For coding peeps: I have devised a cunning language in which:
(a) the '??' operator returns the first non-null value, and yet...
(b) 'null ?? true == false'.

Because, you see, 'null' is non-null, because it's coerced to 'false', because of 'true'.

This is fine.

Getting to the natural halfway point on the sequel, at which point we glimpse the true motives and beliefs of the Union of Humanity, and their implications for our sentient AI characters.

Really well produced podcast from The Economist, on and consciousness: economist.com/podcasts/2022/08

I really like the clarity of the discussion here. I feel the media wasn't generally well prepared to report on something like LaMDA, and fell back to the old "he-said, she-said" format. That comes across as "underdog says AI is sentient; big corporation says no", which doesn't help.

But the broader points around the possibility of AI consciousness, and the question of how will we know if/when it happens, are both fascinatingly complex rabbit holes.

Book 

Marketing a book sucks. For , I'm certain (or unprovably egocentric enough to believe) that there's a nebulous group out there, in the world, who'd get a kick out of the story, the characters and/or the concepts. But finding them is a hell of a trick.

I've had very positive feedback from my awesome friends, family, colleagues and acquaintances. It's kept me going!

is a novel about and , which at first glance fits easily into a certain type of blingy media spectacle. But there are two problems with this:
(1) I'm just bad at marketing;
(2) People don't listen to marketing unless it's really, really good.

Also, the story itself tries to cast a critical gaze on the subject. The robots aren't shiny metal with glowing red eyes. The AI isn't an emotionless, superpowerful entity beyond human understanding. There is war, but it's messy and unglamorous.

These concepts attract a lot of oversimplification and loose thinking in sci-fi, which I've had a crack at in a series of videos:
m.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL

Breaking the mould and doing a "reset" on what robots and AI mean, in sci-fi, requires readers (or prospective readers) to trust me a bit more. You're not getting the thing that you already understand, and that's the point. You're getting a mystery.

A large part of what I should be doing, I'm sure, is just talking about it more than I do, on social media or wherever I can find to talk about it.

With inflation at 7%, a lot of Curtin Uni staff, esp. casuals, absolutely need a pay rise to stay afloat. That management doesn't even want to talk about it is untenable.

t.co/IkcPObbH1s

You fools have probabilities all wrong. *This* is how (according to 3 assignment submissions I've just seen) you calculate a probability:

P = round(random real-number between 0--2 × random integer between 0--9)

You're welcome.

Academic integrity 

This is a wonderfully humourous and in-depth account of cheating at uni. I once discovered ~150 cases of collusion/plagiarism in one event, and so I have thoughts.

crumplab.com/articles/blog/pos

1. I really like the rigorous and simultaneously empathetic approach. It's a lot of work though!

2. Cheaters are, almost by definition, incompetent. They're actively trying to get out of competence. This bleeds over into their ability to account for their actions, or assess their situation objectively. They're just not very good at it.

3. Institutions talk tough, but they don't proactively *fund* the detection and processing of academic misconduct. Academics are "expected" to do it, but with what time and energy? There are no professional consequences for an academic who simply ignores it.

4. Official processes for investigating misconduct are hugely more formal than they were not so long ago. That formality is expensive.

@freakboy3742 We all stand on the shoulders of giants, and we don't notice how much (or even if) the giants are being paid for this.

Now off to HQ to help out with the important work of putting sausages on the map!

More on Hyperion (and The Fall of Hyperion): it's interesting reading (listening to) a take on the future of what is essentially the internet, from before the web. There's a lot of overlap with Neuromancer, but more developed.

The "data sphere" (or "mega sphere" or "datum plane"? There was some difference that eluded me) is where all data-ery things happen, and it's a virtual world complete with physics engine. There are building-like structures, agents ("phages" and AIs) existing in a Euclidean space. In Neuromancer it was called "cyberspace".

It's wonderful from a pure storytelling PoV, and it's not a bad guess for the time when those stories were written.

But it's just not what the world looks like now, and it's hard to see it happening in the real future. It doesn't clearly solve an actual problem, and it's probably a massive cybersecurity risk.

In the books, there are battles in the "data sphere"/"cyberspace" that resemble contests of physical force. But force isn't a thing in the actual digital world. Real cyber attacks and cyber security are a matter of knowledge and cunning.

The Yttrium episode of Periodic Videos (youtube.com/watch?v=NxbOQ1Fhqd) managed to relieve me of a rarefied torment originating from the Hyperion audiobook, where Dan Simmons is always on about a "lapis lazuli" sky. This term is almost impossible to google if you've only heard it spoken.

That is not, of course, the most interesting thing about either the video or the book, but I am now going to rest easy.

Special applause to the student I caught , who swore never to do it again, before being notified that we'd already discovered them doing it again.

"Just one for the road" as it were.

auspol 

@ericireland They sound great! I wish Perth had a few more.

But this... "If someone is driving by and think ‘oh, a lighting store’, but they can’t get a park out the front, I think they would drive off."

Do people really just drive around impulse buying lights? Perhaps they do and I'm just not with it!

@kauer I'll have to check out some of his other work. The Wasp Factory looks a bit gruesome from some of the descriptions though!

Also almost finished working my way through Iain M Banks's Culture series, via audiobooks.

The Abominator-class warship "Falling Outside the Normal Moral Constraints" is perhaps the most aptly named craft I've encountered.

Although at this rate I may finish book #2 before getting much attention for book #1.

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There's a GoodReads giveaway happening for the whole of May for .

Only for people in the US sadly. No idea why this restriction exists; this is for the ebook version.

Marketing a self-published book is slow going, but it is going!

Belated post!

I'm a writer and in , . I teach and .

You can see my book "Nova Sapiens: The Believers" at novasapiensbook.com (print, ebook and audiobook). It's a hard novel about and . I've also made some related videos about robots in scifi here: youtube.com/channel/UC97hIEFoD.

I'm also here for , , , , .

Ha, Sydney is shrouded in smoke, unlike... Oh goddamnit Perth.


Authorities were stunned to discover that they needed to arrest a man who wasn't French.

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