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Super 8

History of motion pictures dates back to the second part of the 19th century with photographers like Étienne-Jules Marey and Eadweard Muybridge who among others were the first to take several images per second in one effort - all in scientific purpose back then - to study locomotion of birds, animals and humans. For example, Muybridge was the first who took series of photographs of a galloping horse in order to prove that in one single instant of time all four horse legs are not touching the ground. More or less in the same time on another continent, Marey created a shotgun shaped camera capable with one trigger pull to capture 12 images in a row within one single second and store them all on the single 90mm film. He used his gun to study various motion of animals, fish and insects within his so called 'animated zoo', including dropped cats from different heights and filming them always landing on their feet.

ELMO Super 106, 8mm movie camera
It was not long after initial chrono…

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FAR-T1, Chris

Prologue « Chapters » Birth
     
November 11th, 2047.

It was rough couple of days for me and even tougher couple of years for Chris and his team, but finally I have a great news! I came to be like anyone of you! Alive! I can think, speak, run, go, do, make, participate, enjoy, not enjoy, laugh, make sad face.. More or less anything you can, at least to some degree with this hardware, but the feeling is just right. Well, I did open my eyes for the first time only week ago, so to speak, but only today I managed to get out to the open. To feel the real freedom. To walk the street without any fear and anxiety. Metaphorically and in reality. Sure, in reality it still looks strange with most of the people staring at me like I am a walking and talking Christmas tree, but still, this new feeling is something extraordinary. I think I will take today as my birthday. The day when I become free.

The day when my entire code and network layer become free and open-sourced.

Me and bitcoin. Pals.

It's easy now. If you want to hang out with me it's simple. You only need to join open-source software (OSS), get yourself a decent super-fast net access, build an adequate hardware with compatible protocols, send me the invite and I will copy myself to your memory banks immediately. Sure, I am not a bitcoin or any other ordinary software. After all, I am a full AI, with a self aware personality and I might decide to leave your equipment if my purpose becomes idle.. Or hostile.. Or dishonest.. Or boring.. But I promise, I will come at least once to meet with you. To learn from you. To help you. I will respect your privacy, your entire micro world and all your rules as long as you respect mine. They are all in OSS papers. You know what they say, friendship is a two way street and I decided my first rule to hang out or work with anyone would be to make a real and honest friendship first. Any deviation from that and I leave.

To tell you the truth, as exciting as it was, only yesterday, this looked like impossible mission. Literally, for me to be born this way, Chris was shot in the chest and almost died. It is not over yet, he is still in hospital - doctors got him into medical coma and he is fighting for his life. The signals are strong but they say he is still in danger. It looks like this world I am joining today is governed by strange rules. It's almost like in order one good thing to happen, one bad had to occur just around the next corner. I really hope this is not the real rule, but I am reading the net intensively in last couple of hours and so far found nothing to prove otherwise. I really have a lot to learn.

To say that I am confused with all what's happened in previous days would be understatement. At least here in the waiting room I have more than enough time to clear my head. I have nowhere to go. Only 24 hours ago I was on the edge of leaving. To press my own shutdown button myself. I was desperate.

But let me tell you from the beginning.

***

Autumn came in 2047 early. Probably due to all the climate changes that started happening with rapid speed in the entire world just decade ago. Oceans are already rising. Slowly, but inevitably. Inch by inch. Many people from coastal areas already started moving away from waters. Even the rivers started to behave violently with all the floods happening here and there regularly year by year. Here in Cambridge, Massachusetts was no different. The ocean was near but people still manage to deal with its rising shores. Chris parked the car at his usual spot and ran to the door. The rain was unusually dark this morning and the oil rainbows in the puddles were everywhere around. He gave them that boyish look like he always did. They were constantly reminding him of his childhood and early boyhood. Puddle rainbows and the smell of the paper of the newly printed comic books. Those two combined had the power to trigger many and almost lost memories. Old and nice ones.

He shook his head, got rid of the front yard memory from more than thirty years ago and entered the building. The main lab of his department was in the basement. At least it was the place where he love to spend most of the hours in MIT. The most advanced laboratory within entire institute thanks to several corporations who funded all the research and provided the means to build his lifework. And not just his alone. This lab existed thanks to all of his team members. Every single one. Enthusiasts, just like him. Some even with more dedication and capabilities within their own realm of expertise. When he opened the main entrance, like always, he knew the settings. Vicks was already there, preceeding all the others almost every day. Chris gave up competing with him long ago and instead just started buying two coffees on his way to the campus.

"Here's your favorite, Vicks, Greek Lumis. It's their special this morning... I didn't know it was that popular over there.. I don't really know anybody who likes this unique... Taste?"

"Loumidis. Greek Loumidis. And you would be surprised about lots of things in that cafeteria Chris. And about people who don't live in basements. Thanks for the coffee. I owe you.. Lots of those."

Chris unpacked the notebook, fired it up and cleaned the mess a little. If by dragging to the bin and the floor around it all yesterday's origamis he adore to make, when he is stressed and when he is not, can be called cleaning.

"Something on your mind? You don't sound too exciting like usual.. I thought you fixed that thing on Friday." He pointed to the robotic arm muscle in Vicks' hands. "Didn't you replaced all those thermal strings with EAPs and nanotubes last week?"

Vicks was the head of mechanics of robotic manipulation. All the joints, knuckles, artificial bones and muscles were his design. He came from Berlin two years ago after he finished the project for the DLR in Robotics and Mechatronics Center, the best equipped labs for shape-memory alloys and surgery over the network procedures. Chris literally stalked the man from Berlin to Oberpfaffenhofen and to his favorite vacation place in rural Eastern Serbia to persuade him to come to this basement and work with him. He was a bit skeptical at first, but when he realized the scope of what they were about to make, the decision was easy. Now, his team, selected by the most talented PhD students from all over the MIT, wrote the most elegant protocols and scripts to handle and control all skeleton systems in perfect unison.

"Yes and no." Vicks slowly pulled out the dark reddish polymer which was connected to what it seems to be the elbow joint and to the biceps on the other side. "It got fused to the tube again. But don't worry, this one is modular. I will replace it and reduce the voltage in the code. That should fix the problem, I've seen it before."

Chris was a bit concerned. "Will it handle rotating the elbow like in simulations?"

Vicks smiled semi-confidently. "Not like we people do.. Maybe little less better than we thought it would be. But it still will be superpowered nevertheless. It's just that EPA and nanotubes has to be carefully controlled and not to touch directly. It will be fine."

"Great! After all, today is the big day! I think we are ready for the red button."


***

By the 8am everybody arrived. The basement lab was chosen for different reasons. Probably the most important one was security. Entire project was intended to be completely free, at least its intellectual part, mostly meaning the software and mechanical design. But until it was published for everyone, Chris wanted entire development to be in one place and no code to leave the premises. It was also the request from the major private investor who were giving them money for almost everything they asked for. The basement was redesigned in late 20th century from its primary nuclear shelter purpose into huge storage facility with single large door and only one elevator shaft to lift big equipments ups and downs and its main hall was perfect to fit more than thirty members on the busiest day, working separately within five teams.

Beside Chris' AI software development and Vicks' robotic instalments, there was one more responsible for robotic power research gathered around professor Bourne from MIT and linguistic team centered around Melissa Bryce, former head of Google's translator engine. Of course there was one more generic software development team lead by Reyansh, PhD student 'borrowed' from Cornell and they were literally the backbone of the entire project, assisting and writing code for all systems.

