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

The SFFaudio Podcast #461 – READALONG: The Impossible Planet by Philip K. Dick

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #461 – Jesse, Paul, Marissa, and Evan Lampe talk about The Impossible Planet by Philip K. Dick

Talked about on today’s show:
Imagination, October 1953, Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams, not that bad?, a lot to like, hate the ending, The Hood Maker, ambiguous clever or something, the story doesn’t need that, a tale of ecology, a fake tourist experience, they don’t know what they’re doing, what are you doing here?, long lost Earth, myth and legend, Isaac Asimov’s galactic empire, two kilo pos, love story, grandmother, grandfather?, incest issues, skinny dipping, more confusing, is it really happening?, a shared delusion?, a fairy realm?, deluding the same thing, she brought along some clothes, it’s Earth in the story, the twist in the tail, Planet Of The Apes, Richard, the coin, titillate our curiosity, the meaning of the coin, it could be Earth in the TV adaptation (but there’s no evidence for it), hook shaped rocks, the robant (robot) is lying, motivations, bad writing, we don’t get the ending, tell us what it means Jesse, struck, she’s the same old woman who appears in a handful of Dick stories, the old woman in The Cookie Lady, a personality, a sexuality, Captive Market, Douglas or Doug in a story is Philip K. Dick, The Geek’s Guide To The Galaxy, writing women, why is she an old woman and not an old man?, gender swap, he buries her in the sea, some birds flying around, E. Pluribus Unum, “out of many, one”, a subtle environmental message, a symbol out of where we came from (the sea), it doesn’t look like Earth, I didn’t want it to be like that, all the money being made on genetic ancestry, big business, kinda bougey, white privilege, she’s rich, or is she using her last resources?, this is not what I want, Lovecraft is obsessed with ancestry, you better not look to much, a historical argument, genocide and slavery, no idyllic past, historical memory, North Carolina, some very weird things, the forgetting of the Earth, despoiled, garbage floating in that ocean, Strange Eden, ancient astronauts, Circe, develop the planet, humans are terrible, when you go picnicing, when Mother Earth returns to die, supposed to have a resonant feeling, the robant as a culmination of the industrial society, big red eyes (I’m angry?), Fondly Fahrenheit, almost beautiful, he went along with the scheme, the acting is good, the scripting isn’t very good, an extra character (the girlfriend), science fictional trappings that don’t resonate, it only makes sense if they’re delusional, no time travel explanations, he doesn’t really love his girlfriend, he’s from the periphery of the empire, the captain, whatever weird porn, fake sex, fake tourist sites, make the rubes happy, the girlfriend wants to go to the “city” too, the rat race of the corporate ladder, maybe the old lady is his true love, it is weird that he has these old women characters, formulaic vs. instinctual, what her body is like, how beautiful she is (really), sexualize a 340 year old lady, the money is double, the names are the same, old women can be beautiful, she’s going back, give this woman some dignity, the guys are kind of the assholes, not about the dignity of her death, a suicide pact, a suicide mission, the service worker angle, you waitress pretends to like you, the rubes, fakeness, they’re lying the whole time, this is Earth, it’s not Earth, oh, it’s Earth!, a lie that turns out to be the truth, genuineness, genuine emotion, genuine reality, the industrialization, the robant is more loyal than the humans, Norton, beautiful and dark, they sink into it together, muddle motivations, its only there to scold Andrews, the American experience, we need punishment, they’re channeling Americans, there’s no punishment at the end for the two liars, we don’t need punishment, it is not about punishment, why she’s a woman makes sense if her robant is her loyal servant, to deliver her for that scene, the original title was supposed to be Legend, a quest like the one for the Holy Grail, from thirty years ago, The Twilight Zone (1985/6), Voices In The Earth, ghosts, grass and flowers, repopulating the Earth, a Wall-E style rebirth, an elegy not a renewal, nature doesn’t give a fuck, there are no ghosts, the slug that crawls over that rock from a temple from 1,000 years ago doesn’t care, what makes something true, not a justified true belief, the skeletal moonlight, the recycling bin, we’re outside of the story, she’s representative of nature, leaves and branches, a voice like rustling leaves, a faded leaf carried on the wind, the Earth is cracked congealed baked degenerate, crusted with salt and waste, line by line, evocative and beautiful, Earth is green, what do we make of her being deaf?, different deafness, sensitive to the hearing community, hearing loss vs. complete hearing loss, the second to last page, Andrews, senile and deaf, easier to justify tricking her, disability, if she’s representative of Nature, Nature doesn’t speak to us, they can say things right in front of her, spitting on Mother Nature, it works somehow, a small idea, The Commuter, Prominent Author, wonderful technology, a joke, devastating the Earth so badly we won’t even know it is Earth, Planet For Transients, Survey Team, post-humans, leaving their mother, the seeds for a new form of life, a human civilization on Mars, this is what our species does, die and face our sins, that should have been the story, I go to the hair salon, their stylized white hair, upping the pink nebula, weird bouffant hair, regular mousy black, vs. Louis XIV hair, are we supposed to be disgusted by the tourists, class warfare, fulfilling her wishes, fell flat, she can hear the bird, Andrews is interpreting it correctly (just low on oxygen), toxins and radiation, fantasy is comforting, maybe Jesse dreamed the comfort, how harsh reality is, the comfort of a woman’s body, late late late winter and spring romance, that’s all the tourist experience is, Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain, the intersection of old empires, the Roman Empire, Syria, Bible stories, the British, French, and American empires, poverty, managed and regulated, Hunting The Deceitful Turkey, hunting, Mother Nature is tricky and deceitful and full of irony, betrayed by her own bone, he’s a bad shot, if you interpret it right, he’s a vegetarian, too sensitive, reading Twain, Mark Twain deflecting with humour, Dick meditates in the spaces of the characters, the other characters are only there to deliver the scenes, how horribly we treat people, selling the dream, and sometimes they do get it, accidental moment of grace, research, hallucination, give her a fake memory of visiting Earth, that open question, the death chamber scene in Soylent Green, Edward G. Robinson (Sol), removing the ambiguity, the signature of this whole series, taking the lesson of Inception (2010) to heart too much, liquid realities, thematically grounded vs. fuzzy, The Commuter is an amazing and subtle short story, I can see it, he can’t see it.

