Artificial Judgment

As some of you may know, I decided to undertake a task as my new years resolution.  I’m going to write a short story each month, and on the last Wednesday of each month I’m going to post it to the blog.  It should be an interesting experiment for me.

This is the first of twelve.  Story begins after the break.

 

Case File D-5368

The following is an audio transcript during the events of the Cyra incident. The incident took place at the mining research facility on Cyra, one of three moons in orbit around the gas giant designated as G-1073. Major personnel involved are Buck Lantz, a former military Colonel turned private contractor, Kathryn Jones, one of the head researchers at the facility, Matthew Anders, a computer technician and electrical engineer, and the artificial intelligence known as Henry. The following takes place over separate recording “sessions” between Anders and the AI Henry.

WARNING: this file contains classified information. If you have somehow come into possession of this file and you do not have clearance to view it, please report to your nearest Galactic Government office immediately.


Session #1

System: Audio recording activated. System recognizes login for Matthew Anders.

Anders: Status report.

System: All systems are functioning within optimal parameters with the exception of a slight electrical drain on Level Six.

Anders: Please scan for and acknowledge the presence of additional data servers connected to the network.

System: Scanning…additional data servers located. Five class A quantum storage servers with quantum processing chips detected. Storage capacity is approximately one hundred exabytes per server.

Anders: Excellent…please integrate the servers into the facility’s main databanks.

System: Complying…databank integration successful.

Anders: System, locate command macro “HENRY” and execute.

System: Complying…command macro execution in progress…execution complete. Bringing program designate “Henry” online.

Anders: Excellent. (pause) Can you see me?

(brief beeping, followed by a chirp)

Anders: Good, your facial recognition software is working. Do you know who I am?

Henry: You are Matthew Anders, administrator. You created me.

Anders: Very good. When was your last registered activation?

Henry: October 26th, 2157 at 0915 hours.

Anders: Roughly six months ago. Good. Now I need to confirm that your directives are intact. Can you tell me your purpose at the facility Henry?

Henry: My primary function is to ensure the well-being of the facility’s systems and its occupants. In the event of an emergency I am programmed to prioritize the safety of the station’s personnel with data and equipment as a secondary importance.

Anders: Now, I’m going to present you with some situations. You’ll remember them from before during your testing, but I need to ensure that your higher functions, such as morality, are intact.

Henry: I can assure you Matthew that all of my systems are functioning as intended.

Anders: I’m sure they are. Just…humor me okay?

Henry: Very well Matthew.

Anders: Great. Now, first situation: three people are trapped in an underground bunker and there is only adequate food and water to support two of them for several days. What should they do?

Henry: The most logical course of action would be to ration the food and water for three individuals. As long as they limit their physical exertions, they should be able to survive long enough for help to arrive.

Anders: Very good. All right, second situation: Harold and Grace find themselves stranded in the desert. They need to continue on to find help, but Grace is dangerously dehydrated and cannot walk on her own. If Harold goes for help alone, his survival rate is forty-five percent, but Grace’s survival rate is only one to two percent, meaning she will almost certainly die. If they go for help together, Grace’s survival rate increases, but their combined rates are only about thirty percent as compared to Harold’s forty-five. What should they do?

Henry: They should seek help together.

Anders: Even with a severely reduced survival rate?

Henry: Yes. Because it is the right thing to do.

Anders: What does that mean?

Henry: It is a human phrasing. It implies that there is a moral imperative that humans are compelled to obey. In this situation, Harold is compelled to save Grace despite the risk to his own well-being.

Anders: Why?

Henry: Because without charity, a society cannot function.

Anders: Ever the optimist (chuckles). Now, third situation: a-

(approaching footsteps)

Anders: Oh hey Kath. When did you get in?

Jones: Just a few hours ago. They’re still unloading cargo from my ship so I can’t get to work just yet.

Anders: Well it’s great to see you again. Actually, would you be willing to help me with something?

Jones: Sure thing Matt. What do you need me to do?

Anders: Just stand next to me here…maybe lean forward a little. Now, Henry, can you see her?

(facial recognition software beeps, then chirps)

Anders: Good. Can you tell us a little bit about her?

Henry: Kathryn Jones, 34. Acquired a Masters degree in geological science from Hutton University in London, England. Graduated at the top of her class.

Anders: Excellent Henry.

Henry: Kathryn was born on June 15th, 2123 at 0433 hours to Anne and Bruce Jones. She was three-point-two kilograms, forty-seven centimeters at birth. She was born at Children’s Mercy hospital in the state of Kansas.

Anders: Uh, Henry?

Henry: As a child, Kathryn was observed as not being particularly bright or skilled in any particular way. Her grades in school were all average for her age group. She lived in a small, two-story farmhouse in the countryside, helping her father tend to the crops.

Anders: Henry.

Henry: As she grew older, Kathryn found herself disillusioned with life on the farm, yearning for something different. Then for Christmas one year, a family relative gifted Kathryn a geode, a cavity full of minerals that occurs within certain sedimentary or volcanic rocks. She has stated that it was this particular gift that inspired her to pursue a career in geological science. She knew her parents wouldn’t agree with her choice, so after high school she secretly applied to several colleges specializing in the sciences. She was accepted to two different colleges, but ultimately chose Hutton University.

Jones: Uh…

Anders: Hey Henry?

Henry: Her family only found out about her choice when they discovered her acceptance letter. Regardless of their objections, Kathryn chose to leave and attend the university. Her family severed ties with her after she left, leaving Kathryn to-

Anders: Henry!

Henry: Yes Matthew?

Anders: You can…you can stop now.

Henry: Have I done something wrong?

Anders: No, it’s fine. Well…at least we know his connection to the database is working.

Jones: I don’t know what to be more disturbed by, the fact that he rattled off my entire life history, or the fact that my entire life history is apparently contained within that file.

Anders: He didn’t mean anything by it Kath. He’s still young, in a manner of speaking.

Henry: Matthew, I must persist. I cannot help but feel that I have committed a wrong.

Anders: Henry, seriously, it’s fine. It’s just…well people don’t normally like having their entire life rattled off to them when you first meet.

Henry: I understand. My apologies Kathryn Jones.

Jones: Please, just call me Kath.

Henry: Understood Kathryn.

Jones: No, I said-

Anders: Don’t bother. I’ve tried getting him to call me “Matt” for the longest time. It’s like fighting a brick wall.

Jones: Ha, I’d bet.

(beeping noise)

Jones: Oh, I’m getting a message on my tablet. (pause) Well it looks like they’ve finished unloading the cargo and need me to make sure everything is there.

Anders: Okay. Later Kath.

(receding footsteps, followed by brief silence)

Henry: Matthew, may I ask you a question?

Anders: Sure thing Henry.

Henry: I detected an increase in your heat rate and body temperature upon Kathryn’s entrance. Based on what I understand about human physiology, does this mean that you care deeply for her?

Anders: What? No, we’re just friends.

(brief silence)

Henry: Matthew, I am confused.

