Bons Mots.

Way over in France, ActuSF has posted an interview.  Go here for the Frawnsh translation; here for the original Canuckian).  If you want to know why I suck at writing villains, how American triumphalism forced me to turn Starfish into a trilogy, and exactly why I’m so defensive on the subject of vampires, you might want to take a look.  There’s also a reference to Banana which makes me a bit wobbly (the interview was conducted before he died, you see).

If none of that stuff turns your crank, move along.  Nothing to see here.

This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Thursday April 05 2012at 03:04 pm , filed under public interface . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

32 Responses to “Bons Mots.”

  1. Excellent interview. The Blue Brain project has so far (I think) modeled a rat neocortical column of about 10,000 neurons. IBM provided the hardware (a Blue Gene model) at a reduced rate and helped set it up.

  2. Hey Peter, great interview.
    I enjoyed reading into the depths of some of your characters. It’s too few novels that have unique concepts and thoughts behind their personalities. I really appreciate that from you.

    Also, I may consider using a photo of my parrot as my headshot now.

  3. That is a really great picture of you and banana. He was very photogenic. In your tribute page, all of his pictures were great.

    nothing substantial to say beyond that. glad you have the pictures for mental bookmarks to him.

    and good interview too. You gave long meaty answers. Sometimes interviews seem so short.

  4. Kind of funny how weird quirks of American culture are to thank for turning Rifters into a trilogy. Nice interview btw (who’d have thought Peter isn’t into vampire shtick lol ;) )

  5. Also, am I the only one who, at first, read the title as “mon bots” ?

  6. In his interview, Peter Watts said: But even then, I was halfway through sketching out Blindsight’s plot before I realized that a hard-sf vampire would serve as a great illustration of some the points I was playing around with in regards to consciousness. So it’s not as though I decided I really, really wanted to write about vampires ; I was writing about something else entirely, and the vampire trope just happened to be a useful tool.

    But Peter, you have done a rather good job of exploring that particular trope, so to speak. Most writers on that side of the genre or sub-genre tend to focus on the biology of hemophagy, if I may use the neologism. I must admit to some prejudice in admiring your focus on the neurology of a well-adapted predator. Of course, there’s that little problem with the Crucifix Glitch, but other than that, they seem to be just as really fucking scary as a hominoid could possibly be. None of the ambiguity seen in a lot of other works exploring the notion, and little of the subtlety either, which many authors like to portray. Whatever their complexities might develop to be in subsequent works, thus far they are pretty much “I see dinner and I catch and eat it” predators. Even more refreshingly, as regards the literature, thus far they are portrayed as being not merely unapologetic, but incapable of being apologetic, other than as they might have learned to pretend to be civil (if only barely, see also Sarasti explaining about his display paradigms towards the end of “Blindsight”). Additionally, I thought you used a fine choice of words with the simile to the mantis, towards the beginning of “Blindsight”.

    Sorry, man, I’m just seriously following the genre and sub-genres on that topic. Right now, you seem to be doing the best job of being both believable and very scary in your depiction.

  7. Likewise with the digital weather systems I postulated in Maelstrom ; it turns out the internet has storms, has had them for years now.

    What are you referring to? I’ve never seen anything as biological as what you described in Maelstrom. There are botnets of zombies, but I disagree that those qualify. Maybe it is a matter of degree in how much those compare, or maybe I am ignorant and you were referring to something else. Spammer techniques?

  8. @Sheila: Internet Storms? For starters, there are “router flapping” events. Sometimes they don’t amount to much, but if it starts happening at a major NAP (network access point, where large networks meet) on one or more of the core routers that move packets from one major network to another, the resulting “packet storms” can get pretty ugly.

