Good Morning Ted and Jody:
As you know, Terry Pratchett is my favorite contemporary writer. I have most of his books in real hard copies—not e-versions. From time to time I pick up one and that leads to another until I finally have read them all again. I love the way he uses words, both in description and dialog. He can surprise one in a single sentence. For example, “The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it.” Well, I started again. This time I started reading “Making Money.” “Making Money” starts with a passage that foretells the ending or solution to the problem created in the book. However, one would never know that at the beginning as it is obscure. Indeed, the problem is obscure as well. Nevertheless, in reading that opening passage got me to thinking how much easier it would be to be able to go back to the beginning of a story an insert something like a foretelling passage that didn’t give away the ending. But, alas, I write the passages every day and pass them on to you (almost un-proof read). Hence, there is a very limited ability to go back (even though the novellas, so far, are about time travel. I guess you can’t write about time travel and have it too). The funny thing is I don’t know if I would have the discipline to write any other way. Take the pressure off and nothing gets cooked (err, written).
Four days and counting.
Warmest regards, Ed
038 Agent White Gets Some Tips from Robert Jacob Masters
Fiction in 1173 words by T. Edward Westen, 2017
Robert Jacob Masters came up the steps from the state below to find Agent White sitting on the top step. “Agent White, what a surprise?”
“I have something you may be able to help me with if you have a moment,” said Agent White.
Robert Jacob Masters shook his head and said, “Why don’t we go in, sit down and have a cup of tea? I was on my feet the entire last two acts and, well, you know, I am not as young as I used to be.”
Agent White smiled and said, “Don’t I know. No matter what I do, I don’t seem to get any younger.”
Robert Jacob Masters put a kettle on his stove top and turned on the gas. “At least the lighting is automatic. I do miss the instant tea maker, but waiting gives me a chance to practice anticipation. Did you know that anticipation is one of the hardest things to portray in a play or on film?”
“No, why is that?” asked Agent White.
“Picture a small child watching as a parent or clerk in an ice-cream store scoops ice-cream and places it on the cone,” said, Robert Jacob Masters. “Can you imagine anything more intense than that child’s attention? Can you think of anything that could divert that attention?”
Agent White frowned and said, “No. Is anticipation mere attention?
No, not mere, attention,” replied Robert Jacob Masters. “It is pure attention. Not only that, it is the sweet taste and cold in the child’s mouth it is the unrelenting desire to have that ice-cream cone.” Robert Jacob Masters paused for a moment. “Anticipation of something pleasurable is the marriage of desire and focus. Now, consider a child who has been told to go cut a switch for the parent to use to, shall we say, impress upon the child the incorrectness of his or her recent actions in say, taking a cookie out of the cookie jar without permission or after being told no.”
“I see, it is also a question of focus and dread of what is about to happen,” said Agent White.
“Yes, but with this scenario, the child is looking for anything to interrupt or stop what is about to happen,” replied Robert Jacob Masters. “In this case, the child is acutely aware of everything around him or her and looks for a way out. But still pure attention and fear or dread of what is about to happen. The child actually feels the switch as he or she anticipates” The kettle on the stove interrupted his train of thought, “Ah, it is ready.”
Placing a tea bag in each cup, Robert Jacob Masters poured boiling water in the cups and said, “But I don’t think you came for one of my digressions on acting.”
“Actually, I did,” replied Agent White. “Let me explain the event and then you can tell me how you would have done it as an actor.”
“O.K.” replied Robert Jacob Masters.
“We, my associates and I, entered a room which contained two fugitives we were seeking. They were talking to what appeared to be a man. However, the man they were talking to was a hologram and the man was elsewhere. The man recognized me and called me ‘Agent White.’ I did not recognize the man or his voice, so I immediately assumed a disguise. Then I thought, if this is a theatrical trick, you might be able to tell me how it was done. So, here I am asking if you have any ideas about how this was done.”
“I can’t do it here,” replied Robert Jacob Masters. “But if we could visit a working stage theater in a few hundred years I could show you. But, let me explain. First, I would use a computer to generate a character—a full sized person that could be projected as a hologram. Then I would map points on my body to points on the character’s virtual body. I would then use a hologram camera to record what I did and then have it translated into the character and projected by a hologram projector. Since you didn’t recognize the voice, I would guess if the person were known to you he also had a voice synthesized and when he talked the computer and hologram projector talked in that voice.”
“Will this be common, er, in the future?” asked Agent White.
“Yes, it will be most useful when one wants one actor to play several parts and there isn’t sufficient time for wardrobe changes. Indeed, I can recall seeing a play in which none of the actors were on stage, but their holograms were.” Robert Jacob Masters chuckled. “It completely blurred the difference between stage and film. Once recorded, the entire stage play would be available for mass distribution. Why they even downsized so you could watch the play in your living room or on a kitchen table.”
“Would a recorded character be able to interact with a live actor without a script?” asked Agent White.
“Yes,” replied Robert Jacob Masters one would only have to implant a personality on a chip and supply sufficient computing power and the chip character would be nearly indistinguishable from a real human being. Indeed, it would easily pass the Turing Test.
“What is the Turing Test?” asked Agent White.
“In the middle of the 20th Century an early computer scientist, Alan Turing, posited a test to determine when computers had intelligence,” replied Robert Jacob Masters. “Essentially, he had a computer give answers to questions that a person could ask in one box and a human give answers in another box and when you could not tell which was which was human and which the computer, the computer had intelligence.”
“You mean like talking to computers in my time as if they were independent intelligences?” asked Agent White.
“Precisely,” replied Robert Jacob Masters. “More tea?”
“No, thank you,” said Agent White. “This hologram or chip character was shown with a goatee and scar over his left eye. He was dressed in black and looked to be muscular, but not muscle-bound. Would there be any significance to his appearance?”
“If his voice was deeper than you might have thought it should be” replied Robert Jacob Masters, “he was trying for dominance.”
“Well, he managed to dominate two, err, henchmen and it did sound deep,” Replied Agent White.
Robert Jacob Masters positively chuckled the word “Henchmen. I do not believe I have heard that word used to describe criminal associates, ever. Why next you will use the term Minions.”
“Surely not for two men,” replied Agent White as she pushed her cup toward the middle of the table.
“I see you are getting ready to depart, said, Robert Jacob Masters. “I would be interested in hearing how this all turns out.”
“Thank you. You have no idea of how helpful you have been,” said, Agent White. “I will keep you informed. Besides, I enjoyed the play the other evening and will be back for more as I picked up a schedule. Again, thank you.” Agent White vanished.