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Home » Teaching Machines how to Cry: how the novel happened

Teaching Machines how to Cry: how the novel happened

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By Dr. Paula Hidalgo-Sanchis

Before I wrote my debut novel, Teaching Machines how To Cry, I authored book chapters, blogs, and reports about responsible innovative ways to use AI technologies for sustainable development, humanitarian action, and peace. When I wrote my debut novelwhich brings together AI, human emotions, bionics, ethics and spiritualitythe writing process was quite different.

First, I spoke

Working at UN Global Pulse, the UN Secretary’s General Innovation Lab, my colleagues (specially RobertMila, and Miguel) trusted me to speak about our work at international conferences. So, I prepared pages and pages of remarks that I delivered as panelist at events worldwide.

Then, I drew

One autumn evening a few years ago, I watched the rain and wind, and saw brown leaves fall from the trees. That day, something happened inside of me. I felt it was a good time to watch life from behind a window. To observe people walking alone, eyes cast down, and see massive waves crashing in the ocean from afar. It was a good time to be with myself. Not talking much, not listening much. Being without noise. Almost in silence. Being within.

In that silence within, without much intention, my hands began drawing with color pencils. Over time, I observed, without thinking, how small single sketches became large and elaborate drawings. After I finalized a rather large creation of green, blue, yellow and purple lines,  I looked at it and was surprised: ‘What is this?’ Not able to define what it was, I put it away and started a new drawing.

Only later, after writing Teaching Machines how To Cry, did I realized that the drawing was of a dragon’s scale. That image, along with seashells and translucent butterfly wings, were part of the story. 

Then, I wrote

One Thursday morning, immersed in the creative process that began with drawing, I started writing Teaching Machines how To Cry.

As I wrote, I saw a unique story about the interactions between AI and humans, ethics, spirituality, empathy, and transhumanism happening in front of my eyes. As I saw thousands of scenes evolving in front of me, I typed fast, day and night, to capture them with words.  I typed for months and months, non-stop, never questioning what I was doing.

Then, with the help of my wonderful editor Laura, I tore the story down into a thousand pieces, reorganized the scenes and chapters, and polished the style. I rewrote the story, and then my first draft became a novel. While I doubted my ability to complete the task many times, that didn’t stop me, and I continued until I completed the task that I had assigned to myself.

And all the way through…

A friend asked me how I felt when I received my first author’s copy. I felt proud. Proud of the work I had donethe thousand hours I spent crafting a story and producing a novel. And proud of having faith in what I was doing all the way through.