The Impossible Planet by Philip K. Dick

Posted by Jesse Willis

Watching for Robert Sheckley’s Watchbird

SFFaudio Online Audio

Every time I read a Robert Sheckley story I become re-enamored with the cutting burn of his insights. The latest Sheckley tale that I’ve been reading is his 1953 futuristic fable Watchbird. It’s about a new policing tool, a device that can prevent murder at the point of action. It’s not funny exactly, but it is satirical, and quite beautiful in parts:

“Over the town, the watchbird soared in a long, lazy curve. Its aluminum hide glistened in the morning sun, and dots of light danced on its stiff wings. Silently it flew.

Silently, but with all senses functioning. Built-in kinesthetics told the watchbird where it was, and held it in a long search curve. Its eyes and ears operated as one unit, searching, seeking.”

The watchbirds of the title are flying robots equipped with the tools to do their jobs – they sniff out the “outpouring of certain glands” and “taste” the “deviant brain wave” of a murderer before he or she can strike. But the watchbirds have also been programmed with the knowledge that not all murderers are wrathful, some like one hit-man who shows up in the story, have no feelings about the murders they commit. And so, they must learn to watch out for these hidden murders, to look out for the precursors to cold killings. And that’s where I think Sheckley’s radical departure comes in.

Denotation is at the heart of human conflict.

I take this as the thesis of Robert Sheckley’s short story Watchbird. Like many of those classic Science Fiction stories, Watchbird is nothing like plausible. I can’t imagine that Galaxy’s editor, Horace Gold, accepted Sheckley’s tale on the grounds that it was a logical extrapolation of where technology was going. This, even despite the long history of unmanned aerial vehicles which I am sure both Sheckley and Gold were aware of. Indeed, though we now live in a world where the likes of the General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper, equipped with air-to-ground AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, can strike any target – the technology was never the issue. Sheckley’s concern is in what motivates their use. So the question then, as now, is: “What’s the difference between a killing and a murder?”

In answer to that question I think Watchbird should be better known, more read, and perhaps like Orwell’s novels Animal Farm and 1984, it should be read by those who would seek to govern. Sadly, I think this unlikely. I’m not convinced Watchbird‘s epistemological skepticism is as palatable as the simplicity of: a “boot stamping on a human face— forever” or that of a megalomaniacal pig.