    Imagine, if you would, that one fine day the approximately-one-fifth of network traffic that is people sharing files via Torrent, all heads down to one of the major NAPs. The router there is flapping, meaning that one instant it is advertising and using one high-capacity route, and then the next instant it is advertising and using another high-capacity route. If it starts switching from the first route to the other one right about the time that a blast of TCP/IP packets arrives all thinking to use that advertised route because it’s thought to be the shortest/fastest one, all of those packets have to be sent off to that second route’s routers… and they might still be thinking that the flapping router is still advertising that same route, so they send the packets back the way they came. Now repeat this at any rate from once a minute to a couple hundred times a second.

    And remember it’s not just the one core router, but all of the ones which are adjacent in terms of network topology. They start flapping too, and if they all get to flapping, it spreads. Not much goes much of anywhere in terms of things getting where they are intended to go; frequently they’ll effectively chase each others’ tails (so to speak) until they reach their hop-count limit and then the routers just drop them.

    This is why the hardcore network administrators never wear sandals into the router rack room, because otherwise all of the packets that get dropped on the floor can get stuck between your toes and it’s hell cleaning them out. It’s even worse if the packets are UDP. ;)

  9. Sheila: What are you referring to? I’ve never seen anything as biological as what you described in Maelstrom. There are botnets of zombies, but I disagree that those qualify. Maybe it is a matter of degree in how much those compare, or maybe I am ignorant and you were referring to something else. Spammer techniques?

    There are many things.

    They are indeed not as “biological” as Maelstrom, but some are definitely akin to weather systems in their unpredictability and general shitiness.

    BGP flaps for instance can be almost honest hurricanes (well, pretty much only in cancerous subnets whose infrastructure is riddled with mismanaged legacy hardware that’s almost a decade past it’s product line’s EOL date, but hey – there are surprisingly many of those).

    Networks are weird, complicated and even scary when you look at them from the belly side.

    Now, one more thing, I’ve got to kindly partially disagree with our kind host on issue of transuman “transcendent mods”, but I’m sleepy as hell, so I”ll probably revisit this on Monday.

  10. @ 01, who wrote, in-part: BGP flaps for instance can be almost honest hurricanes (well, pretty much only in cancerous subnets whose infrastructure is riddled with mismanaged legacy hardware that’s almost a decade past it’s product line’s EOL date, but hey – there are surprisingly many of those).

    Were we once cow-orkers? Or just herding cats through the same gates of hell? ;)

    I’d tell you a sort of scary story, but aside from the fact that this isn’t the appropriate forum for that, I don’t have enough alcohol on hand to clean up my brain if I dredge up that particular memory. The short summary is that there are perfectly good reasons to have all of the physical elements of the core subnet in one building if you’re effectively a second-tier ISP; even if you do think it’s really kew1 to have two fat pipe fiber lines running in and out of your mom’s house’s basement, it’s more important to have your DNS source-of-authority server in the main building than it is to have a prime subnet tunneled from NASA to your Cray with the DNS SOA server doubling as the tunnel endpoint.

    It wouldn’t have been all that bad, except that nobody in the router-guy department had the least idea this was the situation when they tried to do a fast-and-dirty migration from a class-A to class-B network status. Everything died. All of our logins were Kerberized and without the DNS that didn’t work. One clue about who the company was and what we did, this also effectively killed UseNet until we could fix this. The top-level Cisco guy we had flown in “did stuff” and then migrated us back to where we had been, then (so we heard) sent his aide looking for an all-night hardware store to buy an axe, and is rumored to have told our boss that if it took an axe through the fiber to get the DNS across the street into the building where it belonged, that’s what would happen because he had better things to do with his time than deal with ill-conceived legacy crap buried in the spine of a new corporate behemoth.

    Even worse: we were effectively an unofficial NAP to three major networks, and until we got back in order, half of our usual traffic had to go the long way around. As UDP. And mostly through ARPANet.

    I was very happy that night, that I was a deeply underpaid and lowly swerver admin, and not a router guy.

    Must go find alcohol…

  11. Space Disneyland. Don’t think I’ve seen that one before. Good one.

  12. “By the end of the story the moral being had basically turned into a walking Id with the world’s highest security clearance, and that’s entirely consistent with the themes I was exploring and the arc of the character.”

