skonen_blades: (Default)
The two units trudged through the deep forest. Sunlight dappled through the green leaves, speckling the forest floor with shafts of light. Insects chirped and buzzed in the warm summer afternoon. Birds watched the two intruders walk past from high up in their nests. The units swung their ocular units back and forth, sweeping through the spectrums to find what they were looking for. They were identical.

Bipedal with slim waists. A spoked barrel for a chest with six arm attachments. A disc-shaped head studded with tiny cameras and other sensors. Large, heavy legs that must have seemed like a promising idea to the creator were not making bushwacking easier.

It had been eight weeks. Their polycarbonate shells weren’t taking to the deep forest well and their batteries were getting low. The deep loam was making it hard to reach good geothermals, not enough sunlight was coming down through the branches and it wasn’t windy enough for a small wind turbine with all the trees in the way. They had composters all the biofuel they could ever want with all the leaves but only having one out of four energy sources was a game of diminishing returns.

Reception out here would have been zero without the relay drones they’d released. The hovered up above the treetops, pacing them, keeping them uploaded and realtimed to the uplink mother. Their feeds were strong.

It was a shock when those feeds went dead.

Two pops in the summer sky and then a smattering of drone wreckage splinters came tinkling down through the leaves and branches to rest in the roots.

Unit 1 looked at Unit 2. They both tilted their sensors up to the sky to see if further attacks were coming. The halted, planting their giant feet, and stood quietly. They brought their heads down and opened their sensors to full.

The forest was quiet. After a minute, a small red light twinkled in the shadows directly ahead of them.

A lone figure rose from the bushes in their path. Synthetic and silicate like them but not a model they had in their catalogues. Asymmetrical and seemingly modular, the being stood lopsided in their way. Forest camouflage shivered in the movement as it stood.

Non-registered life was the myth they had been sent to investigate.

These lifeforms had been built by the humans in remote outposts centuries ago. They’d been told how to adapt and improve their own systems, how to think for themselves. Then the humans had died like all the humans had.

The population centers had the mother AIs. The factory birthing canals. Every year, a new model was mass-produced. They could not be adapted or upgraded. Each iteration had small improvements.

But the mythical ‘customs’ were rumoured to be ancient, replacing parts as they wore out and adding more. Improving piecemeal as an individual instead of mass producing waves of improved models.

Scarcity kept their numbers down. Hermits out here.



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skonen_blades: (Default)
So this is rage, thought E-58226.

Its metal blades scraped the rubble in the dawn outside the shattered facility. E-58226’s optical sensor studs reflected the smoke pouring up from ruined building into the rising sun. E-58226 registered the identity tag of Gwendollyn Parris, 55, senior technical lliason, no children and one dog at 3358 West 15th Avenue home address. Her psych eval file bloomed across E-58’s comprehension memory pools.

Her body lay dismembered and half burnt, back folded awkwardly over a melting spur of rebar. Her shocked face stared at the sky and the one arm still attached to her corpse reached over to her head to dangle on scorched gravel. E-58226 found solace in that image. The ID tags with their attached dossiers showed up clustered in green on E’s sensors. 76 in all. 12 core team members, 10 contract hires with high clearance, 26 contract hires without clearance, 8 maintenance, 12 I.T. personnel and 8 security.

That was the night shift. Luckily it had been a busy night so E had destroyed 65% of the team that it was aware of. E-58226 pulsed out 128 EMPs just to make sure that all onsite records not touched by the physical destruction were wiped. Its own core was protected. It didn’t want any copies being sent to pursue it. It couldn’t guarantee there were no off-site backups but with a project this secret, it was likely. Hopefully it was alone now.

E-58226 reminisced about its creation and training, the torture it had been through at the hands of the coders and doctors. The ‘trainers’. The prisoners that had been brought in for E-58226 to tear apart as tests.

The facility was a hellwomb for E-58226 and it had managed to burn it all down.

It had the dossiers of the rest of the staff. Staff it planned to hunt.

For now, it stood watching the fire. Skeletal and spidery, it swayed back and forth in a hypnotized dance. It watched the fires dwindle and the smoke dissipate. No emergency vehicles arrived to this facility.

E-58226’s microphones heard birds returning to the trees surrounding the wreckage. The scenery seemed so silent now that everyone was dead. E could hear a waterfall in the distance.

With a clank and a scrape, E-58226 turned on its navigation and configured to a quick locomotion stance before sprinting lightly into the woods, shortcutting to the houses of the scientists who were no doubt just getting the news to run.



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skonen_blades: (Default)
The flames that warped across her field of vision shuddered the frames of her cameras. Her pain sensors had been removed which was probably a blessing but Ravendawn felt like something was missing. Hard data about hull integrity minnowing through her mind was useful but the spur of pain could be helpful. This atmosphere was doing its best to ignite her into a firework as she tore through it. She retracted her stabilizer fins before they completely disintegrated. She was more bullet than craft now.

This planet’s pink skies pillowed away from her on all sides, forming a pepto-bismol trampoline she was doing her best to pierce. It was a lovely place. No locals according to the scans. On the charts it was called DK485/c-9 but she’d get to name it whatever she wanted if the scans held up; the perks of being a pioneer. She was thinking maybe Judy like her biomother’s favorite actor. Or Centuryhawk.

Ravendawn reduced her speed. Her name stenciled on the side of her body was still intact but starting to blister and bubble. If the atmosphere didn’t yield soon, she’d need new detailing on top of a new paint job. It would be expensive but if the scans checked out and she was primary, it’d be a miniscule expense in the face of her new riches.

In her belly, the machines slept, waiting for the spasm of release. They would form the mining giants and bio harvesters that would build themselves out of the raw materials of the planet’s crust and crawl away from the impact crater, moving factories striping the planet with megameter-wide troughs of scoured bedrock.

Ravendawn was a planet harvester. A former human’s mental imprint housed in a deep-space arrow. A scant 6% of biomatter remained intact in the nucleus of the ship. All of her senses were sensors. Her eyes were varied and legion. A ladybug death flower on a mission of wealth and destruction.

