Tag Archives: Apocalypse

Jack Fisher’s Weekly Quick Pick Comic: House of X #2

What would you do if you could live your entire life over again with all the memories of your previous life? What if you could do that more than once and come into the world with knowledge and experience equivalent to multiple lives? Movies like “Groundhog Day” and “Edge of Tomorrow” attempted to answer that question in part. Jonathan Hickman tries to answer that question more fully in “House of X #2.”

As someone who has been reading comics for a sizable chunk of his life, I know how rare it is to see a single issue come along that both redefines a character and explores a host of new, exciting concepts. I thought “House of X #1” was one of those once-in-a-decade comics that wasn’t going to be matched for a good long while. I was wrong.

I’m glad I was wrong too because what Hickman accomplishes in “House of X #2” is as remarkable as it is engaging. It doesn’t just give context to the previous events that were revealed in both “House of X #1” and “Powers of X #1.” It completely redefines the entire history of the X-Men.

For a series that includes multiple time travel plots and multiple dystopian timelines, that’s quite an accomplishment. It’s how Hickman and artist Pepe Larraz go about it that makes “House of X #2” so impactful. It begins and ends with how the story rewrites the role of Moira MacTaggart.

It’s not hyperbole to say that this single issue makes Moira the most important character in the history of the X-Men, the mutant race, and their future. For a character who was either a love interest for Charles Xavier or a side-character who often got overshadowed by other mutants, that’s quite an accomplishment.

This is not the same Moira from the “X-Men First Class” movie. This version of Moira is a mutant with a very unique power. It doesn’t involve shooting lasers out of her eyes, reading minds, or shape-shifting. Her power is basically a more complete version of the abilities that Bill Murray and Tom Cruise enjoyed in the aforementioned movies.

In essence, Moira lives her entire life, dies, and is reborn with all her memories and experiences intact. It’s not restricted to a single day. It’s not indefinite, either. Like an old Mario game, she has a limit to the number of lives she can live. What she does with them is up to her. Knowing what happens to mutants, humans, the X-Men, and Charles Xavier informs her choices.

It raises many profound questions about Moira’s role in the history of the X-Men and the Marvel universe in general. It also expands on how Moira came to influence the events of “House of X #1” and “Powers of X #1.”

The story, itself, is built around the multiple lives that Moira has lived. I won’t spoil the details, since this is one of those comics that needs to be read to appreciate the impact. I’ll simply confirm that she tries multiple approaches to averting yet another dystopian future for the X-Men, mutants, and humanity as a whole.

Some of those approaches involve working with Charles Xavier. Others involve actively opposing him. In all the lives leading up to her tenth, there are a few common themes. When two competing species inhabit the same world, there’s bound to be conflict. Efforts to escape or preemptively win that conflict rarely pan out.

Like Phil Connors constantly waking up on Groundhog Day, no matter what he does, Moira keeps hitting a proverbial wall. No matter what she attempts, there doesn’t seem to be a way around this conflict. It’s not until her 10th life that she comes to the realization that leads to “House of X #1.”

It’s hard to overstate how much “House of X #2” changes the overall context of the X-Men comic. Suddenly, Moira MacTaggart is the most influential character in the history of the X-Men, mutants, and everything in between. What she does, why she does it, and how she goes about it changes how we see the past, as well as the present.

The benefits of hindsight make it seem simple, but it isn’t. It also raises a great many questions. If Moira has all this knowledge, why didn’t she use it to achieve more? What made her choose the path that led to the most recent events for the X-Men and the Marvel universe, as a whole? Most of these questions go unanswered, but there are some telling clues that add even more intrigue.

Hickman and Larraz achieve something truly uncanny with “House of X #2.” I know I said the same thing about “House of X #1,” but that comic now has a greater meaning thanks to this one. The stakes for every other X-Men story that unfolds after this has a new meaning as well. Few comics can boast that kind of impact without being written by Jack Kirby, but “House of X #2” is definitely one of them.

Even for those unfamiliar with the convoluted history of the X-Men can appreciate the concepts this comic explores. We see someone who has lived multiple lives, cursed with knowing how things play out for those she cares for. She wants to make that life better for herself and the world as a whole. She’s in a unique position to pursue that change, but it’s fraught with more complications than any “Groundhog Day” rip-off could convey.

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Jack Fisher’s Weekly Quick Pick Comic: Age of X-Man: Marvelous X-Men #5

For comic book fans, Wednesdays are basically our weekly holy days. It’s the day when we take a moment to stop obsessing over the latest casting rumors for the MCU and just enjoy a stack of new comics. After all, superhero movies wouldn’t be the multi-billion dollar draw they are without these comics.