Epistemology is a hard, hard sell, but as we strive for the moral conclusions we so desire, we must, if we are to be clever, first reconcile all the varied definitions that we think we know.

This kind of story is of history and humanity, written as with an exploded view. Words like “right” and “wrong”, “murder” and “kill” are used to map the world and as such they are the explanation of, and sometimes the reasons for, the actions we see all around us. As evidence I can only submit Watchbird:

Audiobooks:

LIBRIVOX - Watchbird by Robert SheckleyWatchbird
By Robert Sheckley; Read by Gregg Margarite
1 |MP3| – Approx. 47 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: LibriVox.org
Published: May 16, 2010
Strange how often the Millennium has been at hand. The idea is peace on Earth, see, and the way to do it is by figuring out angles. First published in the February 1953 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction.

Audio Drama:

Tales Of TomorrowTales Of Tomorrow – Watchbird
Based on a story by Robert Sheckley; Performed by a full cast
1 |MP3| – Approx. 28 Minutes [RADIO DRAMA]
Broadcaster: ABC Radio (American Broadcasting Company)
Broadcast: 1953
Provider: OTR-Cat.com

2000X - Watchbird based on the story by Robert Sheckley2000X – The Watchbird
By Robert Sheckley; Performed by a full cast
Audible Download – Approx. 35 Minutes [RADIO DRAMA]
Publisher: The Hollywood Theater of the Ear / Audible
Published: 2000
Science invents a flying robot that prevents murder, but there’s a fateful glitch. Adapted for audio by William F. Nolan and Ytzhak Berle, with a cast featuring Newell Alexander, Janet Carroll, Jerry Castillo, Joe Greco, Melissa Greenspan, Allan Miller, Stefan Rudnicki, Hamilton Camp, Brian Finney, and Bradley Schreiber.

Springbok Radio - SF'68SF’68 – Watchbird
Based on the story by Robert Sheckley; Adapted by Michael McCabe; Performed by a full cast
1 |MP3|* – Approx. 30 Minutes [RADIO DRAMA]
Broadcaster: Springbok Radio
Broadcast: 1968
Provider: The Zombie Astronaut’s Frequency Of Fear #0.048
*The adaptation begins at approx. the 43 minute mark.
SF’68 was produced in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1968.

Other:

-The original publication in Galaxy Science Fiction |ETEXT|HTML|

-Video adaptation in The Masters Of Science Fiction TV series.

Posted by Jesse Willis

SFBRP: Luke Burrage in conversation with Jesse Willis

SFFaudio Online Audio

The Science Fiction Book Review Podcast My friend Luke Burrage, of the Science Fiction Book Review Podcast, has placed a candid conversation that we had into his podcast feed! I’m shocked. Shocked!

How dare he do such a thing?!?

Admittedly, he did ask my permission (and did receive it) but still … the effrontery is absolutely unbelievable.

Have a listen for yourself: SFBRP #072.5 – Luke and Jesse in Conversation |MP3|

Here’s what we talked about:

R. Scott Bakker, audiobooks, Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson, Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan, Blindsight by Peter Watts, Moving Mars by Greg Bear, Courtney Brown, Science Fiction and Politics Podcast, feminism, utopias, Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, cloning, remote viewing, nature vs. nurture, nurture as a subset of nature, epistemology, The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells, The Incredible Shrinking Man by Richard Matheson |READ OUR REVIEW|, Fantastic Voyage and Fantastic Voyage II by Isaac Asimov, the strange life of a photon, combat, Aristotelian values, Darwin’s Radio by Greg Bear, Century Rain by Alastair Reynolds, The SFFaudio Podcast #041, FlashForward by Robert J. Sawyer, FlashForward the TV show, Michael Crichton, podcast production, savvy marketing, good women writers, Ursula K. Le Guin, Octavia Butler, prolific authors, Out Of Sight by Elmore Leonard, Lobsters by Charles Stross |READ OUR REVIEW|, Halting State by Charles Stross, End of an Era by Robert J. Sawyer, science as a basis of fiction, Luke’s second novel (tentatively titled either Monster Story or Teeth and Claws).

Here’s SFBRP‘s podcast feed:

http://www.sfbrp.com/?feed=podcast

Posted by Jesse Willis