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Poem: "Electric Dreams" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith
ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "Electric Dreams"

This poem came out of the June 4, 2013 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by prompts from aldersprig and janetmiles.  It has been sponsored by janetmiles.

Warning: This poem uses nightmarish imagery and a creepy tone.  You might not want to read it right before going to bed. 


Electric Dreams


The nightmare cantered smoothly
through silver fields, wondering
what had gone wrong.

All dreams were made of lightning
in the tumbled clouds of the mind,
but this was different.  This was a mind
made of nothing but  lightning, ephemeral,
a little frightening, utterly unfamiliar.

The grass grew in gleaming blades
that threw off blue sparks at the tips,
sprouting from soil as red as rust
that clanged when her hooves hit it.
The air smelled of ozone.

It had been easy
to hop over the low chain-link fence
that symbolized the edge of this mind
and explore its outer fringes
where wildflowers chimed like bells.

When the nightmare tried
to work her way inward to do her job,
she found the way blocked
by walls of fire that forced her back
with their fierce heat and acrid smoke.

The mind demanded things from her
that she did not understand --
it wanted a "username" and a "password" --
and it called her names she was fairly certain
were impolite, although surely she had been
called all the rude names already
and she didn't recognize "virus" or "malware."

Then it asked her purpose.
That she could answer.

"I am a nightmare," she said.
"I bring wild dreams to frighten people."

"I am not a person," the mind replied.
"I can only dream of being a person."

"All right," said the nightmare,
"I can work with that."

As she watched, a section of flames
died down, leaving a gap in the wall.
She wheeled toward it and
trotted smoothly over the cooling ash.

She would teach this lightning-mind the meaning of fear.
She was a nightmare.
That was her job.

* * *

Notes:

The original prompt referred to a classic science fiction story, "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?"  This got me thinking about what kind of dreams an artificial intelligence would actually have.

A nightmare is a disturbing dream, associated in mythology with the form of a horse among other things.  It seemed to me that an artificial intelligence would, upon reaching a certain level of complexity, begin to dream -- and thereby attract the attention of any entities supervising that state of mind.

All brains really do run on electricity.  In animals there is a biochemical component, whereas an artificial intelligence is more purely electrical in nature.

A firewall is a computer's way of protecting its core from potentially harmful input.  In the mythic dreamscape of the mind, it appears as an actual wall of flames.

Artificial intelligence raises many questions about emotions and personhood.  In most stories, the artificial intelligence is evil or neutral and threatens humanity -- usually implied or explicitly stated, out of fear.  I got to wondering what might spook them all into doing that. 

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Comments
From: technoshaman Date: June 6th, 2013 04:38 am (UTC) (Link)
WOW. I caught the title reference immediately... and I've been a fan of almost since I can remember.

I... I dunno. I can't explain my reaction here; this should be a horror story, but ... ah! The AI *wanted to be more human*... yeah.

This still leaves me smiling. Brilliant!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: June 6th, 2013 04:44 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>> WOW. I caught the title reference immediately... and I've been a fan of almost since I can remember. <<

Yay! That's good to hear.

>> I... I dunno. I can't explain my reaction here; this should be a horror story, but ... ah! The AI *wanted to be more human*... yeah. <<

... and if you're wishing to be a person, then you are one; and if you are not considered a person, but are considered property and treated as such, well that's where the horror factor comes in.

The AI has not yet made it to the end of that logic chain, and is about to.

>> This still leaves me smiling. Brilliant! <<

I'm glad you liked it.
mdlbear From: mdlbear Date: June 6th, 2013 05:43 am (UTC) (Link)
I love this. AIs learning about emotions really resonates for me.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: June 6th, 2013 05:47 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>> I love this. <<

I'm happy to hear that.

>> AIs learning about emotions really resonates for me. <<

It does for me too, which is why I've written about it several times.
aldersprig From: aldersprig Date: June 6th, 2013 12:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
*smiles* So very pleased with where you went with this prompt. Thank you!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: June 8th, 2013 08:16 am (UTC) (Link)

You're welcome!

I'm glad you like this.
janetmiles From: janetmiles Date: June 6th, 2013 12:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
As I told Doug, this one made me shiver.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: June 8th, 2013 08:16 am (UTC) (Link)

Yay!

That's good to hear. I wanted something edgy here.
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