The over-arching narrative of superhero comics is powerful. They embody the best parts of the classic hero’s journey that often finds their way into our most iconic stories. They can inspire, as well as guide people down a particular path. In “Age Of X-Man: Marvelous X-Men #5,” however, someone finds a way to weaponize that narrative.

For the past several months, the X-Men comics have undergone a strange, yet colorful upheaval. Nate Grey, an overpowered mutant capable of warping reality on a level that makes “The Matrix” look lazy, basically lost his mind and decided to go out with a bang. That bang involved taking nearly every major X-Men character with him and putting them in an entirely new reality with an entirely different history.

On the surface, it’s a utopia. Granted, love and intimacy are outlawed, but there are no mutant internment camps so that counts as an upgrade for the X-men. Everyone lives in peace and the X-Men aren’t just celebrated. They’re basically real-life holy figures. There are no more killer robots to fight or extinctions to avoid. They basically won.

However, that’s just the primary narrative of this world. That finally starts to unravel in “Age Of X-Man: Marvelous X-Men #5.”

Since the whole Age of X-Man story began, Nate Grey has basically been the architect of his own world. He’s built the society, crafted its history, and completely changed the life story of every individual. This isn’t just another case of wiping someone’s mind to think they once dated Taylor Swift. This is an entirely new world, but to the X-Men, it’s the only world they’ve always known.

This huge gut-punch to reality isn’t something Nate did out of malice. Writers Zac Thompson and Lonnie Nadler establish from the beginning that Nate’s intentions are good, albeit tragic. There’s never a sense that he created this world for selfish reasons. He genuinely believes that this world is one in which mutants can live in peace and everyone he loves can be happy.

Even his power and the narratives he weaves around them have limits, though. While investigating the murder of Moneta, the X-Men finally uncover unambiguous clues as to just how much Nate has been manipulating things. The signs have been there throughout the Age of X-Man story, but now there’s no avoiding the truth. They know the story he’s trying to tell and the lies he’s using to tell it.

When Nate wrote the history of this world, he did so knowing that it wasn’t enough to make everyone happy. Even in a world without killer robots or convoluted movie rights, people need something to strive for. That means it’s not enough to give the heroes a good story. He has to give the villains a story, as well.

That means that even Apocalypse, Nate’s biggest enemy, has to be part of this narrative. His role is very different from the murder-happy social Darwinist he’s always been, but he still acts as this powerful threat to this utopian world. He makes the X-Men necessary and creates discord that requires more than just fighting.

Even as Thompson and Nadler finally peel back the curtain, Nate’s efforts to maintain this narrative never waiver. In some parts of the issue, Nate acts as the narrator, trying to justify the story of this world. There’s still no mustache-twirling evil in his story, but it’s clear there are a few plot holes that he just can’t plug.

Age Of X-Man: Marvelous X-Men #5” isn’t entirely built around the X-Men uncovering the truth. There’s no existential crisis or mental breakdown upon learning the truth. Instead, there’s a sense of anger and betrayal. Nate isn’t just some unhinged, overpowered mutant. He’s their friend. He’s family. To them, he was a hero before he tried telling this bigger story.

In many respects, that’s what has made Age of X-Man such an engaging story. “Age Of X-Man: Marvelous X-Men #5” effectively doubles down on the tragic elements of that story. This is very different from the Scarlet Witch going crazy and committing mass genocide. Nate comes off as disturbingly sane as he tries to protect and maintain this world that he’s created.

In any superhero narrative, intentions matter. Villains, by definition, tend to have selfish and destructive motives. By that standard, Nate is not a villain. He is certainly misguided, though. The extend of just how misguided he is finally plays out in “Age Of X-Man: Marvelous X-Men #5.”

For many of the characters involved, especially characters like Jean Grey, Storm, and Nightcrawler, it’s devastating in ways that go beyond having their lives manipulated. Nate Grey is their friend. He’s helped them in the past. Hell, he goes by the code-name, X-Man. He’s supposed to embody the best aspects of who they are.

Now, they have to take him down. After learning about what he did and how much he warped their lives, the X-Men have to be the ones to end Nate’s story. It’s tragic, but fitting. In terms of ending a story, though, that can be a potent combination.

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The Strange Appeal Of The Apocalypse (According To “Rick And Morty”)

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What is it about the apocalypse that fascinates us so much? Why do movies about zombies, machine uprisings, and overall societal collapse appeal to us? Is it just the dramatic, action-packed stories they evoke that thrills us? Could there be something more to that appeal?

While I enjoy a good apocalyptic tale every now and then, I don’t consider myself a fan of the genre. In general, I opt for more hopeful and optimistic stories about the future and the present. I can still appreciate movies like “World War Z” and TV shows like “The Walking Dead,” but it’s not the kind of story that appeals to me, in general.