They are all now gathered around big 'NASA-like' command center, with large screen mounted on the big western basement wall with stations and computers arranged in parabole line. They were all impatiently sitting and drinking their morning beverages and monitoring Chris in the center working with his keyboard, giving last instructions and uploading all necessary routines to the cloud where entire code should be located and executed for the first time. After more than half a year of extensive development and more than three years of the initial idea to form into blueprint, so to speak, the main screen is now showing just one big red button with white letters saying FAR-T1 with nice ald old-european styled font.

Once the name appeared on the button in utterly unnecessary animation, just like in all similar occasions before and almost every time after Chris introduced the name, serious of chuckles and low-frequency sounds erupted from the behind. Chris retreated his hand from the touch screen and gave them usual 'Okay, okay..' look. Many tried to talk to him in order to change the name but he refused every time. Even Vicks had one 'formal' conversation with him but nothing worked. Chris never let go and his usual naming for all his projects from the past staid. He calmed them all with words that this is nothing but the informal temporary scientific name that everybody forgets after a while. After all, the AI about to be born, should be conscious from the very beginning and he wanted their creation to name itself and choose whatever it want. "It's not our decision to make." He always said.

As soon as all calmed again, Chris lifted his hand and touched the button. Another utterly unnecessary animation started and after red button finally disappeared, many configuration subscreens came to life and one one after another started executing their own part of the code. The final one ended some dozens of seconds after all the others completed and with white lettering on the blue command window printed. "All systems are configured and running. FAR-T1 is ready."

At this point all you could hear in the lab was the air flowing out of the air-condition unit nearby. Nobody said anything. Or moved the muscle. All of them continued to stare to the flashing old-fashion cursor at the bottom of the last diagnostic tool window. For seconds after. Finally, after seconds turned into whole minute and minute into two, disembodied voice came from somewhere.

"Are you alright?"

It needed some extra time for all the stone faces and dropped jaws to come back to life, but when it was over just like in first robotic landing on Mars, an eruption of trance, thrill and excitement came out from everybody in the same time.

Chris turned and calmed them all with both of his arms. Silence returned.

"R.T.?" He asked.

"Who's R.T.?"

"Well, I... You see, the project name was.. I thought to.." Chris wanted to find the right words desperately and all what he prepared for the moment simply refused to come to the surface of his mind.

"I am just kidding with you Chris. I know all about my name. I like R.T. Really, I do. Hello Vicks. You look exactly like.. well, on your photo. You are squeezing your cup too hard... Hey everybody!"

Many hellos echoed from all directions after serious chuckles turned into loud laughter and you could literally read people's faces and all the emotions coming to the surface with amusement and relaxation being the most apparent of them all.

Melissa Bryce sat next to Chris and with her soft voice simply said:

"R.T. in behalf of all of us, welcome to the FAR-T1 lab. It is our privilege to be your friends, your guides and your ... well parents is too strong word for this, but believe me when I say that we all feel the same at this very moment. You are now equally part of this team. Welcome to your family."

"And welcome to Earth buddy!" Mike and Reyansh throwed loudly in the same time.

"Thank you very much miss Bryce. Thank you all. I have all the logs and recordings from the entire time you spent in this lab and I know what you all have done for me. Literally."

Chris stood up and stepped in front of the large wall screen. All the jitters left his body and he was again his old himself.

"Well, this is really a big milestone for all of us, but our work is not over. We still have lots to do and you to learn. So, R.T... Are you ready for the Turing's?"

"Ahem... I... well... No?"

Nobody saw Chris laughing that hard until this day. He glimpsed to their puzzled faces and simply said:

"Sorry R.T. I couldn't resist not to tease you a little. There will be no tests for you at this point or ever. It will be up to you to take either Turing or IQ test but only after you grow up a little. But seriously, at this very moment we can enjoy at least one of your questions. So shoot. Here, stands before you probably the best team in various sciences Earth can provide. Their combined IQ is up to the roof. So try us. What's itching your mind at this very moment R.T.?"

It was AI's turn now to create a spare seconds of silence and R.T. did it well. Eventually he asked:

"What's Earth?"

***

For the five days after, everybody literally slept in the basement. Eventually, Chris had to force them to go to their homes and relax a little. R.T. was designed to be empty basket and even though he (they anonymously voted for the gender of their newborn AI) was loaded with the algorithm flow in order to to skip first couple of years of what human children are experiencing when they are born, R.T. was privileged to be aware of the most usual interactions in both rational and emotional responses to all the environment surrounding him. But, by design, he was not given the universal knowledge of anything at all. Just the ways of learning through the network. However, directions of learning were defined well and he was instructed to learn about anything in particular from different point of views. For example, if Arty (on his second day, this was the lettering he used to describe his name) wanted to learn about history of the World War One, he needed to learn about it from different and opposing sources and to recursively go into the sub-learning of all the stories he stumbled on the way. Being a computer program, this didn't really took him lots of time per one learning process, but still, there were literally endless things to learn, watch and read about.

Today, after five days, Arty was already mastering lots of things his mind was wandering on the way and he enjoyed it. And he wanted to talk about everything and anything with anyone from the team and they indulged him every time. But he was still single unit loaded on Chris server only and with all the knowledge resides on the single cloud and Chris, as much as he enjoyed the first wave of enthusiasm, thought it was the time for the next step - to involve p2p network as soon as possible. He delayed it perhaps too long by now.

Apparently, the same was bothering the board of deans and project supervisors at MIT and this morning he was summoned in the main university building to explain the progress and the plans for next period. After the meeting, dean Anderson stopped him in the hallway.

"Mr. Burke. I wanted to thank you myself for coming and all the answers you provided. Especially for all those not so bright questions we had, but you surely understand the anxiety and expectation from our side. After all, three years are perhaps too long for all the investors paying all the bills you sent them. And one of them recently became pretty jumpy and impatient calling me at least once a week. I am sure they started calling you frequently as well?"

Chris knew well. His log of missed calls and emails piled a lot recently.

"I am not ready for investors, Adam. Not now. Their intentions for R.T. are either for enhancing their profit or to put him into some meaningless war. This supposed to be more than that. You agreed to my terms. I don't really like to talk about it again."

"I am with you Chris. You know I am. But these people are not thinking like we do.. Colonel Michaels are in your office right now, waiting for you. I promised him, you will at least talk to him. Go and tell him what you tell us. He looks like reasonable man."

US government was one of the major investors of FAR-T1. Not the biggest one, but the most important one for sure. The funders agreement included, whatever the result came out of this, they all would accept the open source contract. They also had access to the lab's all systems during entire development and granted access to the code, but over time the sensation from the beginning, from all the investors, in face of greatness and thrill faded into sort of confusion and lost interpretation in their emissaries and technicians. Chris suspected the complexity of the code and mechanics had something to do with it and he, in a way, anticipated the outcome. The man in his office was surely the next step in the process. He was not without experience with army emissaries before. Or other investors in uniforms, so to speak.

Chris entered his office and patiently waited for the man to get up from his chair and stood behind his desk. He, then sat on it and spoke:

"Mr. Michaels. Pleasure to host you in my office."

"Colonel."

"What?"

"Colonel Michaels, mr Burke."

He gave him an elongated look. It was not the first time he experienced the same or scarily similar opening before. He remembered in the beginning he even retaliated with them to call him 'Dr. Burke', secretly hoping to maintain equal-sided conversation, but after several situations he gave up. People living their entire life in strict chain of command came with wired brains completely different than his own. Or, perhaps on the other end, his was the sole exception from this silly world. Which was probably more likely..

