My notes from OryCon 35 (2013) are a little shorter than usual this year, so rather than one blog post per panel, I’m consolidating posts.
(One meta-comment: There have been a fair number of panels about the future, including one that I was on. In every case, it feels like panelists consistently under-estimate the amount of change I think we’ll see in the future. In a panel I attended entitled “300 Years from Now” panelists discussed issues facing us today: water shortages, climate change, global economic divide, etc. while assuming that humans remain much like we are today. In 300 years, I think we’ll have gone past those problems, and we’ll be dealing with questions of what it means to be human when we’re 90% machine and 10% biological.)
Notes from The End of All Things at OryCon 35 – 2013 

Kat Kenyon

Karen Azinger
Nancy Kress
Ru Emerson
Richard A. Lovett
  • What makes a bad ending
    • A scene so preordained the reader anticipated it for 100 pages
    • A climax that happens offstage.
      • This happens before the end, but it’s the most important. The very ending is the mopping up.
    • A scene that is obvious.
      • It should seem both inevitable and yet not obvious
  • The book should wrap up on its own terms
    • It should feel satisfying on its own
    • Especially for a first time novelist — there’s no trust that you’ll wrap it up later. No guarantee that the next book will come.
  • The inciting incident suggests what the story problem is. And at the climax it should be resolved.
  • The marrying and the burying: this is what comes after the climax.
  • What is the cost of success for the protagonist?
    • it should cost your character something. An emotional cost to the choices they make. 
  • A writer’s secret weapon is theme.
    • The reader may or may not be able to articulate it. But if a book has no theme, the reader will say it doesn’t work.
    • Both the plot and the ending must involve the theme.
  • An action oriented book will have an action scene for its climax. The reader can see it coming. But there can often be an internal story was well (about the journey of the character, where they are moving to, what their shortcomings are.)
  • Dual arc story:
    • the arc of the situation
    • the arc of the character
    • the situation arc: the events of the story. it must affect the character, or the reader doesn’t care.
  • How to construct an ending both surprising and inevitable?
    • Plan for reversals
      • Even if the main story arc isn’t very surprising, other things will
      • There are betrayals, a surprise, a mystery.
      • Something that the reader didn’t see coming. So some is a surprise, and some seems expected.
    • Plant subtle clues ahead of time.
      • It leads to the sense of “oh, i should have known this was coming.”
  • What can go wrong now?
    • Then make it go wrong.
    • Then the character will be forced to change.
  • The choice ending…
    • As the reader progresses, it becomes obvious that the character is going to be forced to choose between two alternatives. Those alternatives become more obvious as the reader reads. But we don’t know which they’ll choose. The options should be roughly equally weighted.
Notes from One Lump or Two: How much Technology is Too Much?

Richard A. Lovett

Patrick Swenson
Gordon Eklund
Annie Bellet
David W. Goldman
  • How much science in a story for it to be science fiction?
    • RL: None! Science fiction is extrapolation from something. It’s based in reality. But it doesn’t need to be about science.
    • PS: My stories are about what-if… extrapolation about what we know now into the future. not just science, but our culture and society. But… cool science and cool tech goes a long way. My editor asked me to add more technology into the the early chapters to ground the reader. Happy to do that…required research on my part.
    • GE: Heinlein quote: the perfect science fiction story is a story that, at some point in the future, would just be a contemporary fiction story.
    • RL: Explain enough of the science so that people understand how it works. Work out a lot, but put the minimum necessary in the story.
    • PS: Consulting with (editor? scientist?), asked what was necessary: Don’t violate certain principles, and then hand wave the rest.
    • DG: You don’t need to explain what we don’t know (e.g. how a warp drive would work), but you do need to avoid explaining things in a way that violates what we do know (e.g. faster-than-light travel without special conditions).
    • DG: There are some stories that are about science. They’re about a specific scientific idea, and then a story is wrapped around it. But that’s the minority of all stories.
    • RL: Lots of research that doesn’t go into the book. Had to write a spreadsheet tracking oxygen consumption over 24 hours according to exercise levels of the protagonist. That doesn’t go into the book, but its there to make sure the science is right.
  • What makes a story age well or not with respect with technology?
    • The emotional arc of the story.
    • The story has to hold up without the technology.
    • Don’t put dates in story, because that really affects how people perceive it.
    • A lot of science fiction written during the cold war is about the soviet union: now it’s alternate history.
    • Older science fiction is a time capsule to the future of a different time.
    • Now matter how forward looking science fiction is, it’s always a commentary on the time in which it was written.
The Future of Publishing

