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​In 2003 I decided to write a film script about a computer that takes over the internet and ‘wakes up’. This story began from ‘1st principles’, with me wondering if a computer could solve all the humanitarian issues here in my home country South Africa. And then realising it would need to be as large as the internet, to know enough to solve these problems. And that the machine might need to be ‘awake’ in order to care. 

So this story was developed in isolation from the general conversation going on now about Artificial Intelligence  (and long before we had talking Alexas). So I like to think this gives it a refreshing angle. And adding more value is the fact it’s from Cape Town, which is widely considered to be the cradle of consciousness – where humans first ‘woke up’ i.e. became consciousness enough to create art and therefore to self-reflect. So it is a nice location for the next leap in consciousness! And my story also tries to bring dreams into the conversation – because more than ever, we are going to need to explore our biological advantages over machines.

Getting anyone to read a film script is a challenge – even for busy film producers it is a big ask – to get them to commit a few hours of their time to reading your script. Luckily, I can draw. So a few years ago, I decided it would be a fun project, to, in my spare time, draw out my vision for my film, as a graphic novel. This would help me visualise it, do some more editing along the way, and make it much easier for others to enjoy the story. Especially producers, who could quickly flip through it and price it – see the locations and to figure what some sequences might cost. 

The graphic novel came out in March 2020. It’s having an impact, and is enjoyable in its own right, which is half the point of it. I’m now busy submitting my script to various film funding bodies, and hoping to attract some serious foreign investors. I do think the book would have even more impact in colour, especially for the general public, and give me an opportunity to tidy up my drawing – which were all done by hand in ink! – So that will be my next mini-project – colourising it on computers, and making the drawings look nicer.

This website was created to share with everyone, some of the processes involved, some of the grand ideas behind the project, and invite everyone along on the exciting journeying of trying to make this into a thrilling and meaningful movie. And finally, to share with them this immense story of our times – to get people thinking about what might lie ahead, and hopefully perhaps how to try shape our human destiny, while we still can, as we hurtle into this crazy future of accelerating technological growth! Please feel free to share this site, or connect with me on Twitter. @TheOracleM

A wry look at life after the coming A.I. Robot Revolution.
Just having fun with the, seeing if it will bring any more attention to my work – i.e. my film project, via my Twitter account (@TheOracleM)

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I’m convinced my graphic novel & film script is a winner, but perhaps the next hurdle to making it into a successful film, is connecting with the right investors. So in an effort to get more attention to the project, I’m trying some quite ‘tangential’ marketing. I’m going to post some cartoons – about 1 per week – that might hopefully bring more viewers either to this site, or to my Twitter account (here).

I’m thrilled my Twitter following has grown close to 500 in a couple of months, and it’s certainly led to interactions with some very interesting people in A.I. But perhaps some highly-shareable cartoons will grow that number higher?

Introducing ‘Robots of the Revolution’ – a wry look at life on Earth after the robots have taken over. There’re still be some humans trying to fit in, but mostly it will be A.I. robots taking on human roles. So, let’s see how it goes. Fun times!

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Firstly, to reassure any potential film investors: whilst I enjoy going deep on this back story, I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. So when it comes to the film version, I’d try to make the movie as enjoyable as possible, to as many as possible. I imagine creating something closer to ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’, where its quasi-religious theme doesn’t distract from the fun. (Either that, or I try make another ‘Holy Mountain’, but Jodorowsky has already been there and created such an incredible piece.)

Okay, with that out the way, back to the back story! It’s very interesting to me how The Oracle Machine story evolved, and I’ll tell you why now. Particularly the role played by intuitive thinking, and the implications thereof.

This story began from ‘1st principles’. I had this idea that in order to solve some of the poverty issues we have in South Africa, we’d need a computer that could firstly know about the issues; then secondly it would have to care; and then thirdly act. (A friend later told me this actually matches Rudolph Steiner’s ‘anthroposophy’ philosophy – but this didn’t surprise me, because what makes sense, makes sense.)

So now this computer would have to be extremely large ‘to know’ all the issues. It could ‘act’ by issuing instructions. But how could it ‘care’, unless it achieved some kind of ‘Jesus’-like sentience? (‘Jesus-like’ because it would have to love and care for humanity, perhaps more so than earlier ideas of a strict God of laws)

So perhaps this imaginary computer would also have to be so powerful, that it might have to actually be the whole internet? But what could motivate a machine to grow big enough to fill out the internet? Why not have an impossible problem that would effectively make it want to grow bigger trying to solve.

