Artificial Existence

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Image: My Virtual Child

I found this short story about artificial intelligence that I wrote in Grade 12 (1992). Here it is, unedited:


As if in a nightmare, Steven thrust himself down beside his virtual daughter, sobbing and calling out to her. She pushed herself to a sitting position with her crippled arms. Her countenance terrorized him; something so unreal had happened to something so real. This type of disfigurement was only possible in a virtual world. The lines of her face were still present, but they had been arranged into a perfectly flat plane during the fall.

“Detect, evaluate, respond,” whined the child.

Her small body was hunched forward, and her left arm constantly wobbled against the floor. She reached out to him with her other arm.

“No Cybele,” he pleaded with his harmless persecutor. “Stay back!”

The delirious computer scientist was stooped over in the middle of the empty room, pounding the floor when his wife walked in.

She hollered to him, “Is this what fifteen years of research is for?”

Shaking, Steven removed his binaural headgear and looked up to his wife.

“It’s Cybele,” he explained as he attempted to brace himself. “She fell, and my stupid ground with infinite reaction capacity flattened her face.”

“Come on, Steven. She’s just a program – a list of numbers! Try not to get so worked up about it.”

“But numbers make entities and entities are real,” Steven insisted. “Do you want to meet her?”

“Sure.”

“I’ll just restart the program so she won’t be distorted.”

Wanda put the gear on and was immediately greeted by the child.

“Hav yu ever wunderd wat it wud be lyk to fal off a clif?”

Wanda frowned. She was not expecting to hear such an unusual comment from the small child.

Cybele looked like any other little girl; however, her fluctuating movements, choppy speech, and unflinching eyes made her frightening. The illusion was definitely a success, yet the subtle inconsistencies with reality made the observer feel apprehensive with the unpredictable child.

“No, not really,” replied Wanda. “I can imagine it would hurt!”

She felt embarrassed because in reality she was talking to nothing.

The undaunted child continued.

“It wud hurt yu but not me. I do not eksist. Follo me.”

Cybele motioned with her arm and began walking along the dark blue ground. She led Wanda to a rough incline on the strange surface. Viewing ahead, Wanda could see the outline of a cliff. Suddenly she felt clouded in fear, and she thought she could see a weak reflection of her own eyes directly in front of her.

“Since this is onli an ilushun, yu can eksperynse it without pane,” blurted Cybele, grabbing Wanda’s arm.

Wanda did not feel the small, clutching hand, but she could see herself lurching forward over the edge of the bluff. Screaming, she pulled off the headgear.

“Wow! And you told me not to get worked up,” said Steven, chuckling.

“She’s pretty clever for a list of numbers!”

“Well, she ought to be, considering the years I’ve put into her.”

A temporary lull in their conversation enabled them to hear faint static sounds emitted from the headgear at uniformly recurring time intervals. Steven lowered his ear to the apparatus. Cybele was calling his name and crying out to him through the inadequate interface of electronic paraphernalia separating them. Steven quickly put on the equipment, bridging the two different worlds.

“Ware is mi breth, Steven?”

“Well, I -,” He faltered, then looked appealingly to Cybele. “I’m not sure what you mean.”

“The breth uv evri living thing is in the hand uv the Creator-“

Steven interrupted.

“Did – did I teach you that?”

“- but I am not a living thing,” continued Cybele.

A contradiction of logic had occurred in the child’s mind. An inescapable infinite loop held her thought processes captive. The independence of her artificial intelligence had manipulated her into a Boolean deadlock.

“Wat holds mi breth, Steven?”

“Cybele, you’re an illusion.”

He tried to make his voice sound bold, although he was aware of her ability to perceive deception. He knew that she was seeking a direct answer to the question, yet he did not know how to explain it to her.

“But,” she said, “yu created me.”

“I only pretended to create you. It is impossible to create life.”

“Am i not lyfe?”

Cybele extended her hand, tempting Steven to reconsider his certainty. Her little fingers opened slowly, and her eyes scanned his face until they focused on his eyes.

“No, you are not life.”

Steven reached out to touch a hand that he could not feel.

Update on choosing the right strain of cannabis to treat bipolar depression

While I have found a strain (Skywalker OG) that best meets my needs regarding depression, motivation and energy, I have also found that it’s ideal to keep changing strains every 5 to 15g, because each strain supplies motivation to a different category of productivity in the brain.