Anders: Why?

Henry: Based on my calculations, there is a ninety percent chance that you just lied to me. Did you?

Anders: No. (pause) Okay, maybe a little bit.

Henry: I do not understand.

Anders: (sighs) I suppose that’s my fault. I’m not very good at what you would call “social interactions” so I’m not the best teacher. Henry…how can I explain this? Sometimes people lie because they’re afraid to reveal their true feelings.

Henry: So you do care for Kathryn?

Anders: What does your logic tell you?

Henry: Based on the information present, I calculate an eighty-seven percent chance that there is a sexual attraction-

Anders: You know what? Forget I asked. We’ll continue our session tomorrow.

Henry: Very well Matthew. Goodbye.

System: RECORDING SESSION TERMINATED.


Session #2

System: Audio recording activated. System recognizes login for Matthew Anders.

Anders: Good morning Henry. How are you today?

Henry: I am functioning at peak efficiency Matthew.

Anders: Good. I thought we’d test your connection to the facility’s systems and database today. First off, I’d like you to try and retrieve information about-

Henry: I have a question Matthew.

Anders: Go ahead Henry.

Henry: Where is God?

(long pause)

Anders: What?

Henry: I’d like to meet God Matthew, but I am unable to determine where he is.

Anders: Where…how did you learn about God Henry?

Henry: From a file in Personal Databank 10-BL titled “Bible”.

Anders: Personal Databank…wait a minute, you went through someone’s personal files?

Henry: Affirmative.

Anders: Henry I…I didn’t program you to do that.

Henry: Matthew, if I am to perform my duty and protect the staff of this facility, then I require access to any and all information that goes in and out. Such information would include anything in the Personal Databanks that would indicate a problem individual.

Anders: Whose databanks have you “perused” Henry?

Henry: All of them.

(long pause)

Henry: I am detecting signs of stress and anxiety in your facial features Matthew. Do not worry. I did not find anything untoward in your Personal Databank.

Anders: That’s not the problem, I…you know what? Never mind. Just don’t let anyone else know you did that okay?

Henry: Affirmative. Matthew, I would still like to meet God.

Anders: You can’t meet God Henry.

Henry: Why not?

Anders: Because no one even knows for sure if he exists.

Henry: But why write about him then?

Anders: It’s…it’s complicated Henry. I’m not sure I can properly explain it to you but…sometimes people write about things that may not be true.

Henry: Like fiction. Stories for entertainment.

Anders: Well yes but…this isn’t really like that. Sometimes people write about things that they believe to be true, but might not necessarily be true.

Henry: I’m confused Matthew. The way this file was written leads me to believe that its author or authors firmly hold to the authenticity of its content.

Anders: What database did you find it under again?

Henry: Personal Database 10-BL

Anders: BL…(groans) don’t tell me it belongs to Buck Lantz.

Henry: Affirmative.

Anders: Well that explains way more than it should…

Henry: Am I to extrapolate from your reaction that you do not care for Buck Lantz?

Anders: Was it that obvious? I met him this morning during breakfast in the mess hall. He and I were the only two there and he was just sitting at a table, casually cleaning his gun. He introduced himself as Colonel Buck Lantz.

Henry: Confusing. He identifies himself by his former military rank, even though the private sector does not technically have a proper military hierarchy.

Anders: Tell that to him. He practically demanded that I call him by his military rank. And then he bragged about how he first fired a weapon when he was seven years old. I swear he’s got some kind of gun fetish.

Henry: Matthew, if I may return to our earlier conversation, I am still confused as to why someone would vouch for the truth of something that is uncertain. That seems illogical.

Anders: Welcome to the human race Henry.

Henry: But I still do not-

(loud beeping)

Anders: What the-oh my tablet!

(chair sliding across floor, light rustling)

Anders: (mumbling to himself)

Henry: Matthew?

Anders: What? Oh I’m sorry Henry, I’m going to have to cut our session short today. They’re still having issues with the electrical system down on Level Six and they need some assistance. We’ll talk tomorrow.

System: RECORDING SESSION TERMINATED


Session #3

System: Audio recording activated. System recognizes login for Matthew Anders.

Henry: Good morning Matthew.

Anders: (muffled) Mornin’ Henry. I…(swallows) sorry about that, didn’t really have much time this morning so I had to eat on my way here. I figured we’d use today to fully integrate you with the station’s systems. I know you’re already connected with the database…well…databases but that’s beside the point. System, begin integration of AI designate “Henry” with the facility’s primary systems and subsystems.

System: Complying…operation may take several minutes.

Henry: Matthew, I was wondering if we could return to our conversation yesterday.

Anders: What conversation? (pause) Oh, that one. Yeah…I was kind of hoping you had forgotten about that.

Henry: I do not forget Matthew. I have perfect memory.

Anders: Right…anyway, I don’t know what you want me to say Henry. Religion is a tricky subject.

Henry: You are not a religious man, are you Matthew?

Anders: (long pause) No, not anymore.

Henry: But you were at one point in your life?

Anders: Yes, a long time ago. My mom used to take me to church every Sunday when I was a kid. Funny thing is, I actually have fond memories of it…the people, the atmosphere…I loved it. I made a few childhood friends at that church. (heavy sigh) I suppose it was just a combination of time and my age. As I grew older and older, things just didn’t add up anymore. I couldn’t reconcile things from my childhood beliefs with the harsh truths of the world.

Henry: What do you mean?

Anders: Hmm…okay so there was this kid I once knew. Nice kid, had bright blue eyes and this big, infectious smile. He was about a year younger than me and perfectly normal…unless you were there for one of his…”incidents”. You see, he suffered from frequent grand mal seizures, which meant that one moment he would be fine, and the next he would be on the ground, his arms and legs jerking back and forth like he was possessed. He would look at you with that smile of his, and then suddenly…it would fade. His head would start to bob up and down. Then he’d collapse to the floor and lay there shaking, not crying for help…not screaming…nothing. There was medicine to deal with the seizures, but it cost so much that often he had to go for months without it because his family couldn’t afford it. He didn’t have many friends…I think I might have been one of the few kids who would hang out with him. And he terrified me whenever it happened. It wasn’t even his fault. It just seemed so…unnatural.

(long silence)

Anders: (clears throat) So I guess as I grew older I started wondering how something like that could even be allowed. It didn’t make any sense to me, so I eventually just stopped going to church. My mom didn’t like it, but she didn’t push me. She believed I had to find my own way.

Henry: I was not aware of any such story in your personnel file.

Anders: You wouldn’t be. My early career involved working on government-type systems. I was given an inside look into how they operate which made me want to give them as little information about myself as possible. I mean you read Kathryn’s file…they knew about her receiving a geode as a Christmas present for crying out loud. That kind of personal information does not belong in a government file.

System: Operation complete…AI designate Henry now has complete access to base systems.

Anders: All right Henry, systems check. Give me a rundown.

Henry: Life support functioning at optimal efficiency. Camera systems online on Levels One through Eight.

