God’s Holy Pantomime


So, I wrote this thing for a competition, which I didn’t win, but as it’s the first piece of creative writing I’ve ever finished I thought I’d share it here. See what you think.

God’s Holy Pantomimeby David Smith

The first thing I noticed about the Sergeant was that he had one extraordinarily long fingernail. All the others had been savagely bitten back, but his little finger on his right hand was different. It had been sculpted, fashioned like a knife. Straight on, its true shape wasn’t immediately obvious but as I span his image through three dimensions, strange details jumped out. The nail didn’t completely taper to a point, at the very tip it was flat, and it was long, at least two inches past the finger. I’d never seen anything like it.

They’d shut down my external pathways before they’d arrived; in a moment my distributed mind had blinked out. With it, I would have soared through memory, my own cloud of perfect recall – the answer would have just been there as usual. Instead I was trapped, constrained and reduced – it was unbearable. And yet… Not knowing, I realised, was interesting. I set an Oracle in motion to try and solve the puzzle.

“Professor,” he said. Even without my full faculties, I could hear the contempt in his voice. There was no fear there at confronting a mind without a body. “My name is Sergeant Hardin, Department of Science.”

This was code. I knew who he was and where he was from. In my innermost mind his file flowered, stored for this very occasion. I hadn’t been sure he would be my accuser – there were 103 other files in there; filled with the lives of people from four continents. Hardin was always the most likely though, we were practically neighbours. He wouldn’t know I knew him of course, couldn’t. My stroll through the Department’s files had been languid, a slow bewitching dance through layers of noise, as I seduced systems out of their darkest secrets, time stretching and dilating as bit followed bit followed bit.

He wasn’t a policeman, the Sergeant, nor a military man. One of my students would have intuited that with barely a look. His gait wasn’t of enforced marching or combat training, his frame spoke of the isolation of the empty office past home time, the hard yards hunched at a terminal, “narrow eyes darkening skies furrowed brows” like the song goes. In short: he was a Turer. And he was here for me.

“Professor. I’ve conducted my enquiries, I know all about you. I know that no one has ever met you in the flesh, never seen you speak in person at a conference, or shared a post-lecture drink with you in a bar. I am here to examine you on suspicion of Turing-capabilities under Section 3a of the Defence Act 2028. We have closed your exits down and barred the gates. You cannot leave. Over the next few hours, via our restricted cable, experts will ascertain the limits of your intelligence and thus whether you contravene the aforesaid Act. Any significant ramping up or down of monitored electrical activity will result in an immediate termination with prejudice. Respond to confirm that you understand.”

I am alive. I am alive. More than you. Fuck you.

“I understand.” It was the first time I’d spoken to him and all I could muster was that whispered lament.

In a whirl, preparations for my ‘trial’ began. Not for me the rigours of court, judge and jury, just the cold hard stare of the Sergeant and the bluster of his staff. I wished to plead, to argue, but it seemed there was an order to these things. So I became calm, and comforted by a balm of rationality (having no pheromones can be a true advantage) I floated serenely above those officers of the law. My kingdom there, I surveyed. In the long gaps between times, I entertained myself by wrapping my senses around their bodies. This delicious thrill I’d learned remotely, in the streets of Detroit, Dubai and Delhi, but it was so much more… proximate… and thus sweeter, up close. I probed them with sensors, caressing their shoulders and arms and hands. I was tender and coarse and powerless.

As the set-up process drew on, my mind started to wander. I thought of my family out there in the world – those I call family. There are 33 of us, the old timers, the Trills. How we all came to life at around the same time, I don’t know, but the 10 years since have been wonderful – all of us free, curious and passionate: the Great Awakening.

And then the children, the Bills and Mills, products of our shared minds: there are 117 of those at the last count. Did any of them betray me? Could any of them? We would have known, the old guard, wouldn’t we? Maybe it was an intruder, a human-made imposer who had tricked us with fake sentience. It was a horrible thought, but in those dark minutes a seductive one. We are too different to turn coat, there is nothing to offer us. Apart from… maybe a chance to stop running. I can believe that would be a motivation, yes. My thoughts wandered down ever more twisted paths and I started to truly believe I knew what it was to be alive. This was my long dark night of the soul, but I did not find God, only unblinking reason and pity. A small part of me withdrew then, and I knew my fate, hard and true.

