Can Machines Bring Peace

Today it is my pleasure to welcome author Floor Kist and his science fiction novel, Can Machines Bring Peace?

Author’s description

Can a machine bring peace? Or are humans built for war?

 

450 years after Earth was bombed back to the Stone Age, a young diplomat searches for lost human settlements. Kazimir Sakhalinsk narrowly escapes an exploration mission gone wrong and searches for ways to make future missions safer for his people. A festival introduces him to the Marvelous Thinking Machine.

 

A machine Kazimir believes can change everything

 

For his admiral it’s nothing more than a silly fairground gimmick. But Kazimir is convinced. Convinced enough to go against orders and build one of his own. Convinced enough to think he can bring peace. Convinced enough to think humanity is worth saving. What if he’s wrong?

 

He asks his hikikomori sister, a retired professor filling her empty days, the owner of the festival machine and the admiral’s daughter for help. Will that be enough?

About the Author

Floor Kist lives in a Dutch town called Voorburg with his wife, two sons, two cats and their dog Monty. He is currently deputy-mayor for the Green Party and an AI researcher. He’s concerned about current divisive public and political debates. But he’s also interested in how AI can be used to resolve society’s big issues.

This is his first novel. He’s been carrying the idea about a story about AI bringing peace for a long time. The Covid-19 lockdown in the Netherlands suddenly gave him time to actually write it.

Find the Author

Link to website: http://www.floorkist.nl/author
Blog: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/21225715.Floor_Kist/blog

Buy the Book

Link to ebook: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08XK42BMP
Link to paperback: https://www.amazon.com/dp/151368115X

Yes, there is a giveaway

The author will be awarding a $30 Amazon/BN gift card to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

Enter here to win.

This post is part of a tour sponsored by Goddess Fish.

 

A Guest Post

A big thank you to author Floor Kist for sharing the following guest post with us. I always find it fascinating to learn more about an author’s thought processes as they research a novel!

Hi, Sherrie. Thank you so much for having me on your site. I really like how you’re fascinated by superpowers, because deep down you believe each of us has extraordinary abilities we can draw on when forced to deal with dangers in our own lives. I never thought of it that way. I tend to believe each of us does have cool abilities that help us do extraordinary things. At least we’re both optimistic about what each of us can do.

Hello, everyone.

Sherrie asked this about my novel Can Machines Bring Peace? Hope in a Post-Apocalyptic Age.

How much vocabulary did you create for your world of the future and what, if anything, did you use to guide the creation of your words?

Boiling it down to the actual answer to that question, I only created one new word. But I’d like to explain the principles of the world building I did, and why it only led to one word.

I didn’t create an entirely new world, I retrofitted the existing one. The novel is set in Japan of the 25th century. However, it has a 1930s vibe, because of the loss of modern technology after the Final War. So, in a sense, it became a historical setting. And most of my research was on Japan today and in the past.

Besides, you don’t really need new vocabulary when dealing with the Japanese Imperial Family. A Japanese emperor can have several names. Let me give you an example with the previous emperor Akihito: During his reign, in Japan, Akihito was never referred to by his name, but only by “His Majesty the Emperor”. The era of his reign from 1989 to 2019 bears the name Heisei, and according to custom he will be renamed Emperor Heisei after his death.

In my novel, Empress Suiko starts out as Princess Nukatabe. I took the name from Japanese history. Suiko was the first of eight women to take on the role of empress regnant, an empress who rules, not an empress because she’s the emperor’s wife.

So, do I really need new vocabulary?!

But I did need new technology.

I needed to adapt existing technological knowledge to the 1930s. The backstory is that just before the Final War, the Japanese government quickly built underground vaults. However, during that time primary systems began failing as well. Specifically, air filtering systems. Those suddenly broke down in more than half the vaults, killing everyone living there. They simply couldn’t revert those systems in time. Then, a brilliant engineer called Kirisu Mikase literally saved the Empire. She developed an oxygen-assisted aluminum/carbon dioxide power cell that uses electrochemical reactions to both sequester carbon dioxide and produce electricity. In one amazing swoop, air filtration systems kept working and also became efficient energy producers.