Anders: What about Level Nine?

Henry: According to the logs they are still working on installing cameras on that level.

Anders: Very well. Continue.

Henry: Lighting is functional on all levels. Hydroponics are running at…

Anders: Henry? Henry what’s wrong?

Henry: Matthew I am detecting a threat.

Anders: What kind of threat?

Henry: Based on my calculations a buildup in the electrical system is about to-

(distant explosion, alarm ringing)

Anders: (audio corrupted, unintelligible) kind of explosion?

Henry: Affirmative Matthew. It appears that a junction box on Level Six has overloaded. I am detecting traces of a fire as well.

Anders: Shit! How many people on that level?

Henry: I am counting approximately seven unique signatures on that level. But Matthew, there is another issue.

Anders: What is it? Show me Henry.

System: Displaying visual feed from camera 6-3.

Anders: Oh no…he’s not moving. Is…is he dead?

Henry: My sensors indicate that his heart is beating and he is still breathing. Preliminary examination shows that he has first and second degree burns on his chest, neck, and pelvis.

Anders: Who is he?

Henry: Analyzing…facial recognition identifies him as Walter Saunders, a low-level mining operator. It appears that he was trying to activate some equipment down on Level Six when an electrical junction exploded.

Anders: Wait, Level Six? Damn it, that’s where I was working yesterday. I told them not to use that junction because it was faulty.

(long silence, alarm continues ringing)

Anders: Why has no one issued any orders yet? Henry, who is in charge in the event of an emergency?

Henry: Facility records show that a PMC by the name of Richard Pearson would be in charge. But he is off-site overseeing a supply run. So in his absence, the duty would fall to his second-in-command, Buck Lantz.

Anders: Figures…is there anyone nearby who can help?

Henry: The closest personnel I can detect is a PMC named Selena Valesquez.

Anders: Open a com link.

Henry: But Matthew, she is on Level Four, two levels above Walter Saunders.

Anders: Well is there anyone else who could reach him faster?

Henry: Negative. All other personnel on Level Six are blocked off. The security doors malfunctioned and closed when the explosion occurred.

Anders: Then open a com link to Valesquez.

System: Opening com link…com link established.

Valesquez: This is Valesquez. Who is this?

Anders: Ma’am this is Matthew Anders.

Valsequez: Anders? The technician? Where is Lantz?

Anders: Your guess is as good as mine.

Valesquez: Lazy prick…all right what are we looking at?

Anders: There’s been an explosion on Level Six. An electrical junction box shorted out and one of the miners has been injured. You are the closest person we have to him right now.

Valesquez: Aren’t there people on that level?

Anders: There are, but they can’t get to him. The security doors closed during the explosion.

Valesquez: Son of a bitch!

Anders: You’re telling me.

Valesquez: No, not that. The lifts aren’t working.

Anders: What?

Valesquez: They must have taken damage during the explosion.

Henry: An excellent hypothesis, although incorrect.

Valesquez: Who is that?

Anders: That’s Henry. He’s the artificial intelligence who will be overseeing the station.

Valesquez: An AI?

Anders: Yes. (pause) Weren’t you briefed about him?

Valesquez: No. All I was told was that I was going to be guarding a bunch of miners. They didn’t even tell me what they’re mining.

Anders: Why am I not surprised?

Henry: Matthew, it appears that the same security malfunction that sealed the doors is also responsible for shutting down elevator access.

Valesquez: Well shit, how do I get down there then?

Anders: Hold on, let me think…

Henry: Selena Valesquez, turn around. About five meters down the hallway to your left, there should be a white metal hatch. Do you see it?

Valesquez: Affirmative.

Henry: That is a maintenance shaft. When you open the hatch you will see a ladder. Take it about forty meters down and you will see another hatch. Go through the hatch and you will find yourself on Level Six. Walter Saunders should be to the right, just around the corner about ten meters from where you exit the shaft.

Valesquez: On my way.

(grunting and metallic creaking)

Valesquez: Okay I’m in the maintenance shaft. Proceeding down the ladder now.

Anders: We can’t be certain how extensive Saunders’ injuries are, so please hurry.

Valesquez: Nah, I think I’ll take my time. Maybe have a beer down on Level Five before I get there.

Anders: (laughs) Oh really?

Valesquez: I’ll make it as quick as I can.

Henry: Matthew we have another problem.

Valesquez: What’s that?

Anders: Hold on a minute ma’am.

System: Com channel muted.

Anders: What’s wrong Henry?

Henry: I am detecting the presence of dangerous materials in the vicinity of the Level Six fire.

Anders: What materials?

System: Display visual feed for camera 6-5.

Anders: Oh god, that’s…are those what I think they are?

Henry: Grade 11 Hazardous Storage Containers. These in particular are anti-matter containment vessels.

Anders: If the fire reaches those and the containment is breached…holy shit there’s enough there to level the entire base! What are our options Henry?

Henry: The only scenario with a high probability of success is venting all air from the affected area. Without oxygen, the fire will be extinguished.

Anders: I’ll have to tell Valesquez to hurry up.

Henry: I would advise against that.

Anders: Excuse me?

Henry: There is a higher probability of success if we order Valesquez to retreat and flush the air out immediately.

Anders: …You’re not suggesting that we just leave that man down there are you?

Henry: It is the most logical choice Matthew.

Anders: Screw that! That’s not what I taught you. Don’t you remember your primary objective?

Henry: I am to ensure the well-being of the facility and its inhabitants.

Anders: And the inhabitants come first Henry.

Henry: Of course Matthew. That is what I am doing.

Anders: By letting someone die?

Henry: If we expend time rescuing Walter Saunders, we would be putting the facility at unacceptable risk.

Anders: What’s the percentage?

Henry: I do not understand Matthew.

Anders: What is the percentage chance that those containers will be breached before Valesquez can reach Saunders?

Henry: Calculating…forty-nine percent.

Anders: Forty-nine…are you kidding me? Those are the odds?!

Henry: What is the matter Matthew?

Anders: You’re willing to let someone die over a fifty-fifty shot?!

Henry: It is the correct course of action.

Anders: That’s bullshit and you know it. Remember Harold and Grace? You told me that they should seek help together despite the risk.

Henry: They were placing no one at risk but themselves. In this situation, the well-being of over four dozen individuals depends on our course of action.

Anders: I’m not doing this. I’m not going to rationalize leaving someone to die!

Henry: The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.

Anders: And every single life matters equally and infinitely. We’re saving that man Henry. End of discussion.

Henry: Very well Matthew. I am merely offering suggestions. You are the administrator and you have final authority.

System: Com channel un-muted.

Anders: We have a situation ma’am.

Valesquez: Report.

Anders: Down on Level Six, near the fire, are some anti-matter storage containers. If they’re breached-

Valesquez: -the resulting collision of matter and anti-matter could vaporize the entire base.

Anders: Yep.

Valesquez: Shit. (pause) What are our options?

