Tuesday, September 14, 2021

98. Down is Up! -How to Confuse Artificial Intelligence - sneak peek #4

 NOTE: This is a preview sample of my upcoming 'satirical' Science Fiction novel. Yes, it is intended to be funny in satircal ways. The book will likely not be out until sometime around Spring 2022. Have I borrowed from other sources? Hell yes! I've borrowed from the Hitchhiker's Guide to The Galaxy. I've borrowed from Catch 22. I've borrowed from Dr. Strangelove, from 1984, from Brave New World, from 2001 a Space Odyssey. I borrowed the whole satirical concept of 'Social Score' from the country of China. And...as for the name of the richest man in the world, all I can say is that I borrowed the name Tyrell from the movie Blade Runner, as an homage. There you have it. That is on record from the start, before anyone tries to sue me.

This excerpt, I realized, should come second among the three other samples I've shared here. So I'm going to link the other samples in order, if you want to get a sense of the story. I've already made changes (rewrites) to these other samples, but I'm leaving them as is in these 'sneak peeks.' They don't all directly connect in the book, so it may feel disjointed.

First, of course, is the Dawn of Humanity.

Second is, well, THIS sample, so at the end I'll link the other two in the order you should read them.




It wasn't really Adam's fault that everything collapsed.

It wasn't really Amy's fault either.

They were just trying to live their lives, trying to make sense of the chaos.

There was one flaw in the system, it turned out, and that one flaw just happened to work in their favor.

It did not seem to be working for them at first. It did not appear to be working in their favor for quite some time.

Los Angeles bustled with activity.

People - both real and simulated - carried out their busy day, getting into pods, going to work, to school, shopping. Not that everyone was actually there; many of them bustled about remotely - projecting themselves onto the streets from the comfort fo their own homes. Others, like Adam, actually moved about the city in person.

Looking down from above - as so many of the drones from the Antarctica Corporation were doing - it looked like another normal day in the life of the city.

Adam stood on the sidewalk in the middle of the block. He reached his hand to the back of his neck where his Lynq chip was attached, tried to adjust it slightly, and stepped off the sidewalk into the nearly empty street.

Halfway across the street a sharp irritation shot into his neck from his chip. He looked up and saw his picture - larger than life - flashed on the side of the large building in front of him.

"J-walking!" the message screamed. "Social Score down 3 points!"

Adam's face flushed with embarrassment. mothers grabbed their children and hurried them away. Everyone on both sides of the street shook their heads.

Adam ducked inside the building as quickly as he could.

Then the news came up everywhere. It was impossible to avoid. It simply appeared.

"Tyrell Elon Zuzerzos, Founder and CEO of the Antarctica Corporation, is celebrating the five-year anniverssary of buying The United States of America. the year was 2070, and U.S. debt had gotten so out of control that the unthinkable was suddenly thinkable. Zuzerzos stepped up and made an incredible offer. He bought all U.S. debt, he bought the whole country, and he privatized the government. and now, here with a word of celebration on our fifth anniversary, TYRELL ELON ZUZERZOS!"

Zuzerzos' face appeared live. He smiled a slick smile at the country. He beamed with confidence.

"Hello, America!" Zuzerzos began. "I can't even begin to tell you how proud I am of all of you. In these challenging times, you, the customers - I mean citizens - of America, have stepped up and handled adversity so amazingly well. Congratulations America!" He smiled an even bigger smile. "Never forget that down is up, America. Never forget! If you can just BELIEVE it, anything is possible! you just have to believe, America! We have faced so many challenges. Because of the Bio-Wars, and the lingering viruses and diseases from those wars, we have had to make tough decision and life-style adjustments. the biggest, as you all know of course, is that due to these lingering viruses, human-to-human relationships have sadly been banned. But we are a nation of great minds and innovators! we at Antarctica Corp have given you the Simu-Network, the most advanced, flawless simulated human and intelligence network ever developed. The Simu-Network has never made a mistake. It is the most perfect human and intelligence simulation ever created. You're welcome, America! Celebrate, America! Celebrate! Down is up, America! DOWN IS UP! Anything is possible!"