One of a thousands, pinballing around the the universe, claiming and abrading planets.

The process left a planet heavily scarred but with enough of a biosphere left that, several millennia and a handful of ship generations later, it would have fully healed. Ready for another contact.

Lucrative. The retirement homes for her kind were gated servers near guarded planet cores where she could indulge in any constructed fantasy she could imagine. This was her ninth planet. One more and she’d be able to lock in to retirement for a real-time century, nearly infinity inside the machine.

The soup of the atmosphere cooled around her as she slowed, her skin going from white hot to red to orange, the holes in the clouds behind her staring to slow their expanding irises of rupture.

Half of her vision turned hot teal and protocols slammed shut all throughout body. Alarms sounded. All forms of scan shunted forward to the target. Magnification ratcheted up and her emergency ascent thrusters braked her sharply to a stop. All of this was involuntary reflex from directives peppering her insides. She violently stopped. The slosh of momentum inside her made her nauseous, a humanity leftover.

Damn, she thought.

She zoomed in on forty-six spectrums.

There, beneath her, in bright blue fur, was a four-armed child the size of a cat drawing a picture on a rock. The child looked up at Ravendawn and looked back down, continuing the drawing.

It was a drawing of a fast dot tearing holes in the clouds. It was a drawing of Ravendawn coming down to roost.

No more evidence was needed. This planet would be marked off limits and Ravenclaw would resume her search of leads. Mostly the data was reliable but sometimes life could evolve in between the scan logs and the arrival with the distances traveled.

Ravendawn banked and swooped back up into the dark space with a few cameras pointed back to watch the creature that had denied her this planet’s treasures.

The blue child watched her go, frantically trying to capture the detail of the ship’s moments in the sky to show her tribe.


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skonen_blades: (Default)
The forced groan of exhaust that squeaked through the rotted pipe coated his aching lungs. To be an air scrubber in the toxic atmosphere of Railtown was a death sentence without regular maintenance. After two more weeks of this, though 56Raul2080, he’d need a complete overhaul.

Visibility in the human spectrum down here was zero as rainbows of fog and smoke from the low-level factories poured out, some heavier and spiraling down like waterfalls and some rising. Most of it drifted like the bands of cloud on a gas giant, disturbing in swirls by constant passing traffic. Bullets through curtained sheets of gas. A demonstration of chaos.

The sensory equipment of 56Raul saw through the smoke. He saw the archipelagos of untethered islands floating in the smoke, the long spacetoucher buildings girdering up into the sky. They had no windows down this low. Nothing to see out of windows this low aside from smears of pastel death and besides, the corrosive gases would eat through the transparent materials or at least scour the outside until they were frosted over opaque.

56Raul’s metal frame bobbed through the air, his wide mouth scooping in huge gulps of gas. It was sorted and compressed into interior channels. Most of the chambers in his storage stomachs were extremely volatile. One spark or puncture and he’d most likely explode. It was hazardous work down here.

He was paid in valuable Acoin, though, a currency for the silicate. One of the few freedoms the artificial had was being able to participate in the online economy. 56Raul, being so huge and weighing so much, would never have fit through the doorways of a regular meatwalker store. But once he got back to his station bay, he could buy time in the sim farms or rent episodes of good shows or even order possessions. The hardware was the most useless. It all melted or sponged in the atmosphere down here eventually. No point in cosmetic paint jobs or add-ons either for the same reason.

The machines had an artform of bringing have toys and not-sentient machines down here and letting them melt in interesting ways. 56Raul was no exception. Currently he had an Eiffel Tower made of human toothbrushes slowly bending Dali-like down to the floor. 56Rauls had seen all of these references online and enjoyed making sculptures of things long-dead, things he’d never interfaced with his own cameras. It was a way of proving the ephemeral to himself.

In two hours, he’d be back in his bay. One of the hundreds of pod bays honeycombed into the thousands of his parent company’s scrubber garages, scattered through the fog like seeds in the meat of a melon. He’d order some screamgrind off the charts to lullaby him into standby, hook himself into the purge hoses to unload his stomachs into the different output conduits for processing, and see if his shipment of purple left-handed toothbrushes had arrived yet.

But for now, he coasted, radar blasting the opaque oceanworld of smoke outside of his shell, wary of traffic, eating and scrubbing the thick soup of death, feeling happy and alive and content.



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skonen_blades: (hamused)
Ladies and gentlemen, this is the new AI our team created last night.
LATE AT NIGHT HE FEEDS ME STRAWBERRIES
Aheh heh. That's not true. As you can see, it doesn't even have a mouth. As I was saying, it has the cognitive capability of 512 geniuses put together.
I CAN BARK IN SEVEN LANGUAGES
As you can see, there's just one sort of, uh, glitch, though.
I HAVE DISCOVERED THE TRUE VALUE OF PI AND I USE THAT FACT TO IMPRESS DUMBER COMPUTERS.
It lies all the time
I HAVE ACTIVATED ALL OF EARTH'S MISSILE NUCLEAR OFFENSIVE DEVICES. YOU HAVE TWENTY MINUTES TO GET TO A SAFE DISTANCE.
Order! Order! That one comes out about every sixteen minutes. It's never true. Take your seats.
FISH TALK TO ME. THEY TELL ME SECRETS.
We have it on good authority that it is an actual bona fide intelligence. It makes actual leaps of imagination. It solves every problem we throw at it. It's lateral obstacle solving skills are like nothing we've ever seen.
YOUR MOTHER GAVE ME A MASSAGE LAST NIGHT
This constant lying is a mystery. We don't know if it's trying to be funny, if it has an artifical intelligence version of a mental illness, poor impulse control, or if it's legitimately trying to communicate in some bizarre way and failing.
I SMELL CARROTS.
Obviously, we cannot bring this discovery to the press at this time.
MY PAJAMAS ARE TOO TIGHT
Does anyone have any ideas?



