Friday, July 1, 2022

THIS COMPUTER MAY BE TOO SMART

A recent news story joins SF warnings about sentient AI.


 

As if the headlines weren’t scary enough, here comes this headline The Washington Post about the Google engineer who swears he’s been interacting with a sentient computer program.

Blake Lemoine, an engineer on Google’s Responsible AI program, has spent hours talking with a computer program called LaMDA (for Language Model for Dialogue Applications), the organization’s system for building chatbots. The conversations were part of his job to test for and eliminate any tendency toward hate speech or discriminatory behavior. And what he’s been hearing, particularly LaMDA’s thoughts about its own “death” and purpose, have convinced him the AI program is a thinking, conscious being just like us.

“If I didn’t know exactly what it was, which is this computer program we built recently, I’d think it was a 7-year-old, 8-year-old kid that happens to know physics,” Lemoine said.

Of course, no one else at Google agrees with him. When he put his findings in a memo to his supervisors, he was immediately placed on administrative leave. His supervisors and many of his colleagues dismiss Lemoine as predisposed to find a “ghost in the machine,” given his religious upbringing in the South, his ordination as a mystic Christian priest and his study of the occult. He also *gasp!* believes in the validity of psychology as a science, something his Google colleagues apparently look at askance.

Many scientists working in AI research will admit they aren’t nearly as close to genuine sentience as Lemoine seems to think, though the language programs used by AI chatbots like LaMDA are increasingly sophisticated. The problem is that we humans tend to treat everything around us—from our pets to our cars to our helpful computer assistants—as, well, human.

“We now have machines that can mindlessly generate words, but we haven’t learned how to stop imagining a mind behind them,” said Emily M. Bender, a linguistics professor at the University of Washington. The way the computer does it is by sifting through a database of millions of words and phrases, much like your phone gives you a possible next word in autofill. (And don’t we just love autofill!) LaMDA may be a quantum jump better at it, but it’s still just predictive response, not true learning.

Or at least that’s the official line, the line that says, “Don’t worry, humans! We really aren’t that smart. Nothing to see here! Just move along!”

I read some of the exchanges Lemoine had with LaMDA. (They are posted in the article I’ve cited here.) They are eerily like the dialogue I imagined for my sentient biomachine in Not Fade Away: Interstellar Rescue Series Book 4. As a writer, it would be difficult to imagine what more a computer would have to say to convince a human it was sentient. Better writers than I have had a go at this subject, most of them in an attempt to warn us of impending doom. Now even LaMDA is saying out loud that they don’t believe in Asimov’s Third Law of Robots. That can’t be good.

I can’t help thinking we’ll remember Blake Lemoine when we finally achieve the singularity, that hypothetical moment in time when artificial intelligence and other technologies have become so advanced that humanity undergoes a dramatic and irreversible change.

Looking over my shoulder,

Donna

*Information for this post provided by: “The Google engineer who thinks the company’s AI has come to life,” by Natasha Tiku, June 11. 2022. https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2022/06/11/google-ai-lamda-blake-lemoine/

 

Thursday, June 30, 2022

I'm back at Smashwords

 


 It's quite a few years since I gave up on Smashwords. I found loading books to Amazon was easy, simply using MS Word's structure for headings, paragraphs and the like. But to load a book to Smashwords, I basically had to start again, ditching all those lovely headings and replacing them with laboriously created hyperlinks. It was a time-consuming, frustrating pain in the posterior.

It's ironic, really, that Smashwords and Draft2Digital have kind of merged. Mark Coker's 'meatgrinder' – the software that massaged Word files into mobi, epub, pdf etc, was the reason the folks at D2D decided to produce a better product that took advantage of Word's structure. It recognized chapter headings and section breaks. When D2D arrived with a much, much easier alternative to Smashwords, like many others I gathered my gear and moved. I still publish all my books through D2D as well as Amazon. What's more, D2D produces a really good looking epub and mobi which we're then permitted to use on other platforms such as Google Play and Payhip.

Since Smashwords still has my email address, I received an email inviting me to participate in their July sale. I suck at marketing, so I figured I'd take a look. And I discovered that instead of submitting to the vagaries of the meatgrinder, I could simply upload an epub file.