And Zuzerzos disappeared from the screen as wild cheers rose up seemingly from everywhere.

Adam looked around and did not see anyone cheering, yet the sound was overwhelming and deafening. He turned back to the news as the disclaimer ran, too fast for most to see or even notice; "The United States of America is a wholey-owned subsidiary of the Antarctica Corporation."

And so ends this sample..

If you want to follow the sequence of these other two samples, next (not right away in the book, but the next one of THESE sample)s is this one, back when I was using the Pink Floyd title, Welcome to the Machine,

And then finally (so far) is this one, when Adam is called into a meeting.

Peter Wick

September `4, 2021

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

97. Was I actually elected President in 2020?

 Look, I'm not saying I WAS elected President in 2020. I'm just asking questions. Americans deserve to know the answers to this and many other questions.

Is it so wrong to ask these questions? Are the people who are trying to stop me from asking questions actually communists with a goal of destroying America?

Is Joe Biden actually a lizard-person, disguised as a Mole-rat, disguised as Beyonce, disguised as a 78-year-old man? I'm not saying he IS. I'm just asking questions.

People are saying - lots of people are saying - that I received many many millions of votes, but that a group of communists from Venezuela used super secret remote brain-technology to secretly alter the ballots with my name on them and changed them all to Joe Biden. Now, IS THIS TRUE? I don't know. I'm just asking. In America, we have the freedom to ask.

Anyone who tells me that I am not allowed to ask if Joe Biden secretly eats live baby kittens for breakfast is trying to take away my freedom of speech, my freedom to blabber nonsense, and my freedom to ask absurd questions. that's un-American.

The main-stream media loves to talk about "Facts." "Fact this and fact that." Blah blah blah. Facts are just a way to cover up the truth. And what is the truth? well that's what I'm after with the questions I ask.

Are the Democrats really a group of galactic space beavers from Alpha Centari intent on conquering Earth and turning it into an intergalactic all-you-can-eat kitten bar? I DON'T KNOW! I'm just asking.

The lame-stream media likes to point out that this was the most scrutinized, counted, recounted, and re-recounted election in history, and that there has been zero evidence of wide-spread voter fraud. EXACTLY! Zero evidence! So...you know... where did the evidence go? Was it covered up by Hugo Chavez? Did Hugo Chavez ACTUALLY die? Is he secretly living under the assumed name of "Black Widow," inside the actual movie, so deeply embedded that no one, not even he can tell the difference between the real world and the world of the movie that he is in? Is he secretly hiding in a different movie? Ratatouille? Shrek 8 The UnShrekening? The Shape of Water, as that sex-obsessed fish creature?


Did the Italians use ultra-futuristic laser-technology to make Margorie Taylor Greene somehow dumber than a broken piece of cement?

I think America deserves to have these questions looked into, right?

Did the Chinese use bamboo-laced, chewing gum fibered, pot-rolling paper based ballots, secretly filled out in the backroom of a bar in Shanghai, mind-meld them into Arizona, then push a button connected to a secret Space-laser-used-to-start-California-wild-fires in order to subvert our freedom to require every American to own at least 72 guns minimum (pea-shooters do not count!)

So... WAS I elected President in 2020? I don't know, and that, my fellow Americans, is the problem. We need to know for certain, and that's why I'm asking. The questions just have to be asked...

Peter Wick

July 14, 2021

Monday, June 14, 2021

96. What is "Silk Finds What he's Looking For"?

A year ago, at the isolated height of the COVD pandemic, my friend Robert Silk invited me to spend the weekend in the desert with him.

I had not considered myself a desert person, but the weekend journey a year ago has turned into a year-long journey that has changed my mind.