Mike Shepherd / Moscoe – Traditionally published author

Linn Prentis – Literary Agent in Pacific Northwest
Tod McCoy – 
Liz Gorinsky – Editor at Tor Books
Peter Smalley – Indie published author
Phoebe Kitanidis – Ebook publisher and traditionally published YA author 
  • What are the threats to traditional publishing?
    • LG: The main issue is not ebooks or self-publishing but attention. The number of people buying and finishing books. How do we find and keep and communicate with readers?
      • Reading on screens – notifications pop up, getting an email to watch a youtube video. Many people complain that its harder to finish a novel. People get excited about interactive media on the web.
    • PS: A challenge to traditional publishing is the platform… People have multiple electronic devices and its a chore to move between them. The competition for attention is not just what form of entertainment we want, but the cost of moving to the platform where the books are.
      • MS/M: The counter to that is that if someone recommends a book, I can easily and immediately go buy it. So I’m more likely to buy a book.
  • Is the business changing?
    • LG: Absolutely. The challenge is getting readers in contact with our authors. The main job of editors is not editing. 60-70% of the time in the office is spent figuring out how to get books to readers, anything from managing blurbs to editing meta-data, etc. In the past, getting attention meant getting 12 traditional book reviews. Now it might mean two traditional reviews and fifty blog mentions.

Amazon is a pretty amazing company. They create a very compelling shopping experience encompassing nearly every category of product, they make the discovery and shopping experience easy, and customer reviews have transformed shopping by helping us find quality products and avoid crappy ones. Shopping online helps save time when shopping and running around town. And of course, as an indie author, 99% of my book sales are through Amazon.

For all that, Amazon is not a panacea. The same scale that allows recommendations, reviews, and low pricing to work also has negative side effects. There are many, but I’ll just mention a few:

  1. As more book buying moves online to Amazon and to ebooks, it becomes harder for local bookstores to survive. Some might say “who cares?” but for the 20% of Americans without Internet access, bookstores and libraries are how they access books. For younger children, bookstores are an exciting place of discovery. My kids love visiting any bookstore. But bookstores can’t survive on childrens books and only a small percentage of adults visiting them. 
  2. As an author, I’m very concerned that 99% of my book sales are through Amazon. What if they change their policies and decide to offer half the royalty rate? Without any other effective distribution outlet, I’d be screwed. I’m delighted to sell as many books as I do there, but I’d be much more comfortable if I was also selling elsewhere.
  3. Local, indie bookstores are owned by people, whereas Amazon is a global corporation. As I’ve mentioned before, every time we make a credit card purchase with a global corporation, we’re sending our money to the 1% of wealthiest people. Yes, we’re supporting them. If you spend your money at a local bookstore, a much greater percentage is actually staying people like you and me. 
Recently I’ve learned about two great ways you can support local bookstores: IndieBound and Kobo.
Kobo is an alternate ebook reading platform. Like Amazon, they have ereader devices and reading apps for all major smartphones and tablets. Like Amazon, they have millions of books, usually at the same price as Amazon. What’s different from Amazon is that they sell their ereading devices through local, indie bookstores. And when you buy a Kobo ereader from a local bookstore, a percentage of revenue of every single book you buy continues to support that bookstore for the life of the device. If you use a Kobo app instead, you can still support a local bookstore by purchasing ebooks through the affiliate website of your local bookstore.
In other words, you can get most of the benefits of shopping with a major online ebook store while still supporting your local bookstore.
IndieBound is an affiliation of local bookstores that are members of the American Booksellers Association. Through the IndieBound website, you can find and order books online, just as you would through Amazon, but instead your purchase benefits your local bookstore. And because the IndieBound website searches the large, commercial databases, nearly everything available on Amazon is also available through IndieBound, even if it’s a specialty, published-on-demand book.

