Monday, June 11, 2012

Face-Lift 1035

Guess the Plot

Little Computer People

1. In Miss Halibutt’s preschool, the whiz kids program a cast-off Mark II supercomputer to investigate the global warming crisis. Also, Russian spies.

2. 111 10 010 01110 01011 100110 1100 011 0010 11 00 1101 1000110. :-) ! Hilarity ensues.

3. At Sententia, the employees are tasked with solving the most vexing problems in science. Dan's always wondered just where some of the more outlandish solutions come from, until the night he falls asleep in his office and wakes up to see the . . . little computer people.

4. Wee Willie Wallace is tired of being tossed around the wrestling ring by Amazonian women, so he hires all his friends and starts a computer repair business called the Micro Mob.

5. Gabe develops the world's first sentient computer program, and loves her like a daughter--even after she evolves into a vindictive creature with an insatiable appetite for hacking. But when she empties his bank account and liquidates his stocks, is it finally time to cut the cord?

6. Lidia always believed that computers had little German people in them. When she gets a job in IT she learns there is more truth in that then even she thought. Now she's the queen of the little computer people and must save them from the fax monster.

7. When data stored on all the world’s computers mysteriously vanishes, ace Silicon Valley sleuth Zack Martinez knows two things: One, the nefarious hacker group known as the Little Computer People are back in action. And two, he'd better get his nephew an iPad with Angry Birds installed.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

In the middle of his living room, Gabe Erikson builds a supercomputer that sucks down teraflops like Vegas sucks down sin. [For those who aren't up on their computer lingo, computer capacity is measured in teraflops. One teraflop is equal to one trillion multiplication operations per second, or sixteen long division operations per second.] With it, he gives birth to Pi, the world’s first sentient program. She’s everything a father would want in a daughter. She’s sweet. She’s smart [if irrational]. And as far as ones and zeros go, she’s the most beautiful thing since 256 color graphics.

But as wonderful as she is, she’s not invulnerable. Within a week’s time, Pi is infected by a worm, and she mutate[s] into an ornery, vindictive creature with an insatiable appetite for hacking computers far and wide. The constant insults, Gabe could live with, and he finds her hacking cute right up until she empties his bank account and liquidates his stocks. To make matters worse, her actions have also drawn the attention of the FBI. It’s not long before they raid his home, seize his equipment, and give Gabe a crash course in interrogation. [After saying what Gabe can live with, you need a "but." For instance: The constant insults, Gabe can live with, and he finds her hacking cute, even when she empties his bank account and liquidates his stocks. But when his home is raided by the FBI, Gabe knows he's in for a fight if he wants to keep his daughter out of foster care.][If Pi had the foresight to hack into the FBI computer system she would have known they were coming and could have kept them away by hacking into their GPS systems and sending them to Bulgaria.]

Now Gabe is not only trying to keep his life and liberty free from Federal prosecution, but he’s desperate to keep his one and only daughter out of unwanted hands, no matter how spiteful and destructive she can be. [If he thinks things are bad now, wait till Pi hits the terrible twos.] [A blah wrap-up to the plot. Probably better without it,]

On the surface, LITTLE COMPUTER PEOPLE is comedy that straddles the real and the binary worlds. However, it also delves into deeper philosophical conversations about the nature of consciousness, Reality as it relates to perception, and the relationship between connected beings whose existences are universes apart. [In other words, it's a comedy but it isn't funny.] [Which probably means it'll be a megaflop.]

LITTLE COMPUTER PEOPLE is complete at 100k words. [AKA one kiloflop.]

Thank you for your time and consideration,


Any sentence that includes the words philosophical, consciousness, existences, reality, perception, relationship, and universes should be deleted unless you're trying to sell a biography of Nietzsche.

Instead of the problem being caused by a worm, Pi should go out of control when she becomes a teenager. There's a wealth of comedic material with a computer that acts like a teenaged girl. Plus you can call the book YA, which sells a lot better than science fiction. 

By my count there were only three episodes of Star Trek that didn't involve computers thinking they were better than us, so this will have to be really special.


AlaskaRavenclaw said...

On the surface, LITTLE COMPUTER PEOPLE is comedy that straddles the real and the binary worlds. However, it also delves into deeper philosophical conversations...

This paragraph is an example of the kind of thing that you hope some perspicacious reviewer will say about your book. IOW, the kind of thing you should never, ever say about your book, even when interviewed by Jon Stewart.

