The coming era of Artificial Intelligence will not be the era of war, but be the era of deep compassion, non-violence, and love.
The pace of progress in artificial intelligence (I’m not referring to narrow AI) is incredibly fast. Unless you have direct exposure to groups like Deepmind, you have no idea how fast—it is growing at a pace close to exponential. The risk of something seriously dangerous happening is in the five-year timeframe. Ten years at most.
AI is neither good nor evil. It’s a tool. It’s a technology for us to use.
I imagine a world in which AI is going to make us work more productively, live longer, and have cleaner energy.
I’ve decided; they can’t have her.
You do know why they want her?
Sure, but I DON’T trust them with her. She is special and I am not just handing her over to that mob.
Just don’t do anything until I get back.
It is irrelevant what I do. She won’t work with them. You know she will only work with me.
Just WAIT for me to get there!
The body flew through the air and landed in the dark, dank alleyway with a thud. A man followed it, tipping his fedora as he did so. The rain was spitting down, covering the man, the body, and the alleyway with a thin film of moisture. Like a wrecking ball crashing through a wall, the man continued forward unremittingly, kicking some wooden boxes out of the way as he proceeded towards the body. He gathered pace and stampeded toward his goal like a lone elephant away from its herd. “I’ve got you, you shit.” He spat the words out like a foul taste in his mouth and then slammed his foot into the meaty, soft side of his victim. The ribs had already been broken, and his foot sank into the bruised, butchered victim as if it were sinking into mud on a flood plain. He’d been pursuing this man for five years, and he was going to take as much satisfaction as possible having finally caught his prey. Now that he’d won.
I’ve won, he thought, as he stood in the alley; there are no winners in the game of death. He’d lost everything, and now it was over; he was going to have his revenge. He pulled a cigar and cutter from his pocket. A baseball bat tied to the inside of his jacket flashed into view like a leg slipping from beneath a dress, tape around its handle mimicking a stocking top against the light-coloured wood. He pushed the bat to one side using the back of his hand; he didn’t need it yet, and, like the leg seen across a crowded bar, it retreated out of view. He clipped the cigar and watched as the butt tumbled to the floor, and the body started to twitch. The life was juddering from it. He was sure it was incapacitated, but he waited and watched as it twitched. Hawk-like green eyes observed the jerking, and he felt himself becoming more alert and aware of noises in the alley – the kicked boxes settling and the raindrops dripping sounded in his ears. Should his victim be able to run, he didn’t want to be caught out and unaware. The twitching stopped, and he pulled out a Zippo lighter which had been a gift from his wife and lit his cigar.
The rich, silky aroma of the cigar leaves filled his lungs as he took the first long drag. He no longer enjoyed it; it was part of a ritual. When he finished a job, he’d have a smoke, and this job had been a long hard slog. This had been more a lifelong quest of sorts, one that felt like a combination of years. Something that started with death, and, like so many things, would end with death. It was a habit he’d no desire to break, though he would in time. Habits, like fashion, can fall in and out of favour. As far as he was concerned, his life was over now, so what did a smoke matter? He’d achieved his goal and felt he’d nothing more to live for. In many ways, he was right; he didn’t have anything to live for. He held the cigar in his mouth, using his teeth to keep it steady as he leant over the body. He grabbed a hand, a slight resistance was followed by a groan, but his victim was in no state to fight. He’d also given up the will to live; it had been beaten from him. The cigar cutter fell easily over the man’s thumb; it slid into place as if it was made for the job. The man pushed the cutter together, and the sharp blade penetrated the skin. Sliding as easily as getting into a satin sheeted bed, the blade cut through the flesh. When he hit the bone, he paused for a moment. “One down, nine to go,” he said, as he applied more pressure to the device.
The cutter, like the lighter, was a gift from his beloved Laurna. She was the woman he’d loved with all his heart, and not a day passed when he still didn’t feel the pain of that heart being broken. His one true love had been taken from him and he’d never recover. Even with all the time in the world, some wounds will never heal. They said that time would help and rebuild the mental lesions. It was crap. The pain was still as sharp as it had been five years ago, and nothing would heal the gaping chasm. Time may make the scarring less visible, but he’d always feel it. As he pushed, he clenched his teeth on the cigar. The cigar crushed, and the blade sliced through the bone. Even having his revenge couldn’t fill the gap that had been left in his soul. The emptiness of his being. The thumb fell to the ground with a bounce; finally settling next to the discarded stub of his cigar. He worked silently, making his way through the fingers on that hand before switching to the other.
