The Future is Now

Have you given much thought recently to the ethical issues posed by Artifical Intelligence and the proliferation of increasingly advanced machines?


I may be a poet at night, but I am an Artifical intelligence Studies student when I am not writing. Over the next few weeks, you will see a series of posts about my newest website and latest project – The Future is Now: A Machine Ethics Initiative.


I am working on this project with my mentor, a brilliant and forward-thinking data scientist who is similarly concerned with machine ethics.


You can preview some screencaps from my website below. If you are interested in being quoted, joining the discussion, or helping further our initiative, please contact me at


More information, and a link to the site, will be available at a later date.


Screen Shot 2018-03-13 at 10.15.47 AM


Screen Shot 2018-03-13 at 10.14.59 AM



Screen Shot 2018-03-13 at 10.24.47 AM


Screen Shot 2018-03-13 at 10.29.35 AM.png


On Writing: The Value of Editing

I have a confession to make. If you were to ask me my biggest flaws as a writer, I’d probably mutter an excuse about purple prose before ashamedly admitting to my greatest writing sin: I despise editing.


I never edited my first series of (unpublished) novels. I am sure that if I were to read far enough into them, they’d be riddled with plot holes and whole legions of spelling and grammar mistakes that are the hallmarks of a first draft.


I wrote those 1,076 pages – roughly 350,000 words – when I was in my early teens. It just doesn’t feel right to go back and change the words and ideas I labored so long over. There is something sacred about one’s first work, and I cannot bring myself to break the spell I cast so many years ago.


I am beginning to see the virtues of editing, particularly as I tend to discovery write my fiction. I am also starting to go back and rework some of my poems, though I still find editing a struggle.


I am on the third draft of this poem:


The Last of the Snows Came in May

it quickened my heart
to see the new buds in your garden
wither and turn their faces back
to the loamy soil that birthed them,
and whose final freezing, like the closing of a door,
had brought with it the cold breath of Chaos,
face pale and bloodless, as yours had been,
curling my shaking fingers
’round some glittering, ill-omened thing;
our promise ring.


An earlier draft is also published on this site, should you like to see the progress I’ve made. I am still working on the poem, still changing and tweaking and fiddling.


If pressed to say why editing is so difficult for me, I would explain that I get far too attached to my writing – my characters, my prose, my metaphors; everything.


To call on those who have quoted and misquoted Faulkner, I suppose I must ‘kill my darlings’ more often.


I’m off to do just that.

The Lost Art of Letter-Writing


She slowly unfolds the paper, and it crinkles in her hands as she smoothes it against the skirts of her dress. The first thing she does before reading it is to bring it up to her lips, breathe deep of its scent, and smile, wide and free.


Dear People of the Internet,


My generation is one of texters, snappers, and tweeters. Any sentiment that cannot be expressed in 140 characters (or less) is quickly discarded, trimmed, or divided into tweet-able, text-able chunks.


Sometimes, it’s poetry. Sometimes, one doesn’t need more than 140 characters to say what they mean, but more often than not, the message is just one in an endless deluge of trillions of others sent by the billions of people with access to a mobile device.


At risk of sounding like I am an immortal being born two centuries ago, I quite frankly miss the days where you sent your lover clandestine letters under the cover of darkness, or kept up with your mother through long, rambling letters that still smelt faintly of her cooking.


Don’t get me wrong – I don’t miss the really old days, the ones when it took years to get a letter from your family in the New World, providing neither the ship carrying the original letter nor the reply sunk on its long and treacherous journey across the Atlantic.


Rather, I miss the letter-writing habits of my mother’s generation, and that of her mother before her. I yearn for the thoughtfulness it takes to put pen to paper and pour your deepest secrets onto the page. I miss the special little touches and flairs of personality both senders would adorn their letters with. I long for the days when communication was not instantaneous.


