While my new novel Darknet is a work of fiction, on Feb.26th 2015, just when Darknet was being published, the real-life world’s largest hedge fund Bridgewater announced that it was pursuing its own artificial intelligence program. This was an absolutely stunning revelation as I’d spent three years researching and coming up with the idea behind Darknet, only to find that it seemed to be actually happening in real life. Words can’t describe how spooky this was to me when I found out, and turned this book from a work of pure fiction into something more scary.
In addition to the Bridgewater revelation, many of the plot devices I use in Darknet, like murder-for-hire on darknets and the Assassination Market, autonomous corporations, cryptocurrencies, darknet marketplaces, and chatbots—that can fool you into thinking they are people—are all real and operating right now. I have a list of links to articles below if you’d like to read more.
And, a machine beat the Turing test for the first time in 2014, forever changing the world that we live in. From now on, it will be increasingly difficult—if not impossible—to tell if we are talking to humans or machines when we get on the phone.
My first job, over twenty years ago now, was working as a research assistant at the McGill Center for Intelligent Machines. It was there that I first studied artificial intelligence and conducted my own research into machine vision. After McGill, I went on to pursue several other technical fields before becoming a writer of fiction, but my fascination with the idea of intelligent machines never left me. You could say that Darknet was a novel twenty years in the making.
One issue that I always had with book and film portrayals of the ‘rise of intelligent machines’ was that they always seemed to create these ‘superhuman’ entities that were like human beings in a box, just much smarter and faster than we were (and inevitably seemed to want to destroy the human race). I didn’t see it happening like that, not the ‘first’ time, anyway. The desire to see a novel that explored the rise of the first intelligent machine network, but not characterizing it as a human-like entity, was my inspiration for writing Darknet.
The process of writing Darknet opened my eyes to many corners of the new informational world that surrounds us—these things like the Assassination Market and autonomous corporations. I invite you to go on the web and research these for yourself. I have included a list of links below:
- Bridgewater, the world’s largest hedge fund, announces its artificial intelligence program on Feb. 26th, 2015: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-02-27/bridgewater-is-said-to-start-artificial-intelligence-team
- Real-life murder-for-hire case on darknets (http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2015/01/judge-govt-can-show-murder-for-hire-evidence-in-silk-road-trial/)
- Forbes article on the new Assassination Market (http://www.forbes.com/sites/andygreenberg/2013/11/18/meet-the-assassination-market-creator-whos-crowdfunding-murder-with-bitcoins/)
- An Economist article on Digital Autonomous Corporations (http://www.economist.com/blogs/babbage/2014/01/computer-corporations)
- A list of active darknet marketplaces (https://vault43.org/chart.php)
- Cryptocurrency market capitalizations (http://coinmarketcap.com/ )
- A Discover magazine article on the Turing test being beaten (http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/crux/2014/06/10/turing-test-beating-bot-reveals-more-about-humans-than-computers/#.VEUGvPnF_zU)
Feel free to email me with any questions or comments. I’d love to hear your thoughts or share in things that you find out there!