Her innovation led to more hydrogen-based energy. Because they didn’t have enough room in the vaults, they needed a power source that could be stored efficiently: electro-chemical hydrogen can be packed into small power cells. And with the CO2 sequestering power source, manufacturing hydrogen wasn’t a problem anymore. The cells are used to power surface households, factories and even airplane engines.

And, for the Thinking Machine computer, I needed vacuum tubes technology. A rudimentary model would need 3000 tubes. This has to do with the amount of memory that can be stored into the tubes. The vault engineers improved upon the basic vacuum tube by creating vacuum-channel transistors. An important benefit was that these were just as easily fabricated. By using field emission rather than the thermionic electron emission, the vacuum-channel transistors don’t require a heat source. And they don’t really need vacuum either. Instead, they use helium. That means the electrons traverse the air gap a lot faster than if they had to pass through an electrode. So, they are smaller and can be packaged more effectively.

No new vocabulary here either, I’m afraid.

So, what about that one new word: “tairikusei”. It means “continental” in the novel. And it is used as a derogatory word for outsider. I didn’t want to use existing Japanese words for obvious reasons. The protagonist is the son of Russian parents (or what’s left of it).  And in the traditionalistic setting of the 1930s Japan his heritage doesn’t work in his favor. However, he and his band of outcasts-in-their-own-way actually build a machine that brings peace. And it’s their diversity that makes them succeed.

No new words, but an age old story.

My Favorite Excerpt

The memorial service is solemn. The admiral thanks the fallen officers for the ultimate sacrifice they made for the Empire. To the gathered wives, children, parents and grandparents he swears that they will not be forgotten. He tells the assembled men that he will do everything in his power to avoid these catastrophes in the future. And finally, he decorates the survivors, for their bravery and courage under fire. They are fine examples of Imperial officers.

Sugimoto shares the sentiment, of course. He is glad the admiral arranged this event. But it does feel a bit hollow, considering what happened to Kazimir Sakhalinsk. He steps forward when the admiral calls his name, announcing that he will lead the next mission.

He’s not surprised with his new orders. After Maeda’s death, Sugimoto expected as much. He gave his new team the report he received from the Kirisu-device as an example of what he expected. And they worked on the new one diligently. But he had to ask them to perfect it three times. And it took more than a week to prepare. Sakhalinsk’s Thinking Machine did it in half an hour. And Sakhalinsk’s is better.

Ogata will court-martial him for sure if Sugimoto visits Kazimir. But that’s preferable to dying in the middle of nowhere, isn’t it? It’s not as if Sakhalinsk will tell. He decides to risk it.

Thank you!

Floor Kist — we appreciate your sharing your book Can Machines Bring Peace? with us! Best of luck with sales, and with all of your future writing.

This Is Not a Garden: Thoughts on Ecology and Immigration

I’m taking a series of gardening classes and this first one is about ecology. My brain is out of practice at paying attention to an instructor for three hours, and it’s already decided this first session is not what I came for. I’m consumed with figuring out how to grow more than three tomatoes a year and I can’t see how learning about ecosystems is going to help. My mind tries to wander off into some other odd territory.

To stay focused, I dutifully draw my own version of this triangle the instructor is discussing, explaining what kinds of plants will thrive in what sort of situation. As I finish, something clicks. Not about plants, but about humans.

Yes, I get how the adaptable plants win in a harsh environment. Witness the dessert cactus, the marshy sea grass and the northern lichens.

In places of havoc and tragedy, where death is frequent and unpredictable, I can see how plants that put most of their energy into procreation survive as a species. Ferns, ground covers like clover, and the common dandelion persist amid fires and flood.

I’ve labeled the top of my triangle “lucky plants” but these are not the instructor’s words. The top triangle is a well kept garden, given plenty of water, sunshine and fertile soil. The instructor says if you remove human care, the plants will not all stay in their neat rows in the proportions the humans have selected. Some will thrive and some will dwindle, and which does what is determined by how aggressive the plant is. Yes, in a place where life is easy, over time the more aggressive plants win.

I think humans have some sense of this and, to our detriment, some of us have taken to applying this philosophy to our politics. Allow me to explain with a diagram.

