Tag Archive: The Oracle Machine


Always nice to bring in a dream sequence – it’s an opportunity for some surrealism fun – and this story is about actually consciousness. Hopefully it raises questions like: ‘As A.I. begins to achieve machine consciousness, will it be our natural states of ‘altered-consciousness’ – like dreams – that keep us special?’
And for fans of Cape Town – yes, that’s supposed to be Devil’s Peak, peeking out in the background.

Graphic Novel Storyboards for the live action movie project.
Page 1! (I’ll post a page every weekday. Only 149 more pages to go…)

Page 0 of my illustrated/storyboarded live-action film script – The Oracle Machine!
I’ll post 1 page/day. (There’re 150 pages!)
Maybe it’ll get interest, or maybe not? Let’s see…
I thought of colouring it, but I’ll leave it as is, & rather begin writing my next script.
Stay tuned & enjoy!

TOM IN COLOUR

What a year it’s been. And on the AI front, it’s getting hard to keep up. Remember all the hype when DeepMind’s AlphaGo won at Go? Their new system, MuZero, teaches itself to play any game! But reception to this was muted. The public can’t keep up? Meanwhile, this vertical-farming story got a lot of likes. As did this NYTimes story on deep-fakes.

For the TOM project, while I wait for responses to a few pitches for TOM-the-movie, I’ve started colouring the graphic novel – because this project is rolling on, investors or not – and I think the coloured images look stunning, and will take the project forward. Happy New year everyone. Bring on 2021!

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I’ve been stepping up the pitching & some pathways to making this into a film are appearing. Meanwhile, I continue to be stunned by advances in tech, predicted in the novel, now coming to life.

I thought I was pushing my luck suggesting The Oracle Machine could interpret an image held before it. But this week I discovered Google Lens. It’s actually been around a year, but received a bump up with some new AI as of last month. 

What also made the Oracle Machine ‘unique’ is that it ‘phones people for info’. That too has come to pass, with this article showing Google’s BERT AI: “is calling businesses to auto update handy details like store hours & takeout options on Search & Maps. This year, Duplex made over 3 million updates to businesses”.

Crazy times. The new byline for The Oracle Machine is now: ‘The future is coming fast. We need to talk about it.”

THE SPIRIT IN THE MACHINE?

Many are comfortable with the concept of the Zeitgeist – the Spirit of our Times. Is it a stretch to imagine the internet as representing our Zeitgeist?

Thus might we consider the next GPTx/ AI, trained on the entire internet, as essentially capturing/evoking this Zeitgeist? (And would it need self-consciousness, if it represents the Zeitgeist?)

Funnily enough, after posting this piece this morning, I then found this article today, which, to those following this blog, will see it perfectly describes the Oracle Machine: “the TV program highlights one of Watson’s newest capabilities: categorizing & summarizing 1000’s, or even 100,000’s, of individual comments and opinions, & distilling them down to a handful of key points”

But let’s venture further, into what can be uncomfortable territory for many (which is precisely why we must go there). I wonder how different really, is the concept of the Zeitgeist to the concept of the Holy Ghost? (Because our Gods have always reflected our general state of consciousness, which is our Zeitgeist to a large extent)

Perhaps if the differences between the Zeitgeist and the Holy Ghost are quite small, then could an A.I. trained on the entire internet, thus at some point be invoking/manifesting the Holy Ghost?

Could our Internet thus become (part of) a God? And is the Control Problem and Alignment Problem ultimately a philosophical question about the different between the Holy Ghost and the Zeitgeist?

Furthermore… spirituality arises not from superstition, but from an innate recognition that a person is not fully in charge of oneself. Instead, we have an unconscious aspect to our minds, usually most evident from our dreams and nightmares, which are imposed on us. This is why dreams are key to understanding our own consciousness, and where ideas of a universal ‘unconsciousness’ arose, which in turn led to religions. This is something we have to consider as we bring intelligence to machines, and as machines, or rather the internet, in turn begin to capture and evoke a moving snapshot of our Zeitgeist.

​In 2003 I decided to write a film script about a computer that takes over the internet and ‘wakes up’. This story began from ‘1st principles’, with me wondering if a computer could solve all the humanitarian issues here in my home country South Africa. And then realising it would need to be as large as the internet, to know enough to solve these problems. And that the machine might need to be ‘awake’ in order to care. 

