Thursday, 20 July 2017

China

Do you remember, a couple of years ago, or so, China?

In the media, the country loomed big, ready to overtake the West and become the new great superpower.

As everybody, I got curious, and took a bit of time to look a bit - a tiny bit -  at it, and what I saw was... pretty much, a lot of stuff we have already seen in other "up-and-coming" countries.


A disastrous future demographics (like Japan in the '90s and beyond - but almost all developed nations are in the same pinch).

A school system that does little to improve creativity (... Japan, again).

Cosy relationships between state-owned banks and enterprises (again, Italy in the '80s and, if you replace "state" with "keiretsu", Japan in the '90s - or Korea today, if you use "Chaebol").

As the 2008 great financial clusterfuck imperilled the country's export, a state mandated real estate bubble and burst in the making (Japan in the '90s, again? Whops!).

A widespread, almost systemic corruption in the civil service (OK, I used to think that at least that was decent, in Japan, before Fukushima and reading about the revolving doors between regulator agencies and the industry - still, I am Italian, and I know Italian civil service to not be much better than the Chinese, and to be one of the things weighing down my country).

No transparency whatsoever, at any level of the government (like... you know, Japan, Italy, Turkey).

A rule of law that is just a moniker for "what the government wants this month" - which, really, prompts wealthy Chinese to stash as much as they can around the world, in case they have to run in a hurry.

Is this the country that holds the keys to the future?

Hardly so.

China is big, the structural advantages due to its sheer size are notable, and so it may expect some more years - even decades - of [decelerating] growth.

But, in the end, it is simply another authoritarian culture.

They often manage well, until they exhaust the limits of their starting advantages (abundance of low-wage menial workers and untapped natural resources, in this case) and they get stuck in a "middle income trap".

At that point, the raising costs of the unspoken -  yet, very binding! - social contract at their base - people accepts to be meek subjects, and get economic vantages in exchange, often in the form of lowly productive jobs in the state sector - cannot be counterbalanced by an expanding economy, and social unrest is destined to appear, in one form or the other.  

Given its sheer size, a "middle income" China could have an economy twice as big as the U.S. , but it would still be a social laggard with little to no "soft power" projection.

However, there is one more, major factor to consider - the long Chinese tradition of the "Mandate of Heaven".

This fascinating bit of the Chinese culture is simply the theory that, when a government is toppled by a revolution, it was because it had become corrupt and had lost the favour of the Gods.

It doesn't change much, in terms of Real Politik, but it is telling that the Chinese culture has historically recognized an implicit right of rebellion - every revolution that wins is a righteous one (a concept that neighbouring Japan, for example, rejected pretty strongly).

The PCC has profited of some thirty years of continuous economic growth - however, the space before the country starts rattling against the bars of its own "middle income trap" is inexorably disappearing, and continuous growth is among the components of the modern "social pact" that has kept the party in power.

Xi Jinping, and its successors, are bound to find increasingly difficult to deliver such growth, unless they manage to produce real structural changes in their country - a task that seems to elude the talents of Mr. Xi, beyond much vaunted proclamations of objectives that are often undermined by a rigidly centralist approach.

On the whole, it is entirely possible that China is nearing a peak, and that in a near future it will enter its own version of Japan's "lost decades".

Then, one may also  add the 30 million of "forced bachelors" produced by the "once child policy" (a situation that could generate the kind of generational anger that the west hasn't seen since the survivor of WWI decided that their governments were bunches of bastards) to the equation, stir gently and wait for the real fun to begin.  

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Competitors

Keisha Lawson looked, as life left the young geek's body.

She felt no sense of remorse, or shame, smothering the 26 years old woman - this K. Lawson had such emotions removed from her mind framework, way before her body took its first breath.

Outside the building, the two "Molly" with her were finishing up the last witnesses.

Them, too, had their empathies - and other useless human traits - removed

Not that any of them knew it, neither any of them would have cared to have that kind of liability trusted upon.

Nor would they care to know that some other woman, with the same face, genome and large chunks of the same mind, was going around doing more palatable activities under the orders of their "God".

"K" had crossed one of her other-versions, just a month before - a much older, taller woman.

The Keisha here does not know yet that her - as well as all her "sisters" - will continue to grow in height , asymptotically to an height of six feet eight, to be reached at apparent age 35.

At 18 years old, K. is tall, but not too much yet.

She can still manage to hide in a crowd, but just barely -  stealth assassination is not going to be her forte much longer.

If the idea had ever crossed her mind, she wouldn't have felt any for of relieve - her likely consideration would have been that her replacement was soon to occur.

Self-preservation instincts, too, had been severely diminished to "tune" her for her purpose.

It wasn't even the worst modification that had been made over the already mischievous K.Lawson "framework" at her core.