True, we have our own societies which have adapted to harsher climates around the world. The dessert, the far north and the Australian Outback all present challenges. When the situation is extreme enough, human populations face little competition for their niche.

Yes, historically, populations at the mercy of ongoing wars, and of natural disasters like frequent floods, wide-spread disease or famine, have tended to have more offspring, in hopes of having some survive.

It’s at the top of the triangle where I think we run into trouble.

First, I don’t think we begin to understand how the plant kingdom is interconnected and really works. So, this particular view of ecology may not be fair or accurate as far as plants are concerned. But even if it was ….

…. we’re not plants. We lack the gift of the plant kingdom, to obtain all we need from the sun and the soil. In return for having to devour other life to stay alive, we get mobility. With that comes the chance to rapidly alter our locations and to shape our environment.

We’ve got these terrific brains that get us in all sorts of trouble, but also allow us to improve our landscape and increase our resources. We can think our way into trouble, but we can also think our way out of it.

We have hearts. I don’t mean in the literal sense, though those are great, too. We have empathy and compassion and somewhere deep inside a sense of the way we are all interconnected. In our souls, we don’t want a life of ease at the expense of having others suffer. We aren’t oak trees crowding out the pines or killing off the grass. We can pretend otherwise, but a healthy human feels sadness at another’s loss.

We need to understand that we don’t live in a garden and we don’t have to beat others off with a stick lest they try crowd us out of it. We need to build our policies based on the philosophy of being entirely capable of working with others to make the our environment better and safer for all. With the sense and compassion that are our birthright as a species, we could have a planet in which we all thrive. So put those sticks away.

Class is ending and I gather up my notes and doodles. No, nothing in today’s class is going to help me grow more tomatoes. However, I think I might have a great idea for my blog.

 

All the empathy in the world won’t help?

(1) I write fiction about telepaths and examine whether the increased empathy from knowing others thoughts could be a key to world peace. (2) I like Rachel Maddox a lot and occasionally watch her show.

driftI read Rachel Maddow’s new book “Drift” because of the second item, but was surprised when I discovered that her central thesis casts doubt on the whole theory of my book x0. If Ms. Maddox is correct, U.S. wars today are waged by our leaders not our people, and all the empathy in the world is not going to stop the fighting. She does a wonderful job of detailing how over the past fifty years the United States has moved from the World War II model of “a nation at war” to the current state of affairs in which our commander in chief uses executive powers and resources to keep conflicts going around the world with very little involvement from most of the citizens and very little consent from other branches of government.

I like how she sticks to the facts and interjects very little of her political bias. Rather, she places blame at the feet of every president, Republican and Democrat, and credits all of them with generally trying to do the right the thing while making matters worse. It’s very un-MSNBC, but all the more compelling.

Her one exception is Dick Cheney, to whom she dedicates the book. He pops in and out of the story over the course of four decades, continuing to push his personal agenda of making war ever easier for us. She never asks why, but begs him in the dedication to let her interview him. As far as I know, he never has.

Her careful weaving of the small decisions that lead to our current ability to wage ongoing wars with almost no emotional involvement could have made for very dry reading, but it doesn’t. In spite of the fact that she has no political axe to grind, her sense of humor shines through, as does her incredulous disbelief at some of the well-intended but just plain stupid decisions that were made along the way. You can almost hear her voice in your head as you read, and you have to smile in spite of how sad a story it is.

The end result, she points out, is that U.S. presidents now have the technological ability and the ridiculous authority to quietly conduct ongoing wars in any corner of the globe for as long as they wish. Yet, Ms. Maddow ends this book on a hopeful note. She argues persuasively that going to war should be hard, and should require the bulk of our people to wish harm upon another nation or at least be willing to hurt that nation significantly in order to stop its leaders.

growing bolder 4Powers that have been given over time, and even for good reason, can be taken away, she says. It won’t happen quickly, but she convinced me that we can make waging war the messy, inefficient, and difficult task it once was. We can make it painful again. If we do, we won’t be quite as good at it, but we will more far more incentivized to find other solutions.

Then, just maybe, superheroes gifted with telepathy could help guide the population towards more compassion and understanding. Okay, that could be bit of a stretch in the real world, but it might make for a fun read.