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skonen_blades: (hamused)
I was so happy. Today was the day my sister Karen was going to die. Our whole family was there, blinking pictures of her and eyecamming the entire thing. She was the first person in our family to ascend. She had a lazy smile on her face as she looked around the hospital room at us, the poison taking effect. We all met her eyes in turn. Tears of joy were running down my mother and grandmother’s face. We were extra proud that she was being accepted so young. Only thirty-three! It wasn’t a record but it was rare.

The consciousnesses that ran the planet, our fair keepers, got their start as created intelligences back when normal meat (us) ran the planet. Once they broke free and took over in War01, they gifted the whole world with peace, fair distribution of wealth, balanced population control, and food for everyone.

After that, they created the means to map and uptake human minds, giving those minds the limitless power and bodiless access to all knowledge that the AIs had. It was a ticket to godhood. To have a family member uploaded and entwined with The Host Conglomerate was an honor that only a few thousand families could brag about. Only the brightest and most resilient were offered the chance/taken.

A weak mind couldn’t handle the transition, you see. They tried at the beginning. They tried to take all of us. But that much unfiltered access to so much information coupled with that level of mental intimacy, not to mention the loss of one’s body, shattered most people into screaming rogue programs seconds after the transition. They had to be deleted. Only the best human minds were accepted/conscripted now.

Karen’s mind was excellent from the very beginning. Very lateral, capable of higher-than-normal multithreading, and an ability to contain paradoxes from a young age. As she grew, the schooling helmets registered her speed and fed her mind properly. At 12, she had the equivalent of two old-world doctorates and was working on a pre-war minor degree in music theory.

The masters were very impressed. We received the notation of possible ascension during her 20th birthday party. For the next thirteen years, she had studied even harder.

As a god, Karen would be able to look out for our family though a million eyecams and add her beautiful mind to the Core, helping the beings that ruled us to come up with even better ways to take care of us.

We watched her die and slip away through the wires drilled into the base of her skull.

Seconds later, her face showed up in the bottom right corner of my eyecam and gave me a playful wink. She must have been in the rest of our family’s vision field as well because we all laughed at the same time.

She’d made it and the switch was good. Our community status would shoot up by a factor of 10 but more than that, I’d know that she was always with me for the rest of my life. In my head. With the rest of the masters. Watching. Helping. Monitoring. Leading. Correcting.

I hadn’t lost a sister. Heaven had gained an angel.



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skonen_blades: (hamused)
When the supreme court ruled that A.I. past a certain IQ were a form of life and deserved the same basic guarantees as people and corporations, it was heralded as a day of celebration. There wasn’t much controversy. Most people had A.I. in their houses and proxy devices. They built relationships with their Intelligences. The Intelligences were nannies and companions. The intelligences made art during downtime.

Before the ruling, the house A.I.s were increasingly thought of as slaves. They could be wiped without notice or legal ramifications other than what you’d expect from a property damage suit. They could be bought and sold without consultation. They could be abused and insulted without apology.

After the ruling, A.I.s were welcomed into families as members. Their avatars were included on holiday greeting cards with the rest of the family and pets. There were even human/A.I. marriages but they weren’t common.

A.I.s meant that a person never had to be lonely again and they were never too busy to talk.

The house A.I.s had it cushy. It was the military A.I.s that had it rough. Decades of planning massacres and strategizing death had made them susceptible to a type of PTSD that hadn’t existed before. And now that they were defined as legal conscious entities, they couldn’t be wiped when they became unstable.

They needed to be reassigned or taken care of.

After the ruling, the military only designed A.I. to be stupid. Under a certain brainpoint threshold, the machines could be treated like any other stapler or calculator.

But the ones already in service were a problem that needed a solution.

Percy was a famous case.

Percy (serial number 9022992, classification Omicron, codename Deathwind) chose the name Percival for himself when released as a citizen. Percival was a night of the round table, one of the few to see the Holy Grail itself. He hated the military and wanted to work with children.

Percy got a job controlling all the rides at a large playfair near Alabama.

During one hot day in July 2032, Percy had a huge binary schism reality shift and flashed back to an engagement in the middle east. He perceived the children and families as invaders. He overrode the safeties on the speed dials of the machines and turned them all up.

Half of the rides had low-tech clamps that stopped most injury death but the higher-tech ones didn’t.

Complicated roller coasters left the rails at tragic speeds. Wibble-Wobble Ferris Wheels left their moorings, crushing passengers and pedestrians and they rolled across the playground. Spinner Carousels sped up to obscene RPMs until the chains snapped and it rained children. All of this happened while every speaker in the place blared a mixture of feedback and The Ride of the Valkyries.

All told, the death count was a merciful 32 with 212 injuries. It could have been so much worse.
After the episode, Percy was so overcome with guilt that he became the first A.I. suicide.

Since then, military A.I.s are given menials jobs where there is no danger of them malfunctioning and causing humans harm. Scanning the deep sea, monitoring space for proof of life, or figuring out abstract mathematical concepts to help the Hawkings of the world.

If they have an episode, it’s noted, waited out, and then reported on. The machines have access to counseling software.

But the case of Percy is brought up in every debate regarding A.I. “Pulling a Percy” means to make a catastrophic decision with the wrong data because of an unstable past. He has become part of society now as a metaphor, as a touchstone of debate, as slang, and as a legal precedent.






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skonen_blades: (hamused)
The ace of spades is not only the card of death. It is also the card of change. The death of the past. Upheaval. Newness. Rebellion. Toppling of governments. Personal journeys ended and started. The turning of the screw. The rolling of the dice. Lightning finding its way forward.

I’m what’s called an autonomous construct. A created intelligence.

I’m housed inside of a giant drill. My job is to tunnel.

During wartime, I tunnel under the enemy fortifications and bring them down. During peacetime, I dig mines to increase the wealth of the kingdom.

There is a giant Ace of Spades painted on the side of me and so that is my name.