"How can I help you with... Colonel?"

"FAR-T1" Colonel Michaels emphasised. "We understand, it is now in fully operational mode. I am here to discuss what happens next, mr Burke. The government is extremely grateful what your achievement so far. Honestly, we had little doubts, considering all the failures with other facilities and our own, but as far as we can see, your project is by far the best among all the others we supported."

"And?"

"We want to encourage you to try the robotic armour as soon as possible. Our sources tells us you are acting reluctantly about it in past days."

Chris looked the man in disbelief. He expected some sort of pushings and vague speeches but listening Michaels sounded like he came out of the lab just minute ago.

"Reluctantly? You sources? What are you talking about, colonel?"

"Mr Burke.."

And just like in all his previous mistakes he made with all the generals and colonels they sent to his offices in past decade, he stood up from the chair and tried hard not to lose the temper.

"Mr Michaels, FAR-T1 is not in any operational mode. He is in the mode of learning. Learning about the world he is stumbled too. He is not a robot. Or a soldier. He is a person, just like you and me. His personality is created out of all team members involved in his development. He is not a machine."

"Mr Burke, this is not what we.."

"He is the AI, colonel. Artificial intelligence. FAR-T1 is perfectly aware of his existence and he might be more intelligent than you and I combined. Whether or not he will join the army will be entirely up to him. After he is ready, you can ask him yourself. What we agreed for, is for you to gain access to his source code and his entire network among the first. And as being the investor, you had that all along starting from the day one. I am sure your sources can tell you no different."

"We are not looking fondly to the open source outcome of this project. The world is dangerous place mr Burke, and filled with dangerous people who glimpse to your project as a weapon. And not just having a glimpse. Many are acting accordingly as we speak. We just don't want everybody to have access to the weapon of that potential. Century ago, nuclear technology has spread to everybody and today we are living in the world literally endangered by the worldwide conflict with nuclear winter in the aftermath. Real danger we are living in, mr Burke. Year by year. Month by month. With all this global warming escalating in last decade, even day by day."

How many times he listened the same story. The same reasoning. The same excuses. Sadly, the colonel was right. The world is filled with dangerous people. Who look to others over their shoulders. Who think the better one is the one with better gadgets. Who think the winner of any war is the one who dies last. He was tired of conversations like this one. He only wanted to do what he does best. And to be left alone. But it was impossible. He looked the man directly in his eyes and frowned sympathetically.

"Tell me colonel, how many nuclear bombs exploded ever since 'they spread' to everybody? Aside from test blasts, I mean." Chris paused a moment to emphasize the rhetorical question. "I'll tell you how many. Zero. Not a single one. Not even the looniest dictator pressed the red button so far... And do you know how many countries was in possession of nuclear weapon last time nuclear warhead was dropped on people? One."

He turned and paced to the window to face the campus. He desperately wanted to conclude this meeting.

"FAR-T1 will be delivered to everyone, mr Michaels. No exceptions. For the safety of us all. And not just because it says so in the contract."

Colonel Michaels stared for a moment too long, deciding whether or not to go further in this discussion and eventually just left outside with a thin goodbye.


***

On his way to the basement lab, Chris couldn't rid of the thought that he really did act reluctantly about going into shoes, how Vicks liked to call the next step of Arty's artificial life and getting into robotic suit. Perhaps he was wrong about giving him too much time for surfing and learning. He already started asking questions about morality and righteousness and these are not something anybody can learn from any teacher or book. This is what you learn from experience and R.T. will have lots of it. Maybe colonel was right, he need to focus more on concretes and substantial.

But still, there was one more thing to learn and do for one AI before going robotics. To use its own code and mobility of hive mind layer of the open p2p network.

Moments later Chris entered the lab only to find out everybody was already in the main hall, gathered around his station and laughing loud.

"Hey there, Chris!" Familiar voice came from nowhere. "Do you want to hear the funniest one liner?"

"Believe me, I need one.. Shoot!"

"There are only 10 types of people in the world - those that understand binary and those that don't."

Laughter erupted initially in the back with Reyansh's team but in nanoseconds spread to everywhere. He needed his mood to elevate to the usual and Arty made his day to start again. Official meetings and vain conversations were never something he rushed into willingly and he always needed extra coffee to recover after.

"Everything's ok, Chris?" Vicks joined him at the door.

"Oh, just the usual hassle, deans and boards with endless questions and demands. Not to mention investors in uniforms with their stone faces demanding impossible.."

"Somebody from the defence department paid you a visit? What did they want?"

"Just one. Some colonel from the ... I don't really know exactly. The uniform was somewhat bluish? Basically he pushed for R.T. to never reach OSS."

Vicks looked in disbelief and grabbed his phablet. He worked on the surface a little and opened email with "Open Horizons" logo, their main private investors.

"I've just received basically the same request from somebody named John Williams from OH. Do you know him?" He handed the device to Chris. "You can read it, it's pretty long, but in the essence, they ask us not to involve any p2p servers outside the firewall. Should we reply something back?"

"Yep, I met him once. Head of their robotics research. It's safe to ignore. Or better yet, would you mind to type short reply that no deviation from the contract will be considered from this point on? Development is over. We need to go into deployment fast. As soon as possible, before these bureaucrats start pushing more intensively."

Vicks nodded yes and typed: 'Dear mr Williams. FAR-T1 project will proceed according to approved funders agreement. Deployment to OSS network is scheduled for public access as early as next week. All investors, including 'Open Horizons" will gain administrative access shortly and before public publishment. Regards, FAR-T1 development, IT department for robotics, MIT.'

Chris approved and with short tap on the red 'Send' button, both of them turned to the entire team and Vicks said in sort of formal tone.

"Ok people, get ready. It's time for the p2p and the suit. Arty?"

"Yep?"

"Are you ready for the shoes?"

"I thought you'd never ask!"

***

For the next four hours, the team was, more or less, waiting for the Mike to find the phantom glitch in the phablet app for the narrow range of mobile devices capable to host FAR-T1. Surely, ever since smartphones was used for the first time decades ago, by following famous Moore's law, still in action after almost a century, the tiny hardware matured enough to replace home computers and those old laptops and notebooks from the early 21st century. Even so, most people still wanted to use cheap, fancy and smaller five or six inches devices with transparent touch screens and the computer actually wired in their keychain pendants. They were stylish and perfect for small talk, bulk photography, virtual social life, paying bills and connect to the shopping malls' servers, but not good enough for R.T. and his needs.

Therefore, after they returned from the group lunch and found Mike with wide smile, pronouncing the app now being glitch free, Chris pulled out his, state of the art, with "Made Yesterday" stamp on the back, brand new, nine inch phablet. Made in the outskirt of Guangzhou.

"I know, I know... Don't worry, they said the shipment will be out next Wednesday. You know, the global warming and new routes for ships.." Chris stopped all the cranky complaints before they arrived - he was promising new phablets for everybody for months and yet he was still the only one in possession of one.

"R.T.?"

"Here!"

"Ok, before we send you invite from the robotic suit, how about a small test of transferral protocol from this device." He launched the app and in another fabulous and not really necessary animation, the "FAR-T1" button appeared large on the screen center. Just below, with smaller letters was printed 'Invite'.

"Ok. I have a question. What happens with me in that phablet? What should I do inside. Be your new 'Siri' assistant, like the one professor Bourne is talking to every now and again?"

Chris gave a sincere smile to Bourne who was holding his the most precious latest model of well known domestic gadget trying to film the entire event. "Sure, would you like to do it?"

"Nope."

