Unsound Methods Episode 02: Megan Dunn

Episode 02 of Unsound Methods podcast is out now. This week we speak to Megan Dunn, author of Tinderbox (Galley Beggar, 2017).

We cover the act of balancing fiction and non-fiction, wrestling with the estate of Ray Bradbury and writing the great mermaid novel of the Western canon.

Headover to unsoundmethods.co.uk to check it out or find it in all the usual podcast places.

You can find Megan’s website at: https://www.megandunn.org/

Follow her on Twitter: @MeganDunn90

Tinderbox is available from Galley Beggar Press: https://www.galleybeggar.co.uk/shop-1/z7du0g4kxeypqtatvaftcnxrjqil2d

 

Unsound Methods is live…

Episode 01 of Unsound Methods is finally live… after a fair amount of tinkering and learning of the podcasting ropes we now have the first episode of our new podcast Unsound Methods for your listening pleasure.


Listen here https://unsoundmethods.co.uk/episode-01-neil-griffiths/ or find it at all the usual podcast places.


In this episode we speak to Neil Griffiths, author of Saving Caravaggio and Betrayal in Naples as well as the more recent As A God Might Be published by Dodo Ink. Neil is also the founder of the Republic of Consciousness Prize which recognises independently published novels that combine ‘hardcore literary fiction and gorgeous prose’.

We discuss the ecosystem of fiction, the present golden age of indie publishing and the Republic of Consciousness prize, which Neil founded.


If you enjoy the podcast please do sign up  or follow us @unsoundmethods or unsoundmethods.co.uk


Unsound Methods is a podcast hosted by Jaimie Batchan and Lochlan Bloom where we talk to contemporary writers of literary fiction about process, what makes fiction ‘real’ and the motivation to sit down in front of an empty page and make things up…

 

Engineering New Language

language fiction Credit: ilcartello

[excerpt from London Literary Review]

…It can be argued that the entirety of human civilization has developed purely because of our ability to create those fictions which allow us to co-operate. The idea of an all powerful god, the ideas of nationhood and culture, the concepts of money and capitalism.

These fictions are powerful but ultimately limited. They can be ignored. Tuned out. We can all recognize the difference between our own first-person experience and what we are told by others.

While religion or capitalism may appear seductive they are both abstract concepts, both lack any direct sensory component. We may believe we are part of a nation or cultural group but we can’t smell a country or taste culture.

language fiction Credit: ilcartello

The more our language has developed — broadened in vocabulary, branched into different tongues, deepened in meaning — the more persuasive and powerful these fictions have become but still language has limits.

What happens then when our communication is linked more deeply into our brain? When it is on a par with our other senses? Plugged directly into our first-person experience? Maybe even more primary to our existence than our sense of sight or of taste?

Is it not likely that the forms of fiction we will develop in such circumstances will run deeper even still? If the immediacy of these intercortical communications is on a par with immediacy with our sense of touch or taste will we not believe them more — even if they are deceptions?

A bridge to new language

This is not to say that we will be hoodwinked or deceived in some way — at least no more than mankind was hoodwinked with the development of language.

Language has deepened our understanding of the natural world, doubtlessly, but it has also allowed us to create rich and deep fictions which in some cases allow people to manipulate whole populations. Is it not likely similar themes will play out with any new form of communication?

The rats in the Duke experiment already exhibited some signs of emergent behaviour. Since both rats got a reward each time the decoder chose correctly, the encoder rat started to try and aid its partner in the US by adjusting its movements to create a clearer signal.

Over the course of the experiment the Brazilian rat refined its movements making clearer, smoother presses on the lever. In this case, the system was set up to favour collaboration but what would the result be if only one rat could receive a reward each time? Would the Brazilian rat try to obfuscate its mental signal?

When it comes to human social interactions there are of course a far wider range of options than simply ‘left’ or ‘right’ lever. Some people will blurt out whatever is in their head while others show icy restraint, some people speak plainly while others always rely on irony, some people invariably tell the truth while others lie incessantly.

Would intracortical microstimulation make these variations less pronounced or more? Would an additional sensory input lead to fewer lies or more?