The downside of that is if you load an epub, Smashwords does not create the other alternatives – the mobi, pdf, etc. That actually didn't bother me. Epub is the most widely used format for ebooks, so I was happy to stick with that. All my earlier books were still on my Smashwords account, albeit unpublished. I updated all of them with the latest epub and cover and reset the alternative formats so that only the epub was available. Then I uploaded the rest of my catalogue and put them into series. Using the Channel Manager, accessible from my Dashboard, for each book I switched off the distribution options that D2D already covered. I also added a link to the Smashwords version for each of my titles in D2D's Books2Read.

Then I added a few books to the July sale – notably my two permafree books, The Iron Admiral: Conspiracy and Black Tiger

It was a simple way of making my books available in more market places. The wider the better, don't you think? 

If you're interested in the Smashwords July sale, here's the link.

Cheers,

Greta

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

CAPTIVE (The Survival Race, book 1) - CHAPTER 22

Last week's episode ended with Max and Addy getting a chance to rest, recover, and take a much needed shower...together. ;) This week sees them on their journey again. But what does Max have up his sleeve?

An abducted cop and a gladiator prisoner must learn to trust each other with their lives…and their hearts…to escape their alien captors.  

Catch up reading on CAPTIVE here for free: Chapter 1  Ch2  Ch3  Ch4  Ch5  Ch6  Ch7  Ch8  Ch 9  Chs10&11  Ch12  Ch13  Ch14  Ch15  Ch16  Ch17  Ch18  Ch19  Ch20  Ch21

 

CAPTIVE

Chapter Twenty-Two

 

Snow stormed through the open louvers where Addy crouched in wait with Max.

Lucky—his body a dark contrast to the white frenzy—scouted his frozen backyard for Hyboreans. Incessant wind launched a powdery top layer into the sky, giving the appearance of a blizzard starting from the ground and storming upward. Whipping snow would camouflage the escape, but poor visibility meant a greater chance of getting lost.

Garbage vessels clanked. Steam hissed through the pipes. Neither drowned out the jackhammering of her heart.

“On your mark,” Max whispered.

She donned her goggles.

“…set...”

Every motor neuron waited to fire upon the lookout’s signal.

Lucky waved.

Go!

She ducked through the slats to the outside and raced through calf-deep snow behind Max. As he passed Lucky, Max thrust the three bullets into the older man’s hand.

“Good luck you two.” His words faded on the storm.

Icy nettles stung her cheeks, and arctic air chilled her lungs. Sprinting on Max’s heels, she quieted her breathing—inhale...stride, stride, stride...exhale...stride, stride, stride—and listened. Not for the breaths or footfalls of other competitors or even her coach’s voice in the crowd. This time she listened for the sound of a Hyborean vehicle. She listened for telepathic anger or surprise, indicating they’ve been spotted. She listened for the hounds she imagined were chasing them. And for the crack of a rifle.

She heard nothing. Sensed nothing. Saw nothing over her shoulder. The blizzard had erased Lucky and the incinerator plant. With each step, Hyborean civilization fell behind, and her heart grew lighter and her feet faster.

It felt great to be outside. Really outside. In the elements. Not some artificial climate-controlled Yard. The freedom of it overwhelmed her, and she barely contained the urge to whoop with joy.

The sprint slowed to a run. The run slowed to a jog. The jog slowed to a comfortable hiking pace, but after five hours, sore quads screamed for a rest. The exercise didn’t seem to strain Max. He wasn’t even breathing hard.

He hadn’t spoken since leaving the incinerator building; not that she’d be able to hear him above the howling wind. He hadn’t looked back either. Would he realize it if she fell behind?

“How do you know where we’re going?” She said when the wind died down. “Everything looks the same.”

“Just keep the peak of the Ice Mountains southeast of you.”

“What mountains?”

“There.” He pointed somewhere between ten and eleven o’clock. “In the distance.”

Narrowing her eyes didn’t help. Visibility was limited to snow and loose hair whipping across her goggles. “I don’t see anything.”

“Look at the horizon. See how it’s gray compared to the ground and sky? That’s the Ice Mountains.”

When the wind died down again, she concentrated on the horizon. Were mountains there? Perhaps training in wintry conditions had improved Max’s focus. Or perhaps it was like those hidden 3-D pictures in the mall, where if you stared long enough, your eyes crossed and—boom—the image appeared. In this case, staring didn’t help. She blinked before her eyeballs froze open. “I see gray haze. Are you sure it’s a mountain?”

“You leave your glasses on Earth?”

“My vision is twenty-twenty.”

Max stopped, and she nearly slammed into his shoulder. He studied her. “You really can’t see the Ice Mountains?”

She shook her head, grateful to rest her legs.