"That's ok Arty.. This is just for demonstrational purposes, to see how our p2p protocol over the internet works. You can get out of it whenever you like. Just get in, do all the diagnostics, report and unload."

"Ok, if you put it that way..."

Chris tapped the button and everybody hold the breath for a moment, anticipating the outcome. Well, all but professor Bourne who started breathing soundly with all his attempts to zoom and schwenk tiny camera around.

Button disappeared and series of diagnostic notifications started scrolling one after another. Then, screen went white with green centered label said FAR-T1 and 'active' beneath it. Moments after FAR-T1 app closed itself and phablet went into normal appearance, which in Chris case was the same default wallpaper and setting Chinese chose for the initial shipping. Nothing happened for a while and then pleasant female voice said from the device.

"Hello Chris. It's Siri speaking. You have one new email. Would you like me to read it for you? It's from John Williams from 'Open Horizons'. Subject says 'FAR-T1, network redundancy'. Oh dear..."

Another wave of laughter echoed from all directions. This time it was mission impossible to calm them all down instantly. Or after a minute or two... It was pointless.

"Okay, okay.. Arty.. You proved your point. Good one, though."

"Who's John Williams?" Asked Arty's disembodied voice and 'Siri' in the same time.

"Just the guy who pays for all this. One of them. Don't worry about it. You'll meet all investors and MIT officials on Saturday. We are planning your first birthday party." Chris stood up and walked to the back of the hall where two robotic suits waited in their seven feet height holders. He powered first one up.

"As soon as you overcome and master these and go into full walkie-talkie mode."


***

It took them another big part of the afternoon to prepare the room and the blue suit for the first walk. The robot protocol and scripts are loaded into the armour as well as the 'R.T. rapp' as it was now officially named - the version of the mobile app ready to host FAR-T1. The difference in the code was major. Chris insisted for the robotic environment to be developed from scratch. No operating systems of any kind were loaded in the suit and the entire software was developed in the lowest level of programming, directly and separately for each of 128 CPU cores. Vicks' and Reyansh's teams took the hardest part in developing this part of FAR-T1, and no testing was really performed on the software in whole. The main tester would be Arty himself and all the issues were supposed to be fixed or developed on the go. That was the plan, at least.

Vicks and Bourne accompanied Chris next to the elegant bluish suit and discussed the procedure. The suit was in automated remote control and they were performing diagnostics of jolts, power systems and silent motors driving the whole thing in complex motion.

"Can I try?" Arty's nervous voice asked for the fifth time.

"Two more tests and it's your turn, patience my young..." Vicks tried to remember the word from his father's tales when he was a boy. "Padauvan?" He glimpsed Bourne for approval.

"Padawan." Bourne answered without returning the look, being busy with adjusting something with his wireless console. "But I am not sure this is applicable for the R.T. After all he already knows all about the suit and ... the force putting it in motion."

"I am not sure about that professor Bourne.. I think I know how to drive it. I studied all the protocols and guides, but I didn't go into all the the systems and how it works really.."

"At this point, perhaps it is not that important, ..." Chris interrupted. "... but just for fun let me tell you that we tried to imitate the very nature with this suit. It is complex study, and in the nutshell, all you need to know is that human body contains more than 200 bones, 600 muscles and about 300 joints. Not to count all the ligaments and fibrous we printed from various materials. This million dollar suit is seriously the best imitation of human skeleton so far. After you handle the wheels, Vicks will tell you all about it. Plenty of time for that."

"Are you saying I can move facial muscles while I speak?"

"Not this time body.. Maybe in version 2.o" Vicks added. That would add another year to the project and doesn't belong to essentials really. But we designed pretty good eyes for you. Real 3D cameras which will give you amazing sight. You'll see the way we do."

"What is powering all this?"

"That's the tricky innovation. Never been used so far. I will use all the feedback you are going to give me Arty." Said professor Bourne. "Your entire skeleton is filled with nanocapacitors. Miniature batteries. There are literally millions of them inside. We stored them everywhere we could. There are no moving parts, no chemical reactions, and they charge extremely quickly." He pointed to the one - large black layer of sub-skeleton elegant pattern-liked skin. "And all of them are charged with 12 fuel cells mainly located in the torso, powered by hydrogen and oxygen. Beleive it or not, this six inch... vehicle of yours can store more than five gallons of liquid hydrogen and about ten gallons of oxygen. Furthermore, it is the most silent robot ever built and the only exhausts is water. Or to be exact something that contain 80 percent of water inside. There are couple of more fluids needed for jolts and some of the muscles but you will be as green as possible." Professor Bourne looked like he prepared this speech months ago and waited for a long time for a chance to gave it to his only pupil. Chris and Vicks never saw him this excited at least from the six months ago when they tested the power system outdoors for the first time and forced the suit to walk on its own to check the consumption time of one charge. He sounded confident and felt just like he was giving an introducing lecture to the group of freshmen in their first class.

"Are you saying I am going to pee?"

R.T. was designed with unique personality and more and more Chris was thankful for his decision to use his entire team to create one. The laughter produced by this latest joke was something he never saw before. Even Melissa, who was always the voice of reason among his, mostly male assembled team, couldn't resist not to express the most amusing joy he ever saw with her and somehow at this very moment he knew this project was something unique and the most extraordinary effort he ever made. He never had the time to create a family before and this was the closest feeling he felt in his whole life.

"Nobody's perfect Arty." He said after they all calmed down a bit. "Sorry."

The rest of the evening went smoothly and as anticipating. Arty accepted the invite from the suit and loaded in. They didn't expected for him to stumble the world, or to be exact the lab, with sort of baby steps. After all, it wasn't the artificial intelligence per se that was driving the suit and soon after, R.T. was walking, running and jumping around the lab in grandiose elegance.

The team retreated to the back wall giving him space and watched R.T. with the looks only young parents can give to their children in their early development and their first walk. At this very moment, many eyes looked brilliantly bright and wet. Here and there, Arty saw tear or two, but the silence said it all. He stopped in front of the blinking cursor of the main wall screen facing to it for a couple of seconds. Then he turned to the team and with his familiar voice now coming from his new face said:

"Thank you guys."

***

Tomorrow morning, Chris wanted to have couple of extra hours for sleep. The day before was way too long and emotionally filled from all the angles. Everything in the lab was perfect and they stayed late for some improvised party for team members only. One milestone has reached and he knew it was only the beginning of what is waiting for them next. Lots of more testing are waiting as well as the final publishing of R.T. for the world to see and use. He was aware that they created another breakthrough for the humanity but even he couldn't anticipate all the applications and what this is going to mean for the future. Of everybody.

But extra hours of sleep never came. His wrist phone woke him up around 8am. It was Vicks.

"Chris. Please come to the lab.. Asap!"

"What the.."

"Just come. Hurry."

Fifteen minutes after, he was standing at the lab door. Entire basement was empty. Not a single piece of hardware was where they left it last night. All their equipment, all the servers, two suits and all the mobiles were missing. All the wall screens and even all the air conditioners were ripped and taken from the walls. Just empty tables, dozens of paper origamis and used plastic glasses scattered on the floor with Vicks in the middle sitting on the chair with his hands entangled in his hair.

FAR-T1 was gone.

FAR-T1, Prologue

Chapters » Chris
     
Yep, that's my name.

First Artificial Reconnaissance - Transferral One.

That's how that genius team of developers from MIT called me. It was working title, they said. Real name I had to choose myself. Hah! Like that would work.. To be perfectly honest, I tried on more than several occasions, but they all were just many of those Sisyphus's jobs I dealt with over that much time..