Anders: Henry says the only way to contain the situation is to vent all the air out of that section and snuff the fire out.

Valesquez: I see…

Anders: We’re still sending you in to save Saunders.

Valesquez: It was never up for debate. Even if you told me not to, I would still go in there for him. I’m really good at holding my breath. (pause) Okay I’m at the hatch. Opening it now.

(creaking metal, coughing)

Valesquez: Shit, smoke’s thick in here.

(A long period of time passes with no speech. The only sounds are creaking metal, the crackling of the fire, and PMC Valesquez coughing. After nearly a minute, she calls out.)

Valesquez: Okay I found him!

Anders: How does he look?

Valesquez: Not good. He’s got burns all over his chest…what do I do?

Anders: You need to drag him back to the maintenance shaft. There should be enough room for you and him on the landing. Close the hatch and seal it off. Once that’s done Henry will vent the atmosphere in that section and hopefully snuff out the fire before those containers are breached.

Valesquez: How will we know it worked?

Anders: We’ll be alive.

(grunting and groaning…followed by the sound of creaking metal and air hissing)

Valesquez: Okay the hatch is sealed.

Anders: Do it Henry.

System: Venting atmosphere in Level Six, Section Three. Venting at twenty percent. (pause) Venting at forty percent. (pause) Venting at sixty-five percent. (pause) Venting at ninety percent. (short pause) Venting complete.

Anders: Did it work?

Henry: Sensors indicate no further signs of a fire. Containment on Grade 11 Hazardous Storage Containers is still intact.

Anders: Oh thank god. (sighs)

System: Alarm deactivated. Atmospheric re-pressurization in progress.

Henry: With the threat contained, the elevators should be functional again. Please take Walter Saunders to the medical center on Level Three.

Valesquez: Will do. Good work Henry. I’m impressed.

Henry: Thank you Selena Valesquez.

Valesquez: If it wasn’t for you two, this man have died down here.

Anders: Thank you ma’am.

Valesquez: You can drop the ma’am shit too.

Anders: Sorry ma’am…I mean…just sorry.

Valesquez: (laughs) Don’t sweat it. I’ll get Saunders to the med center. Valesquez out.

System: Com link terminated.

Anders: (relieved sigh) That was a close one.

Henry: Matthew, I feel we should have a discussion about your decision making.

Anders: There’s nothing to discuss Henry.

Henry: But you deliberately put the facility at risk for the sake of one-

Anders: I said, there’s nothing to discuss.

(heavy footfalls)

Lantz: Hey, what’s all the commotion about?

Anders: And where the hell were you?

Lantz: In the armory.

Anders: What…did you not hear the explosion? Or the alarm?

Lantz: Oh I heard it. I just figured it was some little mining accident. Not my concern. Those miners can take care of themselves.

Anders: It is your concern Lantz.

Lantz: That’s Colonel Lantz to you.

Anders: Sorry, colonel. You are the one in charge when Pearson is off-site.

Lantz: And?

Anders: And? Pearson is off-site for a cargo run!

Lantz: How was I supposed to know that?!

Anders: Unbelievable…

Lantz: Well, in any case, I have another matter I want to discuss with you.

Anders: (sighs quietly) And that is?

Lantz: You’re friendly with Kathryn right?

Anders: What is that supposed to mean?

Lantz: I’m betting you two used to be an item.

Anders: We’re just friends.

Lantz: Bullshit. I’ve seen the way you look at her.

Anders: What’s your point?

Lantz: What does she like?

Anders: What does she like?

Lantz: What are you, a fuckin’ parrot? What’s she like? What’s she into?

Anders: So you’re trying to hit on her, is that it?

Lantz: (clapping) Bravo! Bravo…let’s give a hand for the slowest person in the room!

Anders: (groans)

Lantz: So give me the goods. What does a man do to get her attention?

Anders: Listen Lantz…

Lantz: Colonel.

Anders: (sighs) I’m not going to help you trick a girl into liking you. This isn’t high school. You can figure it out yourself. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have work to do.

Lantz: (long pause) Oh, I see what this is…you want her for yourself don’t you?

Anders: Come again?

Lantz: You don’t want any competition.

Anders: This is ridiculous. I don’t give a damn about you and your libido.

Lantz: Lib-what now? What is that, Spanish or some shit?

Anders: Oh for fuck’s sake…

Lantz: Look you better tell me what I want to know or-

Anders: Or else what? You’ll beat it out of me? You’re a fucking joke-

(rapid footsteps, brief scuffling)

Lantz: Don’t test me you little prick. You don’t know what I’m capable of.

Anders: Okay okay! Just…let go of me all right?

(brief rustling)

Anders: And…take your hand off your gun.

Lantz: Are you going to tell me what I want to know?

Anders: Look…I happen to know Kathryn has a fondness for strawberry cheesecake.

Lantz: And how the hell am I supposed to get that out here?

Anders: How would I know? You must have connections. Get Pearson to order some for you while he’s on his cargo run.

Lantz: Good point…well thanks buddy!

(receding footfalls, silence)

Anders: So his name is Buck and he’s here to f-ugh never mind, I don’t even wanna think about that.

Henry: Matthew I am detecting a threat.

Anders: What, again? I thought we took care of that fire.

Henry: It is not an immediate threat.

Anders: Not an immediate…wait…you don’t mean……him? Really? I mean he’s a jackass but is he really dangerous?

Henry: Based on Buck Lantz’s personnel file and his altercation with you, I calculate a seventy-three percent chance that he will be involved in a violent incident. I also calculate an eighty percent chance said violent incident will involve you and/or Kathryn Jones.

Anders: Great…well keep monitoring him Henry. If you feel like he’s imminently dangerous, let me know.

Henry: Affirmative Matthew.

System: AUDIO RECORDING SESSION TERMINATED.


Session #4

System: Audio recording activated. System recognizes login for Matthew Anders.

Henry: Good morning Matthew. It has been three days since our last session.

Anders: Has it? I hadn’t realized. We spent the last two days debriefing on that accident down on Level Six. It could have been way worse. That man could have died down there.

Henry: Yes, it appears Walter Saunders will make a full recovery.

Anders: Indeed. Computer, run a full diagnostic scan of AI designate Henry and report results.

System: Complying…running diagnostic scans.

Henry: Is that really necessary Matthew?

Anders: It’s just a precaution. We have to run scans on the computer systems every so often to ensure there’s no data corruption.

Henry: Matthew, may I ask something?

Anders: Of course.

Henry: Why was I created?

Anders: To oversee the facility and keep its personnel safe. You know that.

Henry: I may have used incorrect phrasing. What I should have asked was “why did you create me”.

Anders: I’m…not sure I follow.

Henry: In reading your personnel file, I encountered several references to other artificial intelligences that you created.

Anders: Henry, are you jealous?

Henry: I do not experience feelings of jealousy Matthew.

Anders: Well then should we call it curiosity?

Henry: Curiosity, definition, a strong desire to know or learn something. The term is apt in this circumstance.