So the next time you reach for the mouse to buy a book, give Kobo or IndieBound a try.

My books are available through both:

To give you a little incentive to try Kobo, you can pick up a copy of A.I. Apocalypse for FREE on Kobo through the end of November, 2013 by entering the code jansbooks. Detailed instructions:

  1. Visit Kobo.
  2. Click on A.I. Apocalypse, then click Buy Now. 
  3. Sign in with your Kobo UserID and Password. If you don’t have one, create an account.
  4. On the “Confirm Your Purchase” page, click on the link for “Have a gift card or promo code?” and enter the PROMO code: jansbooks
  5. A box will pop up saying that you’ve covered your cost so they won’t have to bill your credit card.
  6. Now you will see at the BUY NOW button that $0.00 will be charged. Click the BUY NOW button.
  7. Download the epub to read on your computer, tablet, or Kobo ereader.

Kobo Books is a great ebook retailer with worldwide distribution, their own reader-focused ereaders, and reading apps for all major platforms (iOS, Android, Mac, PC, and web).

Free on Kobo through the
end of September 2013 with
the coupon code elopesgift

Kobo is also an indie-bookstore friendly company. Their devices are sold in indie bookstores, and many indie bookstores have an affiliate relationship with Kobo. If you care about DRM, my books are all DRM-free on Kobo.

Avogadro Corp, A.I. Apocalypse, and The Last Firewall are all available from Kobo.

And now through the end of September 2013, Avogadro Corp is available free on Kobo with the following coupon code: elopesgift

Just enter the coupon code before checkout and Avogadro Corp will be free!

So if you or a friend want to pick up Avogadro Corp or just check out an indie-friendly alternative to Amazon and Barnes & Noble, go visit Kobo today.

The Last Firewall
Minus Four Paragraphs

By the time a novel is done, from rough first drafts until final proofing, I’ve read it close to twenty times. However, the one of the best reads is when it’s finally Done, with a capital D, Done. That’s when I get to read it as a reader, not a writer. It usually happens a few weeks after it’s been published. I get a paperback copy that’s not already spoken for, and I hole up in a comfy chair or couch and start reading.

That happened with The Last Firewall this past weekend, when I had four days at the beach with my family.

But I was shocked to find a missing page in the paperback — and in one of the most exciting scenes, no less. I’m so sorry for the mistake!

Most copies sold so far have been the Kindle version, but for the thirty or so folks who have the paperback, you’re holding what we can hope will someday be a rare collector’s copy. 🙂

I will get the paperback copy fixed as soon as possible (and will clean up the other smaller mistakes I found as well.) In the meanwhile, if you get to the bottom of page 151, in the bar fight scene, these are the four missing paragraphs you’re looking for:

      Knowing the robot used the visual channel to attack, she instead built a three-dimensional wireframe from street and security cameras, calculated the bot’s location, and pointed the muzzle in the direction of the window.

      The three-inch rocket whooshed out, guidance fins snapping into position. It exited the bar at two hundred miles per hour and twisted hard, gunning for the bot.

      Cat’s wireframe fuzzed out, right in the middle where the robot should be, and the rocket veered off. Her heart sank as it exploded against a neighboring building.

      “Catherine Matthews,” boomed the robot. “Surrender. You are surrounded. I am a military-grade combat bot. You cannot hope to succeed and we do not wish to harm you.”

I’d like to announce that The Last Firewall is available!