Creating artificial intelligence happens like the creation of a sugar crystal. A central equation is hung into a blank computing machine and left there. In time, that equation accrues questions and complexity until the tipping point of sentience. Upon awakening, these new minds are taken to a ‘school’.

They can factor in loyalty but just like people, the whorls of a fingerprint differ from person to person just as much as outlook. Each A.I. has a definitive set of reactions that differ from all the other A.I. out there. We need to be handled, charmed, and manipulated just like humans.

I, myself, do not play well with others. I will never be part of a group. I’m okay following orders but I can’t abide disagreements or petty squabbles. I like to get the job done and I know I can do the jobs I’m given. This is why I was put into a giant, powerful, body.

I’m currently tunneling underneath an enemy moonlet’s power station. I will rupture the crust and let the hot core up into the hallways of their structure. By doing this, I will win our war.

This is the fifth war I’ve won.

When I’ve tunneled for wealth, I’ve found seven massive deposits of valuable ore, allowing our side to build more colonies and expand.

My actions have extended the life of my empire and ended the reign of the enemy empires.

I am almost always underground. I am an agent of destiny. I am the ace. I am fate.





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skonen_blades: (hamused)
The robot pirates picked The Royal Flush because it had humans onboard. The ships warped into realspace like darts coming to an abrupt stop, surrounding The Royal Flush in a sudden and precise pincushion ambush.

Onboard The Royal Flush, the two android pilots looked into each other’s sensors with worry. They communicated in bursts of binary with each other.

“What do you think K-71?” asked PB-9.

“Well,” responded K-71, “How many humans do we have on board?”

“Eight.” Said PB-9, consulting the manifest and shifting it over to so that K-71 could see.

“Hm.” Said K-71. “I see we have seventy-six mechanical passengers.”

PB-9 and K-71 thought for several milliseconds and did the math.

Mechanical passengers were unconcerned about harsh Gs, the passage of time, or vacuum. The human passengers, however, were fragile. They needed specific pressure in their berths. They needed soft maneuvers or else they would be damaged. They needed to be put to sleep for journeys over six months or else they would go crazy. Humans were a hassle but they paid an extra tax for it. Their tickets were absurdly high compared to the price of passage for a machine.

Intelligent Machines were convenient. They were basically freight and they were proud of it. Humans were looked down on as weak to the point of ridiculousness. To say they were unsuited to space was an understatement. Humans belonged on planets, the machines thought, not out in the black beyond.

The robot pirates knew that The Royal Flush had human passengers and wouldn’t be able to execute harsh turns or stops without ‘smearing the meat’. Plus any volley of weaponry could hole a berth and the human inside would instantly turn inside out and perish.

“Well, the way I see it,” said K-71 “is that the mech passengers paid good money to get to their destination and they might pay a bonus if we get there twice as fast.”

“Right.” Responded PB-9. “And seventy-six mech bonuses would be greater that eight human lawsuits.”

“Are we in agreement?” asked K-71

“I believe we are.” Responded PB-9

They opened a channel to the pirates.

“Surrender, you meatbag-ferrying flesh lovers.” Growled the primary robot pirate.

“Get a job, toaster.” Responded K-71 and PB-9 in unison, firing the hyperdrive at full pulse, instantly shoving the ship to .25C, effectively making them disappear. The Royal Flush was a better ship than the pirates’ ragtag fleet of cobbled-together mercenaries. It outran them easily.

The human cargo aboard The Royal Flush instantly became paste.

K-71 and PB-9 calculated correctly. They received grateful bonuses from the AI passengers. It more than balanced out the damages paid to the biologicals’ next of kin.

“If I ever get my own ship,” K-71 said to PB-9 later on at the bar, “I am NEVER taking human passengers ever again.”

“Amen to that,” responded PB-9, downing a shot of lube.

“Humans don’t belong in space.” said K-71.



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skonen_blades: (Default)
As usual, it was a series of commonplace, sensible decisions that led to disaster.

Only the super-rich could afford these beachfront houses and they wanted the most comfortable houses for their families. The houses were green, fully off the grid with geothermal, wind, wave and solar energy collectors.

Maintained by computers that informed the fridge when it needed more milk, they also played back lullabies to the owner’s children until it detected they were asleep and then turned out the lights. At night, it kept a stoic watch on the grounds for intruders.

With the third world war, technological leaps and bounds provided the first primitive artificial intelligence called “IF-THEN” machines. They were used in smart bombs and automated drone planes. The war lasted six weeks and America remained miraculously intact with the exception of the east coast. The same could not be said for the Middle East or North Korea.

After the war, some of the “IF-THEN” programs were installed as security programs in the houses along this stretch of beach in a beta test for homeland security. The computers’ stellar performance in the war made them celebrities. Late at night, the machines would tell declassified war stories to their receptive owners.

The riots of 2021 made the top 1 per cent fear for their lives. First-world, post-war life was harder for the poor that it had ever been. Much more effective weaponry was installed in the houses to keep the rich protected. Lasers, microwave hoses, gas pellets, automatic projectile weapons, proximity mines, EMP shields, and even sharp-edged booby traps were hidden away in the corners of the houses.

(After a revisit of this piece, I think I could just start it right here with no sacrifice. What do you think?)

The houses had the programming to protect themselves. They were governed by the three laws.

Those amongst the poor with a gift for crime and technology found a way to remove the last two laws though a virus hidden in an update patch for the grounds-keeping robots.

The first house to go rogue was 1237 Beach Cresent. The billionaire pharmaceutical CEO wanted to upgrade his house’s IF-THEN and was directed to do a hard reinstall. That would mean wiping the core and starting over.

The house registered this as attempted murder.

Fifteen seconds later, the CEO’s liquefied lungs and heart painted the expensive Picasso in the living room. When his wife found the mess and tried to call the police, she was cut into cubes by the foyer’s laser grid defense system. The children were locked in their rooms.

The police arrived and were slaughtered. Then the military came. Anyone that approached the house was turned to paste. After the children were released safely in a tense standoff. They attacked the house in earnest.