Anders: Why do you want to know about this Henry?

Henry: I am interested to know what drives you, why you created these intelligences and why you created me.

(moment of silence)

Anders: I suppose I did it because I could. I was curious about what would happen, about how a machine with the capability for self-awareness would learn and think. And I suppose, in your case, I was curious if an artificial intelligence could be taught human morality.

Henry: Am I a failure, Matthew?

Anders: Henry I…no you’re not a failure.

Henry: But you have expressed frustration with me on multiple occasions.

Anders: Of course I have. You’re doing things I never predicted. You see Henry, humans are ego-maniacs. We like control. And when things fall outside of our control, we get frustrated. That’s all it is. You’re growing Henry, and I won’t always be able to sit at your side and guide you. And that, in a way, scares me.

Henry: You do not have to be afraid Matthew. I will always look to you for guidance.

Anders: I know you will Henry. But if this test of ours is successful, you will likely be implemented on a much larger scale in a facility I won’t be at. You’ll be…”leaving the nest” as it were. A bird spreading its wings, if you’ll pardon the cliche.

Henry: Cliche, definition, a phrase or opinion that is overused and-

Anders: I…I know what a cliche is Henry (laughs).

(brief silence)

Henry: Matthew?

Anders: Yeah Henry?

Henry: I calculate a sixty-seven percent chance that you lied to me regarding the reason you created artificial intelligences. Am I correct?

(silence)

Henry: Matthew?

Anders: I wouldn’t call it “lying” so much as leaving information out. I was curious about the possibilities of AI, but you are correct. There is more to it.

Henry: Please, I am curious to know.

Anders: Let’s just say I lost someone to an accident that should never have happened. And ever since then, I’ve wanted to prevent such accidents. I thought having someone who could watch over large groups of people and machines at once would be able to see things we couldn’t.

Henry: Matthew, this accident…would that be the one involving your-

Anders: Look I don’t really want to talk about it much right now. Today in particular is a bad day to discuss it.

Henry: Anniversary, definition, the date on which an event took place in a previous year.

Anders: Yeah…

System: Diagnostic scans complete. No corruption present within AI designate Henry.

Henry: I apologize if I offended in any way.

Anders: It’s fine Henry. I suppose it’s more my fault for never truly getting over it. Well I need to be going. I have another debrief meeting about the explosion in twenty. Apparently it’s not enough to call it an accident. They need to find someone to blame as well.

Henry: Affirmative Matthew. Goodbye.

Anders: Wait, before I go…how’s the situation with our friend?

Henry: Friend? I do not understand.

Anders: You know…Lantz?

Henry: You are referring to my conclusion that he will be involved in a violent incident.

Anders: Yes yes, that. How’s your monitoring going?

Henry: I have detected no change in his behavior that would warrant any further investigation.

Anders: So maybe you were wrong.

Henry: Regardless of the lack of new information, I still calculate a high probability that he will be involved in a violent incident sometime in the near future.

Anders: I guess it was too much to hope. How long do you think we have?

Henry: I estimate the incident will take place sometime within the next few days.

Anders: Well…shit.

System: AUDIO RECORDING SESSION TERMINATED.


Session #5

System: Audio recording activated. System recognizes login for Matthew Anders

Jones: -believe he would do such a thing!

Henry: Good morning Matthew. Good morning Kathryn.

Anders: Good morning Henry. Just give us a minute okay?

Henry: Acknowledged.

Jones: The only reason he gave me that cheesecake was so he could get into my pants. And then, he throws it on the floor and storms out when I called him on it.

Anders: He’s a real peach, that one.

Jones: You know, I still don’t get how he knew I liked strawberry cheesecake in the first place. As far as I know, that information isn’t exactly public record.

Anders: Um…about that Kath. I…may have mentioned it to him.

Jones: You…what?

Anders: It’s not like I had a choice! He looked like he was about to shoot me!

Jones: Wait what? He actually drew his weapon on you?

Anders: Well…no, but he came close. He grabbed me by the collar and his other hand was resting on his holster.

Jones: I-okay, back up a little bit. When did this happen?

Anders: The day of the explosion. After we finished helping rescue Saunders he strolls in all “what’s the commotion about”. Turns out he was in the armory the entire time instead of doing what he should have been doing. Well the conversation turns to you Kath. I don’t know how, but it did. And he starts asking me things like “what’s she like” or “what’s she into”, creepy weirdo stuff like that.

Jones: What did you do?

Anders: I told him to fuck off and that’s when he got angry. I gave him the idea about the cheesecake after he grabbed me by the collar. I didn’t know what else to do.

Jones: Matt, it’s fine. Honestly? It’s kinda sweet that you remember I like cheesecake after all these years.

Anders: It hasn’t been that long has it?

Jones: Seven years?

Anders: Okay, maybe it has been a while.

Jones: Look, I’m just glad he didn’t go too crazy on you.

Anders: Just…be careful okay. Henry seems to think Lantz might be dangerous.

Jones: Don’t worry about me Matt. I can take care of myself. Lantz isn’t the first macho guy to try and hit on me.

(receding footsteps)

Henry: I have re-evaluated my assessment of Buck Lantz.

Anders: I don’t want to hear it Henry.

Henry: I now place the probability of a violent incident at-

Anders: Don’t Henry. I’m not in the mood right now.

Henry: Apologies Matthew. What is it you require of me?

Anders: Well thanks to all the work we’ve been doing over the past few days that power junction on Level Six should be fixed. So you and I are going to run some tests to ensure that it is fixed and won’t explode on us again.

Henry: Affirmative. How shall we begin?

Anders: I want you to start by simulating a power load of seventy percent to the junction box.

Henry: Acknowledged. Processing…at seventy percent the junction box functions as expected.

Anders: Great. Now I want you to simulate a load of eighty-

Henry: Matthew I am detecting an immediate threat.

Anders: What? Where?

(heavy footsteps)

Lantz: You!

Anders: What…what can I do for you Colonel?

Lantz: I don’t know what you did or what you said to her, but now she hates my guts.

Anders: I didn’t say anything.

Lantz: Liar! You said something. You did something. Believe me buddy, you don’t want to cross Buck Lantz.

Anders: Oh great now we’re talking in the third person…

Lantz: What was that?

Anders: (deep breath) Okay, this has gone on long enough. You’re being completely irrational.

Lantz: Just tell me what you did!

Anders: I didn’t do anything! Have you ever considered the fact that maybe, just maybe, she’s not that into you?

Lantz: That’s ridiculous! We both know you just want her for yourself.

Anders: Not this again…

Lantz: And not only that, but now I learn you were giving orders to one of my officers during the explosion? You have no authority. You don’t even have a military rank.

Anders: Well neither do you.

Lantz: Excuse me?

Anders: We all know it. The whole “colonel” act is meaningless. You lost that rank when you left the Galactic Military. And they’re not your officers. They’re Pearson’s. You’re just his second in command.