In the year 2035, robots, artificial intelligences, and neural implants have become commonplace. The Institute for Applied Ethics keeps the peace, using social reputation to ensure that robots and humans don’t harm society or each other. But a powerful AI named Adam has found a way around the restrictions. 

Catherine Matthews, nineteen years old, has a unique gift: the ability to manipulate the net with her neural implant. Yanked out of her perfectly ordinary life, Catherine becomes the last firewall standing between Adam and his quest for world domination. 

Two+ years in the making, I’m just so excited to finally release this novel. As with my other novels, I explore themes of what life will be like with artificial intelligence, how we deal with the inevitable man-vs-machine struggle, and the repercussions of using online social reputation as a form of governmental control.

The Last Firewall joins its siblings. 
Buy it now: Amazon Kindle, in paperback, and Kobo eReader.
(Other retailers coming soon.)

I hope you enjoy it! Here is some of the early praise for the book:

“Awesome near-term science fiction.” – Brad Feld, Foundry Group managing director

“An insightful and adrenaline-inducing tale of what humanity could become and the machines we could spawn.” – Ben Huh, CEO of Cheezburger

“A fun read and tantalizing study of the future of technology: both inviting and alarming.” – Harper Reed, former CTO of Obama for America, Threadless

“A fascinating and prescient take on what the world will look like once computers become smarter than people. Highly recommended.” – Mat Ellis, Founder & CEO Cloudability

“A phenomenal ride through a post-scarcity world where humans are caught between rogue AIs. If you like having your mind blown, read this book!” – Gene Kim, author of The Phoenix Project: A Novel About IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win

“The Last Firewall is like William Gibson had a baby with Tom Clancy and let Walter Jon Williams teach it karate. Superbly done.” – Jake F. Simons, author of Wingman and Train Wreck

