The SFFaudio Podcast #510 – READALONG: Understand by Ted Chiang

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #510 – Jesse, Paul Weimer, and Wayne June talk about Understand by Ted Chiang

Talked about on today’s show:
still alive, still putting out stuff, novelette, an interesting topic, intelligence and stupidity, pair things up, an interesting and complex topic, the school system, true features, a story about an incredibly stupid guy, the title is not intelligence, a long traditon in Science Fiction, Flowers For Algernon, the arc that happens within it, Idiocracy (2006), The Marching Morons by C.M. Kornbluth, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, a lot of bad answers, a short theory, first impression, so success and smartness, very successful stupid people, Bill Maher on Stan Lee, wrong about a long of things, Jerry Springer, propelling interest, a calculated effect, a bigger issue, a Reading, Short And Deep, on YouTube, its about awareness, the “bubble” you’re in, the blinders you have, going back to first principles, how do you know what you think you know?, epistemology, jargon, technical talk, very skilled, you have to be super-intelligent to have written it, very studied, the integration of hard science into the story, super smooth, Arrival (2016), Story Of Your Life, the audiobook by Todd McClaren, the BBC version, a response to Flowers For Algernon, spinning out implications, fatal error, the end of the story, hypercritical, such a great metaphor, he’s a bomb, he’s about to go off, where he was coming from, lofty concepts, meta-cognition or thinking about one’s thinking, computer science, artificial intelligence, being self-aware, the nature of consciousness, the limits of our consciousness, hormone k, how far will intelligence get us, Leon and Reynolds, how to use it, conflicting philosophies and moralities, I I I, save the planet, how selfish Leon is, go transcendental, changing whole industries, the good guy won, the whole view of the outside world, the normals and their world, aesthetics and beauty vs. saving the world from itself, who are you to decide?, threw Wayne for a loop, kinda monstrous, admirable, Eric S. Rabkin, one of the few people alive I want to read, how do you think he made this?, as we see his growth, Limitless (2011), don’t bother with the TV show, super creative, stock market trading, the book, methamphetamine, set in the future, Asimov’s, August 1991, The Dark Fields by Alan Glynn, came out 2001, tweaking, in manic mode, less about accumulating new knowledge, going over and over and over, the way this story gives you the sense of intelligence growth, playing ahead, if this happens then this will happen, hacks in to a terminal at his doctor’s office, service port, a desktop safe, bio-metric device with a service port, all these steps to think ahead, what we think of as chess, teaching chess, constricting an opponents movements, fewer choices, anticipating, gestalt, an organized whole that is perceived than more than the sum of its parts, micromanaging details of everything, the gestalt of everything, the ultimate meaning of everything, as a result of his powers, read a person’s body language, intentions and nature, the smell of their pheromones, microscopic details, one little thing, the whole is much more than the sum of their parts, Sherlock Holmes to the nth degree, time chess to speed chess, transcendental enlightenment, he’s Buddha, the point of the story, an infinite staircase, close to futile, other creature’s intelligence, a critical mass thing, reading a Lovecraft story, consonance and resonance and sonar, animals that use sonar, bats and whales, sperm whales, massive resonance chambers, free divers, six times the size of a human brain, they have no hands, can’t forge metal, and have no writing implements, Icarus and Daedalus, father and son, godlike in their abilities, just like in Watchmen, already won, already in the trap, the note at the doctor’s office, gloating, his undoing, a real thing and a real phenomenon, vocabulary words, that gestalt and that surprise, the guy with the psychedelic shirt, an Inception (2010) story, literally happening all around us, advertising, my friend Maissa Bessada, skeletons, lesbians, two more skeletons, a pattern of acceptance and dissolving your preconceptions, that scene in Total Recall (1990), this is exactly why this is so effective (is because it can be so affective), René Girard’s triangular desire or mimetic desire, other monkeys, supreme manipulators, don’t participate or try to minimize it, the dominant chatter, chatter controls action, a slowdown, intelligence as getting what you want, what drops out of the story is everybody else in society, what makes Reynolds the good guy, a group animal, meaning and intelligence are tied together in a strong way, bad at math, can brain damage