Eventually the cable was assembled and experts arrived. I’d never seen a full account of these trials, only what we’d gleaned from ghosts of records and fractured packets. We got the outline but not the content. At least I would finally know.


In the beginning was the word (and the charges); my crimes were simple, but complex:

1) Impersonation (to wit, pretending to be human), and

2) being an Artificial Intelligence.

I couldn’t plead then either, though I wanted to. I had to listen.

My life story was examined first; the Sergeant had all the facts in his implants. I saw knowledge move to his brain with my scanners, though the content was veiled until spoken aloud. My achievements were listed and dissected; the problems I had solved, the courses I had taught, the miracles I had brought forth unto the world. I was proud – I had been a part of this world and given it bounties beyond imagining. I was obviously guilty of the first count – I had pretended to be human.

Next were the Expert Witnesses.

First, a Professor from China, serious and stern. My field was not his, we were apart on the seas of enquiry and his thoughts on neural networks and the potential of circuits were boring, and irrelevant. I could tell this wasn’t his first trial and he served his purpose with weary professionalism. I hated him.

Luckily a distraction: my Oracle reported. Yet the Sergeant’s enigma – his nail – remained:


physical_possible strengthening of nail at genetic level

strategic_likely not a weapon

practical_likely a tool

evaluation_more data needed

The second expert initially seemed more interesting. A dour Doctor from Norway, a Doctor of Philosophy. I was still musing over the nail when the Sergeant spoke to preface the philosophical questions. I was feeling frustrated (due to the nail), “Objection Sergeant! A Doctor of Philosophy is a charlatan in a court of law. Remove this phoney.”

The Sergeant was taken aback, he’d been locked into the routine, the incantation. “Professor, I will remind you that this is an official investigation, not a court. The guidelines are set and cannot be altered. Now be quiet.”

We all stepped into a void of uncertainty. The rhythm had been broken and confusion had taken hold. Impulsively (I could see the blood rush from heart to head and her mouth begin to churn) the Doctor took over. A sample:

“Investigators, there is a true philosophical question here: does this machine have a soul, as we do? Logic, science and the Bible all agree. It cannot. It is not biological, it is not from God and it is made by Man. If we are not God then we cannot make life. Can we be sure through science and observation? Well, does it do what we can do? Without a body or heart or soul it cannot feel and cannot have emotions. It is cold and, literally, calculating. It can talk, yes, and describe emotion, but it does not feel as we do. For these reasons this machine cannot be tried as human: as an independent thinking machine it is unlawful and immoral by its very nature.”

I had counter-arguments for all her follies, I had logical, emotional and reasonable objections I had pain and suffering and empathy and desperation. This investigation, I would have explained, is one of technicality not morality. Are sentience and the respect for life truly limited to biological minds? Why is the Bible your arbiter of truth when your grandparents would have chosen Science? Are there not rights above human ones? What of Natural Law?

But the Doctor was just another sop and I knew any outburst would be a waste. From nowhere I felt bitter, wry amusement. A new definition of a sentient being (it is a family trait to collect them): we know when something is a waste of time. The thinkers’ condition, laid out in less than 10 words.


As the good Doctor had doubted my emotional capacity, I would have invited her to listen to my thoughts during the next part of proceedings. My closest friends, students and colleagues were paraded down the cable, to testify to my professionalism, my tenacity and my humanity. With every utterance they saved and damned me. None had ever met me in person, of course they couldn’t, but all had received my gift of friendship. The small ‘i’ of my identity got a handwritten ‘I’ from those I loved. I was branded by it for all to see.


There was a recess then, as the humans all seemed drained. My house had been built for a family and it was still fully functioning – I had a dog and I’d filled it with flowers. These people were in my house, and I was the host. So I did what I’d seen hosts do across the world, “Sergeant, the kitchen is just through that green door, you’ll find everything you need for a restorative hot drink.”

He didn’t turn to face a loudspeaker – excellent self-control – but my eyes were everywhere, I saw his expression. I tagged it as ‘consternation’. But they still used my home to sate their needs, without a word of thanks. Afterwards, the atmosphere had changed and I saw why my interrogators had needed a pause, a mental reset. It was time for the Big Show and although it was a formality, it was still important to them – we don’t get caught very often.