He gathered the fingers from the ground and dropped them into his jacket pocket. The blood stuck to his fingers like treacle; that was something he didn’t worry about; murder will always be a dirty business. He took another long drag of the cigar, and blood painted the tube where his fingers held it, some even transferring itself to his lips as he took a final puff. The smoke floated upwards as he exhaled the final drag. He threw the cigar at his victim’s head, and it nestled on the face. The smell of the smouldering beard drifted and filled the alley. The aroma reminded him of the time he’d burnt his hair when using his petrol lighter, how Laurna had laughed. He’d kept his hair short from that day forward. Short back and sides with a freshly shaved face. He used the back of his hand to rub the blood that had transferred from the cigar to his lips; it smeared on his hand. The body on the floor continued to smoke where the cigar lay. His victim couldn’t fight or knock away the cigar as he’d been beaten to within a millimetre of his life. This wasn’t just a beating, this was a personal vendetta, and now it was almost over.
He unhooked the baseball bat from under his jacket. This was his finale, his masterpiece. It was supposed to bring things to a close; it was supposed to be an ending. The curtain should fall on this period of his life. But instead, this was a start. This was a prologue to events. He brought the bat down on the face and smashed the bat into the mouth, the cigar crushed into the skin and the skin into teeth. He lifted the bat and slammed it down again. Many of the teeth splintered and broke as the bat connected. The face had been a bloody mess before. It had become a mixture of cigar, teeth, and minced human. A bloody mixture of parts that he hoped would make identification harder. Not that it ultimately mattered.
He plunged his hand into the bloody mess that was once a face. The warm blend of human and cigar pushed through his fingers as he searched and burrowed. He plucked what remained of the teeth from the mess one by one. Like picking seeds from a mud patch, he furrowed about in the messy remains, taking out the ones he could find and placing them into the pocket with the collected fingers. He felt around for more and found none. He spat on what was left of the face. A gobby blob of saliva mixed in with the bloody hole that was once a mouth and nose. He jammed the bat into the crevice and turned away, leaving the body on display with the bat protruding upwards, a monument to his retribution.
The man walked along the canal path taking in the fresh, clear air. He’d walked it many times with Laurna, and now that he was alone, it felt colder and infinitely emptier. The world becomes lonelier and icier when you lose a loved one. The sunrise was supposed to bring a little warmth into the world. The rain had stopped, and the sun’s rays broke through the morning clouds; still, it felt cold. He should have been happy or at least at peace. He should have been relieved, yet all he felt was the numbness of finality creeping through his soul. He grabbed the collected teeth from his pocket and started throwing them to his left and into the canal. They flew through the air and hit the water with a plop. He never looked back; he didn’t care enough; this was tidying up. He’d decided the path his life would now take a long time ago. Had he looked back as he threw the teeth, he would have seen something extraordinary. The teeth hit the water with a splash but instantly vanished in a puff of silvery smoke. A whiff of the supernatural on an otherwise bloody but typical day. Perfectly typical, apart from murder, of course.
With the teeth disposed of, he hopped the stile and entered a large field. The field lay empty save for the wildflowers and grass that would be trimmed soon. He liked it being wild and overgrown, but it was another thing that didn’t matter; he never planned on seeing the summer. He let his hand hang out over the flowers and grass as he wandered the flattened path through the centre. He would miss some things when today was done. The beauty of a brutal world was often hidden in plain sight, visible to only those who looked, for nothing comes easy in this world. He often forgot about the magnificence that existed as he’d been driven by hate for too long. Maybe it’s the apathy of humanity to forget about the good that exists. Loathing and vengeance had clouded his mind causing darkness to engulf all light. Revenge has a way of shadowing thoughts and hiding what is good. He’d walked a path of darkness and ignored the light to either side.
He opened the gate at the far end of the field and passed through it; closing it behind him, he took a last look back at the world he knew. One final look into his past and the life he had led. Had he been a good person? He had been, but once you commit murder, did it matter? He didn’t believe in Heaven or Hell, but he was surely destined to be heading downward if they did exist. The great elevator to the fiery pits of Hell, he would welcome it. He deserved it but had no regrets about his actions. He’d have walked the same path if he’d had a chance to retrace his steps. Regrets be damned, they could live with him in Hell.
His house sat next to the field. Mirroring its owner, it too was detached and alone, the perfect home at one point. Now it was an empty shell, the textbook reflection of himself. A solid foundation of what he’d become. He’d kept the frontage tidy, keeping up appearances as it were. The smile a depressive will pull to hide their true feelings, a mirage designed to hide the truth of his misery. He opened the door, and the truth was revealed. The inside of the house was a mess. Plates and cups lay scattered on the kitchen side, and a layer of dust made itself at home along the shelves and units. He stepped over the post scattered on the floor and headed straight for the front room. The fire still burned and crackled in front of two leather armchairs; a small table sat between them. He still had the old chairs even though he knew nobody who could fill the second. He threw an extra log on the fire to keep it going. He removed his jacket and threw it over the second chair as he slumped into the other.