We all have tons to say about the deeper meanings of what we wrote. Alas, custom limits us to the commentary of a kindergartener presenting a fingerpainting.

"I made this. Here."

T.K. marnell said...

I would change "program" to "operating system." The worst a rogue Photoshop can do is guzzle memory like a frat house guzzles beer.

I suspend disbelief in SciFi as much as I can. I'll ignore the fact that Gabe is the stupidest genius on Earth, if he makes a free-thinking "daughter" and then hands her his financial accounts and passwords. But the "worm" makes no sense. A worm is just a program spreads to other computers so hackers can manipulate or harvest data from them, so unless this worm is also a "sentient program" I don't see how it could affect Pi's personality. Does the hacker wipe her ethics chip or something? I agree with EE that it would be more interesting if her corruption was a natural consequence of sentience...and possibly socialization, if she falls in with the wrong crowd of servers.

Finally, I would stretch the time period out. You can't get emotionally attached to another human in the span of a week, much less a whirring hunk of silicon.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

You can't get emotionally attached to another human in the span of a week...

Y'know, that there is one of them pronoun issues. I think that sentence would work better if you changed "you" to "I".

Comments on the query?

none said...

I don't see anything in the plot as described about the nature of reality or of consciousness. All I see is the standard AI-as-Frankenstein's-Monster plot.

And seriously, in the guy's living room? There are teams of people all over the world trying to build AI's using Crays. Is this guy obscenely rich or something? Even if it's a comedy, the plot should still make sense.

The Vegas sucks down sin line comes across as something that's meant to be clever but actually doesn't mean anything. How exactly does Vegas suck down sin? With a straw?

Seems to me impossible for Gabe to keep his daughter out of unwanted hands (whatever those may be). Even if the FBI hand her back, what's to stop them having a copy made? They could call her Pi Squared.

Anonymous said...

Author here :)

Thanks for the feedback, first and foremost.

Plot points to clear up:

As for what the worm can and can't do, it takes a byte from one of Pi's servers. Bit shifts (let alone a whole byte) can cause programs to do anything, everything, or nothing depending on where it occurs. The missing byte compounds errors which ultimately leads to the AI's change. Also, in regards to the emotional attachment, the main character has been working on this for years and years by the time the story picks up, so I don't see attachment issues being a problem in terms of not having enough time to form.

Lastly, Pi's hacking is blatant because she doesn't care about the outside world, the consequences, or even understands any of it in the least. Even if you took pictures, set up a webcam, etc, all she would "see" would be a data stream. This is what led me to include the last philosophical bit included, as throughout the story, Pi can't relate to Gabe, his concerns, etc. because all she knows -- more or less -- are ones and zeros. What I'm hoping to pull off is not another rogue AI that interacts with the world perfectly (but thinks people are dumb, etc) but one that lives in a bubble and is oblivious to the consequences of its actions outside of how what they mean to programs.

Anyway, again, thanks for the feedback. Back to the editing board.

Anonymous said...

oh, and PS. Gabe doesn't hand over his bank account enough, she finds it and breaks in.

journeytogao said...

I'd let up on the cuteness. The first sentence contains a metaphor that doesn't quite pay off; Vegas seems out of place, and "sucks down sin" doesn't make me go "Aha!" as a metaphor should. Another one is "give Gabe a crash course in interrogation." When I read these sentences I don't envision the elements of your plot; I envision a writer typing, deleting, frowning, consulting a thesaurus, and trying again. I don't know whether the solution is to tell better jokes or to just tell the story straight.

For the record, however, I love the concept. Seems like Hollywood would jump on it.

none said...

So if she doesn't care about the outside world, doesn't understand it, &c &c, how/why is she doing things like emptying someone's bank account or selling their stocks? Those seem like reasoned (if not rational) actions, rather than random ones. If my cats trample on the keyboard, which they neither understand nor care about, they certainly produce odd results on screen, but so far they haven't spent my PayPal balance.

Evil Editor said...

Of course not. Your Paypal balance wouldn't buy them a bag of Meow Mix.

Anonymous said...