I ended up shooting what has become a slightly less-than-an-hour long documentary (on my phone), about a full day in nature. Silk engaged in what he calls the 'endurance sport' of desert sitting. Yes, he laughs a little when he talks about the day when a committee of people will lay down the rules to the sport, establish the metric that decides the difficulty of a given 'sit,' and records the sport's record-holders. He laughs a little, and I laugh with him, but I am beginning to think he is on to something.

What I really discovered, though, was the meditative quality of a full day in nature, beginning before sunrise. His preparation and planning were meticulous (partly due to a previous failed all-day attempt). His plan was to watch the arc of the sun from sunrise to sunset. His motive was to slow down, to get away from the 'world of too much rushing." He succeeded, and in the process I just might have gained a new respect for the concept.

The documentary will arrive on both Youtube and IMDb soon (before the current month of June ends). It is at times humorous, meditative, beautiful - yes, I admit I was caught up in the beauty of the moment when those first rays of sunlight barely stretched their way up over the horizon around 5:30 am.

I cheated, though. I made my way back to a motel room to sleep a couple extra hours, while Silk sat for the duration. My return at noon was the cheap way out. I stayed out there for the rest of the day, but I didn't reach the same renewed state that he did. I felt some of it by association, though, and I liked the feeling.

Whether you are someone who might just take to a new 'endurance sport,' or just someone who craves a day of quiet in today's world, I would take a look at Silk's day in the desert. In some respect maybe Robert Silk is a pioneer.

Maybe my favorite aspect of desert sitting, given my own personality, is the freedom to laugh a little in the process. Yes, it is okay to be taken by the beauty of nature, and then to joke around a little.

As I said up front, I did not consider myself a desert person. I think I'm all-in on this now, though. there is a world of beauty around us that we usually move through too quickly. It is worthwhile to slow down and sit in it for a day.

And maybe, just maybe, some day someone will keep a record of the world's most challenging 'Sit.'

Peter Wick
June 14, 2021

Friday, May 14, 2021

95. Sneak Peek 3 - How To Confuse Artificial Intelligence

 This sample from the upcoming 'Satirical Science Fiction' novel, "How to Confuse Artificial Intelligence," Involves a meeting that Adam Douglas has been called in to at work, not because he has done anything wrong...but because the algorithm says he is going to. This takes place in the year 2075. Apologies for the awkward way we get into and out of the scene. I didn't want to put a whole chunk of the novel here. Certain odd details are likely to be changed or subtly altered before the book is published. (PW)

Adam entered a large ornate office he had never been in before. Sheila Barton, the CEO and founder of Trickster Marketing acknowledged his presence but otherwise did not react.

Adam took a moment to acknowledge the others.

Sandborn, Executive VP, simulated, perfectly combed artificial brown hair. He had a permanent look of serious authority. Sandborn was a unique, brilliantly designed "Executive" simulation.

Miss M, CFO of Trickster, another perfect-looking, wrinkle-free simulation.

Sheila Barton was unmistakably human. As the fifth richest real person in the world, she was almost wrinkle-free, but not quite. The natural lines around her eyes and mouth gave her away.

Sheila Barton exuded power. She was in charge.

"Good morning, Adam," Sheila Barton said, commanding the room. "Have a seat."

Adam sat haltingly. He looked from one boss to the next, searching for some sign, some clue, as to what was going on.

The others settled into chairs forming a semi-circle.

Adam felt the intimidating power of the large office.

He cleared his throat self-consciously.

Sheila Barton smiled at him. It was a different smile from the pre-programmed smiles of the others. If their smiles were meant to reassure, Sheila Barton's smile barely managed to hide menace.

"We've been looking at your social score," Sandborn said.

"My social score..."

"Yes, you are aware of you social score, are you not?" Sandborn looked at Adam accusingly.

"Of course. Well, I mean I barely pay attention to it, if I'm honest."

A moment of pregnant silence came and went, as the different bosses exchanged knowing glances.

"You are unhappy," Sandborn said matter-of-factly.