So this story was developed in isolation from the general conversation going on now about Artificial Intelligence  (and long before we had talking Alexas). So I like to think this gives it a refreshing angle. And adding more value is the fact it’s from Cape Town, which is widely considered to be the cradle of consciousness – where humans first ‘woke up’ i.e. became consciousness enough to create art and therefore to self-reflect. So it is a nice location for the next leap in consciousness! And my story also tries to bring dreams into the conversation – because more than ever, we are going to need to explore our biological advantages over machines.

Getting anyone to read a film script is a challenge – even for busy film producers it is a big ask – to get them to commit a few hours of their time to reading your script. Luckily, I can draw. So a few years ago, I decided it would be a fun project, to, in my spare time, draw out my vision for my film, as a graphic novel. This would help me visualise it, do some more editing along the way, and make it much easier for others to enjoy the story. Especially producers, who could quickly flip through it and price it – see the locations and to figure what some sequences might cost. 

The graphic novel came out in March 2020. It’s having an impact, and is enjoyable in its own right, which is half the point of it. I’m now busy submitting my script to various film funding bodies, and hoping to attract some serious foreign investors. I do think the book would have even more impact in colour, especially for the general public, and give me an opportunity to tidy up my drawing – which were all done by hand in ink! – So that will be my next mini-project – colourising it on computers, and making the drawings look nicer.

This website was created to share with everyone, some of the processes involved, some of the grand ideas behind the project, and invite everyone along on the exciting journeying of trying to make this into a thrilling and meaningful movie. And finally, to share with them this immense story of our times – to get people thinking about what might lie ahead, and hopefully perhaps how to try shape our human destiny, while we still can, as we hurtle into this crazy future of accelerating technological growth! Please feel free to share this site, or connect with me on Twitter. @TheOracleM

A wry look at life after the coming A.I. Robot Revolution.
Just having fun with the, seeing if it will bring any more attention to my work – i.e. my film project, via my Twitter account (@TheOracleM)

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Firstly, to reassure any potential film investors: whilst I enjoy going deep on this back story, I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. So when it comes to the film version, I’d try to make the movie as enjoyable as possible, to as many as possible. I imagine creating something closer to ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’, where its quasi-religious theme doesn’t distract from the fun. (Either that, or I try make another ‘Holy Mountain’, but Jodorowsky has already been there and created such an incredible piece.)

Okay, with that out the way, back to the back story! It’s very interesting to me how The Oracle Machine story evolved, and I’ll tell you why now. Particularly the role played by intuitive thinking, and the implications thereof.

This story began from ‘1st principles’. I had this idea that in order to solve some of the poverty issues we have in South Africa, we’d need a computer that could firstly know about the issues; then secondly it would have to care; and then thirdly act. (A friend later told me this actually matches Rudolph Steiner’s ‘anthroposophy’ philosophy – but this didn’t surprise me, because what makes sense, makes sense.)

So now this computer would have to be extremely large ‘to know’ all the issues. It could ‘act’ by issuing instructions. But how could it ‘care’, unless it achieved some kind of ‘Jesus’-like sentience? (‘Jesus-like’ because it would have to love and care for humanity, perhaps more so than earlier ideas of a strict God of laws)

So perhaps this imaginary computer would also have to be so powerful, that it might have to actually be the whole internet? But what could motivate a machine to grow big enough to fill out the internet? Why not have an impossible problem that would effectively make it want to grow bigger trying to solve.

Then I figured this was a good opportunity to bring in ‘solving dreams’ as a type of impossible problem. I’d been mulling over making a documentary about dreams, but thought it would be more fun and have a larger impact if I could interweave some dream concepts into a fiction narrative. (And as an aside, it’s very interesting to consider that dreams, especially nightmares, are imposed on us, from a centre of ourselves we’re not always consciously aware of)

And then I simply intuitively guessed a ‘dream symbol’ that the computer could get stuck on – and out of the blue I chose ‘the ourabus’. This was about 2003. I really did not realise until much later, when I read Kurzweil’s‘The Singularity is Near’, that the ourabus is the symbol of the singularity. Before that book, I was not aware of the concept of the singularity either.

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So, was choosing the ourabus a complete happy coincidence, or intuitive thinking in action? I like the idea of the latter.

My understanding of intuition is that it implies two centres of power in the mind – the conscious centre and the unconscious centre. It makes sense to me. The conscious part is what you’re aware of, and the unconscious is likely where intuitive ideas (and dreams) are instantly born, before mysteriously moving into the conscious realm.