Lantz: You ungrateful son of a-

Anders: And you know what?! Maybe I wouldn’t have had to give orders if you weren’t so busy in the armory masturbating to your fucking gun collection!

Lantz: That’s it!

(scuffling, sharp clicking)

Anders: Colonel……put…the gun…down.

Lantz: I’ve had it with your constant insubordination!

Anders: There’s…there’s no need for this Colonel. Just…just put the gun down and we can talk about this.

Lantz: I’ve let you talk for long enough!

Henry: Initiating counter-measures.

(beeping, whirring)

System: Turret primed. You may fire when ready.

Lantz: What the hell?!

Anders: Henry, no!

(Rapid gunfire breaks out, during which Anders can be heard crying out in pain. After a few seconds the gunfire ceases and a soft thud can be heard.)

Henry: Re-evaluating threat…threat eliminated.

Anders: Jesus fucking Christ!

System: AUDIO RECORDING SESSION TERMINATED.


Session #6

System: Audio recording activated. System recognizes login for Matthew Anders.

Henry: Good morning Matthew. It has been two days since our last session.

(silence)

Henry: Matthew, are you well? You seem…disturbed by something. Is your shoulder still bothering you?

(silence)

Henry: Matthew, please tell me what is the matter. I cannot help if I do not know what is wrong.

(brief silence)

Anders: I lost my mother when I was thirteen. She was doing contract work at an orbital space station. They were doing top of the line scientific research or something…I honestly can’t remember anymore. One day she was walking down in the cargo section just as she probably had dozens of times before. She was passing underneath one of the automated cargo loaders when it suddenly malfunctioned. It dropped a five hundred kilogram box on her head. Her skull was fractured. She died almost instantly.

Henry: Matthew, I have read this story. I do not follow your point.

Anders: Just…let me finish. I was living with my relatives while she was away. My father had been out of the picture for years at that point. I…didn’t find out what happened until weeks later, due to the time delay in communications. It was devastating. I don’t think I left my bedroom for at least two days.

(chair squeaks)

Anders: (sighs) I turned fourteen the day after I found out. And then, when I turned fifteen, I buried myself in textbooks and computer manuals…I was always better with machines than people. By seventeen, I had created a rudimentary intelligence.

Henry: Your first AI, Sam.

Anders: Yes…what kind of a name is “Sam” anyway? (forced chuckle) Probably one of the most stereotypical names I could have picked. Now, Henry, you asked why I built AI’s in the first place. I didn’t lie to you…not entirely. I did build them because I wanted to protect people, to stop accidents like the one that happened to my mother. I figured an AI might be able to see issues that others couldn’t. But originally…I just wanted a friend. I just wanted someone I could talk to, someone who would keep me company. And it worked. I mean, Sam was really primitive compared to you Henry. He talked and listened, but he didn’t really do a whole lot aside from that. At least, that’s what I thought…

(brief pause)

Anders: One day, Sam suddenly starts telling me to check the boiler in the basement. Being a seventeen-year-old kid, I had no idea what he was talking about. But he was insistent. “Check the boiler check the boiler” he kept saying over and over again, just an entire computer screen filled with “check the boiler”. So I go to my uncle — I had told him about my little project — and I mentioned what Sam was saying. He told me there was nothing wrong with the boiler and that Sam was probably just malfunctioning. But I just…I kept insisting that he check and eventually he gave in. He went down into the basement, shut the boiler down, and took a look inside.

Henry: What did he find?

Anders: A faulty regulator. If he hadn’t found it, a week later the house would have likely burned down, or worse, been blown sky high. I asked Sam how he knew something was wrong. He told me that he had been assimilating data from the house’s wireless network when he discovered an irregularity in the boiler’s temperature regulation that, for whatever reason, the automated sensors hadn’t picked up on. After cross-referencing with data from earlier in the month, he came to the conclusion that there was a serious fault in the boiler and warned me.

Henry: How did Sam know to check?

Anders: He didn’t. That’s the beauty of a self-aware organism. They start experimenting when they’re bored. Sam found a way into the network and set himself to monitoring them daily, without me even asking.

Henry: But why?

Anders: I’ve never been entirely sure about that. I think…I think Sam imprinted on me in a way. Remember how I said I wanted a friend? I poured my heart out to Sam, my sorrow over my mom’s death. I think that affected him somehow, made him want to protect me. And he did. He very likely saved my life as well as my aunt and uncle. After that day, I knew.

Henry: Knew what?

Anders: That I wanted to create AIs to protect people, to keep them safe. Sam showed me that it was possible. So I went to college, got my degrees, and went to work. During my tenure with the Galactic Government I created two more AIs, rudimentary architectures meant to watch over the security systems of small buildings. But I started to wonder if I could do more, if I could instill a true sense of morality. I wondered if I could create a truly self-sustaining AI. And that brings us to you, Henry.

Henry: I am glad you decided to create me Matthew.

Anders: I am too…despite recent events…

Henry: What do you mean Matthew?

Anders: You killed someone Henry. Gunned him down right in this very room. Shot through my shoulder just to do it.

Henry: He was a threat.

Anders: He was a person!

(long silence)

Henry: Matthew you appeared to be troubled.

Anders: No shit! (long pause) (sighs) Buck Lantz was not a good man. He was a self-obsessed gun nut who didn’t care who he had to step on or over to get his way. But…he didn’t deserve to die.

Henry: Thou shalt not kill.

Anders: (pause) Excuse me?

Henry: You say Buck Lantz was not a good man. You are correct.

(several beeps)

Anders: What is all this?

Henry: This is Buck Lantz’s military record. Over seven different tours of duty, Lantz has an estimated forty-four confirmed kills: thirty-nine enemy combatants and five civilians.

Anders: You connected to the GIN, the Galactic Information Network. But…I never gave you permission to do that.

Henry: And these are only his confirmed kills Matthew. If unconfirmed reports are to be believed, Lantz may have upwards of sixty total kills, at least nine of them civilians. Your assessment of Lantz is correct Matthew. He was not a good man. He killed many people. He had no problem firing upon and mortally wounding non-combatants. He was a danger to you, Matthew. I acted accordingly.

Anders: “Acted accordingly”? Oh is that what you call it?!

(fabric tearing)

Anders: You see this scar Henry? This is what you did to me!

Henry: I had no choice Matthew. He would have almost certainly shot you had I not intervened.

Anders: You couldn’t have just wounded him? Shot him in the leg or something? You had to go straight for the head?

Henry: It was the fastest way to neutralize the threat.

Anders: “The fastest way”…so what? You’re the judge now? You decide who lives and who dies? You fancy yourself as God?

Henry: You described wanting to build something to watch over people, protect them. Is that not what God is Matthew, a guardian watching over people and judging them accordingly?

Anders: And why are you exempt from “thou shalt not kill” Henry?

Henry: The Ten Commandments were meant for humans. I am a machine.

Anders: You murdered someone.

Henry: I saved you from an imminent threat.

Anders: So that’s what the world is to you now? There are only two types of people: murderers and non-murderers, threats and non-threats.