Adam twisted his face. "What do you mean?"

"Something is bothering you," said Sandborn. "Something is upsetting you."

"Wait! What is this about?" Adam gave Sheila Barton a quick pleading look, hoping for some faint sign of human understanding.

"Our algorithm," Sandborn continued, "tells us that you are on the verge of a breakdown. You're going to begin causing problems."

"Causing problems! What - what the - "

"He's getting agitated," Miss M said.

"So the algorithm is right," Dave chimed in from the end of the semi-circle.

"I'm not getting agitated," Adam protested.

"You're getting agitated," Sandborn echoed.

"Only because you're telling me I'm getting agitated."

"Oh, is that the reason?" asked Sandborn.

"Yes!"Adam shouted, losing just enough of his composure to cause all present to nod to each other in agreement.

"Look!" Adam tried desperately to calm himself. "You've run some program on me that...that says I'm going to be angry. It's not real! Don't you see? I'm only angry because you're telling me what I'm going to do. You're telling me I'm going to be angry. that's the only reason I'm angry." He turned to Sheila Barton. "You're human. Do you see what I'm saying?"

A quiet gasp fell on the room.

"Besides being your supervisor," Sandborn said, "I am, it may surprise you to know, Vice President of the non-profit organization, RACER. Do you know what RACER is, Adam?"

"No, I don't. Please enlighten me."

"R-A-C-E-R, RACER," Sandborn began. "Robot and Clone Equality and Rights."

The stares of all present made Adam want to sink into the floor.

"Be careful," Sheila Barton said quietly. "Your prejudice is showing."

"I'm offended," said Miss M.

"Did you think," Dave added, "that we wouldn't hear you? We're right here."

Sandborn adjusted his chair.

"You're not fired, Adam. We're going to give you a second chance."

"A second ch - I - I haven't done anything wrong. In fact I've done a good job."

"We're re-assigning you." Sandborn sat back in his chair dramatically.

"Re-assigning..." Adam turned back to Sheila Barton. "What the hell is this?"

"He's definitely agitated," Miss M said.

"Very agitated," Dave agreed.

Adam threw his hands in the air. "Why? I mean the new ad campaign is done. It's good. I've done a good job." He turned again to Sheila Barton. "You wouldn't jeopardize this because this - this -" he turned back to other three, "this program is malfunctioning!"

"We have a multi-billion dollar contract with the Antarctica Corporation," Sheila Barton said coldly. "These colleagues of yours, colleagues who you have insulted, are part of the contract."

Adam spun around to his three colleagues.

They sat back. They looked at him with sad compassion.

-Peter Wick

May 14, 2021

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

94 - A Royal Mess

 I know a British family. I interact with them over Zoom (or equivalent video chit chat) about as much as I see anyone at the moment. I found myself softening my criticism of royalty around them recently, with the many stories of Palace intrigue and tragedy we've all been ignoring...I mean, living through.

First there was Harry and Meghan quitting the Royal Family. Then, just a week before I write this, Prince Phillip passed away at the age of 99.

I want to be respectful of those who are mourning the old guy's passing.

What I respect the most, though, is anyone born into this thing called "Royalty," who is then willing to quit the whole business. Bravo!

My British friends didn't feel the same way. They felt that Meghan should have known what she was getting into and just "sucked it up." You know, you're marrying into a Royal Family. Some them are in their 90's. They've never had to deal with the real world. They're going to be racist! Suck it up!

I can't think about royalty anymore without hearing the dialog from Monty Python's Holy Grail, when Graham Chapman (King Arthur) comes upon some paupers farming (well, they seem more to just be moving mud around). One of them, Michael Palin, is going on and on about how they live in an autonomous collective. Tired of listening to him, King Arthur says, "Be Quiet! Be Quiet, please. I ORDER you to be quiet."

"Order! Who does he think he is?" Terry Jones asks.

"I am your King"

"Well, I didn't vote for you."