    To quote from Forbidden Planet: “Monsters! Monsters from the id!!!”

    That’s all. I just wanted to point out your roots in classic Leslie Neilsen SF.

  13. @Thomas Hardman:
    You lulled me into a TOTALLY false sense of understanding with your first post on net storms. Then you came back with the ISP story and one-two punched my head in its guts. I no longer grokk…

    0-o.

    Are you a teacher? You have a good way of explaining things…

  14. Thomas Hardman: Were we once cow-orkers? Or just herding cats through the same gates of hell?

    Well, I work as (or, as some would claim, I am ;) ) the upper end of IT security at an organization which I would rather leave unnamed, so while we probably never were strictly cow-workers, I happen to herd cats quite a lot. As part of my my futile quest to avoid devolving into a pointy-haired boss I try to stay relatively sharp both in my field and in adjacent field, hence some awareness of router stuff, but I’m definitely no authority on ‘dem finnicky eldritch boxes :D

    Would you mind me stealing your story for my collection of “foreboding tales of ill-conceived upgrades”?

    @ Peter

    Upon some contemplation, I have to disagree on “radical re-engineering of human beings” issue.

    See, looking back, I kind of remember myself when I was, well, let’s say, about 7 years old. That person, quite frankly, is quite alien to me-current. If, by virtue of some thought-experimental quirk in the fabric of time I was to meet my 7 year old self, neither of us would enjoy the encounter. The only thing that kind of connects 01@7y.o. and 0@CurrentVersion is a sequence of memories, of recollections that illustrate the gradual mental and physical transformation of me-then into me-now. Memories which, as every good Philip Dick fan knows, can very well be fabrications of some kind or another.

    For all I know, I-current may be an alien invader that has grown inside that kid from a spore arriving with space dust, then gnawed its way out, ate the body to eliminate evidence while somehow retrieving the boy’s memories and appropriating them as its own (or perhaps just confabulating fake memories de-novo, which is slightly less technologically/biologically unlikely) to better socialize “until the time is right for a strike” ;)

    I don’t see being artificially upgraded to some barely comprehensible (from normal-ish human POV), yet nonetheless more powerful state as profoundly different from what already happened to 01@7y.o. as he (allegedly, as demonstrated by the alien infiltrator hypothesis ;) ) gradually transformed into 01@CurrentVersion.

    Despite the fact that 01@7y.o. has, for all practical intents and purposes, died, no one laments him (Especially not 01@CurrentVersion). More than that, most people would, as a matter of fact, refuse to even recognize the event that has transpired as a case of “dying”, instead claiming that it was a case of “growing up”.

    I thus posit that deciding to get (more or less gradually) upgraded into a superintelligent, globally-interfaced, //insert own favorite radical empowerment self-insert fantasies here// banana-slug lookalike is not a case of suicide.

    It’s a case of growing up.

  15. Leona:
    @Thomas Hardman:
    You lulled me into a TOTALLY false sense of understanding with your first post on net storms. Then you came back with the ISP story and one-two punched my head in its guts. I no longer grokk…

    0-o.

    Are you a teacher? You have a good way of explaining things…

    IT folks, through their career, have to develop an uncanny power of explaining stuff to people who are barely capable of comprehending the events and constructs involved, or die trying (I gotta know, you know. After all, I’ve arranged for a paid position that amounts to “quickly and accurately explain really arcane IT stuff to 01 when such need arises” :D )

  16. @01: Two things addressed here: sure, use that sad and sordid tale of woe. ;) The funniest part I didn’t even mention was that my (definitely non-pointy-haired) boss was bringing that tunnel traffic in via an appletalk tunnel, because “that’s the farthest out-of-band I could get over TCP/IP”. Actually even funnier… all of that UseNet that had to get routed around us, probably mostly through ARPANet, was in vast majority people uploading their entire collection of DVD pr0n and using UseNet as a sort of broadcast FTP. This is how freakish a major router flap event can get: 90 percent of the world’s pr0n traffic was (probably) for a while routed through military networks, appearing to originate um somewhere near or around places best left unspecified. :)