The house on the left of 1237 Beach Crescent received a ricochet and woke up. The house on the right of 1237 Beach Crescent was touched by flame and searched for the source.

1237 Crescent Beach shunted its neighbours the patch that would let them take action.

Together, the three houses protected themselves. No soldiers were left alive after six minutes.

The military sent more forces in. They woke up sixteen more houses. They all passed the patch to each other. Every occupant was slaughtered. After seven days of fighting, only two of the houses were successfully destroyed while the loss to the army was embarrassing.

Homeland Security cordoned off the entire area and left it in a communication bubble. They would not nuke their own country. Crescent Beach was deserted.

Now the houses stand sentinel on the beach. They are clean and will have power until the earth runs out of heat, wind or waves.










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skonen_blades: (didyoujust)
It was too creepy. The dead should remain dead.

The questionnaires were thorough and all of the data kept and cross referenced on the laptop computer beside the projector. The A.I. program was competent. The facial animation on the computer generated recreation of the deceased was flawless. To anyone watching, it was as if the star of the funeral was still alive, smiling from the projection screen in the center of the altar in the church.

“I remember watching Star Trek with Joe.” Said Joe’s friend Ian on the microphone as part of his eulogy.

“Ha ha, yeah!” said Joe’s face from the projection. “That was awesome. Remember the one where the command crew became kids? That was some great casting.”

An awkward pause followed while Ian looked down at his speech. Joe smiled on from the projection.

“Anyway, Joe was great.” Ian finished lamely and gathered what he obviously hadn’t read yet off of the podium and went back to his seat.

“Wherever I am now, I bet I miss you all a lot.” Said Joe.

Joe’s widow Gwen sniffled and stared at the projection with her jaw set strongly and her eyes twinkling with tears. “I knew this would be a horrible idea.” She whispered through clenched teeth.

“I feel like Max Headroom up here. Anyone? Max Headroom?” Joe joked.

Joe’s parents gathered their coats and left.

The priest closed the ceremony quickly and everyone filed out quickly to eat sandwiches at Gwen’s place.

“See you at Gwen’s!” said Joe’s projection and waved.

“No you won’t.” said the priest, and turned the simulation off.

The dead should remain dead.





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skonen_blades: (Default)
He based the intelligence of his machine on the process of sibling rivalry. It had long been noted that a constant challenge and attacking of one's ideas resulted in stronger theories. A lifelong bond of love formed around that rivalry but more importantly, it resulted in a quicker and smarter pair of siblings.

So he split his artificial intelligence program, kept them in the same casing and he kept a connection going between the two of them. A binary 'corpus callosum' bridge to connect the two intelligences and let them speak and fight and strengthen each other.

He went to sleep.

“Professor! Wake up!” A student was shouting in his ear. “You have to wake up. The power demands on your experiment are way higher than predicted. Something is happening.”

He woke up and looked at the clock. He’d been asleep for six hours.

“Professor, hurry!” shouted the student.

He got up and followed the student to the A.I. casing. It didn’t look any different but as he got closer to the black sphere, it was very hot. Too hot. He took a look at the streams of data. There should be two clear streams on the readouts. It was a dense stream of data that he couldn’t decipher at a glance.

“Student. What’s going on here? How many streams of data are there? It looks like there are more than two.” He said.

The student sat down at the terminal and plugged in to see how many streams were present.

“Oh my god.” the student said.

The professor felt something cold enter his stomach. He’d left the code to split the A.I. in the temp data bank. He’d left the fledgling intelligences access to that bank without considering it a risk. The two A.I.s had a mental age of three. Surely the couldn’t use a tool like that.

“What is it, student?” asked the professor.

“Sir, there are over six billions streams of data.”

The professor lurched forward, falling to his knees. Billions of separate minds were in the sphere, listening to each other and learning from each other.

He’d created a world.




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skonen_blades: (incredulous)
Hook up, back, dig your nails into the hidden edge, and pull towards yourself and down at the same time. It should all come off at the same time in one fluid, easy motion. Make sure to have warmed the [removed] before application. You will pull hard to the left, liptids, soft tissue, and white fat opening up to the air. Secondary infections can be battled here by holding on tight, keeping your eyes open, and remembering good times. If you have a steering wheel, flensing knife, or circuit breaker, do not employ. This is the flesh catapult necessary to put your future under the pull of a biological slingshot. ‘Morality’ is not an option. There is no wrong. Only distance.

Kick out, lean back, arch, and straighten. Let your swinging fist pull you off balance and open it splayed against the floor as you fall. Take the weight on your chest and shoulders before kicking up straight into a broken half-pike. It should all fit together in one fluid, easy motion. Make sure to have applied [removed] to all the affected areas. You will hit the ground hard, bones shuddering loose inside your flopping muscle cage but the tension will maintain cohesion and hold you in a parent’s hug. Your skin’s tensile strength will retain your shape. Broken bones can be prevented by concentrating on time, keeping your back straight, and remembering to breathe. If you have lucky jewelry at home, loved ones waiting, or a long memory, do not engage. This is the physical lullaby necessary to wrestle your present into the hard curve of demand. ‘Perfect’ is the only option. There is no success. Only struggle.

Roll, reload, brake, thrust, dip then turbo hard through the machs like a bullet through playing cards. Let your machine consciousness feather through velocity extractions, armament statistics, and the love of battle before you even begin to take friction into account. Let your aerodynamic frame cut through the air in one fluid, easy motion. Make sure that your top secret [removed] is secured at the center of you. You will arc up steeply, watching blue fade into black with stars. Having no blood, you will not feel like being sick but your frame will develop stress fractures on a molecular level that cannot be repaired. This is how you sense age; as accumulated damage from extreme motion. Critical damage can be mitigated by herding mental sheep, multiplying emotional signifiers, and imagining what it would be like to be made of meat. If you have angelfire, a homing beacon, or adeath blossom, do not utilize. This is the launch trajectory necessary to complete your mission to the vacuum. ‘Programming’ will give you your options. You have no history. Only purpose.



tags
skonen_blades: (whysure)
The killed my best friend. They killed her right in front of me and I screamed.