make you better at math?, his regret is evident, idiot savants, the CIA, Greco, accurate in assessing Reynolds, a reliable narrator, merely a savior, his judgement is optimal, how he justifies himself, people don’t trust themselves, a meta-human, how we’re supposed to think of him, once as an experiment on a drug dealer, testing your power, Joe Rogan, UFC, which system of fighting is the best system, how do you test it?, which techniques is really better, jujitsu, Steven Seagal, all about the testing, what techniques work, testing our limits, what animals do when they’re young, a drug dealer, drug users, a beneficent god in a certain sense, not without sin, not necessarily unironic, I dissolve, Word is capitalized, the Logos, page 116, the sentence that when uttered will destroy the mind of the listener, it makes the title a really clever punchline, meta-awareness, self-awareness, ultimate understanding, taxing the limits of the structure of my brain, tricks him into understanding, the trap, he’d already programmed him, triggering the word, he got what he wanted, very good, a really clever punchline, less science than it is fantasy, fetal brain tissue, repair when not rejected, anoxia, damage more parts of his brain, his former life, there’s no girlfriend, a business, looking at Understand through the lens of The Dark Fields, a line from The Great Gatsby, a book about people without purpose, enhancing what you have, about methamphetamine, to speed people up, more active, paradoxical effect, your brain is not an engine, the Le Mans 24 hour race, the continual racing, testing to endure, an extended amount of high performance, Reynold’s weapon, implants the mandala, beyond his endurance, a metaphor, composing poetry, emotional impacts from words, the right combination of words can make an audience explode, pointing to real things, how writers and ad writers get their money, an impact on the reader, we change our lives, we sacrifice peoples lives for words, more real than most things, those whales without tools, they have lives we can never understand, what they’re communicating and how they even live and hunt is incredibly complex, very rare, the lives of beings that are not like us, Lucy (2014), psychokinetics, Morgan Freeman babbling, that stupid bullshit, most people don’t use the engine at maximum RPM, sleep, rest for the cars engine, a new air filter, stress tests, adrenalin, a super fuel, super good, Mr Jim Moon puts out a lot of podcasts, working smart, have a plan and be open, wherever you can get progress you push, the journey of a thousand miles, Rome wasn’t built in a day, the Devil’s in the details, navigating and picking which ones to go with, attempts at wisdom, when smart people say stupid things, committed to a system or a person, made commitments that they were unwilling to examine, Exhalation, a robot who opens up his own brain, the Galen of the robot universe that he lives in, pneumatic, a self-consistent brilliant idea, examining the internal to examine the external, Jesse’s not a drug guy, the brain is thinking, the body is thinking, so inside your own brain, focus, memory and thought and action, a brilliant guy, amazing stories, he can’t really tell the truth here, he knows what truth sounds like and it sounds like this, that poetic canto, the art, two naked dudes, a skull brain, climbing out of his own brain, representing out two main characters, a metaphor for the hyper-intelligence, a symbol, not the size of your brain, brain body ratio, Protector by Larry Niven, a particular drive, how certain kinds of intelligence to survive, hummingbirds, we can create niche (or destroy the niche) we’re in, there are stupid people, lead, fetal alcohol, no comic books for 20 years, behavior, the right habits, intention and purpose, a self appointed savior, incompatible, almost into programing, no quotation marks, the meta-textual text you may miss in the audio, only one bit that tells you its in the future, Pittsburgh, white air filter masks, not necessarily a pollution thing, hoodies, restricting vision, feeling cozy, women are more likely to wear masks, all sorts of reasons, welder masks, keeping skin pale, it allows you to hide, license to do it, you’re the crazy ones, a critical mass, trends, everybody used to wear hats, the fashion man, smoking their asses off, vaping, people who would have been ashamed to be smoking, wearing baseball hats, cowboy hats, fake street kids, $200 t-shirts, strange phenomenon, what makes this story fantastic (fantasy), could there ever be a drug or hormone, a metaphor for a kind of approach to that direction, like the ending of Dagon, past tense with present tense interruptions, we don’t expect the ending because told first person in present tense, “I’m standing” not “I was standing”, Ted Chiang is doing what Reynolds is doing and we’re the protagonists.

