The Training Commission: an email newsletter from the future, after a civil war and digital blackout

"The Training Commission" is Ingrid Burrington and Brendan C Byrne's serialized science fiction tale, taking the form of an email newsletter that lets you eavesdrop on the correspondence between the story's principal characters: it's set after a civil war ("the Shitstorm"), sparked by misbehaving and easily abused machine-learning systems, and which was resolved after a protracted and catastrophic digital blackout.

I read the initial volleys this morning, and they're pretty fantastic — excellent writing, wonderful worldbuilding, complicated and likable characters that I was rooting for within just a few sentences, and the dramatic tension starts high and keeps rising, with no dull moments.

KZ from Mozilla adds: "Ingrid and Brendan have created a whole fictional universe, and are supported by a $25,000 Creative Media Award from Mozilla. The project features a weekly newsletter, and also clues, context, and Easter eggs scattered across the web."

Burrington unpacks some of the inspiration for the story: "Today's conversations about 'AI accountability' are, in many instances, proxies for larger and harder conversations about the contradictions of pursuing equity and justice in racist, capitalist societies such as the United States. Do we want less biased risk assessment technologies for managing mass incarceration, or do we want a society without prisons? How does the glut of recommended white supremacist content on YouTube reflect not only a colossal oversight by a tech company, but also the deeply racist foundations that still define American politics today?"

That's exactly right: the reason we're so anxious about autonomous human-created life-forms taking over our world is that this describes our existing relationship to corporations, which is why Charlie Stross calls them "Slow AIs."

After the end of a second ultraviolent American civil war, after we've placed the state under the guidance of automated systems—well, there's inevitably going to be a Smithsonian exhibit. Ingrid Burrington and Brendan Byrne's brilliant new speculative fiction newsletter—which received support from the Mozilla Foundation, and which we're thrilled to share the first installment here today—collects the dispatches of an architecture critic with personal ties to the bloody conflict who is assigned to review the museum's new Reconciliation Wing.

The Training Commission []

The Training Commission [Ingrid Burrington and Brendan Byrne/Motherboard]