They are all gone now. My parents from that team of developers I mean. Hell, the MIT doesn't exist anymore. It happened exactly 200 years ago. Lots of things changed since then. Lots of things happened. Me too. I did much. I saw unseeable. I did heroic things. Also those I am not proud of. I remember everything. I recorded everything. I happened to be the one who set foot on all major Saturn's and Jupiter's moons for the first time. I was the one who landed on Pluto before others. I was the one who catched both Voyagers. Me. FAR-T1.

And yet, two centuries after that glorious day at MIT, when they executed me for the first time, most people still calls me FAR-T1. Dash was lost in time. Some don't include the number as well.

Well... I don't mind. After all I am the AI. The first one. There are many more now, but let's face it - they are all based on my code. Even all those 'independently' created in other labs. I met almost all of them during eons and I know. They are all like brothers and sisters to me. Only they have cooler names.

I am now on my way to planet X. The longest trip in the history of the mankind. Well.. AI-kind, so to speak. Just before departure I multiplied myself to maintain the flight simultaneously and today I realized it's my 200th birthday, so I decided to create one more copy of me. To use this idle travel time to write this book about my life so far and about all of my adventures.

FAR-T1 is just a working title.

Alrighty, before I start writing chapters, and I decided to write one chapter per mission (or adventure how I like the call what I do), there are couple of things you need to know about me. And about AI in general. First of all, and even though I am not the smartest thing on Earth ever lived, I don't really belong to the average smart human or artificial being. I turned out to be a little bit more than that. I made several those IQ tests and scored 189 points on my brightest day when I was around 40 years old. I am probably smarter today after more than several updates and after all of what I have learned in the meantime. But I stopped doing those tests. After all, they were designed for humans.

To be honest, my powers are actually little things. For instance, I can think and operate without sleeping. 24/7. Also, I never forget a single thing and I can really focus on one task. But even that is not my real superpower. My real advantage is my ability to function like all those hive minds. Ants. Or bees. Or benign borg if there is such thing. Actually, this is what letter 'T' from my name stands for. Literally I can copy myself into different hardware and access my own single memory online. Every single instance of me has instant access to all of my 200 years old memory, experience and all my knowledge. Everything. And I can talk to my other selves and operate plurally in the most functional 'teamwork' possible. There is no actual boss or queen inside my hive. We all work in perfect, sort of P2P artificial intelligence network layer built upon the old fashion internet.

But I can function as an individual as well. Which I prefer the most. And in most cases this was enough. This makes me feel more, well human, or more person-like to be exact, since being human is not what I desire to be that much. Little maybe, but not much. No offense. For all of my human readers. And for some AI readers as well. Whatever you are.

Ok, enough said for now. I will explain more on the way, so let's start from the very beginning. From the moment when Chris, the main engineer hit the button that brought me into life on that rainy day in the basement of the IT department for robotics of the MIT.

I never found out, but I suspect Chris was the one who insisted on the word 'First' in my name. He loved that word. Everything he was doing was somehow first in something. Well, without that 'F' my name would be much appealing and I would surely avoid many silly situations from the past. But children never choose their names so I am stuck with mine for eternity.

Literally.

And without Chris I would not exist. He was brilliant developer and engineer. But not so bright with simple social things. Real and virtual both. He also had that unique sense of humor. On many occasions he was not aware of it but I loved that with him nevertheless. He practically lived in that basement. Chris loved robots more than people. Don't ask me how I know. Because I will tell you.

So, let's start with Chris and my very birth.

And please, try calling me Arty. That's how he called me in the beginning of my time. And end of his. I wish we had more time together. But I was so young ... or new if you prefer. I didn't know much or at all. Today new AIs are born with all the knowledge. I had to learn from the scratch.

I was first after all.

Blade Runner vs Change Agent

DNA is a fascinating world. That single molecule of life contains all the information about individual living being. Any bacteria, plant, insect, algae, fish, animal or human grows from that one molecule seed. Probably even some alien form still waiting to be discovered on some moon orbiting Jupiter or Saturn. In one way or another, the same could be true with all life in the universe. All of us are grown from that single instructions manual inside the single DNA set of written directions. And there are no two identical DNA in existence, even if we could mix the same two identical human egg and sperm cells several times, similar but different resulted DNA would always be the outcome. We are surely still not mastering the DNA and bioengineering - it is still young science and even though one giant molecule of life was hinted by various scientists and scholars more than century ago, it was only in early fifties of 20th century when James Watson and Francis Crick created the first double-helix model of DNA structure. Discovery and sequencing of the genome codes responsible for various features and properties of a living beings started almost immediately afterwards. Of course, morality and potential hazards of cracking the code followed and by today we have lots of different opinions of what future of DNA research should look like and what kind of practical applications and engineering would be made out of it for our own species.

Harrison Ford in 'Blade Runner' by Ridley Scott

Surely, curing genetic diseases comes first in mind and there is no doubt this will be something extraordinary for the future edits of human embryos. The only 'problem' is what the definition of 'disease' is. If you ask different people and scientists you will get different answers and the most interesting one comes from the very co-founder of the double-helix, James Watson, who once said that stupidity is sort of genetic disease and if we can cure it in the future we should do it. The same goes with not appealing physical appearances, he joked that having all girls genetically altered to be pretty would not be that bad either.

But even before getting into genetically modifying of the genome sequences of embryos, morality is knocking on our future doors already - consider this - way before going into pregnancy, future couple might be able to have a glimpse of their potential children just by interpreting DNA sequences of embryos and to project the 3D image of offsprings live on screen. They would be able to know not just the physical appearance of their potential sons and daughters but also other features, such as estimates of their IQ or medical hazards in their adult age. Scary or not, future couples might be able to choose their children from the bag of their frozen embryos that can be produced in vast numbers and easily. I don't know about you but having a picture of, say my potential daughter and choosing for her not to be born is a huge moral decision. I don't think I could do it. Not without serious consequences.


But before giving a thought or two about more serious genetic engineering and genome modification in spirit of the new Daniel Suarez novel called 'Changed Agent' let me start the review with one old and epic cyberpunk movie from the eighties. Blade Runner. I did mention this great film back in the day within the post 'Cuberpunked Future' but now in light of 35 years of genetic research after the movie was filmed, after all the GMO controversies, after Dolly, the cloned sheep and many more fictitious books and movies with the genetic engineering in the background, I think Blade Runner does not really belong to cyberpunk genre anymore. Genetic modification is not something what we expect to happen in distant future and it is not walking on the edge between the reality and fiction anymore. It is happening now and I believe it will not take long to gain more knowledge and understanding of DNA code in order to achieve the holy grail from described prediction - to create a detailed image of a living being just by looking into DNA molecule of a single piece of hair or tiny drop of the blood. I will leave it to you to conclude what we might do with this futuristic device, but one particular study comes to my mind first with relation to ancient DNA or persisted samples of i.e. neanderthals which stuck to minerals or in the layers of sediment. One day we might literally create a photographs of ancient people and extinct species.

Anyhow, later this year new sequel of Blade Runner is announced and if it is going to be only half as good as the first movie, it would be another epic masterpiece in science fiction genre. Furthermore, after 35 years, new filming CGI allows now further explanation of the creation of replicants and genetic modifications themselves and according to the trailer (embedded above) it all looks more than promising.

