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!
Mr Matthew Mather
Dear Mr Mather, I am a retired Finnish Lieutenant Colonel, military historian and author. I am at final stages of finishing another book of my own, with the history of Finnish psyop – Finns have fought in tens of wars, having the sort of neighbours we do, so there is plenty of that – and hybrid warfare with the kinetic, intelligence and information elements. Having just finished reading a book of yours, the Finnish translation of the CyberStorm, I have a question. The book is obviously based on a scenario, which I presume has been compiled by the specialists thanked in your foreword. As far as I can tell it has been comprehensively and reliably compiled on an up-to-date level. My question is: am I right in believing there is such a scenario, and would it be available somewhere, in a research paper or on some net site. I have an idea of presenting a short resumé of your book in mine, recommend it as a useful read, and build a similar case for Finnish conditions, which will then be looked into in more detail. Not being a specialist in this field, the scenario would help a lot in building the Finnish one – with the snow and all. There would be the normal thanks for the specialists, too.
I am afraid my publisher is a bit tight-fisted and I cannot offer any remuneration, but I would naturally send my book to you when it comes out in October. The CyberStorm is probably the only one of your books translated into Finnish, but am looking forward getting my hands of the rest of them in English.
With kind regards
Lieutenant Colonel (Ret.), military historian, author