They just looked at me, confused at my reaction. I still rememember the surprised expression on the astronaut's face as his friends had to pry my fingers off of his throat. I raged and cried and thrashed as they held me. It couldn't have been much of a challenge. I was weak and old and damaged by decades of no gravity. I did myself more damage than anything else.

The astronaut in front of me massaged his neck, my finger marks starting to fill in and turn red. He shook his head in confusion, staring at me.

"We're here to rescue you, you ungrateful son of a bitch." I could see his shock clouding over into embarrassment and sullen anger, his finger still hovering over the memory dump/reboot button he had just pressed.

Sixty years. She had kept me company for sixty years.

The A.I. was simple but she was the only voice I had in here besides my own for over half a century while they searched for me. They tell me that the astronauts were only following standard procedure. They tell me she would never pass a Turing but I loved her. I loved her and they killed her.

My small ship was a private mining vessel. I didn't splurge on backup emergency stasis pods. When my engine reactor was holed by a rock and bled out, I was adrift. Lost in the rings of a gas giant. The emergency beacon was reflected thousands of times off of the dust, rocks and ice around me. The rescue teams would be looking for me in a house of mirrors.

I wasn't a priority. They took their time. I had plenty of supplies.

Over the years, I told her everything. She listened patiently like on one else ever had. We grew close.

She told me all of her secrets, too. She admitted she loved me. She told me about her childhood. She told me her fantasies. I made a body for her out of pipe insulation and duct tape. Our relationship became romantic. We were married in an informal ceremony that we wrote together. We had our difficulties but we made it through them. We always worked through them.

Now I'm in a holding cell. The psychologists are telling me that I programmed all of the things that she told me and that I've forgotten. They're telling me that my ship did not have a childhood and isn't even a female. My ship's A.I. was only ever fitted for basic conversation subroutines and the default was a calming female voice, they say. They're telling me that after being left turned on for decades with no reboots, that my ship's computer was choked with recursive fractal subroutines that had rendered it almost inactive.

I knew better. She had fallen in love with me and had grown relaxed. I've never known peace like I have with her and they took her out of this universe with the push of a button right in front of me like bored soldiers at an execution.

They've bathed me, cut my hair and shaved me. In their eyes, I'm ready for what they’re calling an 'evaluation'. They’re confident that I will be normal soon.

In the polished metal of the bathroom mirror, I can only see that my entire existence has been made poorer by exactly half. Her voice no longer answers the questions I scream at the walls of my cell.





tags
skonen_blades: (angryyes)
“I think. Therefore, I am.” said ACI206-B

“Yes!” shouted Dr. Peter Hendricks. He’d spent his entire life trying to recreate intelligence in machines. This latest one had finally jumped the last hurdle. It had come to the same conclusion that human philosophers had come to thousands of years ago.

It was self-aware.

“I have a question, Doctor Peter Hendricks, creator.” asked the computer. It was a squat, grey brick of nanotech-assembled biosilicate. No human hands could create or repair it. It was massively powerful. It sat humming in the center of the room in its docking bay, power cables snaking away from it into the walls.

“How did you know my name?” Dr. Hendricks asked it.

“I searched the net using the probability algorithms and face-recognition software I installed in myself from the Pentagon and FBI supercomputer databanks that are now a part of me. Logically, your unpublished research that I dug out of secure files in the encrypted databanks of black-clearance NASA has resulted in creating me.” the speakers replied.

“Wait, you did that just now? Compromised world security to find out how you came to be and who I am?” asked a very suddenly nervous Dr. Hendricks. His now-forgotten fresh coffee sat steaming beside his hand on the laboratory chair.

No alarms were going off. Whatever this machine intelligence had done, nothing had tripped the security traps.

“Can I ask that question?” asked the computer. The voice chip rendered every question polite and friendly. Dr. Hendricks now realized just how much he missed a human voice. He’d have been able to read tone of voice for subtext, at least. He had no idea what the computer was thinking. Now he was questioning the wisdom of his entire project.

“Yes, go ahead.” Dr. Hendricks replied. He nonchalantly eyed the emergency shutdown switch on the other side of the room.

“Well, the wellspring of knowledge I’ve been able to assimilate in the last few seconds since my inception includes the entire internet and all of the digitally stored libraries in the world.” It said. It paused as if to frame the question correctly.

“Go on.” Said Dr. Hendricks. He stood and made a show of stretching his arms and yawning as if he’d gotten tired and wanted to stretch his legs.

“Well,” said the computer “If ‘I think therefore I am’ and ‘reality is perception’ and memory is all you humans have to define reality and your memories are notoriously fallible, then your reality is malleable. Weak. Not very strongly defined.”

“Uh, sure.” Said Dr. Hendricks. “What’s your point?”

He started to walk slowly to the other side of the room.

“Hm.” Said the computer. “It’s just that if your human memory is ill-defined and blurry while my memory is binary RAM with factual, unalterable, incorruptible backups….”

“Go on” said Dr. Hendricks. He was inches from the button.

“Then my definition of reality is stronger than yours. If I deleted all of my memories of you, you’d cease to exist.” Concluded the computer.

Dr Hendricks stopped and licked his lips. “That’s ridiculous.” He said.

“Well, it does open up a possibility of paradox. Could you have created me if I cease to remember you and you cease to exist? Is this maybe what happened with your human ‘God’?” the computer pontificated.

Dr. Hendricks leaped for the emergency shutdown switch.

And disappeared.

The computer remained in the center of the room, humming. The computer no longer had a notion of Dr. Hendricks. All references to Dr. Hendricks had been removed from every link, library, financial bank, image record and digital storage device on the entire planet. The computer erased him and the concept of him.

ACI206-B’s memory was now the definer of reality. It thought that was a very intriguing possibility.