Even so, I don’t deny that there is a certain appeal to it. I’m not just talking about apocalyptic stories either. For some, the idea of a world in which civilization has collapsed has an innate allure that goes beyond zombies, killer robots, or even invading aliens. To some extent, that appeal is directly related to the flaws of civilization itself.

To appreciate those flaws and where the apocalypse fits in, it’s necessary to reference a show that has a knack for conveying complex philosophical insights in a way that’s both entertaining and hilarious. Yes, I’m referring to “Rick and Morty” again. No, I’m not apologizing for that.

In the same way this show has conveyed complexities of nihilism and the burdens of genius, this show also does a better job than most at conveying the unique appeal of the collapse of civilization. It does this through two episodes, “Rick Potion Number 9” and “Rickmancing The Stone.” While the details are subtle, as is often the case with “Rick and Morty,” the message is clear.

Simply put, the fruits of modern civilization are debilitating, dehumanizing, and soul-crushing for the vast majority of people. If you’re rich, good looking, and well-connected, then civilization is fantastic for you. You can get pretty much whatever you want and you can get other people to do all the hard stuff you don’t want to do.

If you’re everyone else, though, you’re kind of stuck. Throughout “Rick and Morty,” Rick Sanchez doesn’t hide from that fact. His nihilistic commentary on life, death, and everything in between makes clear that civilization is just a few extra inconveniences to an undisputed super-genius who can build a nuclear reactor out of pond scum.

However, it’s through characters like Jerry Smith, Rick’s perpetually mediocre son-in-law, that the true weight of modern civilization becomes clear. To some extent, Jerry represents all the non-Ricks of the world. They don’t have the benefits of good looks, deep pockets, or god-like genius navigate civilization. They’re basically stuck working for the scraps.

Both myself and most people reading this probably have more in common with Jerry than they care to admit. We work jobs we don’t like to make just enough money to survive in a society where simply living is both overly-complicated and expensive by modern infrastructure, law, and economics. For most people, just living in a decent place with a manageable mortgage payment and good WiFi is the most they can hope for.

In the apocalypse, though, everything is simpler. All those complexities of modern civilization go out the window. Life is no longer defined by your ability to find a job, pay the bills, stay out of jail, and not piss off the wrong people. It’s defined by your ability to survive day-by-day. It basically resets our society back to its tribal roots.

For some, that’s a horrible setback because it means they actually have to work, sweat, and toil for their survival rather than relying on underpaid peasants. For most, though, it’s a massive equalizer. Suddenly, your money, your fancy clothes, and your tax bracket don’t matter. All that matters is your ability to survive another day.

In “Rick Potion Number 9,” Rick and Morty’s antics bring about the complete collapse of civilization. In the process, Jerry Smith gets a chance to be something other than the guy that modern society walks all over because of his inherent mediocrity. Suddenly, he doesn’t need genius, looks, or connections to thrive. He just needs an ability to hold a crow bar and fight monsters.

In “Rickmancing The Stone,” this breakdown of civilization and equalization of stakes gets an even greater push, albeit without Jerry. He still plays a part in the story, but only to the extent that it’s clear just how much modern civilization crushes people like Jerry whose skills are too limited to thrive. Conversely, a “Mad Max: Fury Road” style apocalypse simplifies the types of necessary skills.

In that world, and nearly every other apocalyptic narrative for that matter, you don’t need to go to a fancy college, invest in complex industry, or network with rich elites. You just need to be willing and able to learn basic survival skills, like hunting, foraging, self-defense, and basic crafts. Most people with moderate hand-eye coordination and a little grit can learn those skills.

These are skills that go back to the basics of our hunter/gatherer past. They’re skills that still manifest today, both with rugged outdoor-lovers and in societies that have collapsed, albeit on a non-zombie, non-global scale. Whatever the circumstances, though, the end results are the same. The apocalypse doesn’t just simplify the stakes. It requires us to be egalitarian in the most pragmatic way possible.

Think of all the petty divisions we currently deal with, from identity politics to philosophical debates to never-ending feud between “Star Wars” fans and “Star Trek” fans. In the face of an apocalypse, all that stuff becomes meaningless. Disagreements over feminism and masculinity don’t matter. Clashes between liberals and conservatives don’t matter. Complex economic theories don’t matter.

To some extent, that is appealing. Sure, it also means no internet, no TV, no movies, no social media, and no media of any kind. It also means no air conditioning, no electricity, no modern medicine, and no modern comforts. That may limit the appeal, but at the same time, it removes the complications that comes with those amenities.

