Plot Devices

Plot Devices: I, for one, welcome our new robot overlords.

A computer program has passed the Turing Test for the first time. What does this actually mean? Well, honestly, not much. This is a chatbot, not an AI. It’s not programmed to be intelligent, it is programmed to mimic written conversation. This one also used the whole gimmick of having the chatbot pretend to be a adolescent Ukrainian boy. The short and medium term results I predict? Over the next couple of years, we’ll get more annoying, harder to immediately detect spambots, (Like the ones on dating and porn sites, or the ones that are used to chat with you through your friends’ hacked Facebook accounts). 5-15 years? We’ll be getting adaptive conversational chatbots in videogames, which will be pretty sweet.

Anyhow, this brings me to the whole theme for my first official installment of Plot Devices: Artificial Intelligences. I’m going to attempt (key word) to explain ways that authors fit Artificial Intelligences into fiction, how it affects their settings, and ways to restrict them narrative-wise. This is a huge category, so we’re going to have to break it down a bit. I’m going to rip a few arbitrary categories out of fiction, here. In ascending order, Synthetic Intelligences, Human-Level AI, Uploads, Supergenius AI, and Weakly Godlike Intelligences. There are plenty that don’t fit precisely into any of these categories, but these five cover most examples of fictional AI.


New Feature: Plot Devices

So I’ve decided to start a new feature on my blog, to go with the Great Hugo Readthrough and my Weekly Pull Review (well, when I have the money to start that one up again, at least). It’s called Plot Devices, and I’m going to be diving into various specific types of MacGuffins, Chekov Guns, Red Herrings, and more objects from fiction. I decided to do this because of how much I liked a previous blog post of mine about Faster-Than-Light Travel.

I’m not going to have a regular update schedule with this, but I will be trying to post frequently. Over the next few weeks I’ll be covering (probably) Magic Swords, Ancient Devices From Lost Alien Civilizations, Totally Scientific and Not Magical (Not Even a Little Bit) Medical Technology, Kinetic Magic Systems, Universal Translators (Or The Lack Thereof), and/or whatever else I feel like.

The More You Know

So have you ever encountered a faster than light drive in fiction that CAN’T be used in or near a gravity well, at least without serious consequences? A good example of this is Halo 2. A Covenant ship jumps inside Earth’s gravity well/ atmosphere, causes a huge explosion. Other examples of this include the StarDrive universe, the Tom Swift III universe (I think, haven’t read those books since I was a little kid), and a number of others. There is a good reason for this: awesome space battles.