Before the first written language, human cooperation was limited but so too was organised religion or nationwide warfare. Certainly written language has done little to reduce the amount of fiction in the world.

It begs the question — what forms of language will this lead us to?…

 

Read the full article at London Literary Review

Guest spot on SE daily podcast

I recently had the chance to talk with Jeff Meyerson and appear as a guest on his SE daily podcast.

Jeff came across an article I had written for Flux Magazine about the future of AI and religious indoctrination and we had a fairly wide-ranging conversation covering everything from extremism and machine learning to the nature and manipulation of perception online.

You can listen to the podcast in full here: https://softwareengineeringdaily.com/2017/08/25/internet-extremism-with-lochlan-bloom/

 

The coming battle: AI, extremism and the new war of ideas

 

 

 

 

Living in the secular West it is easy to believe that religion is a completely outdated idea – a quaint tradition that still persists in some corners of the world, but one that will steadily wither as modern society progresses.

However, the news that Google is stepping up its battle against online extremism, through “the power of targeted online advertising” and machine learning, offers the potential to launch a new kind of religious warfare, a war of ideas, that may consume much of the next century.

Pitting AI against Extremism

Google is without any doubt at the top of the tree when it comes to combining online advertising techniques and artificial intelligence so the fact that it might use these skills to curb radicalisation of vulnerable people might be seen as only good news.

The global search giant announced four key initiatives for its YouTube platform that include: the use of technology to help identify extremist and terrorism-related videos, an increase in the number of independent experts in YouTube’s Trusted Flagger programme, a tougher stance on videos that contain inflammatory religious or supremacist content and an expansion of its counter-radicalisation efforts.

“This promising approach harnesses the power of targeted online advertising to reach potential Isis recruits, and redirects them towards anti-terrorist videos that can change their minds about joining,”
Kent Walker, general counsel at Google.

On the face of it, these seem entirely reasonable aims and while the story was mainly covered by the tech press, coverage has nonetheless been widely supportive. After all there are very few people, outside perhaps of ISIS training camps, that would argue that unprovoked killing of innocent people is a good thing.

The idea that we might use technology to identify and prevent the spread of violent ideology online therefore would seem only to be a good thing until we consider the potential battleground it sets out for our future.…continue reading on Medium

I am talking about The Wave and the writing process on 17th June following the City of Stories event

I am pleased to be talking at Walthamstow library on 17th June as part of a day of creative writing events that will include interviews and workshops for writers and those interested in literary fiction.  

I will be speaking at 3pm with Jaimie Batchan about the The Wave and the journey to write it and get it published. The event will include some readings from  The Wave, followed by Q&A and refreshments.

In the morning there will be free workshops as part of the City of Stories event. The workshops are open to all levels – whether you write stories already or are just starting and by coming along to a workshop, you can enter the City of Stories competition. If your story wins, it will be published in the City of Stories booklet. You will get a place at a writing masterclass and invited to attend a celebration event.

For more details and to sign up for my talk visit eventbrite here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/local-author-talk-with-lochlan-bloom-at-walthamstow-library-tickets-34793861376

and for the City of Stories event: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/city-of-stories-walthamstow-library-waltham-forest-tickets-33897549483?aff=es2

Modern Reading

(originally published in Hourglass Literary Magazine     https://hourglassonline.org/news/modern-reading-by-lochlan-bloom)

Credit: David Evers

There is a group, let us call them the anti-fictionists, that proclaims the death of fiction. They call for an end to the make-believe, the fake, the imaginary. Who needs fiction, these anti-fictionists say, when there is the scientific method, progress, development.

We may be a society of readers but how much of that time is spent reading books? Certainly it seems the traditional novel is dead or dying. Is there really any need to read fiction?

It is true that we are reading more than ever, hour after hour spent staring at screens, reading, scrolling, scanning, reading, reading, reading… but the role of fiction in the modern world had never seemed more hopeless.

This group, the anti-fictionists, believe that if fiction is needed at all it should be a commodity. A product that can be pushed into the idle hours of our day, marketed as a consumable, valued according to economics.…continue reading on Medium.