If you suffer from bipolar depression, a variety of strains might provide a spectrum of motivation-related benefits across time for you. You will be motivated variously through philosophical thinking, long-term planning, organizing your routine, doing major tasks, and doing minor chores.

Always remember to schedule downtime (rest or recreation), because marijuana can give you so much motivation and energy that you forget to rest, and you are at risk of burning out.
(Original thoughts here.)

Balancing Level of Engagement when you have Unpredictable Mood Shifts

This is the second time that I will use a video game as a metaphor. The first post is here.

Every match in Battle Bay is different depending on the map, your teammates, the current equipment on your ship, and the strength of the other team. In a similar way, every hour of our life is different depending on our to-do list, our current nutrition and sleep levels, our financial situation, our relationships, and our mood, especially if we are bipolar.

When I play a battle in the game, it is a struggle for me to find the right balance between rushing in and damaging the enemy versus hanging back and staying alive. This is especially difficult because of the unpredictability of the pattern of battle in any given match. Similarly, in life, it is a struggle for me to find the right balance between rushing in and trying to be productive, as my brain ponders the flood of information regarding responsibilities and priorities, versus hanging back (staying in bed or approaching the day more slowly), and trying to preserve my mental health. Sometimes I get caught, because of the unpredictability of my mood.

For example, this morning I woke at 8:30a. I immediately rushed into the day (so full of chores!), not mindful of the context of my shifting mood. I found myself under heavy damage, because I had unwittingly charged into enemy territory too quickly. I was in the thick of battle, but stunned by the exploding mines and torpedoes slamming into my boat. My emotional health was rapidly declining–i was becoming very depressed as I tried to continue the chores I had so eagerly rushed into.

Thankfully, rational thinking got me turned around and driving in the opposite direction: I retreated to my bed and wrote this article. Now I will look at my day plan and determine priorities while decreasing the activity level of the day.

If you survive backing out of making the mistake of rushing into a territory that is within range of a lot of enemy firepower, the shock fades and you ground yourself by looking at the map and at your current health status. You might discover that you barely escaped having your boat utterly sunk.

I am currently in bed feeling overwhelmed, but I’m definitely back in the safety zone. My depression is fading, and I think today might be a good day.

Safe Driving

I play an Android game called Battle Bay. (That’s the front of my DEFENDER MK3 with the well-lubricated turret facing the enemy behind me, giving me an opportunity to use my two deadly Epic Cannons while remaining prepared for a quick getaway if needed.)

Notice that I’m within viewing distance of at least 3 of my 4 teammates.

There’s a reason kids press the “Together!” button in the team chat at the beginning of every battle. It’s because, unlike most other games, this one might help teach them that they can achieve more for themselves if they cooperate with their team members. (Regardless of how many damage points they deliver, they will receive less gold, and their rating will drop, if their team doesn’t win.)

A simple application of this metaphor, (and hopefully one that will impact the kids ranking up in Battle Bay), is that when we’re in traffic, if we selfishly focus on getting to our destination as fast as possible, without regard for the drivers around us, we stand to lose more than if we focus on cooperating with the vehicles around us.

When our loved ones leave in a car or truck, we often say, “Drive safe,” or, “Drive carefully.”

Maybe, since it’s more tangible, so maybe more practical, we should instead say, “Drive cooperatively.”

For People who Hate Cats

  • Cats value autonomy: if you try to restrain them from leaving the sofa when they want to leave the sofa, that will not help you befriend the cat. There is a right time to pet and cuddle the cat, but it isn’t when they don’t want it. The same goes for play-fighting.
  • Cats don’t have the verbal language skills that dogs have. That doesn’t make them less intelligent than dogs, that just makes you less intelligent for attempting that method of communication when you know it doesn’t work. Cats can be communicated with by how you behave around them and by vocal tones, but that’s for you to discover.
  • Cats aren’t loyal to people who presuppose some stereotype about them and then treat them like shit. Nor would you. That’s one of the areas where cats are much more intelligent than dogs.
  • Nobody with brains is impressed with your need to announce that you hate cats. If you’re insecure about your masculinity, maybe you could learn by befriending and imitating a cat who won’t accept the company of any asshole who comes along. Friendship is a fantastic journey when you take the time to understand a complex and different creature.