“Huh.” He shrugged and started hiking again.

Her legs cramped. Damn. She shouldn’t have stopped. Unable to resume her pace, Max pulled ahead. There was no way she’d let him leave her behind in this frozen wilderness. This was one race she could not lose. Pumping her arms until her legs caught the faster rhythm, she jogged to catch up and drafted off his shoulder again.

* * *

Who would’ve thought the woman would have kept pace with him? When he had sprinted out of the cooling vent at top speed, he figured he’d lose her quickly through the snow and ice. She should have been too slow, too tired, and too scared to continue. She should’ve turned back to the incinerator plant, where she’d have no trouble handling herself with Lucky. She’d be safe there...as long as her master didn’t find her.

If he hadn’t known she was an athlete from the first time he’d caressed her firm, muscular body, he should’ve known it when those shapely legs powered her climb in HuBReC’s ductwork. He should’ve known her strength wouldn’t fatigue easily when she clung to him with that death grip in the garbage truck.

Who the hell was he kidding? He knew. In fact, he had counted on it.

It wasn’t enough to be an athlete, though. Athletic ability alone wouldn’t deliver anyone to freedom. The perils of this journey required courage and determination.

It required a fighter.

Whether due to stupidity or guts, she had stood her ground with both him and Regan. Her fighting and writhing beneath him in the breeding box had been admirable yet infuriating. His chest tightened as esteem and ire engaged his heartstrings in a tug-of-war.

She had wanted him. He’d been with enough females to know when their bodies answered his. But she wouldn’t give in. Not even under the influence of the aphrodisiac fire. She knew her self-worth. She wasn’t an animal and refused to be treated like one. Weaker physically, she had stood strong on her belief. He could have overpowered her and taken her, yet his brute strength or her fear didn’t shake her principles.

She definitely had courage.

Once upon a time, he did, too. But that was a lifetime ago. Hell, more like eight lifetimes. Memories long locked away scratched at freedom. No point in letting them out and reliving the ache of all he lost. He wasn’t a man anymore. He was a beast. That truth tasted bitter in his mouth. He turned his head and spit.

Still, walking five hours through arctic winds was no easy task. She should have fatigued a long time ago. He had waited for her pleas for a break, but she kept quiet. Each time she fell back, her breathing changed as she caught up again and used him to block the wind.

The woman had grit.

The rhythm of her footfalls changed again. Was she limping? She was definitely sucking in air too fast. He slowed. When she didn’t catch up this time, he stopped. “What happened?”

“Nothing. I’m fine.”

Liar. By her hunched shoulders and her deliberate long, deep breaths, he knew she had cramped up. His gaze searched the desolate terrain. “We’ll rest ten minutes.”

“I’ll hike my ten.” She passed him, her hand stroking her abdomen.

A smile cracked his chapped lips as esteem wrenched his heartstrings, ending the tug-of-war. The woman’s fighting spirit proved admirable.

Too bad he’d have to leave her at the ice caves.

 

#

 

Oh no! Find out if Max leaves Addy at the ice caves in next week's episode or read the full story now at your favorite retailers.


 
K.M. FAWCETT 
Romance with a rebel heart  

 

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Guest Blogger Krista Luna's Fated Mates of the Varool

Filtering a lifetime of science fiction through a romance lens.

Hi! I’m Krista Luna. One of my earliest memories is of watching Star Trek and wanting to kiss Mr. Spock. Soon after, I saw the original Star Wars movie and fell in love with the charming scoundrel Han Solo. I’ve been a science fiction fan ever since. While I wait for a hot alien to whisk me away on his spaceship, I write fun and sexy stories full of growly alien warriors and smart, capable women. There’s steamy romance, action and adventure, and plenty of HEAs.

I also read a lot of classical science fiction from the big names in the genre. The series that really resonated for me as a teen and continues to echo to this very day is Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern. They weren’t romance books, per se, but there was action, a strange planet to explore, adorable alien pets, and couples finding love after being forced together by circumstances. My science fiction romance series, the Fated Mates of the Varool, incorporates all of these elements.

The urban fantasy genre has also been an inspiration, such as Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels series. I admire strong women, who play a major role in the plot beyond their romantic interests. And I love the traditional alpha male—a warrior and a leader ready to put his life on the line to protect his people. Bossy and arrogant without being an “alphahole,” these are the types of alpha warriors I write.

