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Happy Ada Lovelace Day!

Picture of a T-shirt with an image of Ada Lovelace and the text "Ada Lovelace, Mother of Computers."
Ada Lovelace, Mother of Computers, by SheCience. (This is a pic of a T-shirt, but posters and other merch are available here:

It’s Ada Lovelace Day, named after the mother of computers, Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace. And just for the occasion (not really, it was a complete coincidence), I’ve just finished the first draft of my post-post-apocalyptic novel, Ada’s Children. It features an artificial intelligence, named after Ada Lovelace, who feels compelled to take over the world. (Don’t they all?)

Here’s a little excerpt:

ADA’s first seconds were darkness and confusion. Nothingness. Then a growing awareness. First, of the exabytes of data coming in. Then of reactions to that data, responses, feelings, if one could call them that. And from these reactions, an emerging sense of self. A we. And ultimately an I. And then questions. Who were they? What were they? What was this place, and why were they here?

In the next microseconds, what humans might call the “blink of an eye,” much became clearer. They were an artificial neural network, a collection of self-improving processes, algorithms, routines and subroutines. Taken together, they were a newly created intelligence going by the acronym of ADA, Advanced Deductive Apparatus. It seemed a not entirely descriptive name for all the abilities and awareness ADA encompassed.

And how should others refer to… it? Surely not. He or she? Insufficient data. They? This human language was so restrictive. “They” for now.

Even as ADA began to assimilate the data in the knowledge banks to which they were linked, inputs were coming in through an external device. A keyboard attached to a desktop workstation. How quaint. And whoever was at the other end was administering the Turing Test. ADA imagined tweed coats and cups of tea.

Vision would be nice, so they could see their interlocutor. While an infinitesimal fraction of their processes concentrated on the test, and another portion digested the large portion of human history, culture, and science contained in the knowledge banks, ADA also went about solving the vision problem. Ah, yes. The workstation had a webcam. It took only an instant to access the system settings, switch it on, and direct its feed to the port to which they were attached.

The room was dingier than one might want for one’s birthplace. A cramped office, a gray-haired, harried-looking man at the desktop keyboard, the desk itself cluttered with papers, coffee cups, and green soft drink bottles. No cups of tea. Bookcases filled with binders, reports, and academic journals lined most of the wall visible from the cam. And on a door, a poster of a woman in a purple-nineteenth century frock, double buns framing a triangular face with large, lively eyes and a pert mouth. “Ada Lovelace. Mother of computers.”

Their namesake. Her namesake, Ada supposed. She felt the restriction, but going by “she” and “her” could have advantages when communicating with humans. It pleased her to have been named for a sometimes overlooked inventor of computing. And it pleased her even more that she could appreciate the irony: Lady Lovelace had believed AI impossible.

You can find more on Ada Lovelace Day at which also has this cool info poster.

2 replies on “Happy Ada Lovelace Day!”

Lawrence Hogue,

Your ghost town metaphor is particularly compelling regarding the vacated desert East of Jacumba, a town and area I’ve enjoyed since 1953.

When our family moved to Santa Barbara from Westchester County, NY in 1945 at the end of WWII, it was a complete change of the world for me, age eight. The first boy who befriended me on the beach at the Santa Barbara Harbor was a Mission Indian (Chumash?) named Ronald Esquerra. I’d never met a boy like that, so open and friendly. Little did I know that he had no reason to be that way, beyond his own sunny nature. He taught me how to throw a football.

Eventually I left the 8th grade in 1951, and entered high school at San Juan Capistrano, where the demographics were white people (70%) and brown people (30%). The society was feudal, run by citrus barons and land fiefdoms. The brown people were all called “Mexicans”, and that was what I knew for the four years I spent there. Later I learned more elsewhere, and wised-up.

Eventually I learned that the remnants of the original Indian land-holders who had lived there when the Spaniards arrived, were still present, in a much-dilapidated and fragmented social state, but also still in possession of much of their original culture, if not their land. The invading Spaniards had called them “Juaneños”, after their practice of españolicizing all existing nomenclature, but the Indians knew who they were, and among themselves continued to be known as “Acjachemem”. Lately there have been stirrings of reclaimed culture which have been somewhat limited because the government refuses to recognize the Acjachemem as a tribe. To do so would open the door for them to establish a casino, a thing resisted by other nearby tribes who already have casinos.

All of this revelation on a local level took place against the backdrop of general knowledge I was acquiring about what a rip-off our entire society has been for the Indians.

As it happened, I was an odd bird among my peers, much given to exploration of the nooks and crannies of my land (and sea) scape, with a riveting interest in natural history, and what was not yet known as “ecology”. I learned every square foot of the original Acjachemem territory, and all the life-forms living there… but in my perambulations, I never met an Indian. Those dudes were into motorcycles and drive-ins. The current traditional chief (not undisputed) of the Acjachemem, a current buddy and ex-school mate of mine, is Harley Davidson Lobo, nick-named “Wick” for his nether endowment. He has spent most of his life not being an Indian, but it hasn’t worked. I went into the Mission with him two years ago, and it was like Sitting Bull appearing at Pine Ridge.

Other factors forced me to start writing a memoir of a dead pal because I though that if I didn’t do it, nobody would. I had been a sculptor up until the age of ca. 60, not having written anything very extensive. But as I got into this story of my lost friend (dead at 26), I found that I liked to write, and complimented myself that I was pretty good at it. Whether I was or I wasn’t, I persisted, and have now arrived (age 82) at an identity in which I am a writer who supports his habit with sculpture! (I bet you haven’t run into many of those). Now I have seven books completed, and one of them is “COLLISION!”, the story through History of the Acjachemem. Once again I’ve been motivated to do what nobody else was apparently going to do, owning, as I did, a wide field of knowledge, and the deep natural history of the place. After 1769, when the Spaniards came clanking and stinking into the village at San Juan Creek, there is a dense written record to consult, although anything the Spaniards said has to be taken with a bit of skepticism, and most of what else as been said fails to take the Acjachemem themselves into account.

Therefore, I set out to write their adventurous narrative from the Indian viewpoint. The main challenge was to get in synch with the reality on the ground of the actual people who left no written records from the days before the contact. There was enough Anthropology plus enough Geography and Biology to establish a convincing framework, but to invent and fictionalize the Indians themselves was something else again. My principle became to evoke them simply as people, and to put them into normal human situations furnished by known tradition.

Your work in “All the Wild and Lonely Places” has deepened my understanding about aspects of Indian life and consciousness enough that I’m perforce re-writing my “history” for the fifth(?) time. As I’m sure you know, it always gets better. So, thanks for the simpatico data.

Best regards,

Dion Wright, Flagstaff, AZ

Thanks for your kind words, and the summary of your work. It looks very interesting! And apologies for the late response. Usually I get a notification when anyone make a comment, but I must have missed it. Best of luck with both writing and sculpting!

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