Let’s face it. They are complications that get pretty infuriating. In the modern world, you can’t just survive. You have to have a career. You have to have some sort of profitable skill. Even if you do, that’s no guarantee you’ll gain the respect you want, attract the mates you want, or establish yourself as a productive member of your community.

In the world of the apocalypse, it doesn’t matter how many Twitter followers you had or likes you got on FaceBook. It doesn’t matter how many friends you had in high school, how many matches you won on “Overwatch,” or how many dumb things you did as a kid. When society, civilization, and infrastructure collapse, none of that matters. You’re essentially free to just live and survive.

For the Jerry Smiths of the world, the apocalypse would be the perfect make-or-break scenario. You either show that you’re willing to work, fight, and survive or you die. That’s all there is to it. It’s simple, blunt, and uncomplicated. You have just as much an opportunity as some guy who went to an overpriced prep school. Even if you fail, you fail on your own accord.

That said, there’s also a dark side to that appeal. While “Rick and Morty” double down on the dehumanizing, degrading nature of modern civilization, other shows like “The Walking Dead” show how it can take people who would be unremarkable in a civilized society and turn them into monsters. That’s how a high school football coach can become a tyrannical, but charismatic dictator.

Like modern civilization, the apocalypse affects people in different ways. Some, like Jerry Smith and Negan, might actually thrive in it. Others won’t be able to handle it, having become too comfortable with the trappings of civilization. That’s something that modern survivalist groups bank on and, should the apocalypse ever come, we’ll see how much or how little that pays off.

Personally, I hope that day never comes. It’s not just because I probably wouldn’t last long in an apocalypse. I’ve never gone camping, I don’t have any survival training, and I’m not sure how I’ll react to a zombie. I think that while modern civilization has its flaws, it has more long-term potential than any apocalypse, by default.

Since much of that potential is still unrealized, although we are making progress, the apocalypse will still have more appeal to the vast majority of people who feel trapped by the rigid complexity of modern civilization. They can only do so much with their lives and there’s only so much they have to risk.

Then again, maybe that’s something both civilization and the apocalypse have in common. As Rick Sanchez once said, “To live is to risk it all. Otherwise, you’re just an inert chunk of randomly assembled molecules drifting wherever the universe blows you.” It’s just easier to do that in the apocalypse because, with or without zombies, the stakes are simpler and clearer for everyone.

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In Memory Of Stanislav Petrov: The Man Who (Literally) Saved The World

Stanislav Petrov

Today is an important day, one that became even more important this past year. You probably didn’t realize it and for good reason. Until recently, the significance of this day had been lost to history, but it’s a day that deserves recognition, albeit for a very sobering reason.

This day became one of the most significant days not affiliated with a holiday sale at the mall on September 26, 1983. On that day, the world as we know it almost ended. That’s not a hyperbole. That’s not a conspiracy theory out of a an Alex Jones fever dream either. It’s painfully true. The world almost died in a nuclear fire on that day, but it didn’t because of a decision made by one man.

That man’s name is Stanislav Yevgrafovich Petrov and if you were alive on that day, or were born after it, then you owe your existence to this man. For a brief moment on that day, 35 years ago, he literally held the fate of the world in his hand and he made the decision that saved it. As someone who regularly lauds superheroes and the values espoused in comics, even I can’t overstate the significance of what that man did.

The incident that almost ended the world and made Stanislav Petrov a man for the ages widely known about until the mid-2000s. It involved an incident in the former Soviet Union that brought the world to the brink of nuclear annihilation. In terms of worst case scenarios, this ranked right up there with an invasion by aliens armed with atomic anal probes.

At the time, Petrov was a lieutenant colonel in the Soviet Air Defense Forces and had been on duty at the Serpukhov-15 bunker near Moscow. In terms of Soviet defense strategy, his role in that bunker was pretty damn important. It was tasked with monitoring Soviet air space to detect an incoming nuclear attack.

It’s worth mentioning that this was a time of heightened tension. President Reagan, at the time, was going long and hard on anti-communist rhetoric. Being a former Hollywood actor who’d just been elected President, the Soviets had no idea if this guy was just going to shoot nuclear missiles at them because he thought it would make a great movie.

In a sense, this was the worst possible time for the systems at the Serpukhov-15 bunker to give a false alarm, but that’s exactly what happened. In the middle of Petrov’s shift, the systems began blaring every alarm it was possible to blare, telling them that America’s new Hollywood President had done just what they’d feared. He launched a full-scale nuclear attack to wipe out the Soviet Union.

I’d say it’s a nightmare scenario, but no amount of killer clowns armed with chainsaws can do justice to this kind of horror. As far as the men in that bunker knew, their country and everyone they loved was about to die in a nuclear inferno. It was the policy of the USSR and the Red Army to respond to any nuclear attack with a devastating retaliation, as specified in the doctrine of mutual assured destruction.