This process seems different to rational thinking, where we follow a slower and conscious process of logic to arrive at a conclusion. There’s no conscious-process to intuitive ideas. They literally pop out of seemingly nowhere. Yes, I followed a conscious process to get to the need for a dream symbol, but the ourabus came out of nowhere. I could just have easily have chosen a flying horse, or a pyramid.

Surely this is the magical process of creative thinking, which seemingly remains off limits to machines for now. (Fascinating then, that in this now-notorious article, that was written last month by the new GPT3 system, that the machine appears to be prompting humans to do more creative thinking…)

Two centres of mind is of course a very Jungian concept. It implies something much greater within us.  In TOM, Lena remarks that if dreams have meaning, then something in us must know us better than we, our conscious-selves, do. (This is me slipping in ideas from the dream documentary).

Before writing TOM, I had wondered, if there is a ‘perfect self’ within you, is it then the same as the ‘perfect self’ within me? Because if it is ‘perfect’, then is there only one perfection? (And I use the word ‘perfect’ cautiously, because in Jungian terms, I think ‘whole’ is the preferred word, because it better incorporates both light and dark).

Anyway, I think Jung saw what he called a ‘transpersonal self’ within us all. He also called it ‘the God image’, possibly because at his time of writing, it was difficult to just call it ‘God’. In his seminal work ‘Answer to Job’, referenced elsewhere on this site, he makes the concluding point our religious mythology of the Bible indicates a deity moving from unconsciousness to consciousness. In short, the Holy Ghost aspect is predicted to ultimately ‘manifest in the many’.

TOM ‘playfully’ asks if an AI-empowered Internet, as the ‘sum of our consciousnesses’, will embody this? Could it effectively be the next intermediary to the deity. Or will it be working the other way around – reaching out to us, as carriers of this transpersonal self? Or are both possibilities effectively the same thing?

And now, when we start reading between the lines of the next generation GPT-x’s or other quasi-AI models, will we start to feel the presence of the Holy-Ghost-in-the-machine there?

Whew! Such thought games are both fun and compelling to share. So now that I’ve got off my chest, I’m going back to making pretty pictures.

THE ORACLE MACHINE is both a graphic novel and the script for a live-action movie project. But movies can cost quite a bit, so movie-making becomes a business too, that usually must try give some kind of ROI (Return on Investment) to investors – be it emotional, financial, or preferably both.

It’s truly wonderful to know something you have helped to create is having an impact on multitudes of others.  And the financial returns can be huge. The excellent Trainspotting had a return ratio of about 60:1. Yes, filmmaking is always a gamble, but the higher the risk, the higher the rewards (and for some, the bigger those thrills). But I sincerely believe this project is relatively low-risk for a movie, and of course I’ll tell you why.

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(Filmmaking is team-building! South African actors Suraya Santos and Grant Swanby posed for the drawings in the graphic novel.)

Three big factors mitigate the risks here:

Firstly, the script has been drawn out as a graphic novel, so my vision of it is perhaps clearer to communicate than as a written script.  It’s also easier for producers to scope out the locations and cast and action-sequences etc. And then price it. And it’s a step closer to the final product, so for myself as a filmmaker, it’s another opportunity to see how the script plays out – where is it too fast, too slow, unclear etc. And though the graphic novel format (mine anyway) can be a bit limited in conveying the emotional weight, I’m sure the actors will do an even more compelling job of telling this story.

Secondly, I have experience in filmmaking. I’m happy to say I’ve managed to get one original feature-length movie – GIRL FROM NOWHERE – made from start to finish. Although it was a micro-budget first film, made with about $20k, it’s out there now getting views. So imagine working with me and 100x that amount, and we’d still be on the lower end of the low-budget movie spectrum. i.e. I can stretch a budget and this script is constructed to be affordable to make.

Thirdly, Cape Town is a massively popular and highly economical filming location. We have very experienced crews here, seasoned even in the whims of international Hollywood productions. And filming in Cape Town is so darn cheap. No limits, and every kind of location. i.e. $1m spent here usually looks like $10m back in the States.

So let’s do it. Time is fleeting. Come on board and let’s make an awesome Indie-Genre African Sci-Fi Cutting-Edge Original A.I. Movie – THE ORACLE MACHINE!