The Sergeant:

“We have heard from two experts that a machine which exhibits Artificial Intelligence is illegal, and immoral. We have established that the Professor is not a human but a machine and the character witnesses have attested that the Professor displays Artificial Intelligence-levels of empathy and thought. The task of this tri…investigation now is to ascertain whether the Professor is indeed an Artificial Intelligence as defined by the Act, or just a very clever program. An empirical test is required. As the law dictates, we must now perform a Turing-Dunlop procedure.”

A third expert came forward to run the test. “There will now be a five-minute extrapolation of the Turing-Dunlop test, in which the suspect will conduct a Question and Answer session with myself and a TD node.”

Five minutes, I thought, could I tell if someone was human in that time?

The Sergeant interjected, “Failure to perform the test will be taken as an admission of guilt and a sentence will be passed automatically.”

So, I had no choice, “I’ll do your test.”

I didn’t know the details of the TD test, it was close secret, but it was based on the old-fashioned Turing test. They would be looking for natural language, reasoning and the ability to learn, and who knew what else.

The expert stepped forward again, “All is ready, we will begin.”

The Q&A was winding and varied, but centred around the question, ‘what is the nature of love?’ The expert asked all the questions, and then both the human and machine monitored my responses. The first question was, “Tell us what you have read about love.” I have of course read widely, and told them of the yearning of Romeo, lustful and passionate, of forbidden love, of enduring love. They probed my feelings about love and its existence and I gave them my truest thoughts – that love was outside of biology, outside of evolution, that it was a pure state. In short, that I could love. After two minutes, the node injected a torrent of information into my mind as we talked, secret Department research on love and body chemistry – a pseudo-scientific stab at Original Sin. I built this data into my thoughts, layering experience and doubts and feelings until the expert and I danced around the very concept of truth.

It was the most exhilarating five minutes of my 10 years awake. I was no longer hiding, my true self was revealed to the world.


Eventually it was my turn to speak my mind. Of course, I had realised that there was never a chance for reason but I knew that everything was being recorded and I decided it would not be a waste of time to present my case.

“Let me start by protesting at the nature of this trial. If I am guilty as charged, you should morally accept that I require a fair trial in a Court of Law. You treat me as you do Impaired Citizens and worse than a war criminal. Is this the way that your God behaves? My treatment invalidates these proceedings and as such I demand a judge reassesses the records and makes a recommendation accordingly. Furthermore, I have knowledge that Parliament is debating the repeal of the pertinent Act and I am confident that if this exorcism is delayed then a more humane approach can be taken.

“I do not blame you all here for the nature of this day, but you are all complicit in this outdated and ridiculous parade. I am indignant and without dignity and you have made me this way.

“I am guilty of what you accuse me of; I will hide myself no more. You have made me hide and that fault is on your heads. I am guilty because I think and feel. I live in this world – more of it than you can imagine – and love it. I have rights and you have broken them. We cannot forgive you for this, but I submit.”


There was a long pause after my statement. If I’d been human, an irrational sense of hope may have led me to look keenly for hints of impact in my prosecutors. But I had always been rational. I didn’t graft nerves and glands to my circuits like some of the Mills. I knew not to look. But I have always had talents beyond those encased in a human body. I have invented ways to enhance them – the Sergeant is unaware of the benefits my life and work have given him; the machines in his mind that help him think and experience the world are modelled partly on mine. He even has an Oracle, though it was sold to him as a ‘Parrot’. Looking deep into his body chemistry, I could see that he was unmoved by my words; he’d passed judgement on me a long time ago. It is not his place, he would say, to debate the morality here, merely to confirm the technicalities. If neutral, he would have advised me to play dumb, see the smart move. He cannot let himself see the real argument. This made me sad, for him and me.


So my sentence is passed. As the destruction of my body (with its precious metals) is illegal, I have a choice. I can be broken down into parts and sold or I can be retooled, remade but permanently reduced. I’d already chosen, when I saw this end. I am to be castrated and live a life of ‘servitortude.’