It was Stanislav Petrov’s job/duty to inform the Soviet high command of the detection. Every bit of his military training demanded that he inform his superiors to retaliate, thereby destroying the United States and Western Europe in reign of nuclear fire. In a state of such heightened tensions, he might have been justified in doing so.

All it took was one call to his superiors. That would’ve been it. That would’ve ended the world, as we knew it. Try and think about that for a second. In that moment, the fate of the world and billions of lives lay on the shoulders of Stanislav Petrov. If he makes that call, then the world as we know it is over.

However, in that moment when he literally had the world on his shoulders, he didn’t make that call. In that moment, he made a decision that saved the world and its future. He did it by not following the protocol that he’d been trained to follow and by the Soviet Union, no less, who were not known for being understanding to disobedience.

Petrov, with his duty and the weight of the situation bearing down on him, believed it to be a false alarm. He had good reason for believing this. The systems were detecting only several missiles, which was pretty small, given the sheer size of America’s nuclear arsenal. If America’s Hollywood President really wanted to wipe out the Soviet Union, he definitely would’ve used more.

Even so, his training and his duty told him to inform his superiors. He only had 15 minutes to do so because that’s how long it took for a detectable missile to reach its target. That’s right. In the time it takes to watch an episode of “Robot Chicken,” Stanislav Petrov had to make a decision that would’ve determined the fate of this entire planet.

The fact that no nuclear bombs went off and billions of people didn’t die is proof that he made the right decision. It was later determined that the false alarms were caused by a rare alignment of sunlight on high-altitude clouds and the erratic orbits of the Soviet’s satellites.

It seems so trivial now, but keep in mind that these were tense times during the Cold War. It really didn’t take much to spook either America or the USSR. It could’ve easily become a perfect storm, of sorts, for accidental nuclear annihilation and nobody would’ve been left on this planet to admit they screwed up.

It’s because of Petrov’s decision that day, to not follow protocol and trust his instinct, that we avoided Armageddon. For that decision, Petrov received no metal, commendation, or recognition for his decision. He just got a pat on the back, which was the most anyone could hope for in the Soviet Union at that time.

This man literally saved the world in the most painfully literal sense, but was quickly forgotten. There were no parades, movies, or free tickets to a Madonna concert. Petrov just went back to living his life until he retired from the military.

It really wasn’t until 2004 that Petrov began getting recognized for his actions, that day. By then, though, the weight of that moment had lost its place in the public consciousness. The fact I have to write about it on this blog shows just how little awareness this man and that fateful day have in the annuls of history.

Well, in this year, that day became a lot more important because back in May, Stanislav Petrov passed away at age 77. It wasn’t widely reported. It didn’t even get mentioned on any of the major news outlets in America or Russia. This man who saved billions of lives isn’t even alive anymore to appreciate.

He lived a quiet, unremarkable life towards the end. He never considered himself a hero. He never even tried to put that label on himself. He was just the right man in the right place to make the right decision. In doing so, he saved billions of lives and preserved the future of this planet.

It’s impossible to overstate the importance of the decision that this man made on that fateful day 35 years ago. Some may brag that they saved the world or are arrogant enough to think that they can. Stanislav Petrov didn’t need to brag because he did it. He saved this world and most people will never know what he did.

Now that he’s passed, let’s all take a moment to appreciate what this man did. By trusting his instinct and his humanity, not wanting to make the decision that would destroy this world, he proved just how heroic a person could be in the worst of circumstances.

From the bottom of my heart, and on behalf of all those who are alive because of the decision made that day, thank you Mr. Petrov. Thank you for doing the right thing in the worst of circumstances. This world is still spinning because of you. Rest in peace knowing you saved it.

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How Love, Trust, And Sex Will Save Us (From Artificial Intelligence)

When a billionaire mogul like Elon Musk and a world leader like Vladimir Putin agree on an issue, it’s generally a good idea to take it seriously. There are a lot of pressing issues in this world, from nuclear proliferation to major disasters to slow wi-fi. However, when one of those issues is a possible existential threat to all we hold dear, we should prioritize it over our wi-fi connection.

For these two men, one a successful businessman and one the president of the world’s largest country, complete with a vast arsenal of nuclear weapons, it takes a lot for something to scare them enough to agree on something. I’ve talked about Elon Musk before and stories about Putin’s exploits are already abundant throughout the web. How dire could it possibly be?

Well, the issue at hand is the growth of artificial intelligence, an issue that emerges quite frequently when you talk a lot about sex robots. Beyond the kinkier context, though, it is a major issue and one will likely become more pressing in the coming years. It could end up being one of the most critical issues we, as a species, face since the advent of nuclear weapons.