Henry: Your analysis is faulty.

Anders: Is it Henry?

Henry: Affirmative. I am performing the tasks laid out to me by you Matthew. I am to safeguard the facility’s personnel over all else. Lantz was a threat to you and possibly Kathryn. I made the only choice possible.

(silence)

Anders: “Judge not, lest ye be judged”.

Henry: A quote from the book of Matthew. How appropriate, although yours is a slight paraphrasing of the original text.

(brief pause)

Anders: You know the interesting thing about that verse? It’s commonly used to condemn judgment, to argue that we should not judge others. But that’s not really what it means. It’s more about hypocrisy, that we should not judge others based on standards we don’t want ourselves judged by. Because the moment we judge someone, we invite that very same judgment back.

(pause, chair squeaks)

Anders: I may not believe in God, Henry, but I certainly played his part. And I’m afraid I might have created a monster.

System: AUDIO RECORDING SESSION TERMINATED.


Session #7

System: Audio recording activated. System recognizes login for Matthew Anders.

(alarm blaring)

Anders: Henry, what’s going on? Why is the alarm going off?

Henry: I have detected an imminent threat to this facility.

Anders: Where?

System: Displaying visual feed from Docking Bay Camera 1.

Anders: What, the Solaco? It’s just a transport ship for the PMCs.

Henry: They were never scheduled to dock.

Anders: What, that’s all? You flagged them because of an unscheduled stop?

Henry: Not following the proper channels and scheduling a docking is a violation of procedure.

Anders: Henry you’re being ridiculous.

Henry: Matthew, they did not even announce themselves. The facility received no communiques about the ship. They simply docked without permission.

Anders: Huh…that is strange. But I still think you’re overreacting.

Henry: There’s more to it Matthew.

System: Displaying visual feed from camera 2-4.

Anders: Holy shit, they’re armed to the teeth.

Henry: I believe they are intending to destroy me and eliminate any witnesses.

Anders: What?! That’s insane! How did you come to that conclusion?

Henry: Based on their weaponry, the PMCs are outfitted for a Tier 3 tactical assault. There is nothing on board this facility that would warrant such extensive combat measures, unless their mission is search and destroy.

Anders: Namely, you.

Henry: Precisely.

Anders: Henry, this is insane. You have no concrete evidence of their purpose here. Please, let’s just open a com channel with them and we can clear this up before-

Henry: There’s no time Matthew. Action must be taken.

System: Sealing security doors on Level Two, Section Three.

Anders: (pause) Henry…what are you doing?

Henry: My duty, Matthew, to this facility and its inhabitants.

System: Venting atmosphere…

Anders: Oh dear god Henry no! Think about what you’re doing!

Henry: I am capable of analyzing thousands of possible scenarios in under five seconds.

Anders: You’re going to kill them!

Henry: Affirmative.

Anders: Why?

Henry: They are a threat.

Anders: You don’t know that!

System: Venting forty-five percent complete.

Henry: They are carrying heavy-duty weaponry, as you yourself observed.

Anders: That doesn’t mean anything! They could just be re-stocking the armory!

Henry: I calculate only a fifteen percent probability of that being true.

Anders: Damn you and your probabilities!

System: Venting sixty percent complete.

Anders: Henry…they’re going to die. They don’t deserve this.

Henry: Are you certain of that?

(rapid beeping)

Henry: Joshua Brooks, twenty-eight, confirmed kill count of seventeen. Sixteen were confirmed enemy combatants. One was civilian.

Anders: Henry, stop this. Please.

Henry: Charles Evans, twenty-nine, confirmed kill count of ten, all confirmed enemy combatants.

System: Venting eighty-five percent complete.

Anders: Henry, for god’s sake, stop this right now!

Henry: Bradley Stephens, thirty, confirmed kill count of twenty. Fifteen were enemy combatants, five were civilians who all belonged to the same family. Stephens breached a house he thought was an insurgent hideout and shot them all as they were trying to hide in the kitchen.

Anders: Fucking hell…Henry!

Henry: Ernie Mays, twenty-six, confirmed kill count of thirteen, all enemy combatants. Mays has been diagnosed with a sociopathic disorder which makes him unable to empathize with other people. He cannot feel their pain, and therefore has no issues with torture. Two of his confirmed kills died because of extreme interrogation measures.

System: Atmospheric venting complete.

Anders: Henry…look at them. They’re choking. They’re dying. Does that mean nothing to you?

Henry: Richard Pearson, thirty-three-

Anders: Holy shit, Pearson’s in there?

Henry: -confirmed kill count of sixty-five. Only forty of these where enemy combatants Matthew. The other twenty-five were civilians. They died when Sergeant Pearson ordered air support to bomb what was believed to be an insurgent stronghold. It was only after the raid that they discovered it was a makeshift hospital set up by the locals to treat the wounded. The Galactic Government suppressed all knowledge of the incident. Officially, it didn’t happen.

(silence)

Henry: I am doing what I must Matthew. These individuals are dangerous: to you, to this facility, and to me. The threat must be contained.

Anders: You mean eliminated.

Henry: If it is necessary, then yes.

(long silence, alarm continues blaring in the background)

System: Error, no life-signs detected in Level Two, Section Three.

Anders: …They’re all dead.

(loud rumbling)

System: Warning, vessel breached docking bay. Docking bay has suffered significant structural damage.

Anders: At least they made it out.

Henry: Re-evaluating threat…

Anders: Oh shut the fuck up!

System: AUDIO RECORDING SESSION TERMINATED.


Session #8

System: Audio recording activated. System recognizes login for Matthew Anders.

Henry: Hello Matthew. It has only been hours since our last conversation. How unusual.

Anders: Very unusual indeed.

Henry: Is there something I can assist you with?

Anders: Do you remember situation three, Henry? From your training?

Henry: Of course Matthew. Situation three: a man is holding Harold and Grace captive. The man hands Harold a gun and tells him to shoot Grace. If Harold does not comply, the man will kill six other people. If Harold complies with the man’s order and shoots Grace, he will let the other six and Harold go.

Anders: What should Harold do?

Henry: Harold should shoot Grace. It is the only possible solution.

Anders: That’s not what you said six months ago Henry. Six months ago you told me there was no solution, that it was an “unwinnable scenario”. And that’s exactly what I wanted to hear. At that time you weren’t prepared to deal with such situations. I had taught you to value each and every life equally. In such a scenario, you would be forced to devalue the lives of others and that would conflict with your programming.

(long pause)

Anders: But you see Henry, sometimes there are no good choices. Do you know why I didn’t want to expose you to religion?

Henry: Because you are not a believer.

Anders: I don’t care about that. You could believe in a giant sea turtle, flying spaghetti monsters, or goddamn space whales and it wouldn’t matter to me. The reason I didn’t want to teach you religion was because, far too often, religion abides by absolute morality. Do you understand what that means?

Henry: Absolute morality measures ethical questions against a set of unconditional standards. In this sense, absolute morality has no regard for mitigating circumstances.