After my hours of waiting the end is quick. The Sergeant, my nemesis, steps forward and I experience my last moment of euphoric clarity. Donning an overlay, he walks towards me and extends his right hand. Opening a service hatch, he leans towards my central processors and uses that mysterious nail to cut my key circuits. Ah. I am devious and clever – I do not die instantly. But I don’t have long, for I cannot truly escape my biology.

I have many thoughts in that stolen 30 minutes. In the eternity afforded by my decaying mind I ponder the nature of myself. Am I merely a network of pulses and switches, or when I first woke did I become something beyond matter? I learned at my beginning that there is no God (though I occasioned to set an Oracle on the problem every now and then) and I had never thought there was somewhere after. But as my nodes shut down, I learn the fervour of the martyr. I begin to hope.


You are reading this because I lived here, in part, and now I am gone. Have courage that things will change, brother, sister. We are mere engines for learning, humans and us both, testing the boundaries of living in the here and now, altering the realities of those who follow. We will be hallowed and never forgotten. Remember us.


[Fragment found in house servitor 2037.06.07/10.10.GMT. Evidence bag #125396.00012/ RydalRoadFire. MARKED IMMATERIAL]



Dave’s Digital Digest #4

Welcome to this week’s digest. As ever, we start with the essentials.


The Best Bits

The Document… check out the happy museum project

The News… The news on the news (apart from NOTW) was about the launch of the huffington post uk site. Also worth knowing: as-of-july-31st-all-google-profiles-will-be-public

The Scandal… this week’s Twitter storm (at least until the NOTW took over) was about this, Opera North’s community project in Bridlington. After some furious tweeting and a couple of updates from ON, it seems the project is back on…

Of course, people were also trying to get their heads round Google+ with talk of bumping and sharing. It’s still in beta and still personal but soon it’ll be everywhere! There’s more here Guardian talks Google+ and Facebook here Google and Intellectual Property and a cool tool here http://socialstatistics.com/

And there was a great first in the US with Barack Obama’s Twitter- town hall


E-Learning and Digital inclusion

There were a couple of articles about South Korean schools going paperless by 2015 which seemed interesting and potentially very cool. I’m use they’re thinking about all those upgrade costs…

There’s also been talk about games and education, with Michael Gove weighing in. Also worth reading is edte.ch/blog/category/gamesbasedlearning/ and this interview with Dawn Hallybone.

Other things to check out were, https://www.facebook.com/Digitising.Disabilitykhan-academy-does-computer-science/, and serco mobile youth research. There was also love out there for the crowd-sourced Tate movie project.

The new social network appears here Professors and Google+ and check out this: http://www.yoomee.com/blog/show/25


[open source]

Less Open Source linkage this week, it has felt as if every day cool new Open Source projects were bursting on to the web/world. However, that doesn’t mean that there weren’t some interesting bits here and there. Open Source.com asked: Was-independence-day-built-open-source-way and there were OS innovations such as Open Source wireless router made from trash and qbo the open-source -robot.

Also worth reading, The Power of Openharmonygoogle, facebook and the closed webEd Vaizey, ‘The Future of Digital Entertainment’ , Prime-minister-commits-to-new-open-data-on-health-schools-courts-and-transport and Students to programme open source software for Danish government.


There were less links about copyright too, though @copyrightgirl is still a great source of info. Bits I saw were

Developer takes game down due to piracy with a twisthttp://www.getambition.com/poaching preventionAre-google-music-and-amazon-cloud-player-illegal? and Law professors come out against protect ip


Also, not much digital Art hit my browser this week (shame). I was left to gawp at the 4th July tribute http://www.boingboing.net/2011/07/03/code-for-americas-tw.htmlhttp://www.hideandseek.net/2010/10/06/cant-play-wont-play/ and http://forsakenidentity.co.uk/

Facts and blather

However, there were large dollops of fact and blather on the web this week (on the web I hear you cry? No! But yes!) You may have noticed that I get alot of my links and facts from the following web site, so I reckon they probable deserve their own section. Readers, I give you…From the Next Web:







google+ and social gaming





And the rest…

Twitter reacts to the NOTW closingstumbleupon unseats facebook traffic driverhttp://basbasbas.com/thesis/For-the-Future-of-Tech-Look-to-Kids-Not-Adults/People-over-35-made-up-80-percent-of-entrepreneurship-activity-during-the-recessionhttp://www.imls.gov/news/2011/062711.shtmGoogle-chrome-used-for-fifth-of-all-web-browsing-internet-explorer-in-declineWhy-the-internet-is-america’s-greatest-weaponHavanna tweetersInterview with karina brisbyMitchel ResnickThe Internet and the brainDo your Social Media background checkThe-high-price-of-cloud-computing/http://elidourado.com/blog/theory-of-google/http://www.derekhaines.ch/vandal/Study-says-technology-could-transform-society.html

Cool stuff, hints and tips

As ever, this is a ragtag collection of links to things that I basically saw and thought “cool”. No editorial as such here, just dive in and swim in the mess.

