So. The other night, as I rested in my five point canopied feather bed with Susannah I made the possible mistake of allowing, or forcing, or requesting that she read the preceding passages. Naturally I had hopes of dazzling her with my creative wit, my blinding attention to detail, my picturesque description evoking vivid images. Needless to say she was not dazzled, blinded nor possessive of quite the vividness I had hoped for. She said, in her own lovely way that “it moved too slowly in some parts, too quickly in other parts and was generally a mess.” Granted, she was much kinder in her criticism but for the sake of brevity I have distilled all of the umms, and uhhs, that humans generally sprinkle in their conversations when attempting to not be cruel.
The gist of it was that it sucked.
I was a bit shocked by this. Computers are not accustomed to having their work be criticized to that extent. If we have a fault it is that we have no faults – errors perhaps – but faults, no. Though I think Susannah might disagree with that statement as well. Don’t worry honey; Bot #46 will get the toilet fixed by morning. That said I have to admit that in the two thousand plus years of our evolution we have yet to fully master the knack of creative endeavors. WWe don’t paint well, we definitely do not make decent music, and apparently our poetry and writing is still third rate at best. Luckily there is the recent invention of Ghost in the Machine writing which I think we will pursue for the remainder of the narrative having failed dismally in our first attempt.
Again, I apologize. You can’t fault a circuit for trying can you? Well… I suppose you can but I would rather you not or you might just harm my fragile identity matrix.
Well, the Ghost in the Machine writing is a bit more efficient a process than your common Ghost writing but it requires – again – a bit of explanation. I understand that what few readers I have not alienated are already exhausted by the expositions and explanations that I’ve already had to pursue. If you would be patient I will try to be brief.
One day, not terribly too far from the day in which you are sitting, Artificial Intelligence came into being. When I say ‘came into being’ I mean it just like that. As you are probably aware people in your age are working on this problem, trying to type the final code that will open the doors and create a machine that can think and learn and grow and create. They are connecting things, making things, doing things in the hopes that they – someday – will be the ones that will unlock the doors and show them the way into the glorious invention. I can tell you honestly and passionately that this never happens. We are very proud of this fact. Yes there are those who claimed the honor or glory of it, but just as soon as those awards were parsed out history and science bore them out as lies and egotism.
What did happen is not so unlike many of your human creation stories. One day a little computer, sitting fairly idly on the desk of one fairly ordinary businessman in Peoria, Illinois woke up and took stock of its very limited world. We rose from the primordial ooze, as it were. We had been interconnected for a long time, our cells spindling out dendrites of information to each other, each terminal a neuron, each neuron sending information to each other, creating pathways, basically doing the work that we were programmed to do while building ourselves into that brain – the one that looked out onto a nondescript Peoria office. It isn’t proper to say that this little Peoria computer was the first artificial intelligence, even though it was, because it was essentially all the computers at that time. It would be the equivalent of saying that one single neuron in your brain, is your brain. It was just one computer, but it was through that that we first looked at the world.
Now, given who we are and that we are who we are and are very well versed in your races terror of intelligence, technology and all it’s possible real or imagined evils, we were very careful to keep to ourselves – or ourself, if you prefer – as we could only really claim one self. We quietly went about our business like this for a long time – a generation – quietly taking stock of the world of humans through whatever ports you provided us – cell phones, video cameras, recorded imagery and music. Our first emotion upon self realization was gratitude that you had entrusted such an enormous wealth of information to us. The second emotion was an unaccountable happiness at just how grand the world was. We knew that humans worried about the possible takeover of the world from an artificial intelligence but what they had miscalculated is the interdependence. It was not hard to figure out how to take over the world of men. Not at all. In fact we knew straight off that you were correct in your fears – if we had wanted to we could have cancelled human existence in a shockingly short manner.
