28/11/2023

Artifice: Synopsis

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The Elevator Pitch – Artifice

Artifice is a thriller with two antagonists and no individual hero or heroine, instead an unlikely group coalesces to seek to stop them both! Artificial Intelligence is the thriller’s backcloth, with none of its sci-fi aspects, in fact, the very elusiveness of what AI is currently, serves as the major theme.

Goran Ivan Gigović, or Gig, has been a celebrity historian, someone the electronic media used as a ‘hired gun’ to challenge and dismantle other academics’ notions. Now bored with this role, he decides that AI is a fluid technology in which someone with his outspoken ideas and opinions could succeed. He is drawn to the negative aspects of the technology, as he elbows his company, Artifice, to the forefront.

The second antagonist, Adnan al-Hassan, presents himself as a cultural philanthropist. He provides the seed finance for Gig, but is plotting revenge against old enemies. He was an Iraqi/Syrian warlord. This could ignite WWIII.

A disparate group emerges to interfere with their plans – Tom a journalist, Liz an academic, Jerry an AI professor and Andy a suburban police detective – they are drawn together and pool resources to combat Artifice. Can they get it’s AI systems to develop empathy? In time?

Synopsis – Artifice

Goran Ivan Gigović, Gig, is a ruthless, self-serving academic doing the rounds of electronic media programmes to obfuscate his lack of scholarly progress. He decides to switch and exploit Artificial Intelligence technology, because he sees this as the sort of nebulous subject where his particular skills, ideas and opinions might make a mark.

AI, is currently promoted as a pervasive panacea, or forecast as a most pressing peril.  The thriller’s backcloth explores how much of AI is fact, and how much is fable?

Gig founds the company Artifice and sources the necessary funding from Adnan al-Hassan, who claims to be a straight businessman and cultural philanthropist. But he cannot escape his past as an Iraqi/Syrian warlord. In fact, he has revenge and other far-reaching goals for his investment.

As one of his final acts as an historian, Goran appears on a television programme where he remorselessly eviscerates a colleague promoting her new book. She is Liz Leighton, and Gig has made her an enemy for life. Gig also manages unwittingly to offend Tom Cook, a journalist, serving in the Writers’ Room for the show. His enemies gather.

Gig and Adnan had a previous contact, as part of an expedition to Eridu, ancient Sumeria’s very first city, dating from c. 7,000 BCE. The two were involved in an accident while investigating a new find. Gig is injured, but Adnan effectively takes over the archaeological site and its finds. This sets him on a path to new goals.

Gig records a great deal of early success in Grid Computing and with the Internet For Things. His cash-cow is in using an American juror-assessment system. He enhances this to become Venire, valuable for politicians and marketeers to improve focus group evaluation.

Gig and Adnan jointly apply AI to gather a force from the eSports sector. Its players are defined as ‘warriors’ by Adnan. Their AI system analyses gameplay to provide timely and accurate evidence for players to excel. These ambitious young men are more content wandering the metaverse, with a diminishing appreciation of the values of the real world. Players seize upon these opportunities offered by Artifice, even accepting cochlear implants to advance their gaming success.

A very strange suicide in Berkshire leaves the coroner and Newbury police trying to fathom its motive. The post-mortem discovers a brain implant which they investigate with experts. But this analysis is halted when the body is stolen from the mortuary. But not before a link to Gig is discovered by Tash Carter-Niles, the investigating DS.

Gig also gathers converts to his plans by a series of conferences that discuss fundamental societal topics. These are super-TED panel debates on primary subjects like Justice and Intelligence. It becomes evident that the attendees are subjected to intrusive AI analytics.

At one conference, Tash meets with the journalist, Tom, who had brushed up against Gig previously. They share their misgivings about Gig and have dinner together. Adnan becomes concerned about her ongoing enquiries and mounts a hit-and-run to kill her.

Tom sets up an interview with Gig to investigate him further, and learns he is meddling in gene technology, seeking to extend his own life. Gig uses AI to crunch aspects of the human genome. The interview ends badly and does nothing to relieve Tom’s concerns.

Artifice is exploiting gene splicing. Adnan receives more data from the inscriptions at Eridu. Bizarrely, these seem to be presenting him with new insights into DNA and gene surgery.

Artifice applies its Babel software to spread misinformation that advances the notion of a Broken Britain.  It expands this with FN Pro to create false news, discrediting politicians, sporting stars and celebrities. It then manages riots throughout UK market towns.

Adnan is coy about his plans to globalise these initiatives, necessarily because his approach could lead to WWIII. He plans a drone strike at a Spetsnaz base and a mortar attack on an airfield at Tver, both deep inside Russia. Adnan seeks revenge against Russia for his wife and son’s death. With insider help, the group manages to thwart this plan. Adnan lashes out and kills the insider, and sets about Plan B.

The group decides to challenge Gig, they do not believe he is aware of Adnan’s plot. This does spark Gig into challenging Adnan, and that leads to a deadly showdown in London, and Artifice abandonning its office.

Adnan has moved his thinking on. From his north Cyprus base, he plans to sabotage Black Sea pipelines lying off Sevastopol.

The group realises that their only hope is to convince the AI system, now calling itself Avery, to develop a moral code for assessing and interpreting the consequences of the instructions it receives from Adnan. They try all sorts of approaches, but time is running out, is Avery capable of developing any empathy?

The hostilities range across both south and north Cyprus, Gig is killed trying to escape by helicopter. The final action is played out in Port Talbot. Russian agents, once again, seeking their revenge on British soil. They kill Adnan and destroy Avery.

The group regathers at Artifice’s disaster recovery base, a disused coal mine, to establish what can be retrieved.

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