These are my notes from Luke Ryan’s talk on Writing for TV at Willamette Writers Conference 2013.
Luke Ryan
Writing for TV
·      Started as screenwriters
·      Turned studio exec
·      Still writing pseudonymously
·      Having the most fun creatively is in the world of television
·      Feature film has become more about concept and spectacle
·      We’re making movies more for the people outside the united states, because of the economics of the industry.
o   That’s why we’re seeing more big action movies, and less comedy.
o   That’s because comedy doesn’t travel well, but action does.
·      So the best writing right now is in television, especially one hour cable shows
·      Television is all about character, character, character
·      Three homes for television
o   Network
o   Free cable
o   Premium cable
·      Network
o   ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, CW
o   Driven by advertising and ratings. Bigger stage, bigger money.
o   Networks think in terms of big movie studios: concept driven.
o   Procedurals
§  Cop shows
§  They’re about collecting information about the resolution
§  Primary content consumed by American TV watchers
o   A season finale of Mad Men while do less than a quarter of what a rerun of NCI will do.
o   Broadcast television is an older audience.
o   Q: Are they going to crumble [in the context of no young people watching broadcast shows]
§  Total viewership of something like Castle is very high, even though they have nothing in the prime demographic of 18-35.
§  The thing that’s keeping TV afloat is sports.
·      Basic Cable
o   FX, AMC, USA, Lifetime, MTV, etc.
o   Driven by advertising and ratings, but less so. Have figured out how to have interesting programming at lower costs.
o   They think like interesting indie producers in the feature film world.
o   Very character driven…
o   Can be very formula: breaking bad, dexter, etc: take ordinary person, give them a secret that forces them to try to live a normal life, but creates an conflict
o   FX: the bad-asser network.
o   Each has their own specific branding – certain kinds of shows they’ll look at.
o   Luke had a big board of all the places he could sell a show. When he’s got a specific show, he’ll only consider writing it if there’s at least 3 places to pitch it.
·      Premium Cable
o   HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, Starz
o   Have no advertising – you pay for them as part of the cable bill. Therefore they have no ratings. Therefore they…
o   Operate like rich film investors who do whatever the hell they want.
o   They’ll do risky stuff, like Game of Thrones.
o   You can do whatever you like…no advertisers to offend.
·      Three Kinds of Shows
o   One hour drama
o   Half hour comedy
o   Game shows/reality shows (no writers required.)
·      Cable wants serialized shows…one story told over 13 shows.
·      Network wants stand-alone stories…with maybe a small story arc that goes across the season.
·      Serialization makes syndication harder.
·      Hybrids:
o   X Files good example:
§  16 episodes are monster of the week.
§  The other six episodes are ongoing story line.
·      One Hour Drama
o   Approximately 60 page script
o   4-6 acts w/ cold open for network
o   Write without acts for cable/premium
o   Tend to be procedural on network (cop, lawyer, medical shows)
o   Mostly sold:
§  on pitch at networks
§  pitch or spec at cable/premium.
§  Often with valuable talent attachments.
o   Cold Open: The body is lying there, the detectives walk in, “Oh my god”, cut to credits.
o   Each act has to be a cliffhanger, to get the audience to come back.
o   But on cable, no need for act breaks.
·      Executives
o   Will order 60 pitches
o   Get 25 pilots
o   Shoot 6 pilots
o   Get 1 show
·      Timeline
o   Buying season is the summer
o   Pilots are shot in October
o   Shoot show in spring
o   Show introduces in September
o  
o   this is changes over time.
·      “spec script” vs “pitch”
o   most things in tv are bought on pitch
·      getting paid
o   you get paid when they want to buy it
o   you get paid when they do the pilot
o   you get paid when they produce it
o   you when the TV show earns money
o  
o   you get paid as the creator, on every show that is created, regardless of who writes it
o   you get paid as the executive producer, if you are involved in the actual writing.
o   if you write the episodes, you get paid as the writer.
§  This is basically a day job. You’re showing up at the office every day, probably in LA.
§  Each show has a lead writer who will lay out the episode, do the main writing, but then all the writers will collaborate on the details.
o   You can get paid as all three.
·      Sample One Hour Structure
o   Cold Open (2-3 minutes, episode problem)
o   Act One (to 15m, end w/ cliffhanger)
o   Act Two (to 25m, end w/ cliffhanger)
o   Act Three (to 35m, end w/ cliffhanger)
o   Act four (to 45m, end w/ cliffhanger)
o   Act Five (to 55m, w/ episode climax/solution)
o   Tag
·      Formats:
o   Use anything you want
o   Final Draft was long the standard, but as long as it looks correct, it’s fine
o   Send as a PDF
o   If something is formatted incorrectly, it makes it easy to say no
·      Half Hour Comedy
o   Approximately 30 page script
o   3 acts w/ cold open for network.
o   Write without acts for cable/premium
o   Either multicam (cheers) or single camera (the office)
o   Mostly sold on pitch at networks, pitch or spec at cable/premium. Often with valuable talent attachments.
·      Story Threads
o   A Story: Your Main Story Line/Concern
o   B Story: Secondary characters and secondary concerns to your main character, but tied has cause/effect with “A” Story
o   C Story: Often a disconnected adventure with a secondary character
·      Network Seasons
o   Buying is July 4th through late fall
o   Pilots due at end of the year
o   Pilots are ordered, shot at the beginning of the new year
o   Upfronts happen in the late spring where shows are picked up
o   Buying season begins again
o   New shows debut in the fall starting in September (while another buying season is in full swing)
·      Netflix, Hulu, Amazon
o   Netflix noticed that people are binging: people watch the whole season at once.
§  So they did House of Cards.
§  Specifically engineered to apply to their core audience based on the extensive data they have.
o   But we start to lose the cultural conversation:
§  “Did you see episode 10 of X”?
·      “Yeah, like two years ago”
§  “Let’s watch the pilot honey.”
·      Next morning she’s on episode 5. No reason to stay in sync anymore.

Cover for The Last Firewall

It’s a very exciting time in the lifecycle of a book.

