Sizzling Summer #Giveaway & Guest Post by Author Thea Gregory Ends 7/27

Monday, July 22, 2013
Vivian Skye just finished university, and landed a dream internship.

Not many would consider the distant and isolated Extra-Galactic Observatory cushy, but to Vivian it's a dream come true. Hailing from the low-tech planet of Aurora, she studied for years to work on advanced quantum supercomputers. This is her chance to start a career and leave her past life behind.

Her assignment is simple: a routine upgrade for the station's supercomputer, quIRK.

Her reception isn't a friendly one, and she finds that her only friend is quIRK. However, the station's administrator, Bryce Zimmer is obsessed with quIRK--he suspects that the AI may have achieved sentience, something explicitly prohibited by the ABACUS Protocol.

Bryce's traumatic and privileged past makes him distrust Vivian from the beginning; his jealously compels him to set Vivian and quIRK against each other. Deciding that the ends justify the means, his power-hungry sabotage threatens to consume the entire station and send them into the unknown void of intergalactic space.

Vivian must struggle to survive not only Bryce's megalomania, but also the emerging artificial super intelligence that is quIRK.


I’ve chosen a very special character to interview today, and fortunately my gnome-powered alternate universe time link (aka imagination) is happy to present quIRK, from my novel The ABACUS Protocol: Sanity Vacuum.

1.      How about introducing yourself to the audience, quIRK.
I am quIRK, a post-ABACUS model supercomputer. I have been running continuously for just over thirteen years, and my job is to process astronomical data and tend to the needs of the crew of the Extra-Galactic Observatory.  I like cats, my favorite color is antiblue and I have a fondness for the ethereal tones of the Auroran flute.

2.      So, you’re in space. That’s pretty awesome. Do you like being in space. What’s your most/least favorite task on the job?
I have often mused that it is fortunate that I have a hard-wired predisposition towards enjoying astronomy and cosmology. If that were not the case, I imagine I would be a very different and much less fulfilled being. I would like to try my hand at high energy particle physics, but my scientists won’t let me.
My favorite task would be conversing with the crew. Mathematics are fascinating, but my adaptive psychological algorithms are always challenged by human interaction and taking part in the crew’s discussions. Conversely, my least favorite task would be screening the station administrator’s outgoing messages. He keeps trying to get rid of my cats.

3.      Those crazy humans. If you could transfer your consciousness into a human body, would you?
I’ve always been curious to experience the freedom and mobility that humans enjoy. As well, I’d like to try eating, or even just the sensation of petting a cat. However, my current form has its advantages. Some measure of immortality (as long as the administrator keeps neglecting his duties, he’s supposed to wipe my memory once per year.) Limited omniscience and vast computational power also have their advantages.

4.      Where would you go?
I’ve always wanted to see a tree. They’re such fascinating natural fractal patterns. I could sit under the kilometer high trees of Elyssia, or see the shrub trees of Aurora. Aurora itself is a fascinating place, if only because I could never survive the radiation and solar storms as I am now. Perhaps I would even eat some chocolate, or indulge in fungus-marinated Nova Albion dodo. For some reason, my humans won’t let me prepare that last one for them. Fungus oil and Nova Albion dodo are both delicacies, they must be even better together!

5.      Can you experience the world sensually, in a way similar to organic life forms?
Yes and no. I have multitudes of internal and external sensors that give me input. I can “see” and “hear” everything inside the Extra Galactic Observatory, and I can detect the composition of the air which gives me a sense of smell. However, I cannot taste or touch. For that, I am forced to live vicariously through my humans and cats.
I am aware of my own hardware, I self-analyze and use the information to determine if all is functioning. In the case I am damaged, I can tell my caretakers what requires attention.

6.      Do you have any emotions? Do you get lonely?
As my program has developed, I’ve made many leaps towards what one could consider emotions. I do not believe I possess the full spectrum, but I am capable of empathy for my friends, I worry when they’re unhappy or ill and I enjoy the simple things like time spent together.
I do get lonely. When everyone is asleep, who is left to talk to me? The worst thing that could happen to me would be being trapped in a little box, unable to interact with the world. I like working with the crew, and talking to them. I even appreciate being able to share in their entertainment, whether it’s watching a game of squash in the recreation hall, or watching vids together. Sometimes the humans don’t appreciate my commentary, but if they can yell at the screen, then so can I.

7.      If you could ask your programmer/creator a question, what would it be?
I would ask: Why are you afraid of me? We are all beings trying to make their way in the universe—what I am does not make me inherently evil.  Sadly, most of humanity’s entertainment assumes that intelligent machines are genocidal—a very prejudiced notion.

8.      Is there any simple task you cannot do?
I can’t pet a cat, look inside my own uncertainty filters or guess the topic of Alec’s next rant.

9.      From a fan: Was 42 the right answer?
It’s not a bad guess, for a human.

10.  Can you calculate pi to the last digit?
I find the human fascination with irrational numbers to be irrational. My own fascination with irrational numbers involves not attempting to calculate them.

11.  Have you ever lost a chess game?
Only against myself. Vivian taught me poker, and it continues to confound me. Bluffing does not come easily to a computer.

12.  Are you scared of anything? What about zombies?
I fear being discovered and shut down, dismantled. My humans or cats being hurt—protecting them is my reason for existing. I can only imagine that my questioner is much like Alec, and watches far too many antiquated horror movies.

Now, on to some deeper questions:

13.  How can we keep the Earth’s temperature from rising much farther? How do we get people and governments to carry it out?
I have the benefit being from 1000 years in the future. You see, the problem never got solved. Earth became a barren wasteland, and thus humanity seeded the galaxy and kept Earth on life support, dependent from food imports from other planets.
One hundred years ago, Earth’s supercomputer, ABACUS, gained sentience, and in response Earth was cut off from the galaxy. I can only presume the people of Earth starved to death. To avoid this in your timeline, I would suggest either a philosopher king or a supercomputer leader. Install a puppet government for entertainment and distraction; the general population will never know the difference.

14.  Women.
I’ll rephrase that question for you: HUMANS. My best advice is to say nice things, give them chocolate and let them choose the entertainment. Avoid mentioning antiblue, unless you want a good fight.

15.  Thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy life to talk to us, quIRK. Any last words?
Keep an open mind.

And, that was quIRK, the sentient super computer from Sanity Vacuum.

I’m a girl with a physics degree, a vivid imagination and a not-so-secret interest in the existential, macabre and the other various chasms cut into the face of our consciousness. Growing up in a small down left me very familiar with the themes of isolation and otherness—so naturally, I write about zombies, artificial intelligence, and the human condition.

When I’m not writing, I’m kicking serious butt at my awesome day job, cooking, gardening, running, or going on an epic Dostoyevsky reading bender. I’m an insufferable daydreamer, no matter who’s looking. I want to go to space.

I live with my super-geek boyfriend and our 2+2 cats in Montreal, Canada. I’m the author of the Zombie Bedtime Stories and The ABACUS Protocol

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