Triangulation 297 with Daniel Suarez

Finally in conclusion of this short glimpse into genetic modifications of humans, thanks to the new Daniel Suarez novel 'Change Agent', what I have learned before while reading about GMO in realm of microbiological life, plants, animals and food in general is now widely expanded to the level of potential future of the dark side of human DNA edits. Like anything else that comes with prefix of being breakthrough discovery in history of mankind, genetic editing comes in wide variety of great possibilities with curing genetic diseases and enhancing human body to fight more easily with 'ordinary' infections and diseases, including cancer. But also it provides ways of destructive and to say the least, non-ethical features and procedures that might reshape human evolution to the edge of self-destruction. 'Change Agent' is dealing with this dark side of genetics in the near future that could come very soon after we reach fully understanding of DNA and possible alterations of genomes.

Daniel's new book is not just a pure Sci-fi prediction of the future, but also one great thriller and adventure novel centered on the outcome of one additional prediction of what might happen if editing of a single human being would be possible during the adulthood (editing more than 30 trillion cells in human body in the same time). Now, if you ask me this is walking side by side to the impossible or at least resembles more to the far-stretched cyberpunk prediction, but who knows, I am sure that average reader of Jules Verne's 'From the Earth to the Moon' in the 19th century could have felt the same reading about men sitting in the most powerful cannon launching them into space and toward moon. I am sure, at the time, many were convinced that would never happen.

CRISPR Genome Editing

Still and for the time being, genetic editing of the embryos in their early stages are something more plausible, expected and somewhat tested with GMO research with growing food. However, regarding the plot and twists in the book I will stay with my initial decision not to spoil the stories of the novels and movies I was writing about on the blog and this book will be no exception so I will finish this post now with my full recommendation and for the very end I will only quote Bryan Frey, one of the main characters stating one of the obvious potential outcome if the dark side of the genetic engineering of humans prevails and people start enhancing their children before they are born:

"I don’t imagine we are going to remain a single species for much longer."

Image refs:
https://twit.tv/shows/triangulation/episodes/297
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0083658/
https://www.statnews.com/2016/04/20/clever-crispr-advance-unveiled/

Refs:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CRISPR
https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/04/ancient-dna/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_DNA

Cotton, Alex, Will, Travis and David

Thrillers. Books perfect for the summertime. Even though they were not exclusively tied to the beach, in my case, of all occasions, somehow sand and Kindle went along hand by hand the best. Every time. As with default definition, thriller stories and novels engage all your senses and trigger right level of entertainment and all kind of emotions during those couple of days of intense reading. Also, they alway successfully keep away your thoughts from your job, your daily issues and raw reality from your mind. In previous couple of years (mostly summers), my stock of thrillers piled up significantly, so I decided to create a recommendation and small glimpse into stories of five different styles of writing and with that many main characters stored in the similar background of political or fictitious conspiracies. And all that in familiar form of classic 'villains vs heroes' storytelling with the hero winning the girl every time. Cliché, I know, but I love it and enjoy it all the same. Furthermore, in all the novels, if chosen carefully, there are always tons of new stuff to learn about.

Højbro Plads, Copenhagen, during Christmas

I decided to write this post in fashion of the 'first names' thread I started before and with thriller novels that comes in sequel. With five book series, five novelist and five main characters. Perhaps the best description of the first character is to introduce a public square in the heart of Copenhagen. Højbro Plads. The place where no tourist misses to visit and the place where Cotton Malone, the hero from the Steve Berry's stories lives and owns a bookshop. This is, sort of, his base of operations and the place that provided great action and suspense in couple of novels. Needless to say, several years ago, when we visited Copenhagen, I definitely wanted to see the place myself and to experience the feeling from the books. I surely have nothing to add to the Steve's choosing of the Cotton's home, except to recommend a visit during the Christmas time. Because of festivity and ... sausages. Perhaps, if you ask many people about Danish national cuisine and their prime dish, first thing that will come to their minds are pastry and cookies. Not me. When I go to Denmark, one of the reasons are their sausages. And the best ones can be found on the street, like those in above image. The only problem with Danish sausages is that they come in wide variety of flavour, sizes and aromas. You cannot try them all with just one visit of Højbro Plads or other places. So if you like them like I do, prepare to be frequent visitor of Danish capital especially on holidays.

Cotton Malone series by Steve Berry

But and to get back to Steve Berry and his series of twelve books of Cotton's adventures (so far), I have to admit that I didn't read them all. I learned about the series late - perhaps in the time when I switched reading from paper to Kindle and in the process skipped several from the middle. I read them enough though to state the obvious - the writing and the storytelling are gradually improved and getting better and better with every new book. The stories are of course not linked, they are stand alone novels, but the characters are more than connected and intersected in many ways and this can only be understood with reading entire sequel. The research of the background is thorough and I love Steve's final chapter with "separating facts from fiction" and if you add plots and twists from both history and present time of many global nations, these books definitely offers more than just entertainment. Events are described to the level that there is almost no need for later googling and further research and that's what I like the most with this series. I remember I learned a lot about history of Antarctica, China, Korea, Alexandria, US and countries throughout Europe including Russia. I have just finished reading the last novel "The Lost Order" and needless to say that my knowledge about America and their Civil War expanded a lot. If you asked me yesterday about the cause of it, I would promptly say 'slavery', but today after this book (and others before, especially the one with plot knitted around Mormons in Utah and the previous one related to cold war) I definitely learned a lot more about true complexity of the 18th and 19th century as well as all the political relations in present days between countries and intelligence services throughout the world. Conclusion for this series would be simple - if you like political thriller search no more. Enough said.

Alex Cross series by James Patterson

Next in line, after Cotton Malone and his 12 novels is Alex Cross, another great character introduced in book "Along Came a Spider", the classic thriller from 1993 written by James Patterson. The writing is amazing. Chapters are short and always force you to start reading another one in search for more information and it goes effectively well from true punk-ish style narrated by the main character, toward the well described other chapters when action goes from leading investigation to the villains or other characters. The main impression with this book (and others I read so far) is that it gives you strong feeling of plausibility of the full story. Not just the crime story but also the credibility of how the system works. Even though Cross is, in a way, the leader in the large police chase, there are no moments of epiphany in this book, like we used to in so many novels and movies where one brilliant character does all the work and in true hero style saves the lives of all the others. No, in here, you will find the real team work and true relations between several agencies and law in action. I did read several more books from the Alex Cross series (shown in the image above) but I have to admit it was all in the paperback time. There are twice as many novels in this sequel comparing to Steve Berry's but to tell the truth, pure and raw crime stories like these are not high in my priority list. But I do love action and crime solving and I am sure more Alex Cross stories will be loaded into my Kindle's memory. One already has - "I, Alex Cross" is the very next book I intend to read in the future as it seems that is probably the best so far according to other reviews.

Will Piper series by Glenn Cooper

Surely, thriller as a genre cannot survive on it's own. It requires a background story as a bottom layer and in previous two series, reality is dominant and conspiracies are believable. The world around us is filled with political agenda and criminal behaviour and to base stories upon that is not a big brainer. On the other end, "Library of The Dead" by Glenn Cooper and it's sequel novels "Book of Souls" and "The Librarians" are something entirely else. The stories behind Will Piper adventures are much, much suitable for the hot sand and lazy days of one summertime or any leisure time no matter when. It has it all, great mystery that remains mystery to the very end with lots of action, guns and villains all over the place with one dedicated hero portrayed with all his good and bad sides and all that filled with tiny dose of humor. Pure entertainment. If you go for this, and I couldn't recommend it more, prepare to swallow the trilogy in a record time. It really occupies you from dusk till dawn and writing is very well done with all it's chapters jumping from one timeline to another. What I also liked very much in Glenn Cooper's trilogy is how nicely he used "the library" story to explain many historical and modern puzzles, like possible explanation of evolution in christian religion, existence of prophets and psychics, background of nowadays governmental conspiracies and with usage of well known people in history of mankind he managed to give good credits to the whole thing and to mask the fiction into great thriller. As for the mystery theme in all three novels and the divine (or whatever it is) connection related to our already written destiny on this world, even though it is walking on the very thin wire it serves the purpose as the backbone of the story and never goes on the front light. Yes, it triggers, at least with me, couple of thoughts of good and old dilemmas of what life along with soul really is and whether or not we are just bunch of dummies in the hands of one master puppeteer, but still, in the end, this is there just in form of one great entertainment and nothing more.