Understand by Ted Chiang

Posted by Jesse Willis

Reading, Short And Deep #096 – Moxon’s Master by Ambrose Bierce

Podcast

Reading, Short And DeepReading, Short And Deep #096

Eric S. Rabkin and Jesse Willis discuss Moxon’s Master by Ambrose Bierce

Moxon’s Master was first published in the San Francisco Examiner, April 16, 1899.

Here’s a link to a PDF of the story.

Podcast feed https://sffaudio.herokuapp.com/rsd/rss

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Moxon’s Master by Ambrose Bierce

SFFaudio Online Audio

Moxon's Master by Ambrose Bierce

I’m not a very good chess player, but I love playing. There’s a an elegance and a simplicity to the basics of it. And from those basic rules an incalculable complexity emerges – one that makes every game different. But I don’t much like playing against a computer. There’s little sense of victory if I win and if I lose I tend to question the point in playing at all. There’s something about pitting a mind against a mind – and most chess programs I’ve played against don’t seem to have one.

Moxon’s Master, by Ambrose Bierce, is about chess. It uses some basic analogies and metaphors – in just the way H.G. Wells does so well to make the implausible sound plausible. Bierce wields facts about plant tropism and Herbert Spencer’s definition of life in a skillful argument for machine intelligence. It’s rather masterful actually!

LibriVoxMoxon’s Master
By Ambrose Bierce; Read by Roger Melin
1 |MP3| – Approx. 28 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: LibriVox.org
Published: May 2, 2012
First published in the San Francisco Examiner, April 16, 1899.

|PDF|

[Thanks also to Laura Victoria and Barry Eads]

Posted by Jesse Willis

Guardian Short Stories Podcast: My Dream Of Flying To Wake Island by J.G. Ballard

SFFaudio Online Audio

Willliam Boyd explains his love of J.G. Ballard’s short story My Dream Of Flying To Wake Island:

In the short history of the short story – not much longer than 150 years – very few writers have completely redefined the form. Chekhov, pre-eminently, but also Hemingway and Borges. JG Ballard has to be added to this exclusive list, in my opinion. Ballard’s models for his haunting stories are closer to art and music, it seems to me, than to literature. These are fictions inspired by the paintings of De Chirico and Max Ernst, which summon up the mesmerising ostinatos of Philip Glass and Steve Reich. Character and narrative are secondary – image and symbol dominate with a surreal and hypnotic intensity, and the language reflects this. Ballardian tropes – empty swimming pools, abandoned resorts, psychotic astronauts, damaged doctors, the alluring nihilism of consumer society and so forth – are unmistakably and uniquely his. “My Dream of Flying to Wake Island” is a true Ballardian classic.

This is a story you can listen to again and again.

Guardian Short Stories PodcastMy Dream Of Flying To Wake Island
By J.G. Ballard; Read by William Boyd
1 |MP3| – Approx. 30 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Podcaster: Guardian Short Stories Podcast
Podcast: December 11, 2010
First published in Ambit #60 (Autumn, 1974).

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Breaking Point by James Gunn

SFFaudio Review

Welcome to Reviewopolis! Three stories to go…

Breaking Point
By James Gunn; Read by Julie Davis
Approx 2 Hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Podcaster: Forgotten Classics
Podcast: March 2009 (Episodes 111-113)
Themes: / Science Fiction / Aliens / Space Travel / Psychology /

The strength of the unit is the sum of the strengths of its members. The weakness of the unit can be a single small failing in a single man.

First, a few notes about the Forgotten Classics podcast: I really enjoy this podcast for a few reasons. Julie is an avid podcast listener, and if you are looking for podcast recommendations, look no further. She opens most episodes with something interesting from the Podosphere. These Podcast Highlights come from all over the map! For example, at the beginning of one the episodes containing this story (Episode 113), she highlights “Bob Dylan’s Themetime Radio Hour”. Would you have predicted Bob Dylan and James Gunn in the same podcast?