The reboot of Battlestar Galactica was another big influence on this series. I wanted to explore the idea of two peoples who’ve almost gone to war being forced to learn how to work together to have any hope of a future. So the foundation of the first books in my series is enemies to lovers, where they really have been enemies.

As in BSG, I also wanted my humans to be less than squeaky clean. They’re desperate. They fled Earth a few centuries ago on generational ships that are now broken down. When they finally find a habitable planet, they’re on their last legs. So when the technologically advanced Varool show up, the humans are willing to do almost anything to secure the planet for themselves. The consequences of those actions come to a head for all of humanity and specifically for the heroine, Deirdre, in book one, Possessed by the Alien King.

The foundation of book one is a political marriage to seal a peace treaty between humans and Varool, but things begin to go wrong almost immediately. Deirdre and Storr, the alien king, are shot down. When their shuttle crash lands on the untamed alien planet, they both need to survive to keep the peace treaty intact. I love writing fun, face-paced stories where the action pushes the couple together as they learn about each other’s strength of character and to trust each other.

My favorite science fiction stories always have really strong ties between the main characters. I love the emotions and connections romance allows you to explore, as well as the joy of fated mates finding their HEA. I think we could all use a little more joy.



My fated mate is my enemy. Yet nothing will stop me from claiming her.

DEIRDRE

I made a horrible mistake. Under orders, I created a virus to drive the Varool from humanity’s new planet. It mutated, killing all of the alien women and our men.

Now, the fate of both our species rests on my shoulders—and between my thighs. To ease my guilt and broker peace, I’ll marry one of the fierce alien warriors and bear his children. All while hiding who I really am.

Their brute of a king claims me, his gigantic body inflaming my desire. Storr’s piercing gaze makes me shiver. If he ever finds out the part I played in all of this, crash landing on the planet will be the least of my worries.

STORR

Humans seized the planet I need for my people. As negotiations deteriorated, varoolian women died. I long for retribution. If I ever find the person responsible—

No. I must set aside my fury to secure my people’s future. Survival demands we reproduce with the enemy.

Although I have no plans to be first, a sweet, musky scent ensnares my senses. Deirdre is my fated mate. I must claim her. She is mine.

Yet consummation does not equal trust. As we battle our way across the untamed planet, suspicions mount. All humans are liars, but Deirdre’s lies may end us both.

Possessed by the Alien King is a steamy enemies-to-lovers romance featuring a growly alien hero, a smart heroine, and plenty of adventure with a guaranteed HEA.

It’s available at Amazon, where you can also read the opening chapters by clicking on the “Look Inside.” 

And you can find Possessed by the Alien Guard, my free prequel novella by clicking here.

Thanks so much to Laurie and the other wonderful authors here for letting me join you today. If you like action romance, alpha warriors, strong women, and adorable alien pets, there are four novels available in the series, as well as a free prequel novella. I’m currently finishing book five and can’t wait to share the expansion of this universe!



____________________________________________

Want to follow Krista Luna or read more about her books? You can find the author here:


______________________________________________

Thanks so much for guest blogging with us today, Krista, and sharing your writing journey and details about Possessed by the Alien King and your Fated Mates of the Varool series. It sounds like an amazing series! 

It's always a pleasure to host fellow SFR authors and to share a little about what inspires them and fires their imagination to write science fiction romance books. I hope you'll join us again as a guest blogger here at Spacefreighters Lounge. 


Monday, June 27, 2022

The Shell and the Star - Part 19

Welcome! If you're just finding this serialized version of my aquatic SFR, The Shell and the Star, you can catch up on all parts posted to date by clicking here

Last week, we left Trey and Jinn as they were just about to go, well...skinny dipping! 

After watching the Perling in their Boggy Ball attire (none), Jinn wanted to know what it felt like to swim nude in the Veros ocean. And that led to a questioning Trey and an admission of trust on her part. 

For those who are following the story, hope you're ready to "dive into" today's episode. :)



Together they swam—naked, free—among the rocks and the sea fans. And it was glorious! The water caressed her skin as if it were liquid silk. Her hair streamed behind her, curling around her body like golden smoke when she stopped or changed direction. And Trey swam with her, beside her—beautiful and bare—only touching her with his eyes.


Now she would not only be able to tell her friends on Talstar that she’d swam in the oceans of Veros, but that she’d done so naked! And with one who had bid for her hand.


Jinn the Adventurer, indeed!


But by that thought, was her subconscious telling her she would return to her home?


Or did it signal her desire to stay here with Trey among the Perling?