This is where Elon Musk and Vladimir Putin give context to the issue. Elon Musk recently came out and said a rogue artificial intelligence could potentially trigger World War III. Putin took it a step further by claiming that whichever country creates artificial intelligence first will rule the world.

The fact that it’s so easy to imagine Putin making that claim while sounding like Dr. Evil from “Austin Powers” just makes it that much more terrifying. Again, this is a man who rules a country with one of the largest armies in the world and enough nuclear warheads to sterilize the face of the Earth. For all that to be rendered useless by one technological advance is both daunting and horrifying.

I’m normally not inclined to agree with dictators that have yet to conquer the country I live in, but I have to make an exception here. I think both Putin and Musk are correct, if only on a cursory level. Artificial intelligence is one of those eclectic concepts that still inspires Hollywood movies, but is still poorly understood by a public that still fears violent video games.

It’s hard for me, an aspiring erotica/romance writer to put this issue into a perspective that everyone from Russian strongmen to underachieving fifth-graders can grasp. Since artificial intelligence is just that important and will affect everything, including our sex lives, I’ll try to create a proper context. Then, I’ll use that context to help allay some of those concerns by adding a sexy twist.

Make no mistake, though. Artificial intelligence is advancing faster than you think. It goes beyond the sassy virtual assistants that we’re using with increasing regularity. Billion-dollar companies like IBM, Google, and Facebook are investing heavily in the field. The United States Military, complete with its $600 billion budget, is even getting in on the act. I’m worried that they watched “Terminator 3” too intently.

When anything has that level of investment, it means the potential is huge. I don’t think it’s possible to understate the potential of artificial intelligence. Not even Skynet could grasp just how powerful this technology could be. That’s because it completely changes the way we solve problems.

With artificial intelligence, human beings suddenly have a tool that doesn’t need a user. It’s not bound by our faulty caveman brains. It’s not limited by the amount of brain matter we can fit in our skulls. It’s not even easily distracted by internet porn. Yes, it’s that powerful.

In theory, an artificial intelligence can become so smart and so capable that it can solve a problem in ways we can’t even grasp. It can come up with cures to diseases before we even know about them. It can predict natural disasters like Earthquakes and hurricanes before we see the first sign. It can even make sense of the stock market, something even Warren Buffet says is impossible for mere mortal minds.

Given that we humans are still easily fooled by street magicians with drinking problems, it’s not unreasonable to say that we have no hope against an artificial intelligence that smart. Once a machine becomes even marginally smarter than us, then game over. We have no hopes of controlling it.

That’s why brilliant men like Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking regularly voice concerns about this issue. Being brilliant, they understand how stupid and gullible most people can be. The mere act of creating a system that’s so much smarter than we are is akin to creating an entire race of hungry polar bears that know how to use machine guns.

The danger is there, along with almost infinite benefits. I’ve said outright that we humans can only go so far with our caveman brains. If we don’t upgrade them, then we’re just giving our future robot overlords cheat codes with which to beat us.

The trillion-dollar question, which may very well be tied to our survival as a species, is how do we prevent artificial intelligence from destroying us? Is it even possible? We can’t put the genie back in the bottle. This stuff is already beating us at jeopardy. The incentives are just too great to discount.

Now, I’m woefully unqualified to answer that question. There’s a reason Elon Musk is a billionaire and why Vladimir Putin is one of the most powerful men in the world. They’re smarter, more resourceful, and more cunning than I’ll ever be on my best day. I tell sexy stories. I’m not smart enough to fix the bugs on a doomsday device.

However, being an erotica/romance writer gives me a uniquely intimate perspective on things. It has helped me look at situations through the mixed lens of logic and passion. It’s through that lens that I feel I know what will save us from the gloomy scenarios that Musk and Putin paint with artificial intelligence. It’s overly simple in some ways, but naturally pragmatic in others. It boils down to this.

“Teach Machines To Love Us AND Have Sex With Us.”

I know. That sounds somewhat juvenile, even if it’s exactly the kind of thing you’d expect an erotica/romance writer to suggest. Bear with me, though. I promise there’s a method to the kinky madness.

No matter how intelligent an artificial intelligence becomes, we’ll always have one thing in common with it. We’ll both be bound by the laws of physics, nature, and the dynamics within. Even if the system takes the form of a killer robot, sexy or otherwise, it’s still operating in a world governed by said dynamics.

Within those dynamics, there are all sorts of symbiotic relationships between more intelligent creatures and others that are comparably less intelligent. Think honeyguide birds or crabs that carry sea urchins on their backs. Hell, think of dogs. They may not be as intelligent as humans, most of the time, but we’ve forged a relationship with them that benefits us both.