In a world where communication with people around the world is limited only by the speed of our network connections, complex, nuanced thoughts are left behind. They hover, phantom-like, at the periphery of our mind, begging to be expressed, but they do not fit the mold of today’s fast-paced, speed-of-light communication. There is a real pressure to condense and simplify our thoughts until all subtleties are stripped away, replaced by trite clichés and overused metaphors. Those thoughts flare and fade, seafoam on the shoreline being boiled away by the apricity of the sun in the winter.


Even in poetry, there has been a motion towards shorter, more compressed forms. Some poets take it upon themselves to compose their works of literature within the 140-character limit. Flash fiction is becoming more popular than ever. If brevity were a horse, then everyone, it seems, would jump on its bandwagon. What is at stake is revealed by asking oneself where, exactly, this horse and its wagonload of tweet-happy, tech-savvy youths are heading?


Maybe it’s just me. Perhaps I’m just a cynic, but it’s clear to me, having been isolated from social media as a teenager, that the edge of the cliff is fast approaching, and that today’s youth are speeding towards it as they age into tomorrow’s workforce. One doubts they’ll be impressed by the brevity of the fall; it’s a long way down.


“Ur hot” is a far cry from Sonnet 18. “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” has had its essential organs removed, and has suffered a lobotomy to boot.


It certainly gets the point across, but at what cost? At the cost of poetry, at the expense of beauty? Yes, times change, and so must we, but the sacrifice of our language for ‘text-speak’ is like exchanging a banquet for a single piece of fruit. The so-called prize of brevity seems like a meager consolation. The price we’ve paid in words and in sentiments for our communication to keep up with our fast-paced lives is far too high for comfort.


What happened to stopping to smell the metaphorical roses? What became of sitting down with a writing instrument and some stationery to pen a thoughtful letter? Where, pray-tell, did letter-writing go to take to its deathbed, and why is my generation doing utterly nothing to stop it?


It is any wonder that our interpersonal relationships are in tatters because of social media? It takes no courage to ‘troll’ someone. There is no valor in telling a woman of your undying affection if you do it through text messaging.


So much is lost when we separate ourselves by our devices. We are so far removed from each other that even when sitting next to one another, young lovers will be texting others on their phones. What is the point of a mobile communication device if all it does is cheapen our conversations, rob us of the nuances of our language, and compress our thoughts into character-limited shadow versions of their original selves?


There is so much complexity and beauty in every human language. There are long-winded metaphors, rambling comparisons, flowery poetry. There’s the give and take of body language, and the clues given by inflection, and the tell-tale signs of defeat or joy or any myriad of emotions playing themselves out across our features.


I think my generation likes to think that social media and texting bring us closer together. Certainly, it makes the world a smaller place, but we are further removed than we’ve ever been from one another. Our machines and corporations like Twitter decide upon the quality of the thoughts expressed through them. Not every thought can be condensed, chained and constrained by the limits of texting and tweeting.


I have a confession to make. Ninety percent of the texts I send serve not to bring me closer to my friends, but rather to isolate me. We sit in different rooms, in separate cities, intently starting at our screens and watching the infernal ‘typing’ symbol. I feel anything but connected in that moment. All I can think, doing my part as a twenty-something woman to try to keep in touch, is that I am alone in an empty room, waiting for empty words stripped bare of nuance and complexity.


Even calling them is not an option. “Why didn’t you just text me?” people of my generation will ask, seemingly confused by the engagement of their vocal chords rather than their thumbs.


Soon enough, talking on the phone will have retired to the Southern Hemisphere, alongside the fast-dying art of letter-writing.


And one day, when my generation is personified by an aging gentleman furiously texting his grandchildren, the children will laugh while letter-writing is slain by ever-faster modes of communication, and Mr. Millennial, drawing one last ragged breath, will look up from his phone and wonder how, with his 547 Facebook friends, and 1320 Twitter followers, he ended up so very alone.


Maybe he should have written a letter instead.




Caitlin Cacciatore – Poet, Space Opera Novelist, and Letter Writer Extraordinaire

Interview with the Author: Part 3

Interviewer (I): Hello, all. Today, we’ll be interviewing Caitlin Cacciatore again on the projects she’s working on, and hopefully we’ll learn a little bit about the author as well.


