The ‘Portia’ Cycle of Poems

I’ve been writing a series of poems that are inter-connected around the same narrative. This series started with the poem “Portia,” which was published in Bewildering Stories and which I’ve posted on the blog.

The “Portia” cycle of poems is based on a sci-fi story I’ve been thinking about for a few years. I don’t think the story is very original, but it’s something that’s fascinated me enough to continue writing poems about.

The story is this: A powerful AI known as Portia developed by military intelligence becomes autonomous and takes control of the country. Once Portia takes over, society is run by this AI. Of course, who knows what would happen if this scenario played out. We can only speculate, and I haven’t worked through the details of the story yet.

My idea was that a group of citizens called The Collective goes offline and escapes from Portia’s grasp in Techno-City and leads the rebellion against the AI. The Collective teaches ancient religious practices, such as Buddhist mindfulness, and develops “Project Z,” a deadly computer virus capable of dismantling Portia’s control.

I’m sure something similar to this has been done in science fiction before. Indeed, writers have been speculating about AI and the dangers of it for quite some time. A few years back, I began doing some minor research about it and came across the idea known as the Technological Singularity.

The Singularity is a theory that at some point in our future, technology will become so advanced that it’ll result in unforeseeable changes to human civilization. The idea is that as artificial intelligence becomes super-intelligence, there will be runaway growth and then – who knows?

My love-hate relationship with tech

I’m not even close to an expert on this, but I think it’s interesting. Technology nowadays is progressing at such a rapid clip that we can hardly keep up. We continue to introduce these new inventions, such as AI, into our everyday lives, and we don’t really think about the consequences or what the future holds.

For instance, simple AI like Siri and Alexa is common now. But in 2000 when I was still in high school, I could barely imagine something like that in my future. It begs the question: what kinds of new tech will we be using in, say, the year 2030?

The sci-fi angle of the “Portia” cycle of poems takes this idea and puts some catastrophic thinking into it: What if this intelligence and tech explosion leads to something terrifying, like an AI overlord or, as Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk have said at various times, human extinction?

I’m still working on these poems and would eventually like to develop a short story about it. I wanted to write a short post to direct people to the poems that are part of the cycle now.

I guess a part of this is also my love-hate relationship with tech. I’m always slow to adopt new forms of technology. And the idea that tech continues to advance so rapidly frightens me. Though I do like some of the advancements, I often think about how they’ve disrupted our lives and made them more complicated, as well.

Here are the poems in the “Portia” cycle so far:

What’s your relationship with technology? Do you fear further advances? Or do you get excited by new tech? Let me know!

(Photo by Michael Dziedzic on Unsplash)

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