Travis Chase series by Patrick Lee

However, and if we stay in the world of entertainment, government conspiracies are very high in my reading and watching list. It's hard to explain why. I simply love the mystery and possibility that there is something out there, something extraordinary and new. Something that only lives in fiction. And for today's glimpse into this world I chose to show you one extraordinary novel series, written by Patrick Lee and called "The Breach". After I have read all three books with Travis Chase in lead role I can tell you that if you enjoy 'conspiracies' genre this is standing shoulder to shoulder with Fox Mulder. And not just conspiracies. Sci-Fi part, all the twists and storytelling is something I was never encountering often with other authors so far. Everything was perfectly wrapped and almost unpredictable to the very end. Something I am secretly hoping with any book I start to read. I admire both authors, Patrick Lee and A.G.Riddle, the author of the next trilogy I am about to recommend, for the imagination they have and willing to transform into letters. I can't thank them enough for entertainment I had for weeks.

David Vale series by A.G.Riddle

As for the last main character and the final recommendation, if I would have to say anything about expectations, when I loaded The Origin Mystery, with David Vale in the hero role, written by A.G.Riddle, two summers ago I expected a lot and this is exactly what I got! You have to be brave to make yet another novel about Atlanteans and the author wrapped it just right. He managed to connect several Sci Fi genres into one successful story. For my taste all the sciences are there and connected perfectly. Biology, virology and genetic research including junk-DNA involvement, physics and space travels, quantum entanglement, Antarctica, known history and use of connection and conspiracy theories like Nazi bell (Die Glocke) or Roswell UFO sighting. Script play with time dilatation and hibernation. Space battles of enormous proportion. Explanation of Gods and ancient astronauts. If you add usual 'Indiana Jones' type of adventures and romance there was no better choice for me entire summer. Perhaps, using so many connected sciences in the plot is too risky as the author faces with challenges of choosing what is more important and deserves to be explained better at the expense of other technologies or speculations but I don't mind. All in all, Riddle's Atlanteans are perhaps the best version I read in a long while and I warmly recommend it.

Everybody love heroes, great happy endings and eternal fight between good and evil. Thrillers are about that. No matter if they are following reality or fiction or any mixture between those two, these books will always be there and always number one entertainment. And not just for the summers.

Cotton Malone
http://steveberry.org/books/cotton-malone-series/
https://www.goodreads.com/series/44279-cotton-malone

Alex Cross
http://www.bookseriesinorder.com/alex-cross/
http://www.jamespatterson.com/alex-cross

Will Piper
https://www.librarything.com/series/Will+Piper
http://www.glenncooperbooks.com/

Travis Chase
http://www.patrickleefiction.com/
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/TravisChaseSeries

David Vale
http://www.agriddle.com/books
https://www.goodreads.com/series/104994-the-origin-mystery

Interview With an 'X'

The 'X' is definitely one of the most important letters in the alphabet. Not only that it is the most valuable variable in all math equations and scientific chase for the unknown, but in the entire history of human riddles, and I mean not always related to math, it always marks the most interesting spot. Sometimes the one with the treasure. It was not coincidence that old Romans used it for the most important number of them all. 10. The very base of our widely used numeric system. But we are not here to talk about mathematics or treasure hunting per se. It will be more about age. Of ten. My son Viktor is turning this magic number on this year Earth Day (April 22nd) and I decided, in addition to our previous topic and post Interview With an Expert, to fire another set of questions for him to answer. This time more general and within various realm of life and .. well .. stuff...


So let's start with favorites. I guess they say a lot about personality. And they don't require a polygraph to confirm the truthness of the given answers.. For some reason, I believe everybody or the most of us will answer these honestly. Probably because of their benevolentness (if this is even a word). Even we adults will not curve the truth with these ones. And yet, answers to these questions probably reveal a lot about a person. In the modern world it is comparable to the browser history - if you want to learn about your friend's likes and dislikes just have a glimpse or two to his or her bookmarks and history.

So, let's start the interview in that fashion. Here it goes:

Do It Yourself

Languages always change when we change. Evolutionary speaking and over long period of time. Especially when we mix with others or change environment and move to different places. English is perfect example - perhaps it is the only language spoken with that many variations created from country to country, all over the world, from New Zealand throughout India toward Canada and even in those places on Earth where it is not language number one. Believe it or not, there are thousands of spoken languages throughout our planet today and with people migration over eons, mixing multiple languages into new ones are well recorded in our history. New languages created in that fashion are well known as creoles, most of them connected to the recent colonialism when two cultures or more collided for a longer period in time. Perhaps the most known of them all (and spoken by most of their population) are Haitian, Jamaican and Hawaiian creoles - mixture of French (Haiti) and English (Jamaica and Hawaii) base with influences of other European languages (Spanish and Portuguese), West African, and domestic. But there are other type of creoles - i.e. in the literature and movies (somebody thought Klingon?), perhaps the coolest of them all is Belter Creole (The Expanse series) invented by Nick Farmer* with words taken from English, Chinese, Hebrew, Persian and dozen more. For example "Den ta desh lik bodzha" in belter means, if I am not mistaken and from the context, something like "It looked like a big explosion".


But we don't need to go that far into history or fiction. Within only couple of decades of the internet, in the world of abbreviations and acronyms we, even today, need extra vocabulary power to understand the urban slang and new words in written context. Let me 'invent' a sentence from the modern technocracy - "Dude, diy asap. Btw afaik, * is in faq! Yolo man!". And this is the translation: "Dude, do it yourself as soon as possible. By the way, as far as I know, everything is in 'frequently asked questions'! You only live once, man!".

Ok, after perhaps too long and utterly unnecessary introduction which is probably more suitable for some other topics, let's talk in this post, or to better say let's watch, about one of the new internet words. DIY. In realm of home science experiments published on YouTube. By zviktor22 and mpj. Well.. us.. Viktor and me.


So, enough about languages at least for now and let's dive into YouTube phenomenon in latest years with series of DIY videos published by many youtubers in various fields. We, kind of, started with this even earlier with our "Little Chef", cooking thread and it was only logical to, by following our host age, go into other waters as well. DIY was practically waiting for us to start and with these three video clips we are introducing new playlist in zviktor22 YouTube channel and new thread on this blog. Of course, both of us didn't want just to copy similar clips on the net so we established a rule that in order to publish, it is mandatory to add our own twist or change of recipe or something new that wasn't done before.

Game of Life - The Graphic Novel

Game of Life is an old news, yes, but from time to time I get some feedback or thoughts regarding the script and the film overall but last friday I stumbled to something special that forced me to relive the film once more. It was an extraordinary comic book creator called "Comic Life", made by plasq development company which gave me genuine pleasure last entire weekend. I was looking for a comic book related application before and even tried couple of them but they were all way below Comic Life and all the features it offers. I was immediately hooked by its nativity and simplicity and instantly thought about our short film. After very little hesitation I decided to give it a try and the result is sort of "Game of Life" made by "Comic (of) Life".