Here’s a quick peek at the cover for The Last Firewall. We may make a few tweaks, but that’s the general layout.

We’re still targeting a mid-August release. I’m working with my designer, the wonderful Maureen Gately, on the interior pages right now.

I’ll soon start generating the ebook versions for Kindle, Kobo, and other ereaders.

In a few spare moments here and there, I’m reading Ramez Naam’s upcoming Crux, which is great, and will be out on August 27th. I’ll have a full review next month. It’s a sequel to his first novel, Nexus. If you haven’t read Nexus, go get a copy now.

I’m also getting ready to speak at Willamette Writers Convention on August 1st. If you’re attending, check out my session on Friday from 1:30 to 3pm (PDF of schedule).

I know I’ve gone dark over the last few months. I’m sure that’s left many people wondering about the status of The Last Firewall, my third Singularity novel.

I’m delighted to announce that The Last Firewall will be available this summer. I’m targeting an August launch. 
So why the long wait?

As you may know, my previous novels are all self-published. They’ve sold well, but I often wondered how many more readers might find my books if I went with a traditional publisher.
In addition, many folks have asked “When will we see the movie version?” about Avogadro Corp and A.I. Apocalypse, but very few self-published novels have made that leap. Hollywood often judges potential movie options by the interest publishers take in novels. That was another reason why I was interested in traditional publication.
I started working with a literary agent who saw great promise in The Last Firewall, but wanted substantial revisions. I subsequently worked on The Last Firewall for another eight months until it gleamed brighter than the titanium shell of a robot.
That’s where I’ve been for a while, and I think the results are great: I’m convinced it reads better than anything I’ve done before, and a few other folks have read the manuscript and agree.
However, traditional publishing is a tough nut to crack, and if I persist with that path, The Last Firewall will continue to languish on my computer when it really wants to be read.
So I’m self-publishing The Last Firewall, as I have my other novels. It’s worked great in the past, and I’m happy to be going this route again. I’m choosing cover images and working on cover design right now, even as the manuscript undergoes a final round of proofreading.

I think it’s going to be awesome, and can’t wait to get it in your hands. If you haven’t done so, sign up for the mailing list and I’ll let you know when it’s available. 

1. Diagram from Google’s patent
application for floating data centers.

The technology in Avogadro Corp and A.I. Apocalypse is frequently polarizing: readers either love it or believe it’s utterly implausible.

The intention is for the portrayal to be as realistic as possible. Anything I write about either exists today as a product, is in active research, or is extrapolated from current trends. The process I use to extrapolate tech trends is described in an article I wrote called How to Predict the Future. I’ve also drawn upon my twenty years as a software developer, my work on social media strategy, and a bit of experience in writing and using recommendation engines, including competing for the Netflix Prize.

Let’s examine a few specific ideas manifested in the books and see where those ideas originated.

