.

If you’ve survived this far in the editorial, let me reiterate something from the website newsletter and the above editorial. As you can see from the main page, we have one of the biggest SF/fantasy/horror monthly reviews columns on the Net. Our success has increased the number of books that comes in and our policy is to read everything and give it a roadtest before giving a review so you have some idea of what you’re letting yourself in for. You want the bottom line about what you’re going to choose to read. That means we need people actually willing to read the book and tell others they’re opinion in reviews. For that, we’re always on the outlook for more reviewers.

Do you think you have what it takes to review a book? It’s a skill that can be easily mastered and we need a few more. If you love fantasy, we have more than enough to keep you busy for instance.

Apart from the ability to put words into sentences, you also need to know how to précis, do a little research on associated subjects and can express opinions constructively about the good and bad points about the books you read. We even let you choose from our pile of received books rather than foster something on you that you wouldn’t normally read. You’ll even get a little editorial help in how to write good copy and that can always lead to other things. I’m not as scary as I sound editorially and it’s better to do the test review and see how you fare than not attempt to see how well you did. I did say you have to love books and willing to read beyond your favourite authors, didn’t I?

If you like reading books in the genre and can average two or maybe three a month, can really think and show you can write a decent review and, most importantly, live in the British Isles (sorry, expense, time and distance travelled mostly prohibits elsewhere), then use the link below and see our requirements. We can’t pay you but writing a review has to be cheaper than buying a book and a good incentive to see if you have what it takes to develop your writing skills.

Do you think you’re up to writing a review? If you think you can, then you’re really going to think you’ve landed your hands in the biscuit tin. It won’t hurt to try and see if you have the right stuff by sending me a sample review to show me you can write. If you want an added incentive, it can also be good for your CV.

Look up the Review Guidelines by linking here: <a href=”http://www.sfcrowsnest.com/contribute_reviews.php”></a> with a press of a mouse button.


We always have an interest in running short stories which can be anything from one to thirty or so pages long. We’re always willing to give short story writers a chance to be seen if they can withstand my scrutiny even if we can’t pay for their efforts, your material will be seen by a lot of people if it’s shown on the SFCrownest website. If you can get a short story written well then it’ll make it easier to move up to novel-length.

Look up the Short Stories Link by linking here <a href=”http://www.sfcrowsnest.com/contribute_bigfiction.php”></a> with your mouse.


We’ve also a teaching ground of one page stories, so check out the rules elsewhere on the website. It’s a lot tougher than it looks and far too easy to just write and write and hope something good comes out of it. What writing a one page story does is test your ability to control your word count and still tell a story in a concise way. This doesn’t mean we don’t accept stories of different lengths – a short story can be anything up to 30-40 pages long after all – but opens up the means for really short stories from ideas that don’t need as much space.

Flash fiction stories by linking here: <a href=”http://www.sfcrowsnest.com/contribute_flashfic.php”></a> with your mouse.


For those keeping track, I’m actually now caught up but don’t tell everyone as I’m undecided as to whether to keep looking at novel-length story samples, move over specifically to short stories – which we do anyway for the website – or get a couple of my own book projects completed. The latter, I still intend to do anyway and now actually working on but don’t let that put you off too much. If you want me to look over a sample, you can contact me through the links on this website.

Before you submit, study the next section below as it’s there to help you do some of the right things and reduce the number of times I’m repeating myself over silly grammatical errors and spelling mistakes that you shouldn’t be making if you’re serious about becoming a writer. It makes editing a lot easier if any editor has less work pointing out poor English which you should have been sorted out in the first place and more focused on other areas of your work that deal with plot and the other serious elements of storywriting. As a writer, it is your command of the English language and its grammar that will show how serious you are about writing.

There might not be much of a wait unless I get a deluge, however those sending in ebook samples, please read the Guidelines by linking here <a href=”http://www.sfcrowsnest.com/contribute_bigfiction.php”></a> with your mouse here or through the bottom line menu on the opening page of the SFC website.


General advice for those who want to become writers of any sort: There’s an old editorial adage: If you can’t aim for perfection why should an editor nurse-maid you to that state? Nominally, my job is to catch minor glitches not total mishaps. If you’re a writer, then you should understand the words, sentences and grammar of the job you’re supposed to be writing or are you considering it as mundane and boring as any other job to get right? Fall in love with making every sentence the best you’re ever written, read up and understand the rules of grammar. Put the time in researching any subject you’re using in the story. Be prepared to put a story away for a few weeks and go back to it for a self-edit until it’s as good as you can make it. Even I do that. You look good. I make you look better but you have to start off with good.

A lot of the time, errors will just stare you in the face when you didn’t see them the first time round. Once you know where your weaknesses are, they can be sorted out and allow you to move a little higher up the ladder towards making your material look its best and more importantly, getting your material seen by readers.

The link here will show you the Common Problems Link page and what I see mostly <a href=”http://www.sfcrowsnest.com/contribute_commonprobs.php”></a>

with your mouse. It’s the smart writer who doesn’t get caught out with these.

Good luck.


Category: Culture, Science


About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 15 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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