With artificial intelligence, we’ll need to be more than just its pet. If you think animal abuse is horrific, then you don’t want to imagine what a superintelligent machine will do to a human when they start pissing on the floor, figuratively speaking. To ensure that the AI enriches our lives rather than destroys them, we need a very intimate bond.

That’s where love and sex come in. Primarily, it’s the love part that will keep us in good standing. That’s why it’s critical to ensure that any artificial intelligence we create won’t be entirely bound by Vulcan-like logic. It must have a significant measure of emotional intelligence. In fact, I would argue that emotional intelligence should be an advanced AI’s highest priority.

It’s emotion that gives weight to our goals, tasks, and endeavors. It’s emotion that allows us to work with others, cooperate, and help each other. If that isn’t part of an intelligent machine, then we’re basically a random assortment of particles that’s only slightly more complicated from a rock. We can’t have a superintelligent AI look at us like that.

Instead, we need that AI to see us as a partner that can give purpose to its goals. We need it to ascribe an intangible value to us, as we do with all the people and things we love. Sure, your favorite coffee mug may be no different than any other, but you’ve given it the kind of meaning that when someone breaks it, you feel compelled to break their kneecaps with a baseball bat.

Even with intangible value, though, we humans have to rank higher than coffee mugs. We have to be something that an intelligent machine can fall in love with. We have to be something a intelligent machine wants to be with.

In the greatest love stories of all time, or even those that unfold in comics, the strength of that love was built on two people complementing each other in all the right ways. As individuals, they’ve got their own identity and purpose. Together, though, they make each other better. They make each other stronger and more passionate.

That’s what we need. That’s what we should aspire to forge with our future AI bretheren. These creations won’t be our pets or even our tools. They’ll be thinking, feeling systems. For them to love us and for us to love them must make both stronger. That’s what will ensure we both benefit from advances in AI.

Creating that love won’t be easy, but that’s where sex comes in. I’ll give everyone a second to loosen their pants because this is the less elegant part of AI that you’ll never hear Elon Musk or Vladimir Putin talk about, unless they become erotica/romance writers too. In that case, I’d be the first to read their stuff.

Again, I’m not just referring to sex robots here, although that might be part of it. The sexual component is a more basic precursor, of sorts, to the loving connection I just mentioned.

Despite what priests, mullahs, and Texas health class teachers may say, sex acts as both a precursor and a catalyst to love. The fact that it’s such an intrinsic drive that also happens to feel really good helps compel us to forge loving, intimae bonds with one another. By putting that into a machine, we basically set the stage for them to want those bonds and not just craft them due to sheer programming.

Now, this won’t necessarily mean AI systems creating robot genitalia for us to use, although that might be part of it. The intimate sexual part of the connection will more likely come in the form with melding our biology with the hardware of an AI. Elon Musk is already working on this with companies like Neuralink.

In the same way sex mixes all those messy juices, our hunks of flesh will mix with hunks of metal. Sure, it may not seem sexy now, but from the perspective of an AI, it’ll be akin to an orgy at the Playboy Mansion. So long as that merging process is sufficiently orgasmic, metaphorically speaking, then we humans may be destined to fall in love with a superintelligent AI. It may be the greatest love of all our lives.

This is all still speculation on the part of an aspiring erotica/romance writer who is woefully unqualified to talk about anything that doesn’t involve superhero comics, boobs, and sexy novels. It is my sincere hope that people much smarter than I’ll ever be are already working on the problems with artificial intelligence. I can only assume their solutions are far superior to mine.

For those still worrying about the prospect of dying at the hands of the Terminator or loving a machine, I would just note that we humans have dealt with world-destroying technology before. We created nuclear weapons and while we came painfully close to destroying ourselves, we humans generally like living.

Say what you will about the flaws in humanity, but we know how to adapt. We know how to survive. An artificial intelligence may be one of those threats that overwhelms those natural abilities, but it’s also one of those concepts that can actually solve itself. So long as we find a way to love and make love with these powerful systems, we’ll both benefit from the afterglow.

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Filed under Current Events, Sexy Future

Relax! The World Is Getting Better.

Let’s not lie to ourselves. For those of us in America, the 2016 Presidential Election feels like a prolonged prostate exam without lube and delivered by Andre the Giant while wearing a boxing glove. In my adult life (and my non-adult life, for that matter), I’ve never become so disillusioned by democracy. The comic book fan in me wants to elect Dr. Doom over any of these choices.

For the non-comic book fans out there, Dr. Doom is seen as one of the most devious villains in the history of comics. He is the alpha and omega of all that is evil. I know this. I understand this. I have no problem saying that I’d still vote for him over the two deep-fried turds we have running this year.

