Archive for artificial intelligence

2001: A Space Odyssey

Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, Mystical Experience, Unknown with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 23, 2012 by javedbabar

QARY’s production of The Time Machine was voted a top ten show by Arcadia’s critics. They said it rang true, and the time travel sequences had exceeded even Sophie’s expectations. Danny and the technical team had done an amazing job.

It was incredible to think that just eighteen months ago this had been an abandoned quarry. Now there was a world famous multimedia show here. No visitor to Arcadia’s west coast would miss it.

Danny had wanted to produce 2001: A Space Odyssey rather than The Time Machine, but when outvoted, he had accepted gracefully, and given 100% to the new show. Maybe he was right in a sense, thought Sophie; not that 2001 was better than The Time Machine, but in saying that it would make a good show in its own right. They needed something spectacular to kick off the third season. They could look at it now. She mentioned this to the crew.

“Really! You want to do Two Thousand and One! That’s fantastic!” said Danny. “I can’t wait to get working on the light tunnel sequence. That will be awesome!”

One of the new girls said, “Sorry, I am not familiar with Two Thousand and One. What is it?”

“It is a confusing story,” said Sophie. “There are bits I don’t understand myself. Danny, could you please explain it in a user-friendly way?”

“Sure, the film was a collaboration between the director Stanley Kubrick and writer Arthur C. Clarke. They played around with the idea for years before settling on the final version. It consists of four parts, each driven by a black monolith that appears mysteriously.”

“What do you mean by monolith?” asked the new girl. “A big stone like at Stonehenge?”

“Kind of, but in the film it’s more like a flat panel. The first part is about the dawn of man. A monolith inspires an ape to use a bone as a tool and then as a weapon, which sets him apart from other animals. The second part is about Tycho-Magnetic Anomaly One, TMA-1, a monolith found buried on the moon. The third part is a voyage to Jupiter, following a radio signal sent by TMA-1, in a ship controlled by a powerful computer named HAL, who takes over the ship, kills most of the crew, but is eventually switched off. The fourth part is the best part, where the only surviving astronaut, Bowman, is pulled into a tunnel of coloured light. He sees himself as a dying man, and then as a child in a ball of light, gazing at the world.”

The new girl looked dazed. “You want us to cover all of that in a one hour show?”

It sounds crazy, thought Sophie, but manageable. They’d produced epic myths like Gilgamesh and Beowulf, and cosmic texts like Bhagavad Gita and Tao Te Ching. 2001 was no more difficult than those.

Danny had some ideas. “We can save cash by painting some old doors black; they will make great monoliths. I can rent a special lens to make blinking eye footage, which will save on film rights. The QARY computer can double as HAL; it’s just a matter of programming some audio files.”

The team produced a show true to the film. It had minimal dialogue and explanations. The imagery was ambiguous and open-ended. It was cryptic and enigmatic.

Blink. Flash. Blink. Flash. Blink. Flash. Blink. Flash. The light tunnel sequence was amazing. Blink. Flash. Blink. Flash. The audience was destabilized and then disorientated. Blink. Flash. Blink. Flash. Things got weirder and weirder. Blink. Flash. Blink. Flash. It felt like they were actually moving. Blink. Flash. Blink. Flash. People began to sway and fall. Many were sick and shrieking.

Danny tried in vain to control the QARY computer. Sophie pulled rank and threw the mains switch. Everything went dark, and then a dark shape appeared from the darkness. She hoped this was one of Danny’s special effects.



Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, Infinite City, Unknown with tags , , on February 6, 2012 by javedbabar

Simon Smith noticed something strange. That on the 15th of every month there was an entry in his diary stating “SS”. He had no recollection of writing it in, and no idea what it represented. No time indicated, no location given, no others participating – just “SS” written across the page.

The first thing that came to mind, of course, was his own name, Simon Smith. Then he thought of Hitler’s SS, but it could hardly be anything to do with that. Maybe it was work related? A regular meeting that he’d written in at the start of the year, and then forgotten about entirely. Yes, that was probably it.