"You don't vote for Kings!" blurts a flustered King Arthur.

"Well how'd you become King, then?"

"The Lady of The Lake," pines Arthur, who then goes on to wax poetic about Excalibur and Divine Providence.

"Listen," counters Palin. "Strange women lyin' in ponds, distributing swords is no basis for a system of government."

I couldn't agree more.

England isn't the only country that still has Royalty. Spain has a Royal family and, even worse, a Royal soccer team. Their name is Real Madrid. In Spanish 'Real' means 'Royal.' And I'm not just being cranky because Real Madrid beat Barcelona (a good solid non-royal team) 2 to 1 this last weekend!

Somehow American soccer got the idea that it's okay to be Royal, and the team in Salt Lake City named themselves "Real Salt Lake." This is anti-American, of course. There should never be a royal soccer team in America, and especially not in Utah.

Sorry, I think I'm losing track of my point.

Hey, I have an idea, while we're mourning the passing of that 99 year-old Prince, how about if we also get weepy and respectfully teary-eyed, and mourn the passing the ancient concept of Royalty.

Make that team in Madrid name themselves something like the damn "Madrid Wolfhounds," or something. You know, something respectful.

Peter Wick

April 14, 2021

Saturday, March 13, 2021

93. I've Been Shot! (by a dose of COVID vaccine)

 A year ago this weekend I was in Seattle for my mom's funeral (see post #83). That's the last time I was on a plane. Flying back to L.A. the next day, as far as I can remember, I was not required to wear a mask. The memory is a bit fuzzy, but I seem to remember mask mandates coming a week or so after that.

This last year has been a world-wide reminder; a reminder that we are a vulnerable species, that we took the 'modern' sophisticated world of 2018 for granted, and that it was always possible for it to be shut down. Pandemics can happen. We know this now. Bad things in general can happen. The 1918 Flu happened. The Black Death happened (though admittedly medieval hygiene was pretty bad). The Great Depression happened. Cancer happens. An asteroid hit Earth and wiped out the dinosaurs - then the dominant species on Earth.

Shit happens.

One of our greatest ever Presidents, Franklin D. Roosevelt, battled a case of polio when he was young. As President he could barely stand up without crutches. Now, thanks to vaccines, polio is essentially eradicated from the planet. I mean, when I think about it, I'm pretty happy that polio was not a thing anymore when I was growing up.

For decades, last century, the U.S. and Russia pointed insane amounts of nuclear firepower at each other and dared the other to blink. Calling either side's bluff would have meant world-wide catastrophe. Wait, that's still a possibility, isn't it.

What will it be in the future? When will it be? two years ago, those question would have been theoretical, rhetorical. Today 'what will it be' and 'when will it be' are real questions to think about, and of course no one knows the answer.

So, this morning I made my way from Venice, California to the vaccination hub at The Forum in Inglewood. Along with all the writing, film, and publishing projects I'm involved in, I also do some teaching, so, being able to call myself a teacher allowed me to jump ahead of the waitlist for this morning's appointment.

The nurse told me to 'take it easy' for a couple days. Hm? Take it easy? "So I guess that means my Saturday afternoon four-and-half-miles is off?" I asked. She told me that when she got her first dose she felt terrible the rest of the day, then fine the next day. I don't feel terrible. Maybe the arm I took the shot in is feeling a little odd, so I decided not to jog, and just walked a few miles. I think I'm about to find out if going out at all was a good or a bad thing.

I have reflected some, this week, on the strangeness of this past year. Images come back to me of waiting in line just to get into the grocery store (this still happens some, but nothing like it did last April), people suddenly existing only on Zoom, rather than in person. I remember Black Lives Matter protests, back in May and June, resulting in National Guard troops being stationed around nearby street corners. I remember a Presidential election. I remember sports shutting down - until they came back in empty stadiums. My own regular Saturday night semi-organized soccer game shut down. I haven't run around a soccer field in a year.

