Daily Themes, Week Six, Theme Two
This is a work of fiction. All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is completely intentional. Except for Emma Watson, who seems like a perfectly nice woman. Inspired by One More Thing.
Daniel Radcliffe pressed “pause”, then “back”. He glared balefully at his iPod.
“No! That’s not right.”
He pressed “play”. The song began again:
“Now it’s time for our wrap-up. Let’s give it everything we’ve got!”
Daniel nodded in time with the beat. This time, he thought, I’ll get past “D”.
Adapted from something I wrote in Yale’s “Daily Themes” class. (Great class, by the way!)
Write twelve possible first lines to twelve different stories (fictional, non-fictional, or some combination of both). For a real challenge, let those lines start to feel like they hold together by juxtaposition. See the work of David Markson for a model.
These aren’t good sentences, but I wrote them hoping they could become first lines for first drafts of good stories.
I haven’t written those stories yet, but if you’d like me to write one, let me know and I will do that, just for you.*
*With the exception of #9, because the Amish deserve an entire novel. And #8, because it’s the friggin’ history of the world.
(To see all 60+ prompts from Daily Themes, click here.)
It’s a pretty strange post, but I think that the issues I raise around the utility monster problem are important. If you care more about a randomly selected human than a randomly selected chicken (and I think you should), you accept the existence of utility monsters — thinking beings which are worthy of greater moral consideration than other thinking beings.
Right now, humans are the world’s reigning utility monsters. That may not be true forever.
I think we are likely to eventually create machines which possess a kind of consciousness that is deeper and richer in certain ways than our own. Whatever metrics we can use to measure the “value” of a human life (and we all have them), we know of no reason that advanced computers will not eventually score higher on said metrics than we do, whether it’s in 50 years or 500.
And before we can make decisions about how to react to this situation — or whether we should work to prevent it in the first place — I think that we should do our best to understand what it might be like to be a superhuman utility monster. Empathy shouldn’t just extend to beings with lesser mental capabilities than our own.
Some outtakes from the most recent issue of The Yale Record.
Chaos: Can generate perfectly random numbers using only his mind. Never needs to flip a coin to make a decision.
Firebrand: Can light a match on the first try, every time. Currently battling Stage 2 lung cancer after a lifetime of looking really cool while smoking.
Puberty Boy: Able to increase his body mass by seventy percent in only three years.
Captain Maturity was down for the count.
As always, he’d gone in carefully, scanning the area for traps. But his caution hadn’t helped him resist the Doom Ray.
Doctor Dubious, Captain Maturity’s arch-nemesis, planted a foot on the hero’s chest and snickered his sinister snicker.
“This was too easy. Is that all you’ve got, Captain?”
Captain Maturity groaned. He couldn’t move, and his mouth refused to form words. He could only hope that his young sidekick wouldn’t rush in like a fool—
“Stop right there, Doctor Dubious!”