To Err Is Human

“To Err is human, to really screw things up takes a computer.”
–General James Hardtack – USAF

Tom Avitabile | To Err is HumanIf you don’t recognize the above quote, or can’t Google it, don’t hit your computer on the side of the monitor, it’s from a character in one of my (many) almost-produced screenplays. But once again, the theme of this blog being, It’s Only Fiction ‘Til It Happens, is in full force with this tasty headline from the DenverPost.com, “Supercomputers could generate warnings for stock crashes.”

Feel better now? Now that supercomputers are on the watch? Well, not to pop your thought bubble but in my book, The Eighth Day, the entire Stock Market is locked up and frozen by a piece of freeware, distributed to all the online day traders.

The shareware application was called ‘Pocket Protector’; it protected the money in your pocket, your stocks, actually.  It employed algorithms originally used in terrain avoidance software for supersonic F-22 Raptor fighter jets. It read the market and countered any moves instantly by making minute or major buy or sell decisions faster than a blink of a human eye.

Its purported goal was to avoid having your portfolio crash by maintaining the value. Since everybody downloaded it and put it into play, all those little ‘trade-bots’ would eventually absorb any shock and flatten out any activity until a balance is achieved. At that point, the individual trader has a problem, because the Artificial Intelligence acts like a Rottweiler, whose jaws are locked on their wallet. As soon as they let go or try to trade anything, the investor would lose everything.

So nobody unplugged ‘Pocket Protector’ out of fear of losing all their assets as everybody else’s apps would gobble up their money in a nanosecond.

Now for the part that isn’t a plot in my book, but the Denver Post article: Enter Edison, a supercomputer that can crunch 2 quadrillion operations a second. That’s 2,000,000,000,000,000! The feds, or somebody, are planning to plug this super puppy into the existing stock trading system and it will act as an early warning system that somehow will allow authorities to shut down the system before the various stock trading computer programs, that now rule the roost, do any real damage.  What could possibly go wrong? See CHAPTER THIRTY-FOUR: “Best Intentions” in The Eighth Day!

Mess – The Essential Human Element

When building a character, mess defines the polar edges of the character.“What a mess!” “You’re a mess.” “She’s a hot mess.”

When building a character, mess defines the polar edges of the character. Mess is the result of all the unfinished, all the partial efforts, partial thoughts, unexecuted dreams, abbreviated wishes. These untidy loose ends create mess.

In a good life, mess would only be around the edges — those things just out of reach that you haven’t gotten to yet. Mess as a character trait, is a part of the recipe of a literary character. It has to be delicately treated. It ranges from Pigpen to James Bond. With all due respect to Peanuts, let’s look into James Bond. Continue reading