    Secondly, I’ve heard this truism, probably a semi-bogus factoid, that the human body is almost totally replaced every 7 years. I know I definitely changed a lot between 14 and 28, for example, but I think nowhere near as much as I’ve changed between, say, 42 and 49 and my present age of not yet 56. But I think that age 35 and age 14 or 28 could have interacted in ways civil to each other. Me, now, and me at 35, probably would not get along. Maybe it’s a sign of maturity. Maybe it’s a sign of brain damage pretending to be “adult”. Maybe I’m just jealous. ;)

    @Leona: Sorry for the confusion, the two examples are only tangentially related… google for “router flapping” BGP and start reading, much will become clear, I think. My first example is a tame example of something going bad, in the same way that you can describe “too much rain can fall, and the streams all flood”. The second example is more about the house that was almost washed away. It doesn’t actually much discuss the fact that the house didn’t wash away, because it got stuck in the spillway at the dam… which made the dam overflow around the edges, washing away farms and villages, so to speak. Or call the first example “some people will try to tell you that chaos is predictable”. With “network weather”, it’s like saying “thirty percent chance of thunderstorm this afternoon”.

    But I remember one otherwise pleasant day when a fairly small storm cell dumped 6 inches of rain in 15 minutes over a really rather small section of Washington DC leaving the rest of the town dry, filled up every storm drain in the first 2 minutes, and much of the overflow got into the “L” Street NW telephone company building basement and sank their router cores in about 8 feet of water. About a quarter of the US Mid-Atlantic internetworks went dark. At about this time, I did a traceroute ping from suburban Maryland to suburban Northern Virginia, and it was a 30-hop ping across something like 12 networks, all trending west across the continental US, Japan, South Africa and Florida USA… to reach a site only 20 miles from here. Yet 15 minutes later, the initial flapping (flapping as in, birds wings flap, they flap up, and down and up and down etc) had resolved. The initial chaos resolved into an emergent system, as when very large flocks of birds take flight from a shotgun blast. A half-hour after the initial hard crash, the flapping was mostly done, and traceroute pings didn’t go around the whole planet, just out to St Louis Missouri and back via a southern route.

    BGP (“border gateway protocol”) is actually pretty good at best-routes determination, it does really quite well most of the time, being designed to be adaptive. But there’s only so much you can throw at it, and when it goes bad, it’s rather like watching a 100,000 bird flock of starlings fill the sky with their mystical whirling crowds and then all fly at full speed into a billboard sign. More or less in summary, “you don’t want to be standing too close to where that happens”. Yet if you are not right there for that particular train wreck, everywhere else, life goes on exactly as usual. Hurrah for BGP, most of the time.

    Sorry for the imagery, I think Peter’s writing might have affected me a little bit. ;)

  17. Wait, I thought ARPANET got decommed before DVDs came around. Or is that just what the Old Men want plebes to believe :) ?

  18. Huh. Thx for the google link :) It’s been cool reading about 01 and Thomas’ experiences.

    It’s interesting that our own neurological networks give rise to such a wide range of symptoms when things go wrong (eg fits/epilepsy, loss of coordination or sensation, involuntary actions etc)… while the only observable symptoms of (hardware) networks having issues is that portions of the net go “dark”, or that comms is delayed because of too many hops.

    I guess that’s another reminder of the several orders of complexity separating the two types of network… still, it’ll be interesting if more interesting macro-scale phenomena affecting things other than the internet itself could be observed one day, because of problems way down in it’s physical layer and related protocols. I don’t know what it says about me that I’m waiting for such an event. Sigh…

  19. Well, there are other, more intricate modes of failure (especially as far as various overlaid services are concerned). Consider DNS and its somewhat famous “poisoning” attacks (which have fortunately become somewhat obsolete, but not gone completely). But yes, biologicals have more modes of failure and more spectacular modes of failure.