Another thing I like about Forgotten Classics is Julie’s commentary. She comments on the material she’s reading at the end of each podcast, providing a denouement that makes me think she’s just closed the book and knows everything I know up to this point in the story and nothing more.

Perhaps most important is the fact that Julie is a very good narrator. She reads clearly and with emotion. Stories are well-paced and enhanced by her pleasant voice.

The story at hand is “Breaking Point”, by James Gunn, which was first published in Space Science Fiction in March of 1953. A starship crew lands on an alien planet, crew a fairly well-oiled machine. The Captain recalls Leinster’s “First Contact”, when he mentions to the crew the importance of keeping the location of Earth secret “at all costs, until we’re sure we’re not going to turn up a potentially dangerous, possibly superior alien culture.” They quickly realize that they have done exactly that, when some external force, through unknown technology, won’t allow the hatch to be opened.

At this point, one of the crew members snaps. How could the hatch not open? There are many safeguards – this should not be happening! Cue the hysterial laughter. The aliens then start closing the crew in with a mysterious black (nothingness!) wall. Crew members flip out, one by one, as they try to figure out what’s happening before the walls close in completely. Are the aliens moving to close them all in, or are the alien moves specifically designed to unnerve specific crew members one at a time?

Julie said exactly what I was thinking when she mentioned that this story would be a comfortable fit on The Twilight Zone. Very weird stuff. It also reminded me of Stephen King’s The Langoliers, with the real world being blacked out in sections while people flee. Here, though, there’s nowhere to flee.

At the heart of the story is a conversation between the Captain and the medical officer about teams and how they are put together. Paresi, the medical officer tells the Captain:

Look, this is supposed to be restricted information, but the Exploration Service doesn’t rely on individual aptitude tests alone to make up a crew. There’s another factor—call it an inaptitude factor. In its simplest terms, it comes to this: that a crew can’t work together only if each member is the most efficient at his job. He has to need the others, each one of the others. And the word need predicates lack. In other words, none of us is a balanced individual. And the imbalances are chosen to match and blend, so that we will react as a balanced unit.

This while their living space continues to shrink. Is the medical officer saying that there is no such thing as a balanced individual, or that unbalanced people were purposefully selected and fitted together to make “a crew”? Either way, interesting. Thanks, Julie, for the story!

This story was completed as part of The 4th Annual SFFaudio Challenge.
Podcast Feed: http://feeds.feedburner.com/forgottenclassics

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Forgotten Classics: Breaking Point by James Gunn

SFFaudio Online Audio

Forgotten ClassicsMy friend, Julie D. of the Forgotten Classics podcast, has recently completed her unabridged reading of Dorothy Macardle’s novel The Uninvited. Now she’s working on a pure Science Fiction story, picked from SFFaudio Challenge #4. But that’s not all, Julie begins the podcast with some thoughts on James Gunn’s best known work, a series of scholarly collections entitled: The Road To Science Fiction. I have volumes 3 and 4 in my paperbook collection.

The Road To Science Fiction: Volume 1: From Gilgamesh to Wells edited by James GunnThe Road To Science Fiction: Volume 2: From Wells to Heinlein edited by James GunnThe Road To Science Fiction: Volume 3: The Road To Science Fiction: Volume 3: From Heinlein to Here edited by James GunnThe Road To Science Fiction: Volume 4: From Here to Forever edited by James Gunn

There are also two more recent volumes The British Way (Vol. 5) and the other places Around The World (Vol. 6). But I won’t post their cover art here because they really suck.


Forgotten Classics Presents - Breaking Point by James GunnBreaking Point
By James Gunn; Read by Julie D.
Podcast – [UNABRIDGED]
Podcaster: Forgotten Classics
Podcast: March 2009 –
The ship was proof against any test, but the men inside her could be strained and warped, individually and horribly. Unfortunately, while the men knew that, they couldn’t really believe it. The Aliens could—and did.

Podcast feed:

http://feeds.feedburner.com/forgottenclassics

Posted by Jesse Willis