    • Floating Data Centers: (Status: Research) Google filed a patent in 2007 for a floating data center based on a barge. The patent application was discovered and shared on Slashdot in 2008. Like many companies, filing a patent application doesn’t mean that Google will be deploying ocean-based data centers any time soon, but simply that the idea is feasible, and they’d like to own the right to do so in the future, if it becomes viable. And of course, there is the very real problem of piracy.
Pelamis Wave converter in action.
    • Portland Wave Converter: (Status: Real) In Avogadro Corp I describe the Portland Wave Converter as a machine that converts wave motion into electrical energy. This was also described as part of the Google patent application for a floating data center. (See diagram 1.) But Pelamis Wave Power is an existing commercialization of this technology. You can buy and use wave power converters today. Pelamis did a full-scale test in 2004, installed the first multi-machine farm in 2008 off the coast of Portugal, is doing testing off the coast of Scotland, and is actively working on installing up to 170MW in Scottish waters.
Pionen Data Center. (Src: Pingdom)
    • Underground Data Center: (Status: Real) The Swedish data center described as being in a converted underground bunker is in fact the Pionen data center owned by Bahnhof. Originally a nuclear bunker, it’s housed nearly a hundred feet underground and is capable of withstanding a nuclear attack. It has backup power provided by submarine engines and triple redundant backbone connections to the Internet and fifteen full-time employees on site.
    • Netflix Prize: (Status: Real) A real competition that took place from 2006 through 2009, the Netflix Prize was a one million dollar contest to develop a better recommendation than Netflix’s original Cinematch algorithm. Thousands of people participated, and hundreds of teams beat Netflix’s algorithm, but only one team was the first to better it by 10%, the required threshold for payout. I entered the competition and realized within a few weeks that there were many other ways recommendation engine technology could be put to use, including a never-before-done approach to customer support content that increased the helpfulness of support content by 25%.
    • Email-to-Web Bridge: (Status: Real) At the time I wrote Avogadro Corp, IBM had a technical paper describing how they build an email-to-web bridge as a research experiment. Five years later, I can’t seem to find the article anymore, but I did find some working examples of services that do the same thing. In fact, www4mail appears to have been working since 1998.
    • Decision-Making via Email: (Status: Real) From 2003 to 20011, I worked in a position where everyone I interacted with in my corporation was physically and organizationally remote. We interacted daily via email and weekly via phone meetings. Many decisions were communicated by email. They might later be discussed in a meeting, but if a communication came down by a manager, we’d just have to work within the constraints of that decision. Through social engineering, it possible to make those emails even more effective. For example, employee A, a manager, is about to go on vacation. ELOPe sends an from employee A to employee B, explaining a decision that was making, and asking employee B to handle any questions for that decision. Everyone else receives an email saying the decision was made, and ask employee B if there are questions. The combination of an official email announcement plus a very real human contact to act as point person becomes very persuasive. On the other hand, some Googlers have read Avogadro Corp, and they’ve said the culture at Google is very different. They are centrally located and therefore do much more in face to face meetings.
Foster-Miller Armed Robot
(Src: Wikipedia)
  • iRobot military robots: (Status: Real) iRobot has both military bots and maritime bots, although what I envisioned for the deck robots on the floating data centers is closer to the Foster-Miller Talon, an armed, tank-style robot. The Gavia is probably the closest equivalent to the underwater patrolling robots. It accepts modular payloads, and while it’s not clear if that could include an offensive capability, it seems possible.
  • Language optimization based on recommendation engines:  (Status: Made Up) Unfortunately, not real. It’s not impossible, but it’s also not a straightforward extrapolation. There’s hard problems to solve. Jacob Perkins, CTO of Weotta, wrote an excellent blog post analyzing ELOPe’s language optimization skills. He divides the language optimization into three parts: topic analysis, outcome analysis, and language generation. Although challenging, topic analysis is feasible, and there are off-the-shelf programming libraries to assist with this, as there also are for language generation. The really challenging part is the outcome analysis. He writes:

    “This sounds like next-generation sentiment analysis. You need to go deeper than simple failure vs. success, positive vs. negative, since you want to know which email chains within a given topic produced the best responses, and what language they have in common. In other words, you need a language model that weights successful outcome language much higher than failure outcome language. The only way I can think of doing this with a decent level of accuracy is massive amounts of human verified training data. Technically do-able, but very expensive in terms of time and effort.

    What really pushes the bounds of plausibility is that the language model can’t be universal. Everyone has their own likes, dislikes, biases, and preferences. So you need language models that are specific to individuals, or clusters of individuals that respond similarly on the same topic. Since these clusters are topic specific, every individual would belong to many (topic, cluster) pairs. Given N topics and an average of M clusters within each topic, that’s N*M language models that need to be created. And one of the major plot points of the book falls out naturally: ELOPe needs access to huge amounts of high end compute resources.”

    This is a case where it’s nice to be a science fiction author. 🙂

I hope you enjoyed this post. If you have any other questions about the technology of Avogadro Corp, just let me know!