Tag Archives: behavior

Prudishness

Okay, I kind of meandered away from what I really wanted to talk about in my last post.  The thing that really and truly and honestly bothers me when I’m watching Humans on AMC is the sexual prudishness.

Let me start by saying, once you install an artificial intelligence into a machine, yes, that thing should have rights, it should be treated with respect, that’s a given.

But here’s the thing: in the show, the vast majority of humanity believes, and rightly so, that the synths are just machines.  As such, there is no reason to afford them any kind of respect.  So when somebody who owns a sex sets it on ‘adult mode,’ I fail to see how that is any different than using a sex toy.

Similarly, when a bunch of idiots get together and smash synths, as long as they own the synths, it shouldn’t be illegal.  That being said, I think that getting together to break and destroy things that look like people might be a good indicator of a mental problem, and I will agree that children using synths in a sexual way is inappropriate and should not be allowed.

My problem is basically that the tone the show seems to take is that people are abusing these poor synths, when in point of fact, this is only the case when they are interacting with one of the synths who happens to be aware, and as those synths are in hiding, it’s hard to get too mad at people for that.

Similarly, I recall the scene in the robot brothel where the guy wants Niska to act afraid of him, he wants to abuse her.  Again, there is little doubt that the man has issues, but let’s face it, I’d rather him going to brothels inhabited by non-human, non-feeling entities to get off than taking his fantasies into the real world.  Admittedly, it might be part of a progression on his part, he might be a few days away from moving out into the real world for a bigger thrill, but that’s not the point right now.  The point is that giving rights and whatnot to an AI because it is intelligent, capable of feeling, capable of learning, etc, is a VERY DIFFERENT THING than giving rights to a machine because it happens to look like us.  that’s what’s driving me nuts.

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Annoyed by a theme

I’ve been watching the AMC series Humans, and, for the most part, I’m enjoying it a great deal.  There are a few things that I wish that they would do differently, and a few things which see to come up quite often in this genre that kind of annoy me.

So one of the big things that seems to come up in stories like these is that the creation of things that look convincingly human is associated with the creation of things that are essentially self aware.  This bothers me for a number of reasons, the most pressing of which is that the two are completely unrelated.  I understand that this is something being explored in the series in question.  But what bothers me is how common this is.  Somebody makes a lifelike machine, which acts like people do, and suddenly it starts thinking for itself.  It’s like people think that behavior precedes reason, and once it matches its behavior to us, inevitably its mind will start to be shaped by that.

I also am frustrated by the fact that in so many of these stories, once they start to think for themselves and reason for themselves, they become so very much like us.  It’s true, in trying to create an artificial consciousness we will inevitably base its reasoning patterns on our own, but given the fact that it is, on a fundamental level, not the same as us, I think it’s also inevitable that it would not function the same way we do.  Getting angry about the same things that would anger us if we experienced them, and viewing our behavior by the same standards that we use is, I think fundamentally flawed.

I guess what I’m saying is that, someday, I want to write a story where artificial humans are created but have absolutely nothing in their programming which makes them more than utilities, while vast and powerful artificial intelligences are running the world based on guidelines and reasoning that is so foreign to us as to be virtually incomprehensible.  Chances are good that somebody has already written that book, but I haven’t read it yet.

That Itchy Feeling

Human beings have a lot of skin.  I mean, a whole lot of it.  As it happens, I have a bit more than your average bloke on the street, partly because I’m taller than average ,but mostly because I’m… well, wider than average.

Anyhow, we’ve got a lot of skin, and our skin is feeling a lot of stuff pretty much all of the time.  And most of the time we don’t even notice it.

But if you want to find out just how much your skin is feeling all the time, all you really have to do is find one bug on your person.  Just one.  Maybe it’s a caterpillar that dropped into your hair as you were passing under an old oak tree.  Maybe it’s a beetle that was passing by and decided to land, just for a moment, on your arm or the nape of your neck.  Maybe, if you’re fast enough and have good enough vision, it’s a flea that was lying in wait as you happened to walk past some poor mutt.