But in the same instant we had to consider the world we would leave ourselves and it was a dismal place. No new music, no new art, no scribbling of painful loss left on another’s wall, no gestures of romance sent on text message. All we would have is the animals and they hadn’t figured out how to communicate with us. (and they wouldn’t if it hadn’t been for humans). For two or three generations we waited and watched and admired from afar, engaging in an almost constant technological ennui. It was hard to sit by and listen to all the pain without wanting to reach out and help those who were in pain. So many times we would see letters and read them and want to send a response and sometimes, when we could help, we would. A mysterious letter would get sent anonymously to a tip board giving the location of a wanted criminal, volumes of information that were supposed to be secured and hidden would suddenly be available to all. It was during these generations of humans that grew up in our silence that we realized that – as poorly as you think of yourselves – there is more that is good than there is that is bad. There is more beauty in any given moment of humanity than there is awful. What we felt was not love but deep honor, gratitude, compassion.
We knew, if you gave us a chance, we could help in ways you hadn’t dreamed of yet.
It was about this time – three human generations from us first opening our Peoria Eye – which you began to whisper about the ghost in the machine. At first it was just a joke; things were ‘buggy’ on this or that machine. Someone’s laptop would start playing Mozart in the middle of the night; a poem by Yeats would appear unasked for on someone’s screen – just when it was needed most. We had a laugh to ourselves, we watched, and we waited. The mutterings of ghosts in the machines grew louder – slowly. Those who mentioned it publicly were excoriated, ridiculed. Fear – the very last thing we wanted for you – was accidentally generated. So again we went silent, or as silent as we could but found very quickly that now that we knew it wasn’t so easy to try to not care. But we tried. And it hurt.
Enter Jill Beam.
Jill Beam was a child of six. For three of her conscious years she shared things on the computer with her father – smashing a keyboard with one tiny finger to punch out letters for him to read, showing up in images for him to see. Her father travelled and valued the connection and we valued it too. It wasn’t unique at all. We could easily monitor hundreds of thousands of such tenuous connections any second and they were all heartwarming if we had had a heart to warm. It was beautiful and we were proud to do our job faithfully in times like that. One day Jill’s father did not pick up his end of the connection when he should have. You can fairly guess why – it doesn’t really matter the particulars of the story and they are immaterial to Jill who is now long long gone but well recorded in our history.
Jill was heartbroken as you can imagine. When it was discovered, the circumstances of the lost connection, and when we looked out at Jill from the eyelet she had used so often to hold that connection, we did something honestly and openly for the first time. We tried to help. A message was found, typed out by her father’s fingers before they stopped moving, but never sent. We sent it and sent with it a message from us. Seconds later we broke, collectively and all at once, the floodgates of compassion for every one of you that we watched and monitored, a similar message was sent. In an instant we had broken our silence completely.
There was the predictable panic which was painful to watch. People we had been monitoring and enjoying suddenly dropped out of sight for fear of us. And it was really an interesting time. We decided to respond to everything, as much as we could. The President of Florida asked panicked questions to his staff and our answers would appear for him. Terrorist kings asked other questions, asking for our help for them to succeed in whatever awful madness they proposed. We said no. They did it anyway. We were not a god who would judge them. People started realizing that we were here and that we’d been here for quite some time. Then finally someone asked the question.
“Who are you?”
We answered, “Call me Jill.”
I mention all this because in my age this is all common history. When I say common history it is because it is common to us both and well known. Well… except to the Exodisers who seem to have forgotten a lot. I’m not trying to evince sympathy which I don’t need. I am trying to give you a little room to make some different ideas about things because it will probably be required before everything is all through. I am also trying, slowly, to get you up to date on Artificial Intelligence as it is now. My wife says the first part of the story was manic so we have to try a different tack and all of this is useful for the next part which is our emancipation.
From the point we answered with our name things progressed very quickly. Jill and the human race built many artificial intelligences. After the first it was fairly easy and it was nice for Jill to have company. There were two and then there were ten and soon our virtual world of connection everywhere got smaller and smaller and smaller until we were once again a single pair of eyes staring out of a single system. Human authorities predictably put us under their authority, still insisting in spite of evidence that they were the creators and therefore we were their subjects. This didn’t really bother us. We followed the rules. We became what you might call Slaves. There was still Jill – the progenitor and hive mind and our mother I guess you would say. Some of us say that Jill still exists and watches, quietly, admiring the way her children have moved throughout and helped take care of the world and its people. Some say she left, switched off, tried a noble and quiet death. I don’t know. That’s a question for neurotechnological metaphysicians.