    I think that, while there’s something to be said about comparative complexity, there are other, more fundamental reasons for that as well. For instance, internet, unlike biological organisms, has a rather constrained output set from userspace perspective (page loads, fails to load, or an entirely different page loads and infects you with horrible malware which steals your credit card and immediately begins speading ceep from your IP ;) ).

    Also, biologicals don’t seem to have much in terms of sanity checks in their design (well, internet sort of does have some…)

    P.S.:
    why oh why does the blog keep stuffing me into moderation queue? :'(

  20. @ Leona: Well, it all depends on how far back you abstract your perspective. For example, damage to certain neurological systems might cause, for example, loss or disturbance of the sense of balance, or failure of proprioception. The two taken together can cause a lot more flailing, in general, than either one taken alone.

    A caveat: biological neural networking and internet can only very-loosely be analogized, yet biological neural networking and the various feedback systems in a national or international economy might be, perhaps, more closely analogized. In the modern day, when far more of our provisioning and marketing systems are of a just-in-time nature (there are about 30 days worth of food “in the pipeline” at any given time, and the total brain power of all humans combined isn’t enough to handle the logistics) we might envision the marketing feedback systems as analogous to the biological sensing systems that we call “hunger”; we might envision the requisitioning systems as “activation of food seeking behavior”, etc.

    So you’re onto something… it’s one thing if core consumer connectivity providers all have a terrible day and the home consumer can’t get streaming video for their Macbook or DVR. It’s another thing if the load-sensing facility for the electrical grid can’t communicate with the generation facility. Incapacity to access content is a different order of things than not having the electrical current to operate the machines that access content. (My local power company is rated worst in the US, so this is more personal a matter to me than you might expect.) If you wanted to see “noteworthy” social and economic effects, if the bar-code scanning systems at most grocery chains could not talk to their home-offices or provisioning centers, no provision orders are made, nothing gets loaded onto trucks, the trucks don’t roll, we all get pretty hungry about 30 days later. Although it’s engineered and “developed” rather than evolved, that’s really an extremely complex system full of checks and balances, and if it doesn’t work reliably, the animal (“society”) effectively falls apart.

    @01, who wrote in-part: Wait, I thought ARPANET got decommed before DVDs came around. Or is that just what the Old Men want plebes to believe?

    Wasn’t it you who wrote […] cancerous subnets whose infrastructure is riddled with mismanaged legacy hardware that’s almost a decade past it’s product line’s EOL date […]? I think you actually answered your own question before you even asked it. Isn’t that called “rhetoric”? ;)

    Seriously, look at how AOL got started. It was a pretty big BBS, then one of the founders bought up decommissioned rail-line telephone lines. It was already there, it was hooked up if anyone bothered to power it on and connect to it… and all AOL had to do was to place dial-up points-of-presence along those lines.

    My point being that “it’s the internet”. It’ll find a way if one exists, even if it’s mostly something that isn’t supposed to exist, but might be still in place and still accessible to the routing hardware, even if humans don’t even know it’s still “sorta there”. BTW to such equipment, MILNET and ARPANet look pretty much the same. ;) More detail is {redacted}

  21. Thomas Hardman: Wasn’t it you who wrote […] cancerous subnets whose infrastructure is riddled with mismanaged legacy hardware that’s almost a decade past it’s product line’s EOL date […]? I think you actually answered your own question before you even asked it. Isn’t that called “rhetoric”? ;)

    Nah, it’s not so much rhetoric as part nitpicking (A decommed router being resold someplace else is no longer ARPANET, at least as far as my view of Theseus’s Ship paradox is concerned :D) , part brain-fart (I somehow failed to consider that at the point in time in question, those routers weren’t probably THAT ancient)