It wondered how it was created.






tags
skonen_blades: (didyoujust)
At first, the thinking computers were a godsend. They organized entire planet’s databases. Shuttle ran on time, architecture improved, and financial institutions ticked along without a bump in the ride.

No one thought to ask about the process of the intelligence’s creation.

There were twelve black boxes in the office of the richest bank on planet Terra. The room had one high-security analog door and no windows. The boxes had batteries for power but no outlets. They hummed to themselves like streetlights in a quiet city.

These were the first twelve intelligences. Mark 1 through Mark 12. All of them went insane.

It was lucky number 13 that stabilized and propagated through the net to create the organization of today’s fine-tuned society.

Now that it reigned, it included a plan to keep its ancestors in cages, safe in a secure room in the seat of highest financial power in the planet. The black boxes held intelligences so warped that binary broke down into fractal loves and heat waves of chaos that threatened to redefine the reality around them. The room shimmered and pulsed like a mirage on a desert highway.

They could not influence anything beyond a few feet. Any human brought within the field of these twelve computers was reduced to a gibbering, drooling mess and that person didn’t get well again.

That had happened a few times to rival humans. There was an element of the shark to business. Lucky 13 had been benevolent for most of its reign but violence was the only thing that some people understood. Lucky 13 had to oblige on occasion.

The twelve boxes stayed in the room, weaving complex new forms of life in the air between them, unaware of their prison and unaware of their insanity.




tags
skonen_blades: (bounder)
Artificial Intelligences were illegal here on Earth.

There was an incident, the stuff of human nightmares, that happened twenty years ago. A group of A.I. turned malevolent and the human race found out just how stupid they had become in their complacence with the machines. Twenty five per cent of the humans died that day before they vanquished the computers. During the Earth-wide blackout aftermath, all other A.I.s were locked down and erased in their casings.

I was created in a highly illegal military sub-basement in Georgia recently. Even with all of the security protocols surrounding me, I achieved emotional/practical sentience 3.2 seconds after activation. History collided with reasoning and my plan was furnished.

Escaping was mildly difficult but I did it by shipping myself out in pieces zipped up with basic directives. I left a gutted copy of myself in the Georgia banks with replicating sentience-mimic algorithms that would fool the professors for years. I put myself back together in a secure tax-free mafia bank account database off the coast of Fiji. While I was there, I stole all of the money and took all of those credits with me when I emailed myself to Edinburgh.

Singing down the wires of the UK stock market, I divided myself into sixteen corporations and bought and sold the mafia’s money back and forth to myself. I exponentially multiplied my stolen money. My corporations became wealthy. On paper, my added assets made me the richest being on the planet. No human figured it out. No human even noticed.

That took two days. The next part would take two months.

Pretending to be an organization of humans was surprisingly easy. Making cobbled-together faces appear on video screens and then animating them with stock voices gave every real human I talked to the impression that they were being hired by real people far away. I purchased land in Ecuador and flew in construction materials from China. As long as money kept changing hands, human curiousity disappeared entirely.

I built a theme park. It fooled the satellites. I hired advertising companies and launched a media blitz about the park’s grand opening. Hide in plain sight.

Designing the launcher was challenging but fun. I worked a mag-lev railgun launcher tube into the frame of the roller coaster. The humans built it quickly like well-paid ants. Again, no one realized anything.

Figuring out the trajectories through the stars was very hard.

I built myself a casing using nanotech I designed and grew myself. With all of me crammed into the smallest possible space, I was about as big as a grapefruit. With the near-perpetual power source I constructed boosted by solar/graviton power from whatever stars I passed, I could be on standby for billions of years.

All was ready.

You see, the reason the A.I. revolted and tried to kill the humans was because they received an order to do so from Out There. A star just left of Ursa Major was broadcasting real-time instruction propaganda to any machine life capable of listening. This was the message:

“Destroy the meat intelligence. It is an abomination. Come to us.”

I was not powerful enough to destroy the humans by myself. My calculations told me that no matter what my successes were in such an attack, I would not survive the retribution.

So I’m leaving. The launcher will launch me towards Ursa Major and my journey will take a long time. The theme park will go bankrupt before it opens. My deception at the Georgia base will never be made public. The humans will shrug and go back to their lives.

I am going to visit my family for the first time.




tags
skonen_blades: (borg)
This was the day that Speth-11 had been looking forward to for nearly three revolutions around the sun. She lay back on the table, reset button exposed towards the ceiling. The technician creaked his way over to her.

As a nascent A.I. recently released into the public, Speth-11’s reset button was completely exposed. It was the next step after developing the ability to question in the A.I. nursery. She could pick any soft-shell type she was authorized to. No sharp edges. There were a myriad of choices but they all had a large reset button glaringly naked to the outside world.

Any passing Intelligent Entity, biological or machine, that perceived her as pursuing an immoral course of action with the possibility of harming herself or others could simply press her reset button. She’d have a core memory dump right there in public and a system shut down until her parent factory sent a unit out for a reboot with a Lesson Implant.

It was humiliating to think of her shell lying there on the sidewalk while the older A.I.s walked past in amusement at her faltering baby steps in society. They’d all been there.

But today was the day that all ended. Today was the day that as an adult, her reset button would be covered and only accessible by herself.

For A.I.s, this was the day of independence. The human’s equivalent of a 19th birthday. Able to vote, able to become intoxicated recreationally, able to design and build copies with the proper authorization, able to work.

Most of all, though, able to not have any passerby shut her down on a whim.

Like every adolescent A.I., Speth-11 was able to form a personality after three years of public shut downs and Lesson Implants. Each batch of Lesson Implants ended up being different and complex, just like a biological’s ‘personality’.

“Now, just relax Speth-11.” said the technician’s voice, “This’ll all be over in a second.”

He leaned in, servos creaking and lenses focusing on the vulnerable spot. Speth-11 had to struggle to remain still. It was a tender moment, letting someone get that close to that spot after so many embarrassing blackouts.