It won't be long before we start taking things for granted again. People will either forget or block it out. It won't be long before kids won't know what we're talking about when we mention COVID; "Oh, COVID that was that disease that happened way back in ancient history. Was that the same time as World War two?"

But life will not instantly bounce back to normal. Life won't bounce back to normal for any of the families of the more than 2 and 1/2 million people (world-wide) that the pandemic took away. Life won't bounce back to normal for those who have lost a job. As I walk through my neighborhood, down a street once bustling with restaurants, shops and various other businesses, I see lots of empty store-fronts. I see lots of places that, a year ago I thought were solid successful business, that are now closed.

We will get our lives back. Better times are coming, but I think we would be wise to gain some perspective from this past year. We would be wise to be a little more humble than we were before. We are a vulnerable species, and in spite of our best efforts...shit happens!

Here's hoping for better times!

Peter Wick

March 13, 2021

Monday, February 15, 2021

92 - How to Confuse Artificial Intelligence (sneak peek #2)

First...What you are about to read has nothing to do with how to confuse Artificial Intelligence. Let me explain.

Back a few posts ago, in October, 2020, I posted a small sample of my next book, which at that time went under the title, "Welcome to the Machine." It is set in the future, in 2075, and at this point my best guess is that it will be available in less than a year. This sample, that you are about to read, is the Prologue, which goes under the chapter heading, "The Dawn of Humanity." In the book it is immediately followed by "Chapter 1; 2075 - The Lunchtime of Humanity."

So, hopefully this makes sense. What you are about to read is from the ancient past. The book may or may not be titled, "How to Confuse Artificial Intelligence." In fact I'll take suggestions and responses. I've permanently turned off public comments on this blog, but you can email azzurriprods@mail.com if you feel strongly one way or the other about any title suggestions. And now to:

Prologue - The Dawn of Humanity

Kag squatted in front of the cave wall.

He dipped the point of his stick in the bowl of red berry pigment and lifted it toward the wall.

He stroked the red pigment to his right, painting the direction of an arrow flying toward a deer.

He had not yet painted the deer.

This was all Kag cared about, this painting.


His older brothers Nog and Gog stood impatiently behind him.

"Kag, come on. We have hunting and gathering to do. The sun's already been up for an hour."

Kag did not respond. He peered intently at his cave wall painting. He moved his hand carefully toward the painting. With his stick he added a tiny dab of pigment to the tip of the arrow.


Satisfied with his revision of the arrow, Kag finally responded without turning around.

"What's that?" Kag asked sarcastically. "Another day of hunting and gathering? Ooh! I'm so excited. I'm tingly with excitement! How will this day of hunting and gathering be different from - " Kag finally stood and faced his brothers " - the other freaking five thousand days we've spent hunting gathering?"

"Oh, don't go off on that again!" Nog looked at Gog and rolled his eyes.

"There's got to be something better than this," Kag complained for, what his brothers were sure, was the millionth time. "I dream of a time when we have machines in our homes that keep our food cold until we pull it out and cook it."

"Machines!" Nog said mockingly. "What the hell are machines?"

"And what is a home?" asked Gog, laughing.

"It's where we live." Kag shifted his feet, frustrated with his brothers. "You don't think humanity is going to live in caves forever, do you."

Nog rolled his eyes again. "Someone's going to live in a looney bin if he's not careful."

Nog and Gog laughed together. Then Gog stopped. "Hey, what's a looney bin?" he asked.

Kag interrupted once again. "There has to be more to life than this, all the hunting, and the gathering."

"Look, mate," Nog replied sharply. "You're living in a fantasy world. Hunting and gathering is all there is and all there ever will be."

Kag knew he would never convince his brothers. Reluctantly he joined them, and the three brothers began walking out the cave opening.

"Well, do we have to both?" Kag asked weakly. "Do we have to hunt AND gather? Isn't gathering enough for one person? I have to hunt also?"

Peter Wick

February 15, 2021