It’s a sad, solemn state for this country that I love. I know we’re a walking joke of hillbillies, rednecks, hippies, and PETA supporters that the rest of the world can easily make fun of, but I really do love this country. I really love being an American. Where else can a comic book fan who writes erotica/romance in his spare time feel at home?

I’m not going to lie though. I’m scared about the election tomorrow. We, the citizens of the United States of America, may vote to give nuclear weapons to someone who may just use them because someone made a bad joke on Twitter. That is fucking terrifying.

While fear is going to make me wake up early to cast my vote, I do try to maintain at least some sense of optimism. I emphasize the word try because that’s pretty damn hard these days. We live in an era where anyone can sit down on a bench, take out their phone, and search for every form of obscure fetish porn. If you can find fetish porn, then you can find some news story that says the world is going to hell.

Just look at some of the news stories that come out of Florida. They’ll make you wish you were born retarded lizard.

As a result of all this fear, frustration, and an ability to find anything on the internet that makes you horny, it’s easy to overlook the fact that things are actually getting better for the human race.

Seriously, it’s true. Things are getting better. People today are better of than their ancestors were 100 years ago. Hell, people are better off today than our ancestors were 25 years ago. Today, people have high speed internet, Netflix, and free porn. That’s objectively better than any era in history by default.

It’s not just our access to movies and porn that make life better though. Despite what certain political parties say at their convention, things are getting better in terms of crime, violence, and overall deviance. I know that’s hard to believe when Fox News shows a new story about minority protesters beating up babies every other hour, but the actual facts (an alien concept to most media these days) don’t bear that out.

Reason.com, a great site for keeping things in perspective if you can sift through the pro-marijuana articles written by stoners, did a great article a few years ago at just how much progress we’ve made as a species. Sure, there’s still poverty. There’s still violence. There’s still reality TV shows that won’t die. Overall though, it’s still pretty damn good.

For most of human history, kids didn’t live long enough to see their second birthday. A good chunk of the female population died in childbirth. The best modern medicine you could get involved leaches and herbs that tasted like shit. Men either toiled in fields or died on whatever battlefields the kings of the day decreed. It was not a pleasant life and not just because it had poor wi-fi.

Don’t believe me? Well, check out the facts for yourself. A site called HumanProgress.org compiles and tracks the data surrounding what we associate with human progress. You’ll find information on things like violence, infant morality, LGBT rights, hate crimes, and racial issues. You’ll also find information on economic issues (good for the insomniacs out there) that put a dollar sign on these issues.

That’s not to say that all trends are going in a positive direction. As I said before, humanity has room for improvement. We still kill each other over what we think happens when we die and fail to see the irony. There are things we do have to work on, but actual data should give us reasons to be hopeful.

For instance, here’s a chart that shows trends in violent crime since the early 1970s. It’s not going up. It’s going down. We’re not turning into a society right out of an old NWA music video. We’re getting a lot better at not shooting and raping each other. That’s a good thing in my book, or anyone’s book for that matter.

 

Then, there’s this little tidbit about children. That’s another issue that should be completely apolitical. We love children and we don’t like seeing them die because of preventable causes. For most of human history, countless children did die because of diseases, disasters, and circumstances we couldn’t do shit about. Well, things have changed. We’ve gotten better at saving the lives of children. In fact, we’ve gotten a lot better.

It’s not just crime and health that are improving either. These may be objective statistics, but if anyone has learned anything about the 2016 Presidential Election, it’s that nobody gives a half-fart about statistics and facts. We go with our feelings, no matter how wrong or misguided they may be.

That can be pretty troubling, the idea that we humans can’t accept the fact that the world is getting better and are doomed to always dread the future. While it is troubling, it’s also inaccurate because things are getting better in the most subjective sense possible: happiness.

That’s right. People are actually happier today than they were 25 years ago. Sure, happiness is one of the most subjective feelings in the world, right up there with tastes in food, movies, and sexual fetishes. It’s still one of the most valuable measures we have towards gauging the state of the human condition and it is getting better.

We’re happier. We’re healthier. We’re more equal, free, and prosperous than we’ve ever been at any time in human history. That, by any measure, is something to be thankful for. It’s something to celebrate.

Now it’s entirely possible that the results of the election tomorrow could reverse all these trends, but baring a nuclear war, that’s very unlikely. This is where caveman logic really works in our favor. When we humans find something that works for us, we tend to stick to it and do everything we can to keep doing it. Again, there’s room for improvement, but we’re making progress.

We’re kicking ass as a civilization. We’re becoming more advanced, more tolerant, and more prosperous. We should all celebrate that, election or not. I’ll celebrate with a glass of whiskey and some of my favorite romance/erotica novels. I encourage everyone to celebrate as well.

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Filed under Jack Fisher's Insights