“Hey, Stephen,” he said to a fellow manager. “What are you doing on Thursday?”

“Erm. I’ve got lunch with the Supervisor, and I’m interviewing a new Supplier. Other than that, just the usual.” He looked at Simon quizzically. “Why, do you need something?”

“No,” said Simon. “I was just wondering if you have something called SS?” He felt silly somehow saying it.

“What do you mean, SS?” said Stephen.

“Oh, nothing,” said Simon. “Just something in my diary. It’s probably a mix-up.”

He wondered if it was Something Social? At home that evening he asked his wife. “I don’t know honey,” she said. “Maybe you’ve got Something Sexy planned. Lucky me! Or maybe it’s for some other hussy, that’s why you’ve been keeping it quiet.” Thank God he had a wife with a sense of humour. She hadn’t made him feel more of an idiot than he already was.

Ah! Something Spiritual! He recalled making a resolution along these lines. He did plenty for his mind and his body, but didn’t take time to nourish his soul. Maybe that was it – one day a month to de-stress and rebalance. Though he wasn’t religious, he felt it may be best to ask a professional, like a rabbi or priest. Luckily he bumped into Shanti, a yoga teacher, at the coffee shop. “That’s Paramatman,” she said. “Super Soul. You may be ready to begin the journey of many lifetimes. Why don’t you join my class? Or I can give you lessons.”

Simon felt that he was onto something. Yes, that must be it – Super Soul. He looked into it. Hindu holy books described the relationship between the Individual Soul and the Supreme Soul as being “Like two birds of golden plumage, inseparable companions, the individual soul and the supreme souls are perched on the branches of the selfsame tree. The former tastes of the sweet and bitter fruits of the tree, and the latter, tasting of neither, calmly observes.”

It was clear now! He, the individual soul, would seek the supreme soul! This cramped modern man had a date with boundless eternity – on Thursday! When he tried to book a class with Shanti though, she said she didn’t teach on Thursdays. Could he have a private lesson then? Sorry, she said, she was away that day. Simon felt frustrated. His answer had appeared but then disappeared just as quickly.

Flicking through his diary some more, he saw that SS appeared not only on the 15th of future months, but also on the 15th of previous months; but he had no recollection of previous occurrences. He wondered if “Super Soul” had been a false alarm. Could it be something else? What was so secret that it couldn’t be written explicitly in his diary?

Was it just that – Something Secret? Was he a member of the Secret Service, somehow brainwashed – a sleeper agent activated only once a month. It was safer that way. If captured he could honestly say – even under torture – that he didn’t know anything. But the secret service scenario didn’t ring true. It wasn’t that.

Was it something that his wife had written, and was too shy to say? He’d been working full-time for three months now; his probationary period was over. There was no need to reconsider Social Security. But maybe they wanted update meetings.

Was he broadening his knowledge of Social Sciences? There were many part-time courses; was Thursday their monthly meet? He’d love to cruise on a Steam Ship; didn’t SS Canberra dock regularly in the City? It was boring to always see the same things on your computer; maybe a reminder to change his Screen Saver? As a child he’d been interested in transistor radios, and built one in his bedroom; Solid State. There were complex calculations required for work; Spread Sheets. You could catch diseases even when married; Safe Sex. He would really like to fly a Space Ship. Maybe live in a Space Station. Save money on gas; Self-Service. Go Vegan; Savage Species. SS-SS-SS-SS-SS-S-S-S-S-S-s-s-s-s-s….

Power surged in a socket and there was a shower of sparks. Simon Smith came to a halt. Pah! How annoying, thought his wife. She’d thought a Super Spouse Enhanced Partner, would be less trouble than a human one. But every single month, just before System Set, his cerebral circuits went into overdrive and blew components. Then once repaired and rested, he forgot all about it – till next month. She’d complained so many times, but they’d never fixed him. Shoddy Service.