Caitlin Cacciatore (CC): Ah, I see. Should I begin, or should you?


I: I do believe we’ve already started.


CC: Go ahead, then. Ask me anything.


I: So, Miss Cacciatore, what are you writing these days?


CC: Mostly poetry, to be honest. I find poetry wherever I go – case in point, just yesterday morning, I was walking my dog when I found an apple looking lonely by the side of the road. I went home and wrote a poem about it.


I: Let’s change characters for a moment. CC’s mother (M) has kindly agreed to interview her for part of this post.


CC: Brilliant.


M: What do you think is your worst quality?


CC: I believe my worst quality is my inability to let go of the past.


M: Fascinating. Tell me what you are interested in doing in the future.


CC: Well, I plan to keep writing. I also have a mission – to code empathy into Artificial Intelligence by combining deep learning with advances in neuroscience and quantum computing. I believe that this goal is vital in light of the upcoming Singularity.


M: I agree. What is your favorite book?


CC: The Picture of Dorian Grey moved me.


M: Why?


CC: I felt I could relate to Dorian’s quest for immortality. Though I know it ended badly for him, I do believe that my moral compass would protect me to a greater degree if I were to live beyond the average human lifespan.


M: Hmm. Let’s move on to education. What is the one subject everyone should study in school and why?


CC: I think that  the study of Artificial Intelligence should be essential to any university curriculum. I believe that it will be a huge part of our lives in the future, and that everyone should be well-informed about its potential dangers, advances, and ethical dilemmas.


M: Explain your philosophy of life in three sentences.


CC: Life doesn’t last, but it’s beautiful while it does. I fiercely believe in having a purpose, a mission, a goal in this life, in making a difference and living as boldly and as wildly and as audaciously as possible. Also – never, never give up, but do know when to lay down your arms and make your separate peace with the war you are waging, whatever that might be.


M: Well, I hope you’ve all learned a little bit about Miss Cacciatore through this interview. We’re just about finished.


CC: Yes, indeed. Thank you for tuning in. And thank you, mum, for interviewing me.


M: Anytime, love. Want to finish with something poetic?


CC: Isn’t the question mark at the end of this sentence poetry enough?


See also:

Interview with the Author: Part One


Interview with the Author: Part Two


Ode to a Stranger

You – watching me, watching you, our eyes meeting for a split second in the darkened window of the speeding train before I gaze away, blushing, ashamed of having been caught watching. You, with your separate, parallel life, our paths crossing just for one commute, never destined to meet again. You, reminding me in your silence about the improbability of finding love, or peace, or happiness, here in this chaotic world; you, out of everyone I’ve met, and I almost turn to you and say, “You look so familiar,” but that is unacceptable in our world, or at least in the place from which we hail, and besides, once our paths are entangled, snake-shifting and twisting around each other, well, there’s no going back – it’s a small world, after all.


You – with your story, untold, unknown by me, hidden in plain sight behind your eyes, shrouded in some sort of mystery that I will never uncover. You, with your home and your life, your family and your plans, your future, your hopes, your dreams. You, and the feeling I’ve lost something by not asking your story, oh stranger on the train, watching me – watching you.

The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit Review


The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit is a devastating, poignant story of a hermit who lived alone in the woods for twenty-seven years. His story is beautifully touching, and utterly heart-breaking. There is deep tragedy within the pages of this book, deep sorrow, and a deep longing for something different, something better than the daily grind of modern life. Christopher Knight, the man whom The Stranger in the Woods is about, found peace in solitude in the woods and in leaving the world behind.


“I’ll speak to you when the lilacs bloom,” Knight says to the author, Michael Finkel. These are the words of a man who has returned to our ancestral roots, who has made his separate peace with nature and who will never be truly happy imprisoned by the trappings of society.


There is something strongly compelling about Knight’s story, something that will stick with the reader for a long time to come. Read it for its gentle wisdom, hard-won by a man who went to the ultimate extreme to escape this world for an altogether different one.