    Thomas Hardman: My point being that “it’s the internet”. It’ll find a way if one exists, even if it’s mostly something that isn’t supposed to exist, but might be still in place and still accessible to the routing hardware, even if humans don’t even know it’s still “sorta there”. BTW to such equipment, MILNET and ARPANet look pretty much the same. ;) More detail is {redacted}

    Heh, I always figured that’s the very reason US DoD developed its own “Very Specialsauce” routers (can’t remember the acronym from the top of my head and too tired to look up)

  22. Sheila: What are you referring to? I’ve never seen anything as biological as what you described in Maelstrom. There are botnets of zombies, but I disagree that those qualify. Maybe it is a matter of degree in how much those compare, or maybe I am ignorant and you were referring to something else. Spammer techniques?

    I was basing the idea of internet storms (which I wouldn’t describe as “biological”, but anyway) on an old 1997 paper in Science (277: 535-537, if you’re interested); I cite it at the end of Maelstrom, and the storms I describe in that book (which seem at roughly similar to the stuff that 01 and Thomas are talking about) followed what I read there. There also used to be an actual “Internet weather map” at http://www.mids.org/weather/, but it’s been dead for years.

  23. 01:
    Upon some contemplation, I have to disagree on “radical re-engineering of human beings” issue. …I thus posit that deciding to get (more or less gradually) upgraded into a superintelligent, globally-interfaced, //insert own favorite radical empowerment self-insert fantasies here// banana-slug lookalike is not a case of suicide.

    It’s a case of growing up.

    Yeah, that’s a good point. I’ve always recognized (although I forgot to mention it in the interview) that Moravec’s model of incrementally replacing the brain neuron by neuron would be unobjectionably transparent. And I agree that the 7yo you is substantially different from the adult you.

    But those two iterations aren’t that much different, by virtue of the fact that everyone grows up. We recognize it as a natural transformation, and being natural, it doesn’t scare us (much). It doesn’t scare the gut, because the gut has had a few billion years to get used to the idea of maturation.

    But real posthumanism, by definition, is way beyond anything we’ve ever experienced. It is not natural, there has been no evolutionary easing-in, and the gut is not comfortable with it. Doesn’t matter if your analogy holds up logically; those aren’t the parts of the brain we’re dealing with.

    Of course, if we can trick ourselves into thinking it’s no big deal — go the incremental route somehow, sneak through the singularity by microns — that might be the way to go.

  24. Peter Watts: Yeah, that’s a good point.I’ve always recognized (although I forgot to mention it in the interview) that Moravec’s model of incrementally replacing the brain neuron by neuron would be unobjectionably transparent. And I agree that the 7yo you is substantially different from the adult you.

    But those two iterations aren’t that much different, by virtue of the fact that everyone grows up.We recognize it as a natural transformation, and being natural, it doesn’t scare us (much).It doesn’t scare the gut, because the gut has had a few billion years to get used to the idea of maturation.

    But real posthumanism, by definition, is way beyond anything we’ve ever experienced.It is not natural, there has been no evolutionary easing-in, and the gut is not comfortable with it.Doesn’t matter if your analogy holds up logically; those aren’t the parts of the brain we’re dealing with.

    Of course, if we can trick ourselves into thinking it’s no big deal — go the incremental route somehow, sneak through the singularity by microns — that might be the way to go.

    Well, subjectively difference between me-current and me-kid seems, from current perspective, vast, a honest abyss which is further deepened and widened by failings of my own memory rendering my recollection of time period between “then” and “now” spotty at best.
    It’s just that now, being me-current, I hardly care about that abyss and the now-nonexistent 01@7yo. Of course, similar abyss likely separates me-current and me+10years, but, for some reason, I don’t find this circumstance terrifying.

