Why I write in Google Docs

Writers all have their different habits and preferences for bringing words into existence. There are an endless number of writing programs, both free and paid, some just for processing words, or other more complex ones for organizing and story-boarding. Some writers even use pen and paper and keep physical piles of paper laying around! Personally, I choose to write everything in Google Docs, and here are my reasons why:

Accessibility: I can work on my project from any device with connection to the internet. Even if I don’t currently have a connection, I can open the file offline and work on it, and as soon as I connect it will be updated in the cloud. This removes so many excuses not to write. Even if all my electronic equipment went up in flames, I could still go to the library and open my document, and keep working. Which brings me to….

Peace of Mind: Laptop stolen? My story is safe. Critical error and hard drive erased? My story is safe. Unless Google goes belly up and shuts down all their servers, my story is always safe. Even the old horror story of a power outage or computer crash when I haven’t pressed ‘save’ in a while is no longer a worry, because it always is auto-saved to the cloud.

Sharing and Collaboration: Stories need to be reviewed, and it’s very easy to send a link to a Google Docs file, and allow comments, or even allow editing by anyone with the link, or give permission to specific people. Sure, I can always put a word doc in an email and send it to a bunch of people, but this leads to so many different versions to go over. With Docs, I can have all the comments from all the readers all on the same file, with no effort required by anyone. Just click the link, read, and comment.

Version History: Did you know Google Docs had this? I didn’t until recently. This adds even more to the peace of mind section, as well as simplicity. I can make major changes to a story without worrying about saving another version, because Google does that for me. All I have to do is go to file > version history > see version history, and I can look at earlier versions  by date. Drink a bit too much and make some sweeping changes that don’t look so good in the morning? Just load up an earlier version. Thanks Google!

Download as: Yes, it’s true that Google Docs doesn’t have quite the formatting capabilities as Word, but after you’re done writing and want to do some formatting of the final version, just download it as a word doc! You can also download as .odt, .rtf, .pdf, .txt, .htm. and even .epub, to upload it right to your e-reader!

Free!: And all this convenience is completely free. Just get a google account, and you’ll have access to all these features as well as 5gb of free storage space, which, when we’re dealing with text documents might as well be unlimited. Give it a try! You’ll thank me later 🙂

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A modern afterlife

Several scientists in recent news articles have been stating that they think we live in a computer simulation. They think the odds of this are very high. What question that leaves unanswered, is whether we are a creation of whoever wrote the simulation, or if we are self inserts in the simulation. In other words, are we also simulations, or are we the creators of the simulation, living in it but without memory of entering it? The former seems much more likely.

What kind of world do the creators of our simulation live in? Is it an experiment forgotten about and left running? Is it known across the land by everyone? Is it someones personal project and they have complete control over it and us? Are there ‘simulations rights’ laws that would prevent our creator from abusing us for their own amusement?

Mostly this sounds like a terrible thought. One more afterlife to worry about…

Word A Day: Accorder

Accorder

 Definition: One who accords assents or concedes

Here it is! The first word I’m not familiar with. I am familiar with ‘accord’, of course, but I’ve never seen this noun version used.

When I first saw this I thought of a musical instrument, like a recorder, or an accordion.

Thinking about music, I wonder if musical instruments–and the ability to play them–will become gradually extinct, as people more and more use computer programs to compose and play music.

Harps and grand pianos and cellos are huge, unwieldy and very very expensive instruments, and if the sounds they produce can be reproduced by a computer, these high cost contraptions may become collectibles.

I’m sure musicians will be shaking their head at this thought, and I as a guitar player certainly do too. There is no way currently, for computers to be able to copy the effect of human touch on music–the precise bending of a string according to the current mood and feel, the speed at which the bow is drawn across the strings, the pressure, all adjusted precisely and improvisationaly, by human instinct–but in principle, there is no reason we couldn’t eventually replicate that ability on a computer. The controls may be virtual, and may even resemble the original instruments at first, but the physical object itself would no longer be creating the sound.

We already see many popular modern musical groups using no instruments other than computers, and voice. Often not even voice. It makes me wonder if any instrument other than the computer will ever be invented again.

New sounds are surely being invented, though. They evolve and spread throughout pop music like a new species, eventually dying out as the new popular sound emerges. But the instrument that produces them is still a computer program. Since the electronic synthesizer, I don’t think any new musical instruments have been invented.

Music will always be around, but I suspect that in the future, actual physical instruments, besides the voice (which will likely become heavily augmented in professional singers) will be a thing of the past, and all music produced will be produced via a computer program.

I’ll still be strumming my guitar though!

Ex Machina

After watching the trailer for this sci-fi thriller about artificial intelligence, I had formed some opinions about it that weren’t exactly positive. It looked entertaining, but I had figured it would be another anti-technology movie where ‘new thing X that we never should have invented destroys the world!’ Which is what any move about technology seems to be these days.

Once I started watching, though, all my doubts were forgotten. The movie instantly grabbed me and never let go. There is an aura of tension and unease in this movie that builds up consistently, and is brought on by some really stellar acting. Oscar Isaac does a great job as the eccentric billionaire programmer, giving off just the right level of menace and friendliness that you never know what to expect from him next.

And Alicia Vikander, who I’d never seen before, really stunned me as the AI, Ava. She was able portray the inhuman, alien-ness of a computer mind while still being likable and relatable. I can imagine so easily how this could have gone the predictable Hollywood way, and she’d be talking in a flat, deadpan voice, never using contractions, and tilting her head to the side constantly while saying things were illogical or ‘did not compute’. Instead we get a very emotional performance, but Ava’s motivations and way of thinking are portrayed in a very inhuman way by Alicia.

The end, pleasantly, did not go how I expected it either.  I highly recommend this to any science fiction fan.

I’ve said it before, but this movie got me thinking about it again. There seems to be this pervasive worry about us creating something that is ‘better’ than us, that will overtake humanity. If you are talking about a violent destruction of humanity, then sure, we should try to prevent that from happening, but there also seems to be this fear of being replaced, of becoming obsolete.

As someone who does not ever want to have children, even I can understand and feel the draw of creating another being, and helping them into the world and shaping them into a good, successful person. I feel that any artificial life we manage to create will be the child of humanity, and we should not fear it surpassing us. Would you fear your child surpassing you, and try to hold them back? I know some parents probably do, even if subconsciously. But if we create artificial inteligences that are able to live and explore and enjoy the universe better than we are, isn’t that the greatest accomplishment we, as a species, could ever achieve? To create something even better than us?

Anyway, check this movie out, definitely worth the time.