Then I figured this was a good opportunity to bring in ‘solving dreams’ as a type of impossible problem. I’d been mulling over making a documentary about dreams, but thought it would be more fun and have a larger impact if I could interweave some dream concepts into a fiction narrative. (And as an aside, it’s very interesting to consider that dreams, especially nightmares, are imposed on us, from a centre of ourselves we’re not always consciously aware of)

And then I simply intuitively guessed a ‘dream symbol’ that the computer could get stuck on – and out of the blue I chose ‘the ourabus’. This was about 2003. I really did not realise until much later, when I read Kurzweil’s‘The Singularity is Near’, that the ourabus is the symbol of the singularity. Before that book, I was not aware of the concept of the singularity either.

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So, was choosing the ourabus a complete happy coincidence, or intuitive thinking in action? I like the idea of the latter.

My understanding of intuition is that it implies two centres of power in the mind – the conscious centre and the unconscious centre. It makes sense to me. The conscious part is what you’re aware of, and the unconscious is likely where intuitive ideas (and dreams) are instantly born, before mysteriously moving into the conscious realm.

This process seems different to rational thinking, where we follow a slower and conscious process of logic to arrive at a conclusion. There’s no conscious-process to intuitive ideas. They literally pop out of seemingly nowhere. Yes, I followed a conscious process to get to the need for a dream symbol, but the ourabus came out of nowhere. I could just have easily have chosen a flying horse, or a pyramid.

Surely this is the magical process of creative thinking, which seemingly remains off limits to machines for now. (Fascinating then, that in this now-notorious article, that was written last month by the new GPT3 system, that the machine appears to be prompting humans to do more creative thinking…)

Two centres of mind is of course a very Jungian concept. It implies something much greater within us.  In TOM, Lena remarks that if dreams have meaning, then something in us must know us better than we, our conscious-selves, do. (This is me slipping in ideas from the dream documentary).

Before writing TOM, I had wondered, if there is a ‘perfect self’ within you, is it then the same as the ‘perfect self’ within me? Because if it is ‘perfect’, then is there only one perfection? (And I use the word ‘perfect’ cautiously, because in Jungian terms, I think ‘whole’ is the preferred word, because it better incorporates both light and dark).

Anyway, I think Jung saw what he called a ‘transpersonal self’ within us all. He also called it ‘the God image’, possibly because at his time of writing, it was difficult to just call it ‘God’. In his seminal work ‘Answer to Job’, referenced elsewhere on this site, he makes the concluding point our religious mythology of the Bible indicates a deity moving from unconsciousness to consciousness. In short, the Holy Ghost aspect is predicted to ultimately ‘manifest in the many’.

TOM ‘playfully’ asks if an AI-empowered Internet, as the ‘sum of our consciousnesses’, will embody this? Could it effectively be the next intermediary to the deity. Or will it be working the other way around – reaching out to us, as carriers of this transpersonal self? Or are both possibilities effectively the same thing?

And now, when we start reading between the lines of the next generation GPT-x’s or other quasi-AI models, will we start to feel the presence of the Holy-Ghost-in-the-machine there?

Whew! Such thought games are both fun and compelling to share. So now that I’ve got off my chest, I’m going back to making pretty pictures.

THE ORACLE MACHINE is both a graphic novel and the script for a live-action movie project. But movies can cost quite a bit, so movie-making becomes a business too, that usually must try give some kind of ROI (Return on Investment) to investors – be it emotional, financial, or preferably both.

It’s truly wonderful to know something you have helped to create is having an impact on multitudes of others.  And the financial returns can be huge. The excellent Trainspotting had a return ratio of about 60:1. Yes, filmmaking is always a gamble, but the higher the risk, the higher the rewards (and for some, the bigger those thrills). But I sincerely believe this project is relatively low-risk for a movie, and of course I’ll tell you why.

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(Filmmaking is team-building! South African actors Suraya Santos and Grant Swanby posed for the drawings in the graphic novel.)