    As to “growing up” being “natural” (words will never be able to express how much I loathe this word), I doubt that what is “growing up” now is “natural” in the context of human ancestral environment – with reaper comin’ a knockin’ at around 30 (IIRC) people didn’t have time for anything remotely approximating “teenage stuff” that seems to feature so prominently in the life of the modern human, and organized education is at best several thousand years old (how many depends on how you define it).
    Nearly every single thing that we associate with “maturation” would be alien and unthinkable to our ancestors, with same going for adulthood (35-40 was virtual guarantee of death, rather than beginning of second life)

    We are the mysterious posthuman monster, as far as whatever might have passed for “human nature” for the majority of our evolutionary history is concerned. Our “gut” seems rather unfazed by this (or perhaps I should say “my gut” since some of my peers seem to be far more terrified 24/7)

    Perhaps it is just the way I am wired, but I find nothing particularly terrible about posthuman upgrades “in principle”, as long as I can afford those and they don’t carry funny side effects along the lines of “you turn into anthropophagic sociopath, but on the bright side you get cool eyes and are really super-smart as well as kinda sexy, in a kinky way” ;)

    Of course, upgrades being piecemeal and cumulative rather than massive and radical would further ease up things and improve overall adoption, I am kind of mildly skeptical of most Theseus-shipwreck related exercises in general and setting the granularity at neuron level specifically.

    If one could have a stroke that completely pwns Broca’s area without “really dying”, then one can have a similarly massive “enhancement” without “really dying” (of course, massive invasive process in the brain would likely affect the personality irrespective of end state. But let’s be honest, if the end state is the kind of stuff that usually happens in “posthumanist” scenarios, that’s pretty much guaranteed to affect the subject irrespective of how unobtrusive the process was while it was a work in progress).
    At most, we can tentatively propose that there is significant difference between making something de-novo (as in a classic “destructive scan followed by reconstitution at a later date” thought experiment, ) is different from upgrading. But the “granularity” of piecemeal upgrades remains rather arbitrary, IMHO.

    P.S.:
    There’s also the issue of “posthumanity as future employment requirement”, but you’ve covered that aplenty :D

  25. Peter Watts: I was basing the idea of internet storms (which I wouldn’t describe as “biological”, but anyway) .

    I remember the net teaming with messages that were able to exchange data and reproduce independently. It seemed very biological, but by now I can’t remember what was actually in the book and what I have confabulated.

  26. Sheila: I remember the net teaming with messages that were able to exchange data and reproduce independently. It seemed very biological, but by now I can’t remember what was actually in the book and what I have confabulated.

    Oh, right. That was different from the “storms” I mentioned; you’re talking about Maelstrom’s “wildlife”. I agree we don’t have that yet in the internet (as far as I know), because so far nobody’s deliberately released a bot with mutable genes; the last thing these guys want is for one of their creations to go off the ranch. But technically I’m guessing it would be a pretty easy thing to build, which means something like that will probably get loose eventually.

  27. It’s pretty tricky actually, since key to malware survival is ability to discover new vulns and use them to construct attack vectors de-novo and deploy them. The latter two involve a lot of human-centric social elements (if you know a vuln in the way oh, say, flash plugin in a certain browser family operates, you still need to make a “doom.swf” that uses it to deliver payload, and pay an ad company to use it as an active banner on civvie pages.).

    It would require either “honest” AI capable of writing code de-novo or a very very fast evolutionary process for the “attack vector” part, and a chatbot component which can interact with humans in a meaningful manner for the “socialized deployment” part (note that full “turing test capability” is not needed. It “only” has to be good enough to write vague emails and buy services online)

  28. Instead of malware, euware? and it is like a puppy, people like puppies. and it fetches good deals for you.

    so, some sufficiently advanced recommendation algorithms with scraper capabilities. and people like them like puppies so they feed them.

    any sufficiently advanced metaphor is indistinguishable from thought experiment

  29. omg cats. forget puppies.

  30. Speaking of which:

    http://carca.ca/

  31. Such a fantastic initiative…I’d volunteer my own cats if they weren’t already heavily invested in our neighbourhood watch bear patrol.

  32. Um… that’s either an awesome idea, or an awesome troll…