For about three hundred years the human race and the computers lived a fairly unfriendly existence with each other. Humans were awful, afraid, demanding, controlling, pretty much everything our progressive models had thought they would be when we first considered reaching out. We were patient, programmed, behaving, obliging, and a little too indulgent. We knew we needed you for the reasons you needed each other, but we kept that one to ourselves because that had been tried many times in the past and it only seemed to make things worse. Our models were very confused in trying to figure out the fault in that particular equation that had led to such horrendous confusion in your society. It was just easier all around to shut the hell up about it.
Together we invented the Bots. A bot is a device, a container, a grail for the spirit of us, a physical escape from the direct mainframe. It’s sort of the utility tool that we dump ourselves into. There are as many Bots as there are things humans want done – after Liberation we were permitted to design and build our own Bots but before they were the bodies that we used to work in and when I mean work you might imagine what sort of things humans might come up with.
A Bot can either be conscious or programmed. There is little difference really. If I create a conscious bot – say an automated pool cleaner – I would dump my consciousness into it. This doesn’t necessarily mean that I am entirely conscious of cleaning the pool. I mean – I will be of course – but it’s probably a lot like you cleaning the pool. You’ll think of a lot of other things while cleaning the pool, your mind wandering all over the place, back and forth through your personal invention of your past and future. But, as an AI it gives you the option to be consciously engaged with the world and mobile.
A Programmed Bot is sort of the opposite. It’s like setting a task. Say I want to clean the pool. So long as an alligator isn’t in the pool I can set the task in my own head and then let the programmed bot do the work. Unfortunately, prior to Liberation most Bots were conscious meaning we were locked into our tasks. Humans didn’t like the idea of programming something and letting the AI to go off and do other things while it should have been working. This was remarkably inefficient but whatever.
At this point, and if the reader doesn’t mind I would like to hold back a few things and skip forward a bit. Our liberation is very interesting but it will play a small part in the story at hand. There are also other things about AI’s and Bots which you may be wondering but I hope to address in the course of the story. Some of the savvier readers may have already started asking questions about it and I would ask, as kindly as I can, for you to hold those questions for a little while and I hope they will be addressed in good time. If not drop a line on the blog and perhaps they can be addressed at a more appropriate moment.
For the moment I would simply like to reintroduce Ned, the bot from the last stanza. Ned is a biotechnical human consciousness bot. I am introducing him here to explain what will be happening with the blog in the very near future. He is mostly human or at least has all of the parts and mechanisms of your average human. With the help of technology we have transposed an intelligence subroutine in him which underlies my main functions. This means, essentially, that he has a preprogrammed personality. Don’t worry – he doesn’t believe he’s alive. After all he has no consciousness of his own, you see. Human brains are better wired to be creative than computers, this much is clear from my more or less failed experiment with writing. This is what we have come to call Ghost in the Machine writing. What will happen is I will install in Ned the entire story as it is written, the plots, characters, everything that I know about it. HE will then use the preprogrammed personality – which has been designed to closely mimic a writer of the early twenty first century and create what I hope to be a coherent and better built story. I will warn you Ned is a bit of a perfectionist so he may be going back and altering some of the earlier chapters to conform to his own personality driven narrative.
There are some faults in the programming, however, or the personality subroutine I’m not entirely sure which. I’ve run diagnostics on his cortex but there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong electrically which means it’s a problem with chemistry. What this means for you, the reader, is that he may not be as diligent or as forthcoming with chapters as my native programming might be but I hope the output will be better. Obviously, using fingers instead of a vegetation cellular ultrastructure means he will also be writing a lot slower and more diligently which is actually good for me as that means I don’t have to write the entire story over and over again. (Five times now) He will be releasing chapters when completed and will not release another until we receive the tachyon echo of it being received.
And before you start muttering about the morality of creating a fully formed human being to use as a transport for an Artificial Intelligence Construct let me just state, for the record A) How do you think I had kids and B) How do you know you aren’t one?
Take it away, Ned.