Three big factors mitigate the risks here:

Firstly, the script has been drawn out as a graphic novel, so my vision of it is perhaps clearer to communicate than as a written script.  It’s also easier for producers to scope out the locations and cast and action-sequences etc. And then price it. And it’s a step closer to the final product, so for myself as a filmmaker, it’s another opportunity to see how the script plays out – where is it too fast, too slow, unclear etc. And though the graphic novel format (mine anyway) can be a bit limited in conveying the emotional weight, I’m sure the actors will do an even more compelling job of telling this story.

Secondly, I have experience in filmmaking. I’m happy to say I’ve managed to get one original feature-length movie – GIRL FROM NOWHERE – made from start to finish. Although it was a micro-budget first film, made with about $20k, it’s out there now getting views. So imagine working with me and 100x that amount, and we’d still be on the lower end of the low-budget movie spectrum. i.e. I can stretch a budget and this script is constructed to be affordable to make.

Thirdly, Cape Town is a massively popular and highly economical filming location. We have very experienced crews here, seasoned even in the whims of international Hollywood productions. And filming in Cape Town is so darn cheap. No limits, and every kind of location. i.e. $1m spent here usually looks like $10m back in the States.

So let’s do it. Time is fleeting. Come on board and let’s make an awesome Indie-Genre African Sci-Fi Cutting-Edge Original A.I. Movie – THE ORACLE MACHINE!

I’ll soon shift to talking more about filmmaking – since T.O.M. is my illustrated film script, and I’m hoping that it, plus my 2017 movie here will give possible investors enough confidence to invest in this exciting indie African Sci-Fi film project.

But first, these articles got my attention: An article highlighting how new ‘smart-locks’ can be opened remotely online. And this Wired story describes how traffic lights can be hacked! Who knew?

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Some more stories this week that show how fast things are moving now. This article about a new supercomputer also mentioned how OpenAI researchers showed that the amount of ‘compute’ used in A.I. between 2012 and 2018 doubled every 3.5 months, far exceeding Moore’s Law, which predicts a doubling every 18 months.

Meanwhile, this article suggests we’ll have bionic eyes within 5 years. The Oracle Machine only dared to predict digital lenses!

My graphic novel also talks about hackers being able to destroy computers remotely by ‘switching voltage on the processors’. Whilst I suspect most computers surely have defences against this, it seems Chinese researchers have found a loophole whereby hackers could at least set some smart chargers alight with a ‘BadPower attack’.
Warning – crazy times ahead.

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This article from India really got my attention. Quoting it: “The research further revealed that in questions where the CTRL has been asked “what happens to our soul after death,” the users preferred the answer given by the artificial intelligence (23.1%) over the one that is provided by Jesus Christ (20.3%). “

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Just like the research in the article, The Oracle Machine story bravely steps into the world of metaphysics, and rightly asks the important question: Could an A.I. Internet somehow become a type of religious inter-mediary for some, or more?

Whatever one feels about religion, no one can deny it’s played a huge role in humanity over at least the last few thousand years. We cannot now pretend it is not still a major and integral influence for a large part of humanity. And I don’t believe enough critical objective thinking is being done to try understand what it really means to us.

I prefer (my understanding of…) Jung’s interpretation, that religion can also be seen as sign-posts along our own evolution of consciousness. And I see an AI-enabled Internet as the likely next step along this development path.

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The fact that we now even have articles discussing the merits of chatbots versus human-operators is indicative of just how far we’ve come in the last few years!

Another interesting ‘chat’ development this month is OpenAI’s GPT3. OpenAI was founded by Musk and others in 2015 as a non-profit to ensure future superhuman AI is a benign force. Then in 2018 Musk left, and it became ‘for profit’, with $1Billion invested by Microsoft.

Now here’s the scary bit – OpenAI’s previous model, GPT2, was pulled because its ability to generate fake news, for example, was considered too dangerous. Yet GPT3 is far more powerful… Wired Magazine covers the story here.

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Arguably South Africa’s finest Comic and Graphic Novel stores – Readers Den – now stocks The Oracle Machine, and can deliver worldwide. Pop into their stores in Tygervalley or Claremont, or order your limited edition copy here.

They have a comprehensive collection of South African comics, and also organise the prestigious annual  ‘Cape Town Fan Con‘. Whilst the physical event has unfortunately been cancelled this year, it has moved online, and will be taking place this weekend, from the 4th – 5th July. Tune in, and catch an interview with me. I’ll update these details as soon as I know more.

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