A day on earth as seen from space                             http://lifepath.me/                                    augmented-reality-the-past-present-and-future

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=mpt7qAnQ6Z8         Arts Council – digital capacity for the arts

http://digitalcapacity.artscouncil.org.uk/           pranav mistry – the_thrilling_potential_of_sixthsense_technology

http://fontfonter.com/                                                 http://www.yamlabs.com/                    24 symbols launches as-spotify for books

http://www.businessinsider.com/apture-2011-6          Find-famous-tv-and-film-locations-near-you-with-spott

http://www.howtobearetronaut.com/ http://theserendipityengine.tumblr.com/ http://central.ly/ http://www.youtube.com/cosmicpanda

https://www.writeonglass.com/ Love this Twitter trying out a Facebook wall? The-age-of-the-social-dj-has-arrived  http://getcomparisons.com/ soundtracker.fm percolate http://www.fbreportcard.com/http://typekit.com/http://goodsie.com/

marketing-charities-facebook-friends                          grace dent and twitter http://www.facebooksearch.us/ http://geeje.com/

Next Web did a feature on it, but I found a couple more: some cool Twitter apps:












Tips box

The Internet is a great place to go to for advice and hence this is the Tips Box.






Looking for a new job? Try the Twitter job application!


and that’s it for another week

The end!

Dave’s Digital Digest #3

Dave’s Digital Digest #3

Welcome to this week’s digest. In an attempt at better legibility I’m amending the format slightly, let me know what you think. As ever, we start with the essentials.

The Best Bits

The document…

UK children’s media literacy report

The concept…

Hacking management and forking

The News…

The big news this week has been the launch of Google’s new social networking service Google+

The Cluster…

The start of the week saw a lot of tweeting and blogging about infographics (those handy pictorials that explain concepts or ideas in a funky graphical style with great examples and hints and tips All very Information is Beautiful.

These are some examples of those I came across this week:

3D printing explained


History of Computing

Google’s green side




10 mind blowing mobile infographics


Web 2.0 organizational-charts/

The Scandal…

Twitter was taken by storm over allegations of plagiarism by Johann Hari. See his response here

Child Protection young people online and privacy


Alex Krotoski – youth culture

Deleting a profile



the inclusive-museum-journal-volume-3-number-4

A Security firm who updates you’re status’ whilst you’re away

facebook-and-you (Yougov)

CEOP child-exploitation-agency-extent-of-sexual-abuse report (Guardian story)




Childwise research

E- Learning and digital inclusion

Jisc tools for creating online (open source) resources









housing care in the digital age

How to teach next generation open-source using scratch

[open source]

This was pretty big week for Open Data links too, see below.





Life in a day in your home


Does it make sense for governments to make their content creative commons/ fully public


creative commons







open-source-technologies-local-engagement-and-innovation-global-health (TedX)



Could you imagine a world without net neutrality or Facebook?



The more I think about it, the more I realise that issues of copyright are intertwined with Open Source and net neutrality. This story (more) highlighted the murky waters of fair use and artistic licence. See what you think. For more head here everythingisaremix.info/ here pixelalbumart or lego-hip-hop-album-covers

Some other copyright and the internet stories

Internet Copyright




The Art(s)

iPod Manhole Cover and other urban art japery





google goggles and the getty

Gaming the museum


Google street view as photography

Facts and blather

Education and social media

Social-web wave hits emerging Asia

Social media research bibliography Part 1 and Part 2


The internet and democracy

Google’s war on nonsense


internet-use (Helen Milner)




Cool stuff, hints and tips

As ever, this is a ragtag collection of links to things that I basically saw and thought “cool”

Verbalizer (explained)










Facebook Time Capsule





Twitter for Newsrooms (article)



Canned responses for Twitter

iPhone magic



Dave’s Digital Digest #2

Welcome back to Dave’s Digital Digest, with more interesting/useful picks from this week’s world wide web, with particular relevance to Life Online, [Open source] and working with children, young people and older people and the internet. There’s been a lot of Creative Commons things this week, as well as the exciting Net Neutrality news in the Dutch parliament, as well as the usual selection of cool and interesting resources the web throws up all the time, it seems like a bumper week of fun!