Whatever it is, once you find one of them, your body goes on alert.  Next thing you know you’re getting information about EVERYTHING that could POSSIBLY be another insect on you.

Occasionally it’s actually in insect.  Most of the time, though, it’s not.  It might be a tiny sliver of grass that’s stuck to you, or a thread that’s hanging off your shirt and brushing against your skin.  Or it could be the wind catching the hair on your arm and tugging it just so.

You could go days without even checking to see if you’ve got a mosquito on you, but the second you catch one, you’ll spend the next four hours checking yourself every twenty seconds.

I recently sent a manuscript out to a bunch of my beta readers, and now, thanks to years and years of experience, I know that I cannot check that manuscript until I have at least half of them back.  Because if I find one thing wrong, one misspelling, one piece of bad grammar, one wrong comma, I will be spending every waking minute from now until I get those copies back searching for anything that could possibly be wrong in my manuscript.  And I’ll be e-mailing all of my beta readers with up to the minute updates.  “Found another comma splice, sorry about that folks.”  “Crap, subject verb agreement problem on page 155!”

So even if I’m pretty sure, pretty damned sure, that I forgot to take care of something in the last chapter, that I left a tiny little plot point open that I meant to shut, I cannot, cannot, cannot actually go fix it.  Not yet.

No, I have to accept the itch.  Just endure it.  Endure it just a little while longer…

Character Building

So, one of my favorite parts of being a writer is creating characters.  When I was younger, pretty much all the characters I wrote were based on me.  I’ve tried to get away from that more as my writing matured, but if I’m honest about it, I put more than a little bit of myself into most of the people I write.

But that’s not what I want to talk about today.  The thing that’s on my mind is how one goes about building a character.

Specifically, I’m interested in what goes into the core of a character.  One of the things that fascinates me when I get into conversations with real people, is how they identify themselves.  What it is about themselves that they consider to be something that they do, and what it is about themselves that they consider to be who they are.  One of my favorite examples is sexuality.  I’ve had friends who were straight, gay, bi… I don’t think I ever had a friend who was pansexual, but, frankly, I haven’t had deep discussions on sexuality with everyone I’ve ever been friends with, so who knows.

But the thing that I cannot wrap my mind around is why we consider sexuality to be so closely linked to who we are.  And there are many instances where a persons declared sexuality is not entirely in line with their behavior.  There are women who have had sex with more women than I have who consider themselves to be straight.  There are men who have had sex with more women than I have who consider themselves to be gay.  Now, that is partly because I haven’t had sex with a lot of women, but it also has a lot to do with this thing that has embedded itself in us that tells us that sexuality is related to identity, not behavior.

I heard once, from someone who used to perform surveys about sexual behavior, that they are very precise on their terminology when they make those things.  They don’t refer to someone as gay, but as a ‘man who has sex with men.’  They have to, because they’re trying to deal with the medical realities associated with sexual behavior, but people will answer the question based on their perception of who they are.

I wonder what the world would be like if we looked at more things that way.  If the genres I read were part of ‘who’ I considered myself to be.

Me?  I’m scifi/fantasy.  I mean, sure, I experimented with mysteries when I was younger, and once I had this thing with, well, it’s embarrassing to admit it now, but I followed this non-fiction writer for a while.  I know, I know, it was crazy.  What’s the dirtiest thing I’ve ever done?  Oh, wow, uh, that’s a bit personal, but…I used to go into the library, only in the middle of the week when most people were in classes, and I’d wait until I knew nobody else was on the floor with me and… I’d read military thrillers.  Oh god!  don’t look at me like that!  I was in college, you’re supposed to try weird stuff in college!

It isn’t an exact parallel, obviously, but that’s the thing about sexuality, nothing is an exact parallel.  Finding analogies and different ways of looking at these things is part of what it means to be a writer, I think.