New book by David Worlock. Pre-order now at Marble Hill Publishers or Amazon.

A small Cotswold farm is the setting for a classic struggle of wills. Robert Worlock, eccentric and demanding, resolutely maintains the old ways, determined above all to make his son into a farmer fit to take over the family acres. His son, David, is equally determined not to be bullied into something he neither wants nor likes. His childhood becomes a battleground: can he find a way to make his father love him without denying his right to determine his own life?

This week Marble Hill publishers have published my first attempt at writing fiction – a story of murder and detection inspired by an experience that I had as a Publisher many years ago in Nigeria. The book has taken three years to right hand has been written three times in the process, but now we merges in book form at last! Here is what my patient and understanding publisher has written about it:

About the Book: No Telephone THeaven by David Worlock  

One of the pleasures of being a publisher is that you never know what your authors will do next. I was both surprised – and not surprised – when David Worlock told me he had written a detective story. I had loved his touching, amusing and truthful account of his troubled relationship with his father, so well described in Facing Up To Father. A murder mystery set in Nigeria in 1977 seemed a long way (in every sense) from the Cotswolds in the 50s and 60s. As I read the manuscript and was immersed in this extraordinary and haunting story, I had endless questions. Was the story based on fact? How did David know so much about Nigeria? And of course – who did it?  

So I asked him to tell me how he came to write the book.

“The young man’s death has puzzled me for almost 50 years. He was a young accountant in a Nigerian publishing company. I was a visiting English publishing Director from the group that owned his company. The slaying was brutal, unprovoked, and had no logical explanation. The police were indifferent: unexplained murder was commonplace. His colleagues were saddened and grief stricken, but then had to gather themselves for daily survival in a world where sudden death was not unfamiliar.

I loved the country and I loved the people, then as now. So much was going on in that year – Africa’s greatest arts and culture festival ever; free education, for the first time for all Nigerian children, and the emergence of a nation from the shadows of a terrible Civil War, which had killed 3 million people. I cannot forget the excitement of those times, yet the unexplained death of a young man continued to rankle over the years. Finally, I concluded that if no story existed, which would explain what had happened then perhaps I had to create one.

A common slogan on the back of Lagos buses in 1977 was the claim “God’s judgement – no appeal“ . Below these words, on the bumper bar, appeared the statement “ no telephone to heaven.“ I acknowledge that I cannot make a call to find out what happened to the young accountant, but given that robbery, international espionage, communal violence, gun, running, and antiquities smuggling are all part of the story that I have emerged with, there seem to be plenty of answers here on Earth.”

At the heart of his passion for a country he knew well lies a mystery – why was Marcus Diello, an innocent young man, so brutally murdered?  The mystery persists to this day. This is David Worlock’s answer – is it purely fiction? Or is it based on fact?

Like all good mysteries, readers will have to make up their own minds.

Francis Bennett

 

Imagine the conversation inside the Silicon Valley marketing department. “The headlines are killing us, Herb! While the scientists down the corridor are dreaming of AGI, we have to sell the damn stuff to someone. And with the best will in the world that gets hard when there is a new story every day about AI killing jobs. And it’s one thing when you automate a car plant with robots, quite another thing when you automate a law office, know what I mean Herb? And then when you automate poets and research scientists and photographers and screen actors– well, it gets to a point when it’s just not enough to say that AI will cure the common cold and read x-rays better than any eyes on earth, you just gotta do something. And what do we do, Herb, when users mistrust us, and feel alienated by our products? Yes, Herb, you got it! We change the product names!“

I am not suggesting for a moment, of course, that a conspiracy of intent has taken place in Silicon Valley. Marketing men no longer meet in the dark and private rooms of restaurants off Market Street for very good anti-trust reasons. They use end to end encrypted messaging systems, instead, Which is why my suggested conversation is entirely fictional. But you do not need to be much of a conspiracy theorist to look at the huge costs of creating generative AI, together with the huge valuations created in recent fundraising to put two and two together and get “dotcom boom to dotcom bust“ syndrome. Since three of the largest five big tech players in the US seem to be betting the shop on AI, with generative AI at its core, and since US economic buoyancy, led by the tech sector, has been a critical factor in the recovery of the global economy from the pandemic, we all need to listen carefully. So how are we going to sell the AI that we have today, call it generative or not, call it AI or machine intelligence, or not? The answer my friends will not be written in the wind this time: it will be written in the titles that we choose for our products and services.

Microsoft started it. Copilot was brilliant. Notice how they dropped that horrid hyphen? Were they under pressure from coders, or trademark lawyers, or from advertising agencies? Whatever the case their decision is now binding in the world of CO nomenclature, which is where AI is now covering its tracks. if you have a Law practice AI environment, call it, CoCounsel (but watch out,Thomson Reuters got there first). I hear talk of a copilot in data fusion, a corecruiter in staff selection, a CoDirector in boardroom compliance. There is a reason for this, best told by my marketing colleagues on the West Coast.

“You see Herb, it’s like this. No one likes to feel threatened. Buy our products and they could eat your job! Never a good selling proposition. While we have been putting more and more AI into process for 25 years, so gradually that no one has really noticed, the great generative AI push of the last 18 months has changed everything. We know that auto pilot can fly aeroplanes just as well as people, but somehow we feel comforted that human judgement, or irrationality, can intercede at any point. So let us position the AI beside you, adding value to what you do, increasingly doing what you do, but we won’t be dwelling upon that in the interim. Let’s concentrate the minds of users insteadon small efficiencies, incremental gains, with the machine intelligence, doing the things that it does best, doing scale  things that we could not do at all, and gradually becoming enabled as the full service process controller, gradually getting ready to slide into the pilot seat. And that, Herb, is when the nomenclature really does work out. The machine intelligence becomes the pilot, and the user becomes the copilot, only needed in an emergency. And while all of this is going on, Herb, we will have time to deal with a little emergency of our own. it’s called the “where do we get the data from “crisis. You know all these publishers, data, providers and so-called proprietary data owners have been bleating forever that we have been nicking their data and using it illegally? Turns out, it’s not even the right data, and for the most part, there is not enough of it. To make our models work, it is becoming clear that we are going to have to find data, originate  data, record data that is out there, but is not yet being collected. And we are having to prepare data for use in different intelligent context, from the cloud to the training set. You see Herb, turns out it’s just like everything else that we do here. We issue the press release on day one to tell the world what we’ve accomplished and how glorious is the new world that we have built, and then wewake up on day two, with the task of actually accomplishing it before us!“


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