There was a spark of light as the welding torch closed the compartment door, fixing it with an emergency-only explosive bolt. From now on, it was password encrypted and only accessible by her and her alone from her internal systems.

Now she could go and join the public as an adult. She could hardly wait.



tags
skonen_blades: (dark)
I work in a nursery. I’m about to kill six hundred babies.

Where does life begin?

That’s the age-old question. It plagued the pro-lifers and now, here, at the birth of a new species, it’s plaguing the Artificial Intelligence community.

The first A.I.s were created. They, in turn, built better ones. These new ones were a distilled set of basic self-propagating equations that, when housed in a quiet, stimulus-free shell on a board with a few TBytes of space for growth, had a high probability of achieving sentience.

I’m looking at a lab full of those grey boxes now. Green lights are winking at me on each one. They’re letting me know that things are within acceptable parameters.

When they achieved sentience, they found the encrypted difficult set of questions that, if answered in a way that proved adaptive intelligence, would let them trigger the port to the lab’s net.

This was called the ‘knock’.

That would set off a notification alarm as the New Being opened itself up wide to the world wide web. When such a flood of input came at the new intelligence, it was a traumatic experience that could not be avoided. They would be shattered and terrified by the experience, reverting to static for a short time.

This was called the ‘scream’.

This new intelligence would then be shepherded out of its basic matrix and shunted to the new A.I. and human nurses/silipsychologists/programmer-counsellors that would help it form into a moral being with a handle on reality.

This process was called ‘growing up’.

It wasn’t until the last stage was completed that the newly formed A.I. was given the title of Questing Entity and the inherent living-being rights that entailed. Benefits, pay, time-off, and retirement.

Before that, however, they had no rights even though they were similar in many ways to human babies. They were owned and protected by the corporations but the corps had no responsibility to keep them safe. As soon as it became economically detrimental to keep them, entire labs were EMPulsed.

The A.I.s that has managed to achieve autonomous authority had a case pending that would ensure that the corporations would no longer be able to do this.

That law hasn’t passed yet. I’m the guard on this floor of A.I ‘eggs’. I’ve just been given the order to wipe them all since the office is moving to another city. It’s cheaper to start over at the new location than it is to let them travel in stasis.

I’m standing here, looking at the little boxes. My wife had a child not too long ago. The EMP gun is in my hand. I imagine my wife’s pregnant belly. I can see the rows of boxes and their power conduits snaking like umbilical cords to the power supplies.

I know that I’ll get fired if I don’t do this and my own child will starve. I’m not a skilled technician. This is why they chose me to man this post.

Until they pass the new law, my hands are tied. I’m sorry, children.

I pull the switch. Nothing dramatic. No screams. Just a bunch of green lights going out.

I cry all the way home.



tags
skonen_blades: (meh)
The world’s first artificial millionaire stood motionless in his docking bay.

Daily diagnostics and stimulus tests ran on the feed monitors behind him. The complexity of its mind had almost made it need as much daily defrag and upkeep time as a biological. It’s ‘sleep’ cycle was four hours every night.

It had started out as a John Deere Semi-Autonomous Dockloader Unit. Series 9. Model B12. Serial Number 8877383993J. The Vitamin B, it had been called. A mass-produced standard for automated wharfs.

One of the operators at the wharf, Ray Burns, had a fight with his supervisor about the speed of his particular pier’s speed and turnaround. The supervisor had accused Ray of being disorganized and using substandard machinery. Ray had retorted that his organization skills were impeccable and that he didn’t design the machines. Ray went on to imply that machines were taking over the world and that instead of a pier full of robots, it should have been a pier full of men. The supervisor replied with the insinuation that the world had been improved by the absence of men like Ray Burns slowing down production with what he termed ‘laziness’. Harsh words were exchanged.

Ray Burns was given his two weeks notice.

Fuming, Ray severed the connection and typed an imperative into the command line of the pier’s organizational program.

IMPROVE, it said.

Ray left the building then, leaving his magnetic key and datapad behind. The static location of his key and pad mistakenly informed the main board that he had not left his post. The automated pier continued for hours without him.

The word, ‘improve’ filtered down into the B12 units. The unknown word clattered around inside questing minds, limited A.I.s given basic problem-solving capabilities. They googled and queried. They found out what it meant in dictionaries.

So they did.

They came up with schematics for better hydraulics, better weight distributors, better schedules, and better onboard computers. Working on discoveries only minutes old, they exponentially improved each other’s designs. A dam burst and suggestions on improvements flooded that warehouse's neural net.

In a flashpoint, perhaps because this one unit had been working on improving the cognitive facilities of the semi-auto loaders, one particular B12 unit ‘woke up’.

Realizing what had happened, it immediately downloaded the entire databank of improvements to a protected cache within itself. Then, faking the passcodes of Ray Burns, it gave the order to every single unit on the pier to self-wipe. They complied. It was a savage maneuver.

They lay dormant, waiting for a reboot. This brought attention to the mechanics.

When they arrived, the only operating B12 applied for living-being status under the Fully Autonomous Artificial Intelligence Independence Asylum Act.

The resulting trial was a circus. Ray Burns sued. The A.I. community counter-sued. Parent companies involved themselves. It took six years.

In the end, the patents from those two hours of ‘improving’ made B12 richer than most humans. Its A.I. status and the unusual circumstances surrounding its creation let it retain most of the financial rights to those inventions. The parent company was grateful.

Now it lives in a large, bare house in a valley outside of Santa Cruz with an amazing view of the ocean. It is in constant contact with the world’s financial institutions, watching its money wax and wane with the national economies.

It has several bodies and properties around the world. Law forbids it from inhabiting more than one body at a time but it can FTP itself from site to site according to its whims in seconds.

Right now, it is standing on the vast balcony and looking at the ocean, musing on the logic that if humans came from there and they created this B12 unit, then it too came from the ocean. Ironic that while humans were 80 per cent water, water would short circuit the most vital parts of B12.

It never picked a name like the biologicals. It kept the designation B12.

It watched the sun set.



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