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Monday, 2 January 2012

AUTOMATION.

Posted by RLL for REPORT FROM A FUGITIVE. © RLL, 2012.

Running my vast publishing empire in my own tiny mind, I must, occasionally, leave the public library my top secret volcano base and execute incompetent minions deal with other things. In order to accomplish mass-slaughter tidy files, I am forced to rely on a vast robot army the automation of this blog.
   Blog automation is not new to me. I’ve yet to blog weekly, in putting out this weekly blog. Instead, I rattle off a series of six pre-publication blogs in the build-up to the release of weapons of mass-destruction one of my books. For the release of Neon Gods Brought Down by Swords, I wrote six blogs over a two-day period. To me, that’s a form of automation in itself.
   Then I threw those articles up on Blogger. There they sat in the bomb-bay, waiting to be dropped. I would sit on my Throne of Evil™, and deploy each blog post using the Switch of Nefarious Activity®. What if I had to embark upon emergency evacuation of my secret volcano base?
   With the library unexpectedly shut, or the network down, I could always use my mobile phone to hit the Switch of Nefarious Activity®. Writing blogs in huge chunks is a form of automation just shy of the real thing. With my top secret volcano base undergoing winter refurbishment, I’ve opted to use the vast robot army for the first time.
   My Plan B on D-Day, when I went to publish Neon Gods, was to deploy the book on Amazon by using the mobile phone if the library were closed to me. That fall-back plan never came up. What would I do, with the library shut over the festive period?
   I’d automate this blog. Blogger is free. Fantastic. Blogger is free. Not so fantastic. You get what you don’t pay for. I’ve learned, the hard way, of Blogger’s limitations. Eccentricities. What to do? Rise to the challenge. If you are in a position to read this on the 2nd of January 2012, automation was a success. Unless I had to run around in the background, working the failed robot army from my mobile phone.
   Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
   Are there peculiarities arising from automation? I hope not to be hit by a bus while the blog is automated. Naturally, I hope not to be hit by a bus. Reading an automated blog posted by a deceased individual would be no stranger than receiving a letter from someone who died after posting it. That’s for those of you who still write letters. We all have the potential to become akin to light from long-dead stars.
   This train of thought leads to publishing books. The body of work I’ll be remembered for, if I am to be remembered at all, is unwritten as I type. As I type, © has a hold over my fiction lasting 70 years beyond my demise. Readers may be perusing this long after I am dust, and those readers will, themselves, be dust in the minds of later readers.
   We leap off the page, and from beyond the grave, to reach those who find our writing strange and familiar in the same breath. In this blog I have written of typewriters. Obsolete? Nothing which can be depicted in a story is truly obsolete. The typewriter is growing into little more than a movie prop, it’s true. That’s still useful.
   Over the past month I’ve been hit, from all sides, by a statement that people have stopped sending e-mail. Do I feel compelled to explain to the young persons that e-mail was once a system for…no. E-mail? You only see that in period dramas. How quaint. Remember those days.
   Everything we write lies in tomorrow’s dust. I could write three blogs a day, and do other things with my day, storing up 21 blogs a week and unleashing one. Putting me 20 ahead, 20 ahead. Automating the whole thing, I could disappear for years and not be noticed as missing.
   Depending entirely on the content of my blog posts. I could, coincidentally, just happen to write about current events – giving the impression that I am operating in the here, the now, even though the topic discussed was one written about in an earlier year.
   Keep it vague enough, and I could get away with it. Perhaps I’m getting away with it now. Did you catch the news? That was predicted in last month’s blog. (Written five years ago and three before the author died.)
   We are fast becoming the activating agents who may no longer be needed for the purposes of activation. Our pre-recorded TV shows and automated updates roll on whether we are there to observe them or not.
   I’ve shopped in places where I had no human contact. That is neither a good nor a bad thing. I once stayed in a hotel in which I didn’t speak to a single employee. The queue for the desk was long. I saw no queue at the automated check-in kiosk. There, I typed a number and was issued with my plastic keycard. I wondered, idly, if I’d ordered the breakfast service after all…would I have spoken to anyone then?
   How convenient is convenience? In the time it took me to check in automatically, no one else was checked in at the human desk. I had to fight my way through the tail-end of the manual queue after dealing with the automatic process.
   It is still customary to state destination when stepping aboard an omnibus. Unless a pass is proffered. The pass handles the transaction. Beyond that, leaving the bus calls for a standard farewell to the driver. In this part of the world, that’s use of the word cheers.
   How far can we get through our lives without human contact? Agents of automation that we’ve become. We can get surprisingly far, in embracing the technology. For many, it’s harder to cast the technology down. Ask someone to go a day without a mobile phone, and you will get through that day having engaged in human contact. Or, at least, I suppose you will.
   A recent example of human contact made me suspicious. Once chip and pin came in, using cards to spend unseen money became so much easier. For a time, the old method sat alongside the new method. Shoppers still had to sign for things occasionally.
   That all stopped. I had to buy cards, from a card shop. Yes, I know. I could do the whole thing online. Sometimes, you are called upon to handle personal things for the older generation. I use the phrase to make myself feel younger. It’s not a ploy that works.
   I had the card ready, to pay for the cards. Could I sign for it? My antique brain summoned the file from memory. Yes, that’s right. We used to do things that way, didn’t we. But…why should we do things that way? I had to ask.
   The explanation I received was strange, though it made sense given the setting. In a card shop, the card reader accumulates glitter from the cardboard cards on sale…affecting the plastic cards with their chips and pins. So, there was always the old-fashioned way.
   I was suspicious. The suspicion evaporated. Glitter. In a card shop. Human interaction. An actual signature. When was the last time I signed anything, in ink? I’ve had to append electronic signatures to gadgets when signing for parcels. No ink required. Signing my publishing deal with Amazon, I didn’t sign anything at all. A click of a button, and I was in business.
   Publishing with Amazon has been a fairly human-free operation. Only when I asked questions of the publishing-team, did I receive answers. Much else was automated. For all I know, Amazon has bots answering publishing questions. I should develop a set of questions, Turing-style, to determine whether or not the unseen correspondent is likely to be artificial.
   In four non-negative words, how red is a notion? What is the non-opposite of opposite? Are these your incriminating marked banknotes? If pink is Taiwan, how many meals make five beans on a Sunday with no thought of fishing to mind except the thought of no thought of fishing to mind?
   That sort of thing. Though bots are growing more sophisticated, and could work around easy puzzles like those. I should ask questions about tax. In pretending to ask questions about tax, I may have given the game away. Am I completely automated myself? A robot, capable of asking questions about tax? No human would stoop so low. Though it’s hard to say whether robots might.
   This blog entry has been automated to take the pain out of adding the entry by means of mobile telephone. Regular pain, experienced on adding the blog by conventional means, has not been affected. My top secret volcano base is currently undergoing winter maintenance. Though this message started out as not being automated, by the time it reaches you it will be…

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