Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Lois Melbourne Interview - Moral Code

Photo Content from Lois Melbourne 

LOIS MERBOURNE Lois is an author presenting visions of “what if…” She is a former software CEO and entrepreneur. She has written her first novel, in collaboration with her business partner and husband, Ross.

She spent eighteen years translating the uses, power and benefits of software created by her husband and his team, helping corporations around the world. They are at it again, as she weaves the story around his technology visions. Together they built a global business, now they’re telling the world about a future that is possible when technology is more ethical than mankind. Their manuscript Moral Code is available for print and screen options now. More stories are in the making.

She writes because there are stories to tell and wonders to interpret and translate for others. She believes in science and rejects that we must expect a dystopian future because we embrace technology. The three traits she admires most in people: integrity, strong work ethic, and curiosity.

Within her non-profit, My Future Story, she’s the published author of “STEM Club Goes Exploring“ and “Kids Go To Work Day”. She coaches kids and schools through the wonderment of career exploration. Inspired kids become inspiring adults. Her mission is to inspire kids towards purposefully designing their futures. In her activism, she works to make voting assessable and possible for more people. Working the polls during elections is also incredible people-watching experience.

Raised in Iowa and then Missouri, she moved to warmer Texas, as soon as she had the power to choose. Her favorite quote is “Live like others won’t, until you can live like others can’t.” Residing on a tree filled acreage, she never writes creatively in a conventional desk chair.

Lois and Ross Melbourne — “Moral Code” is not the first collaboration for Lois and Ross Melbourne. Side-by-side, they grew their software business to a global award-winning organization, as CEO and Chief Technology Officer, respectively. Now Lois’ storytelling brings to life Ross’ deep understanding of the possibilities within artificial intelligence and robotics. Parenting and marriage have been the easy part of this equation.

Greatest thing you learned at school.
I learned leadership comes in many forms; and most of them never have a label designating them as leadership.

When/how did you realize you had a creative dream or calling to fulfill?
My mom and siblings all have visual artistic talents. I didn’t receive the art gene, just the appreciation for those that utilize theirs. My creativity bloomed early in the form of creative storytelling. I found beauty and success very young in art of verbal persuasion. Starting in middle school I started refining that creativity into written forms.

Beyond your own work (of course), what is your all-time favorite book and why? And what is your favorite book outside of your genre?
The Solider of the Great War by Mark Halprin, is my surprising favorite. This man found his war-time fortitude through his appreciation of the beauty in the world. For example, his yearning to see something beautiful from home gave him the strength to trudge endless miles through the wintery alps. Halprin gives us imagery with the loving care the solider is basking in mentally.

The Solider of the Great War is out of my genre, but my favorite book the furthest from my genre is Harold and the Purple Crayon, by Crockett Johnson. Harold creates his own world. Sometimes he scares himself with this creations, sometimes he goes exploring. He knows his life is what he makes of it.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
Moral Code only recently launched, so this is all fresh. I think being on a zoom call with a vendor who said he and his wife are reading it together and they continually stop to talk about how the story’s technology could impact the world, and if they agreed with something a character was doing. This showed me I have them hooked.

If you could have written one book in history, what book would that be?
I’ve spent far too long contemplating this question, yet, I have no worthy answer.

What was the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book?
Community commitments were a great distraction. I was very engaged in many organizations prior to Covid. The board meetings, events, etc. chopped up my days. The pandemic cleared most of that from my schedule, so I’ve created new habits now.

Has reading a book ever changed your life? Which one and why, if yes?
I love this question. Yes, a book changed my life. However, sadly I can’t remember the title. In the mid-nineties I read a novel that largely took place in the American internment camps for the Americans of Japanese descent. I was angry that my country inflicted those atrocities on any people, and especially on civilians and our own citizens. I’m even more angry that these facts were never taught to me in school, not even in university level American history classes. It took reading a novel for me to even know these internment camps existed.

This changed me because it started me questioning authority and established norms. You could say it put a booster on my critical thinking. It gave me a curiosity of other cultures, politics and the education system. Growing up in middle America, had created an unwanted shield from worldly knowledge. It sent me on a quest to read more about the world and to travel. I’ve done a lot of both.

I really worry about current movements to further restrict information within our schools. Ignoring history doesn’t make it go away.

Why is storytelling so important for all of us?
Storytelling helps us make sense of our world, emotions, needs, beliefs, etc. They help us sort through thoughts we may not otherwise know how to deal with. Even when we think we’re just reading for pleasure, we’re often processing our needs for intimacy, adventure, or belonging. Storytelling is an outlet for some and a required consumption for others.

Can you tell us when you started MORAL CODE, how that came about?
Writing MORAL CODE took four years from start to publish. The idea started with Ross telling me if he wrote a book it would be about ethical artificial intelligence and how it would protect kids. He had no desire to write a book but I did. One day we started brainstorming what an AI would do that people don’t do to protect kids. The imagery grew and became more vivid for us. Then I started writing and the story bloomed.

In your new book; MORAL CODE, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it.
Keira is an engineer committed to creating ethical AIs. She’s also committed to helping kids. When she sells her company to a billionaire with surveillance nanite technology, Keira learns about the horrors kids are going through all around her. She decides she, and her AI, Elly, must help these kids.

This mission is easier said than done, especially when others want the tech and everything her boss creates is kept in the shadow of secrets, so that the military can’t use it. Elly develops some ingenious ways to still help kids. She has no intentions of being stopped.

What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating your characters?
Throughout MORAL CODE, Elly, the AI, is developing. While learning how we teach artificial intelligence, I had to gauge what bad training data would do to her decision making. Ross was my number one resource, but it took a lot of reading and supposition around society’s interpretation of ethics, in order to create her growth story. I want readers to better understand AIs through Elly’s story.