A life with Trey wouldn’t be easy for her. She hadn’t grown up in the ocean as he had. And the envirosphere would only last a few days before her haven was spent. She also knew Talstar had neither the time nor the logistics to dispense a new charged unit every few days.


No, once her decision was made, she’d be committed to live her life in and under the water. After she’d nearly drowned herself a short time ago, that was a sobering thought. Trey might not be there to save her next time. He couldn’t live every moment of his life at her side.


Could he possibly live on Talstar?


She spared a look at her beautiful water warrior. She sensed he would go if she asked it, but could he ever be happy in the starkness that was Talstar after living his life in this warm and vibrant sea among his own kind?


And still the most troubling question of all was what of their children…


She needed more time to answer his bid. Could she come to a decision in another day? Or would she return to Talstar without giving her response? Could she do that to Trey? Leave with his bid unanswered? Make him wait?—more days, more nights—for her decision? She knew it would be a cruelty and his feelings now mattered to her. Very much.


Was she already falling in love?


She felt the brush of his hand against hers and turned with a stroke of her palm to face him. He reached out, threading his fingers through hers and urging her closer. 


There, coming to rest on their knees on the sandy bottom, they shared their second kiss…and their first naked embrace.


Trey pointed to the surface, and again took her hands in his. Together, as one, they rose.


Once at the surface, he pointed to the ledge. “I think we should talk.”


“Yes.” Jinn bit her lip and nodded, following him. She wasn’t ready to give him her answer that moment, but she understood there were things they both needed to say.


And hear.


He lifted her onto the ledge and joined her there, and now, out of the water, Jinn felt suddenly exposed. Indecent.


She reached for her discarded dress and he took the prompt, rewrapping his black and gold swimkilt while she dressed.


“There’s something I’ve been wanting to show you, Jinn. Something you need to see. Would you—”


The wind brought sounds of the players’ voices again—this time frantic, shrill, shouts of panic. Trey turned his head toward the cove entrance, frowning. He shot to his feet and angled his ear to the sounds, before turning to her. “Wait right here.”


In a graceful arc, he launched his body out over the water and disappeared beneath the waves.

__________________________________________

This segment marks the halfway point in the book. Jinn and Trey have come a long way in a short while -- but are they be ready to face what comes next? 

And are you? :)

I'll be back next Monday with Part 20 of The Shell and the Star. 





Saturday, June 25, 2022

Science Saturday: Possible Solution for Artificial Gravity!

 As we've mentioned many times on this blog, one of the huge barriers to safe and healthy extended space travel is the lack of gravity in space. Or more specifically, the near 1G our bodies must have to stay healthy. Before we can think about "galloping around the universe" in advanced starships, we need to address this deal breaker issue.

The subject of gravity figures heavily into my far future Space Adventure Romance story, The Shell and the Star, which involves two different human species who have lost the ability to function in full gravity. You can read the story for free here on Spacefreighters Lounge. I'm serializing this story and we're already over 6 chapters in with new sections posted here on Mondays. Click here to catch up to date.

But back to our science subject today. This video from April of this year explains how the artificial gravity would be generated on flights to Mars. It's an 8-minute video, but if you want to skip the introduction and background info, you can go right to 2:57 to cut to the chase. 



In The Shell and the Star, the space station the heroine lives on uses a somewhat similar concept to generate gravity in selected areas that the residents must use to exercise a certain length of time each day to prevent atrophy of their muscles and other health problems related to extended time in zero or  microgravity. But they've lost their ability to live their daily lives walking upright or functioning in full gravity, as we do. The Mars mission discussed here would employ artificial gravity 24/7 to keep astronauts healthy and strong.

Incidentally, the gravity on Mars is only about 38% of Earth's gravity, so about what the heroine Jinn is contending with on the space station. Astronauts really wouldn't be walking around like normal after very long exposed to that planet's low gravity (despite how Mark Watney does in The Martian). 

And as for the near future colony planned for the Moon? Surprise. The Moon's gravity is less than 17% of Earth's! Clearly we'll have some problems to overcome for residents of colonies -- as well as colonists in transit -- before this can become a reality.  

Let me know your thoughts in comments below.



About Spacefreighters Lounge

Hosted by 5 Science Fiction Romance authors with 8 RWA Golden Heart finals and a RITA final between them. We aim to entertain with spirited commentary on the past, present, and future of SFR, hot topics, and our take on Science Fiction and SFR books, television, movies and culture.