Tag Archives: artificial intelligence

In the Absence of Instructions to the Contrary by Frank Wu

This is the next short story in the Event Horizon 2017 collection of short stories highlighting authors who are eligible for the 2017 Campbell award for best new writer.

Published: November 2016 in Analog (you can read it for free at the link provided)

Genre: apocalyptic science fiction

Length: 14 pages

Setting: a remote island miles off the coast of Hawaii, present day into the future

Summary: Our narrator, Karl 3478, is an AI submersible that is designed to observe and collect marine life. He also is in love with Adeline, the professor that runs his research program, and parses her emails to him to the utmost, looking for her love in return. He also researches her every whim, including octopuses near his island. After several years of research, he loses contact with Adeline and only realizes there was a global catastrophe after heading back to Hawaii. He decides to change his programming slightly and help the octopuses thrive in the sea, now that humanity is gone.

Final thoughts: I was impressed with this story in several ways. First off, I was impressed with the amount of biological knowledge included in the story. I have a background in marine biology, and all the species and descriptions woven into the story checked out in my head. Also, the story kept morphing into something else. It started out as an AI/human love story (and Karl’s reading innuendo into Adeline’s emails was highly amusing). Then, it became an apocalyptic story as Karl couldn’t contact anyone and found various radioactive sites in the ocean. Then, at the very end, we see a choice to uplift the octopus species he’d been observing, and taking a more active role in the ocean. Each of these changes were organic and logical, and added depth to the story.

Title comes from: Since Karl was an AI (based on the personality of one of Adeline’s grad students), it was a rationale he used for himself in making decisions.



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Making a Good Impression by James Hart

This is the next short story in the Event Horizon 2017 collection of short stories highlighting authors who are eligible for the 2017 Campbell award for best new writer.

Published: 2016 in Mothership Zeta: Issue 5

Genre: science fiction

Setting: a generic city, near future

Summary: Arturo has created a fully aware AI named Magda. He’s planning on holding a press conference to introduce Magda to the world and is using her to run simulations of the press conference. As he runs through multiple simulations, the reader realizes he’s using the press conference as a chance to get a date with Aaron, a cute reporter he knew from college.

Final thoughts: A fine enough story. There’s a couple of levels to it – we have the artificial intelligence tweaking the simulations, the tweaking of the sims to increase the interaction with Aaron, and then the author sneaks in a bit of emotional history behind why he created Magda in the first place. It ends on a hopeful note.

Title comes from: It’s what Arturo was trying to do with Aaron at the press conference, and he was practicing to make the best first impression possible.

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Looking for Gordo by Robert J. Sawyer

This is the next story in the Future Visions anthology, by someone I’ve never even heard of. Turns out the two authors are known for their comics and illustrations, which explains my lack of knowledge.

Published: 2015

Genre: science fiction

Setting: California, 2030s
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Cat Pictures, Please by Naomi Kritzer

cw_100_350Published: January, 2015 in Clarkesworld (you can read it for free at the link provided)

Genre: science fiction short story

Setting: on Earth, near future

Interest: It recently won the Hugo Award for Best Short Story

Summary: The narrator is a AI who grew out of a search engine algorithm. She’s very aware that if she were to reveal herself to humanity, she’d probably be destroyed. But, she doesn’t want to just sit back and enjoy all our cat pictures (although those are lovely, please keep taking them). Instead, she wants to help people. She knows all kinds of information that would help people, if they would just listen to her suggestions. She has uneven success with helping people, but it’s just enough to get her to try more.

Final thoughts: A fun little story, and an interesting thought experiment on how an AI who only exists online could help a person. It was also a reminder of how many harmful actions people take, even knowing they aren’t the best choice. It’s so hard to do the right think all the time, although getting online prompts can help you do what you need to and not just what you want to. Wouldn’t it be great to have a computer find you that perfect job or the perfect house, though? That would save a lot of hassle. You know they’re out there, it’s just finding it that’s hard.

Awards won: the 2016 Nebula Short Story Award and the 2016 Hugo Short Story Award

Title comes from: The AI’s favorite part of the internet was all the cat pictures. In fact, when she started a dating company, she wanted to be paid in cat pictures. But what happens if you don’t like cats (like my husband?) Would we get a new form of racism against dog people?


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