Similar to the book Snow Crash inspiring the invention of Google Earth, I’d love for MORAL CODE to inspire future engineers and data scientist to invent creations for the betterment of the world.

  • To legitimize the Moral Operating System designed to keep all artificial intelligence making ethical decisions, an entire consortium was designed to aggregate the definitions, boundaries, educations materials, etc. for ethics and ethical behavior. Many chapters were written about this consortium name OpenML. All but a few references to the group were cut, because that wasn’t the story I was trying to tell.
  • I did the writing, but both I and my husband are co-authors because the concept of an ethical AI focused on helping kids was his idea. He also provided the vision and the technical knowledge for training AIs, the capability of the nanites, and other fun tech. We brainstormed a lot of the story together, so we both get the credit.
  • I named the book the first week I started outlining. Every early reader and editor supported Moral Code as the perfect match for the story.
  • Hollywood can cast anyone in any role. I fought back against all my editors and chose to do my character building without weighing in on physical appearances.
  • There are a lot of women in STEM in MORAL CODE.
  • All proceeds from MORAL CODE are being donated to non-profits preventing child abuse and human trafficking.
  • I see the book in my head as a movie.
  • I loved creating the recycling ability of the nanites. They mine old computers, toys, and phones for the raw materials to build more nanites. It’s a type of self-replication.
  • Ross bought me a pair of silver 3-d printed, double helix earrings, like the ones Elly gives Kiera in the book.
  • Really good friends make a big difference during the roller-coaster ride of writing a book.
What is the first job you have had?
Typing names and addresses into a computer at a direct mail company.

Best date you've ever had?
My best date wasn’t called a date, but its where it all started. Ross, my co-author/technical advisor, and I met a Super Bowl party. Don’t ask who was playing, we don’t remember. We spent most of the party in the hot tub. Five years later we got married on Super Bowl Sunday and promised the officiant we would be done before pre-game, so he wouldn’t miss anything.

What is the first thing you think of when you wake up in the morning?
Is this a Pilates morning?

What is your most memorable travel experience?
We traveled to our first tradeshow to launch our company’s first product. Ross still had a corporate job. I was still in my twenties, Ross in his early thirties. The product was such a success at the show that we decided over dinner while still on the trip, it was time for him to cut the corporate cord and join the business fulltime too. That led to nineteen years of global travel for the business before we sold it.

What's your most missed memory?
We took my mom and mother-in-law to an all-inclusive resort in Cozumel. We had so much together. Cancer has robbed the world of both of those lovely ladies. I’m so glad we gave them, and us, the joy of that trip.

Which incident in your life that totally changed the way you think today?
Moving away from small town Missouri to the Dallas/Fort Worth area at twenty-one, opened my world up to so many new people, ways of thinking and possibilities. The move also encouraged my risk-taking nature.

Have you ever stood up for someone you hardly knew?
In a shopping line a boy of about eight ignored his mother’s instructions, then said a few very disrespectful things to her. They appeared to me to be of a culture which I’m know is very misogynistic. I looked at the boy and told him “You need to apologize to your mother for your disrespect. A sign of a real man is his respect and good treatment of women, especially their mothers. I believe you want to be regarded as a good man, don’t you?” He nodded and apologized to his mother. There were a lot of shocked faces in the line, especially the mothers.

Which would you choose, true love with a guarantee of a heart break or have never loved before?
Grab the true love, baby!

When you looked in the mirror first thing this morning, what was the first thing you thought?
My hair always curls better if I go to bed with a wet head.

What do you usually think about right before falling asleep?
I try to review my gratitude list. But often my mind wanders to my work in progress.

If you had to go back in time and change one thing, if you HAD to, even if you had “no regrets” what would it be?
I have one of those, but I won’t put it in writing. 😉 End result is great as is, but I would skip a specific segment of actions.

If you could be born into history as any famous person who would it be and why?
Annie Leibowitz. She creates the most stunning photos, which could each launch libraries of stories. She’s traveled to amazing places and worked with many of our most iconic personalities.

What event in your life would make a good movie?
It’s a future event: traveling to see races at every Formula 1 track around the world.

What is one unique thing are you afraid of?
Floating away in space

What is the weirdest thing you have seen in someone else’s home?
A hot tub inside a doublewide trailer…don’t ask.

Dr. Keira Stetson has two passions: ethical artificial intelligence—AI with a conscience—and creating technology that improves children’s lives. Trapped in an earthquake-flattened building with a half-dozen panicked five-year-olds, she fears the worst. When billionaire Roy Brandt leverages his mysterious nanite technology to rescue them, she’s both grateful and intrigued.

Impressed by his prototype technology but alarmed at its potential for exploitation, Keira merges her company with Brandt’s. The merger gives Keira access to much-needed funds for the development of her own tech, and access to Brandt’s powerful minuscule robots. In turn, she and her AI assistant, Elly, embed Keira’s trademark Moral Operating System in Brandt’s nanite SmartDust to rein in its power.

But Brandt’s technology has been kept secret for a reason. Though he’s adamant about using the Dust to improve life, not destroy it, corporate raiders and the military have other ideas. They want to weaponize Brandt’s nanites. Suddenly, everything Keira has worked for is in jeopardy. Exposed to the worst humanity has to offer, she and Elly must fight to use this newfound tech for good and keep it out of the wrong hands…before it’s too late.

You can purchase Moral Code at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you LOIS AND ROSS MELBOURNE for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of Moral Code by Lois and Ross Melbourne.