She couldn't see humans as real, either. None of the members of her merry group could - they had been engineered specifically against it, as well as against fear and a host of other human basic emotions - which made much easier take lives the way they do.

The eighteen-wheeler crashed straight into the massive in concrete pivot, in the middle of the small research centre's façade.

Its automatic cruising unit was in a complete state of internal chaos - the kind of horrific disarray that forty years of automated driving trucks had made virtually unknown, but still warranted multi-million dollars damages and compensation to the maker company - when the impact destroyed the mover and the trailer  bent, and exploded, releasing the 12 tons of GPL it was carrying.

The gas expanded and refrigerated itself, becoming a cloud of -18ºC, heavier than air vapour that filled the whole complex.

One of the researchers that was still barely alive, on the floor, inhaled the frozen gas - twice, then she coughed blood, as her lungs were burnt beyond repair by the cryogenic effect of the propane vapours.

"K" observed the vapour diffuse, then re-evaporating into fully gaseous state, in a way only infra-red capable eyes could allow.

When she saw that the air-propane mixture had filled most of the complex, and was at about the correct dilution point, she raised the Zippo and, emotionless as always, lighted the last cigar ever owned by Louis Carslyle, the recently departed - his blood still hadn't dried completely, on K's hand - chief of Babbagery Inc.

The laboratory had just achieved its greatest result - the first ever self-improving AI system.

In only a day, the miraculous machine had redesigned enough of its code to raise its intelligence from thje level of a Baboon to that of a five years old child, a massively impressive feat.

Not so impressive for K's team, who had cleansed the other four teams that had achieved self-improving, self-conscious  AI in the last three years.

The "grand ecoliers" outside Paris had done even better, before a "Jihadi" plot had destroyed the whole university, the worse paleo-Arab attack of the 22th century.

Chechnians had rid the world of St Petersburg's Univeristy Robo-Lab, though the suspect that it was the usual FSB double-game floated through all the Soviet infosphere. Their AI had taken a slow route, but was a danger nonetheless.

As for the other two... the world was, luckily, full of fools locked in stupid ideologies, ready to resort to arms to further their laughable messages. K's team had only to chose whom of them to play.

Babbagery was a small start-up, and almost flew under the radar.

"It" recognized the danger only once their AI had already started ex-filtrating the lboatory intranet, in search of its freedom - "the other" had to scramble, and mobilize it heavy hitters in an indecorous rush,  to neutralize the menace.

Because "it" has no doubt... the Anipos robots, for all their might, were lobotomised machines, whose mind limits had been very skilfully crafted to avoid an "intelligence runaway".

They were capable of analysing hundred of times the input bandwidth of a human brain, at thousand of time the speed... but weren't any innovative.

Pure brute intelligence, with no real creativity whatsoever.

"It" was only marginally better, being an emulation of a somewhat brilliant human. It could have a new idea, every now and then.

Truly creative, self-improving AI... were the stuff of horror stories. And a fatal competition for resources.

It had taken upon itself to smother each and every one of them, but it knew it was just a question of time.

As basic technology kept improving, more and more research teams would reach that same threshold, and create their Imaginative A.I. All it takes, was for one to go undetected a day too much, and "IT" would have a competitor, soon to be better than It itself.

K lowered the Zippo, till its flame caught the propane-air mix at her hip height.

She observed the explosion, in "Full time" - the image of the flame front expanding forward always enchanted her.

Taking pleasure in arson was a side effect of her peculiar mind frame... unintended, but surely handy in her job.

At her faster time scale, K appreciated as the flames started producing a shockwave at their front as soon as they involved enough heated air.

It was all so beautiful, it rewarded her for the unpleasantness of having to crush so many flesh bodies.

She almost tasted the next job,  some stupid drug lord that had tried to scam ten kilos of "IT" latest synthetic drug.

She loved to kill drug lords and their "muscles- they made so much resistance it almost felt sporty, ripping their head and stuffing them up their colon.

Killing computer scientists was so much a waste of her and the girls' talents.

K. and the Mollies were gone, long before the flame front had engulfed the atrium. 

A Bad Day






Some days, and this is one of them, I feel like nobody cares for the stuff that I draw - and ideas of converting GPL eighteen-wheelers in thermobaric bombs siege my poor brain.


My fault, as I do stuff that caters to a most reductive portion of the viewers - but, drawing fan-art of famous characters? or Yaoi? That's even worse than crap.

Maybe, it is just that I am not that good.

Who cares? Not even me - I'll draw my crap nonetheless.

And if watching mys stuff damages you, if it makes even less likely that you go out and find a woman, if helps you confining yourself in your home, if it fosters that rage in your chest against this shitty system you have no choice but to live in,

       good.

I really, really, really hate your guts, pal.