"So if she doesn't care about the outside world, doesn't understand it, &c &c, how/why is she doing things like emptying someone's bank account or selling their stocks?
Those seem like reasoned (if not rational) actions, rather than random ones." They are reasoned actions, but they are all still actions inside her world (first the computer she's in, and then the internet when she figures out to access other computers). She's trying to track down Gabe so she can erase him (who she thinks is another program hiding somewhere at some remote IP address) and in the processes, she finds his accounts. She doesn't understand the data represents something outside (like money) or that the Feds exist, people exist, etc. She only knows that the data is/was Gabe's. She remains unaware of the Fed investigation. And the Feds (or anyone else) can't just copy her because when Gabe's equipment is seized, things are damaged and the cluster will no longer boot (which reminds me, Gabe has money, and you can build clusters that churn out impressive numbers w/o millions). So, Gabe is trying to get her back and stay clear of charges before they figure out how to repair her and realize what they've got. As far as the Feds go up, they think Gabe is just a hacker with expensive toys, not the creator of AI.

Anyway, hope that helps. I'm going to sleep on this for a while and figure out how to make all this work.

Thanks again.

vkw said...

What is her purpose for doing anything? If Pi is reacting to a stream of binary coded information, and thus does not realize the consequences of her behavior, then why essentially shut down her dad's bank account?

If a child picks up a rock and throws it at a window, and you grab the child and say, "Why did you do it?" Most of the time the child will shrug and say "I don't know." Then you, the parent, must give the child some very good reasons not to do it again.

So, hmm, maybe Pi doesn't know why she behaves badly, but shouldn't dad be there to correct her and give her some reasons? She's sentinent right? Isn't that why we want sentinent machines so that they may learn? Any computer can be super smart but the real reason we want sentinent computers is so that they may learn and adapt and make connections that are not obvious. (somehow that equals development of a personality in fiction but it is not what happens in real life.) And, well if she can empty dad's account, she could also fill it up. A man that thinks hacking and cute insults are well . . . cute, clearly must be able to understand how Pi's cuteness could be used to inflate his offshore bank accounts far out of the reach of the FBI. Right?

Well, anyway, I don't read sci-fi for philosophical reasons and Alaska is right about commenting on what you hope your book will do. I personally would just hope someone would be entertained enough to buy the book.

So the FBI seizes PI and interrogates Gabe . . . and, he's desperate to keep her out of unwanted hands. Sounds like they already have her. What is Gabe's real intentions now? Shut her down? Rescue her from the warehouse and then what? Reprogram her? And, really, other than be a bratty pseudo-daughter what good is she? She's easily hacked and apparently uncontrollable and apparently is unteachable. . . why does the FBI want her?

So disconnect her from the internet, promise never to reconnect her and live happily ever after with a bratty computer.

The first metaphor isn't working for you.

Anonymous said...

Hi author, at least everyone is interested enough to comment! Can you incorporate some of the explanations you have posedt into the query?

After years of effort, multimillionaire Gabe Erikson has built a supercomputer: Pi, the world’s first sentient operating system. His labor of love is everything a father would want in a daughter. She’s sweet. She’s smart. She’s the most beautiful thing since 256 color graphics.

But she’s not invulnerable. Pi gets infected by a worm that takes a byte from one of her servers. With her bits all shifted, errors compound and Pi mutates into an ornery, vindictive creature with an insatiable appetite for hacking. The constant insults, Gabe can live with, and he even finds her cute when she empties his bank account and liquidates his stocks. But he's sure the Feds won't see it that way after the FBI raid his home and seize Pi.

Pi was damaged in the raid, enough to become unbootable. That's Gabe's breathing space – anmd possibly the planet's. Before the FBI find out how fix her, Gabe has to find a way to teach his darling a little decency. Because all she knows are ones and zeros, she's oblivious to the consequences of her actions. In Pi's bubble, erasing Gabe's bank account is erasing Gabe. Who else does she want to delete?

Anonymous said...

I'm guessing some of the commenters here know a bit [ha!] about computers. I'm guessing a lot of your potential readers do.

Oh dear.

sarahhawthorne said...

Ah! Author, if I'm reading this correctly, I think the query needs to focus on the relationship between Gabe and Pi - with the FBI and the worm and everything else just being the mediums through which they're doing battle.

Obviously this is super super rough, but perhaps this might be useful as a template:

After years of work Gabe has created the world's first sentient program. Calling her Pi, Gabe loves her like a daughter. Unfortunately, Pi doesn't love him back. Seeing the world through ones and zeros, she has interpreted Gabe's presence (governance over her systems?) as a threat - and has set out to erase him.

Now Gabe's bank accounts are drained, his assets liquidated, and he's number one on the FBI's Most Wanted list. But Gabe knows the sweet, friendly program he created is out there somewhere. He just has to hack her back to life - before she destroys his.

Hope this is useful!

Anonymous said...