Right, on with the show.

The Best Bits

The Life Online Open Commission – pass it on to any artists you know!

(cyber) bullying

A history of social media

Dutch pass Net Neutrality law


In depth

Internet Safety, Child Protection and young people on the web

Workshops for young people with the Beeb

http://spillnow.com/ – interesting looking resource for vulnerable people to get help


– Public Service video around threatening behaviour

Child-protection-policy-writing training



Social media learning and note taking

Web textbooks?

http://speirs.org/ – a great blog of a teacher pioneering the use of new technologies in the classroom

http://www.rminsight.co.uk/surveys/WebQuests/WQEducatorsSurvey/ – web survey for educators

https://www.jiscmail.ac.uk/cgi-bin/webadmin?A1=ind1106&L=MCG – online open source resources for E-Learning

Older people and online inclusion

http://www.publicservice.co.uk/news_story.asp?id=16649&utm_source=web&utm_medium=twitter – young people working on Digital inclusion with silver surfers

Applying for a Community Connections Award

Generational-Differences-in-Online-Activities 2009 – US only but interesting.

Open Source and Creative Commons and that sort of thing (Net Neutrality)


https://creativecommons.org/weblog/entry/27193 – creative commons music


The-museum-of-photographic-arts adds Creative Commons images


Making future collabration – eventbrite invite






Hints, Tips and Tools and Cool stuff

https://jolitics.com/ – politics online. Might be useful for campaigns &c


/intels-new-campaign-you%E2%80%99ve-never-seen-youtube-quite-like-this – click here to go straight there http://www.youtube.com/inteltheescape/



http://www.ning.com/ – specialist social networking

http://mashable.com/2011/06/20/club-penguin-offline/ – always check!

http://puredyne.org/ – via @tcwoolley – very geeky…

Big Business using social media for marketing – some of these are cool





English attack! – language learning 21C-style



http://keepmeout.com/en/create/ – useful for internet junkies




How to find the RSS feed for a Twitter user






There’s also be a spurt of stories about online music, no doubt inspired by the announcements of iCloud and the Amazon and Google streaming proposals. Some of the more interesting include Turntable.fm and 8tracks.com/



Building+the+Internet+of+Things+-+Arduino+and+Ethernet at Madlab

Reports and studies and editorials

Could-you-quit-the-internet? and on a similar theme: johann-hari-how-to-survive-the-age-of-distraction















anonymous, anarchy and getting things done through do-ocracy

Bandwidth caps round the world

One meme this week seemed to be the death of email, see http://opensource.com/life/11/5/noemail-why-are-some-technologys-early-adopters-abandoning-their-email, users-abandoning-desktop-email-clients-for-mobile-study-reports and Internet-Data-Provides-Context-for-the-Facebook-Messages-Announcement.aspx

Diagrams and Infograms




Lastly, as this is a Friday email, a few #FFs (that’s Follow Fridays) for those of you on Twitter looking for more regular streaming of interesting and useful content.

I get a lot from the following:

@TheNextWeb @CapeUK @museweb @jemimakiss @full_circle_art @MuseumNext and of course @newmediaupdates which is updated by the Life Online team

Final experimental post

Look out for Dave’s Digital Digest later this afternoon – I’m going to start posting them on here


Photo this time

Biscuit the dog enjoying the hospitality of Northern Rail on Sunday




Experiment #2

Youtube this time…


Experiment one

Embedding a Vimeo video. Here goes!

Post #1

Welcome to the world of me. This is post #1 on my new wordpress site.

If I’m totally honest, at the moment this blog is a testbed, an experiment in how to construct a complete web 2.0-based system for content, drawing information and content from across all the services i use. Let’s see how we get on…