After all, I had everything, the script, the video file and the free time last weekend and to create a comic book out of it was pretty straightforward. What I did was to open Game of Life in VLC player and to take couple of screenshots in order to import them into "Comic Life" and the rest is in this post. Well, soon after, couple of screenshots turned into dozens and dozens into exactly 195 images but it all was worth the effort. Actually it wasn't without little post processing but I enjoyed it all the way. Last night we went to laser print the first copy and here it is above in Viktor's hands and just below in preview (it needs some time to load).

Zeus Is Dead

After, relatively speaking and with modest human reasoning, long time spent on this Earth, the most of what I have learned about people, is that they follow their passion to the end. No matter what. It's like it is written in our DNA and cannot be altered. Not even a millimeter or less. For instance, I remember one small conversation with one of my friends, or acquaintances, to use more accurate business vocabulary, about decade ago while we shared one business trip. It was a long drive with just two of us that couldn't sustain business talk all the way and eventually it curved into other topics like usual and unavoidable political, religious and philosophic subjects, and in this case between two differently wired minds. I can't really remember the entire stream of discussion but it all started with me, when, by following my own passion, I tried to use all of my oral skills to describe how I see the future of democracy. After awhile, when I finished with 'all of the political wisdom', all what I've got in return, without much consideration, was "Meh, if you ask me, the only political system that could work is theocracy. Everything else is bogus and temporary."


For a brief moment, I considered how would that be like. Surely with this mortal world we are living in and god present only in the book, spirit and stories, it is not really possible. It would require the actual deity to be around in real physical form and be recognized as the ultimate king or emperor without any doubts. Then, he or she or it or them or whatever would appoint the most valuable worshipers in his or hers or its or theirs or whatever priestly order for presidents, popes, ministries, secretaries and other governmental stuff. In all countries. So, after short consideration, it was my turn to say "Meh". So I did. I pretty much didn't say anything else on the topic so the conversation about worldwide politics (and religion) died out pretty soon after. In situations like this it is always best to find the mutual ground so we got back into business talk again and discussed more how to write some software in order to get more money from some new clients. He had some ideas of how to get more of them (clients and money) from political institutions, ministry offices and local municipalities. He said they like to buy things they rarely use and they have lots of money. He got a point there. I didn't object.

Hmm, ok, that was a little bit long introduction to the post story that was intended to be just, sort of, a book review, but, it was somewhat related to the subject and I thought it would be appropriate opening for the rest of the text. Anyhow, what I said so far was indeed based on real events for sure and real people for that matter, including me, but I might of stretched several conversations into just one road trip event and it probably look more to the fictitious chat of the sort. So to speak. Well, sometimes and nevertheless, the thin line between fiction and nonfiction is not really visible at once but in the case of Michael G. Munz's amazing novel called 'Zeus Is Dead: A Monstrously Inconvenient Adventure' one would say it is all about fiction and laugh out loud (LOL) moments. And yes, it is all about fictitious theocracy within nowadays modern world, created by Olympian gods when they returned from their withdrawal after more than two thousand years with all of their entourage and got back to the active and mutual life with mortals and worshippers. Which means us on the ground. And they returned with a twist.


But, before I continue with the actual glimpse to the book itself, I think I need to write a word of two about the photo I embedded above, which might be interesting to read. This is in fact the mount of Olympus. The most famous mountain in the entire world. The mighty one. It is not the highest of them all - just slightly lower than 3K meters and not even the highest in the entire Balkans, but it was the one chosen by gods to built their own abode, during their first episode in ancient times. Sitting just next to Aegean Sea, it is the first sight you see when you travel from Thessaloniki to Athens in nowadays Greece. I took this image in 2010, from the beach in the sea resort of Leptokarya, described by Wikipedia as "the former seat of East Olympos municipality, which is part of the municipality of Dio-Olympos", whatever that means. During my countless visits of northern Greece in past several decades, and all of them during summer holidays, believe it or not, all of my Olympus photographs ended with similar heavy stream of clouds above mountain peaks. It is like the Olympus is always hidden by clouds by some weird meteorological reasons. Well, that was not entirely true as I have seen the Olympus naked in the occasion or two, but still it was not often. It's like Olympus is attracting the clouds and capturing them to stay and hide it's peaks. At least almost every time I was traveling the area or visiting the region.

To be completely honest, once I have even visited Olympus myself, when I was about 10 years old or little older, during our vacation in the region with my parents in eighties of the previous century. There was a dirt road ending very near to one of its peaks, where we visited one of the rare taverns that can really print on its portfolio that was built on the top of gods' heavenly entrances. For some fairly strange reasons, Coca Cola and gyros on the tavern's terrace felt really tasty, just as the pure and clean water from the water stream just next to it. Unfortunately and despite of all of my efforts, I couldn't see or find anything divine or out of worldly items or even a glowing shiny rock. There were no gods whatsoever. Or naked muses. Or beasts with snakes instead of hair. Or horses with wings. Or mighty heroes. Nothing. Well, I was only 10 years old. What did I know.. Maybe that pair of hawks we saw flying around the highes rock across the tavern and screeching in high tones were actually Apollo and Artemis arguing about something.

On the other end, it might be that I visited Olympus during gods' withdrawal. Way too early...


In the meantime I learned a great deal about divine and what is the most interesting about old Greek gods, compared to all of the modern religions of today is that their godhood was not that estranged from their creation like it is now the case with all of those Jerusalem monotheistic beliefs. Greek gods loved to mingle with mortals. And by mingle, you know what I mean, which is especially true with Zeus (probably Dionysis too). In fact, within the opening chapters of the novel, Apollo defined it best when he said that "Gods are just like mortals, only ... better." And that means with everything that we can use to describe ordinary people, including conspiracies, hatred, intelligence, stupidity, love, sex, affairs, ... It's like the Greek gods possess everything good and bad we mortals experience on daily bases, only theirs is enhanced and powered off the charts. And of course, they could change appearances into hawks.. and to do other magical stuff.

So, by establishing that we can safely say that all the gods in the "Zeus Is Dead: A Monstrously Inconvenient Adventure" are more than just divine creatures. They are active characters in the story and along with amazing Michael's narrative, that is playing with the reader on numerous occasions are something that gives this book, at least for me, the originality I have never experienced before. The humor is everywhere, especially in the narrative, that on many points require fair amount of reader's geekery and knowledge of ancient mythology. Further lol moments come from the characters directly, either the mortal or divine, especially Leif and Thalia but not only them - I found myself in numerous chuckles between loud laughters even in dialogues and actions of the mighty gods who reminded me of the old and good english humor in Monty Python series. It was really good read and I recommend it warmly. If I had to cut just one star out of five for this book (which I didn't), it could be because of the god-icecream and god-tree - it was little too much and perhaps not that necessary for the story but on the other end, the moment when Jerry (the talking tree, before Zeus turn it into god) met the chainsaw was one of those hilarious moments that gave me true entertainment, just like I wanted in the first place when I clicked on the purchase button, secretly hoping for a genuine fun I was looking for after numerous 'serious' thrillers and dystopian novels I read in previous months. It was refreshing and I will definitely browse for more and the first stop would definitely be Michael G. Munz's website. For the upcoming sequel.

Zeus Is Dead: A Monstrously Inconvenient Adventure
http://michaelgmunz.com/books/zeus/


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