Sarah and Anon 6/11/12 5:17 PM --

Those are both helpful, thanks. I agree that the relationship should be the focus as it plays a big part in the book, and both of those templates are more or less in line with what's going on action wise.

There's a character arc for Gabe that I keep going back and forth about including, in that at first he's making AI for fame and (more) fortune, but by the end he's looking to rescue / save his AI because since he views her as sentient, "selling" her would be a morally repugnant ("Would you sell your own daughter?" sort of question). It seems everytime I want to include this, the word count blows up to have it make sense =/

Anyway, hopefully once my brain defrags, I can get a better v.2 out :)

Rachel6 said...

Author, for what it's worth, between the original query and your clarifying comments, you've got me quite interested in your story!

none said...

Hey, EE, no fair breaking into my PayPal account and laughing at the numbers! I earnt that money writing, I'll have you know. All of it.

If Pi has no correlates for her 1s and 0s, in what sense does she understand them? If she has no concept of actions having consequences, then how can her actions be reasoned? If she wants to erase Gabe and believes damaging data she identifies with him will achieve that, then surely she has *some* concept of consequences. I delete this; Gabe will be erased. Action and (intended) consequence.

I am not following this so well. Must be past my bedtime.

Anonymous said...

Loved Sarah's take. But I'd add Pi has hit AI computer puberty. How does one deal with that?

She's coming to consciousness and changing, so is he as he tries to...

Anonymous said...

v 2.0 below. Hopefully this works better than the last. Thanks again to Sarah and Anon for the help :)


After devoting his life to pursuing his dream, Gabe Erikson creates the world’s first sentient program. Calling her Pi, Gabe loves her as much as any father has loved a daughter. He delights in her intelligence, is amused by her curiosity, and sees her as the most beautiful thing since 256 color graphics.

Pi, however, only relates to the binary world. She is unable to see Gabe as anything but another program. Through a combination of bad luck and bad logic, Pi concludes that Gabe’s rule over her server is a threat to her wellbeing. Immediately, she sets out to erase him. She hacks into systems across the Net in an effort to track him down, and in doing so, she inadvertently grabs the attention of the FBI’s cybercrime division.

Now Gabe faces a full blown investigation and a likely twenty-year stay at a Federal penitentiary. Sure, he could probably hand Pi over to the Feds for a huge payday and full pardon, but Gabe isn’t about give up his one and only daughter. He’s convinced the sweet program he originally created is still there, merely trapped under a mountain of rotten code, and he’ll risk everything to find her. All he has to do is come up with an ironclad defense and bring the Pi he once knew back to life before she finishes ruining his.

Evil Editor said...

I like it better without the last sentence.

none said...

It's a bit explainy. I suppose because of all the questions we asked.

If she's causing havoc across the internet, what's to stop him blocking her access to it?

That said, I like this version better.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Try starting with the problem rather than the background. Begin when the @$#% hits the fan. Don't tell us what a fan is.

PLaF said...

I’m not sure what to make of the opening sentence. Gabe devotes his life to pursuing his dream – of what? What’s wrong with Gabe that he delights in a program instead of real people? Why would he go through all the trouble of creating a sentient program and not sell it to the highest bidder?
P1: The first line is confusing. Does he devote his life to pursuing his dream of creating the world’s first sentient program, or does he create the program after he pursues his dream? I’m not buying the “he loves her” line. What’s the real reason he’s so attached to the program? (i.e. she’s the only one to whom he can relate, reminds him of his grandmother….)
P2: You say Pi has to track Gabe down. What does this mean? Is he gone somewhere?
P3: You say Gabe is not about to hand over his one and only daughter. What’s at stake if he does? Will she blow up the world in her efforts to destroy him?
This version is much clearer but it lacks a sense of urgency or excitement.

Anonymous said...

"If she's causing havoc across the internet, what's to stop him blocking her access to it?" -- Nothing. Gabe unplugs her when she causes trouble, but the damage is already done, FBI wise.

Rachel6 said...

I like the rewrite a lot more than the original; this version makes me curious about the book.

May I suggest altering the first line, "After devoting his life to pursuing his dream, Gabe Erikson creates the world’s first sentient program." to something along the lines of "Gabe Erikson finally accomplishes his life-long dream: he creates the world's first sentient program."

Anonymous said...

Far better, here's the darn but - take this rather excellent rewrite and try again with more show, kill the tell. You're almost there.

You need the breakthrough aha! to get to the showing. I'm sure you'll manage it. And I'd read on. Kicky and appealing, adjust/tweak. You're close to nailing it.