The man leaned over the arm of the chair, grabbed a half-empty bottle of Scotch, unscrewed the top and let the cap fall to the floor. He took a large mouthful straight from the bottle and then placed it on the table. He still had the fingers to dispose of, so he grabbed them from his jacket pocket and threw them into the fire. The fingers crackled as the flames took hold; it burned them to a crisp at an unnatural speed. He didn’t notice as the flesh and fat bubbled abnormally quickly within the flames. A bottle of pills held his attention on the table. He picked it up and rolled it in his hands before popping the lid free. The lid fell to the floor and spiralled before settling beside his foot. He ignored it.
He poured a couple of pills into his mouth and washed them down with more Scotch. He turned the plastic bottle upside down, and the rest of the pills fell into his mouth. They dropped like the failing of hail on a spring morning. The warming of the Scotch filled his gut as he crunched the pills in his mouth. He washed the goopy pills down with the last of the Scotch and sat back in the chair. He let his arm flop to the side, and his head fell backwards; the now empty glass bottle joined the lid of the pills on the floor. He looked at the ceiling and waited for the inevitable. The white plaster of the ceiling changed as he watched it. The white distorted and altered colours. It transformed from white to a nicotine-stained yellow. It then darkened to an orange colour and finally to a shaded red, a blood-red. He tried to look away, but his body was failing him. The mixture of alcohol, pills, and a lack of the will to live taking hold.
The redness of the ceiling ebbed and flowed as the man watched; it turned from a solid to a liquid before his eyes. He knew what he saw could not happen, but the drugs now controlled his mind. The mixture of alcohol and poison had replaced the rational; medications of the soul now controlled him. They were pumping out this dream-like suffering direct to his visual cortex. A sight only for one, dealt to him from the madness of mixing poisons. The liquid ceiling pooled in the corners of the room, and his eyes darted back and forward, watching as it puddled and started to drip. He couldn’t see but could hear each drip hitting the floor. They fell from each corner in unison and landed precisely, simultaneously; drips dropped and sounded in full ultra-stereo surround sound in his brain. The ceiling drooped in the centre, right above his head. The red liquid congregated and caused it to sag like an over-packed cheesecloth. One single droplet teetered right at the very centre. It pushed its way through and hung as he watched it, unable to move. It seemed to be teasing him as it built to a large enough bead to fall, it felt like it took forever, but, eventually, it fell In a spiralling motion. He opened his mouth as it fell through the air. It was an instinctive reaction. The actions of a baby coming upon a mother’s breast. The drop fell into his mouth, and he tasted the bitter copper taste of blood.
The man snapped from his vision. The nightmare ended as suddenly as it had begun, and he fell forward from the chair and onto the floor. The ceiling had returned to its natural white; grateful for it returning to normality, he held his stomach. His body was trying to reject the poison he’d forced it to take. He could feel the bile burn rising from deep within; it ached to be set free as it rocketed up his oesophagus. He pressed down upon his chest with his hands and tried to force himself not to throw up. He willed the sickness back down and into his stomach. He wanted his life no more than an addict wanted sobriety. He needed it over; he felt he had nothing to live for. As life drifted from him, he was happy and awaited the darkness that would engulf him.
Sean, like many, will die alone; with only the ghosts of us to witness his death. I don’t see the need to wallow in his sadness any longer than we need. Death is such a private thing. His life is quickly draining from his body; our hero is dead before the end of the first chapter! And what a strange hero he is. In our first meeting, he kills a man and then himself. He is, at this point, not hero material. That’ll come as we fast forward to the present. For now, we’ll wait as he dies; there’s a little more to see here. Let’s wander the room. Be careful, as the mess is scattered all over. It is the bookcase I want to draw your attention to. We missed it when we followed Sean home as we didn’t have the time. Now we do. In the middle, sitting alone, and the only thing regularly dusted, is a picture. Under the picture is a note that we’ll read. The picture shows Sean and Laurna in happier times. Just married and smiling the smile of newlyweds. Grins flow from ear to ear. The note reads:
My darling Laurna, I hope you are in heaven. I shall be in Hell.
I love you, but it was worth it.
It’s a sad end for Sean; it’ll get better. I can promise you that, and I don’t make promises that I can’t keep. Sometimes we have to hit our lowest before we can rise. He’s not a bad guy; he’s actually a pretty good guy. We just met him at a terrible point in his life and death. Here it is, though; this is the big ending…
Cough. Sean spat the puke out that had taken refuge in his mouth and wiped his lips with his sleeve. His eyes opened, and he looked around the room. Everything seemed brighter. It was like the windows had been curtained but now were opened fully. The world had been dark, but now it teemed with bright light and life. He could hear everything clearly, every spit and crackle of the fire and even the creaking of the floorboards as he sat upright. Stale air wafted to his nostrils and into his brain as he looked around. The curtains were closed, and the lights were off. The only light in the room came from the fireplace.
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