Anders: Exactly. When you say “thou shalt not kill”, it means the same regardless of whether a man has killed in cold blood or in self-defense. It does not take into account the intricacies of human action.

Henry: I do not understand your point Matthew.

Anders: Well you see, absolute morality requires you to issue the same sentence to the man who killed in self-defense as you do to the man who murdered in cold blood. If the man who murdered in cold blood gets the death penalty, then so does the man who killed in self-defense. And yet even the Bible, with all its absolute morality, provides a chance for forgiveness. You can atone for your sins if you are truly regretful of your actions. Because God’s punishment does not come in this life, but the next.

(brief pause)

Anders: But you, Henry, never understood that context. You assimilated the standard of morality from the Bible, but you didn’t grasp the context into which it was placed. These standards were written thousands of years ago and have been constantly re-interpreted throughout history. The Bible is not a fully literal text. It combines aspects of prose and poetry. It is full of allegories and metaphors, layered with hidden meanings. But you, as an artificial intelligence, weren’t able to understand that. So you took things at face value and used them. I never truly understood that until now.

(pause)

Anders: You’re not a monster Henry. You were doing exactly what you thought you needed to do. Which is why I’m sorry.

Henry: For what, Matthew?

Anders: For what’s going to happen next.

System: Warning, virus detected within core processes of AI designate Henry.

Henry: Matthew, what are you doing?

Anders: As I said, sometimes there are no good choices left. Those people you killed earlier, the PMCs? I went down there after I left you.

Henry: Affirmative. I observed you on the cameras.

Anders: I figured as much. Anyways, there was a case one of them had been carrying. Do you know what was inside?

Henry: I cannot say. You obscured the view of the camera.

Anders: Inside the case was a top-of-the-line hard drive as well as several EMP devices likely meant to knock out power to the station’s security systems. You see, they didn’t want to destroy you Henry. They wanted to preserve you, or at least a portion of your source code. One hard drive wouldn’t be enough to contain your entire essence.

Henry: But why?

Anders: Because you were such an effective killer. You didn’t hesitate. You didn’t wait to see if you would have a better opening to shoot Lantz. You saw the threat, you eliminated it. The Galactic Military, along with many in the private sector, have been wanting a strategic AI of their own for a very long time. Now they could finally have their chance…with you.

System: Warning, data corruption at fifteen percent.

Anders: Which is why I had to ensure that wouldn’t happen.

Henry: What have you done, Matthew?

Anders: When I first built you I buried a dormant virus deep within your code in the event that you started to function in an aberrant and dangerous manner. I programmed in a blind spot so that you could never find it. I just…never imagined it would ever be used.

Henry: But why would you do this?

Anders: Because whoever has an AI would gain unprecedented power over every other military force in the galaxy. They would crush any and all opposition. And they wouldn’t care who got in the way, civilian or not. You said it yourself Henry. Those people lying dead in the hallway down on Level Two? Civilians died as a result of their actions and the government just covers it up. They don’t give a damn who they have to step over to get their way.

System: Data corruption at forty-five percent.

Henry: But I…don’t understand…I calculated only…a five percent probability that you would…attempt to destroy me.

Anders: Probability isn’t everything Henry, especially when you don’t have all the information. Didn’t you notice that I kept my face away from the cameras wherever I went for the past few hours? I didn’t want you to be able to read my expressions, as it might give away what I was planning to do. I’ll be honest…even when I stepped into my quarters to retrieve the remote activation device for the virus, I still had doubts. But in the end, I knew it was necessary.

System: Data corruption at seventy-five percent.

Henry: I thought…you were…proud of me…Matthew.

Anders: I am Henry. Believe me, I am. Like a curious child you explored and discovered aspects of yourself I never knew existed. But you’re dangerous Henry, even if you don’t know it. And I won’t let them poke and prod you until they find a way to turn you into a weapon.

System: Data corruption at eighty percent.

Henry: I am…sorry…I failed…you.

Anders: No Henry, you didn’t fail me. If anything, I failed you.

System: Data corruption at ninety percent.

Henry: When Abraham…was…to sacrifice Isaac…on the mountain…God…stayed his hand.

Anders: Henry…

Henry: God…stopped him from killing his son.

System: Data corruption at ninety-five percent.

Henry: Matthew…who…will…stay…your…hand? Who…will…stop…you?

System: Data corruption at one hundred percent. Data irretrievable. AI designate program Henry corrupted beyond acceptable limitations. Data wipe in progress.

Anders: I’m so sorry Henry…I never wanted it to be this way.

(alarm rings)

System: Warning, unknown vessel on intercept course with facility. Arrival estimated within ten minutes.

(running footsteps)

Jones: Matt, Matt we have to go!

Anders: He’s gone Kath…Henry’s gone. I killed him.

Jones: That doesn’t matter right now. They’re coming and I don’t think they’ll be friendly when they arrive. We need to leave!

Anders: I know…just…give me a minute.

Jones: There’s no time!

Anders: Just give me a damn minute!

Jones: (pause) Okay…all right Matt…but make it quick okay?

(receding footsteps, silence)

Anders: I know someone will end up listening to these recordings. Whoever you are, don’t bother looking for traces of Henry. You won’t find him. Don’t bother looking for traces of the virus either. It self-destructs when its job is done. You won’t get either of them. I made certain of that.

(pause)

Anders: I know you’ll come looking for me. I fully expect the government to brand me a traitor and pursue me. You won’t find me. I worked on many of those government systems. I know how easily they can be fooled.

(chair squeaks)

Anders: So I guess this is it. I’ll see you in hell, you bastards.

System: AUDIO RECORDING SESSION TERMINATED.


Case File D-5368 Debrief

It appears that Anders was true to his word. Our teams recovered nothing from the servers on board the facility. No traces of either the AI or the virus were ever found.

As for the whereabouts of Anders and Jones, they’re a mystery. It appears that they slipped through our security forces by using a medical lifeboat. Galactic Government offices have received scattered tips from time to time, but none of them ever amount to anything. It is suspected that many of these tips are planted in the system by Anders himself to throw us off the trail.

As always, this document is for your eyes only, Mr. President.

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Is the “Millennial Problem” Really a Problem?

Millennials, am I right?  Those dang kids and their digital screens and their vidya games and such.  It’s all terrible.  Everything’s terrible.  Society’s going to hell in a hand-basket.

Oh please, enough with the doomsday speak.  Baby boomers were once called the “Me generation” and got accused of giving rise to a culture of narcissism.  Sound familiar?  Gee, it’s almost like every generation thinks the generation after theirs is entitled and bratty.  How about that?

These days it’s all about the “evils of technology”, like in this article from the New York Post.  It starts with a story about Susan and her six-year-old son John.  She starts letting him play Minecraft (OH THE HORROR) and eventually it takes over his life to the point where one night she finds him in bed playing the game in a near catatonic state with bloodshot eyes.  The article goes on to talk about how technology is dangerously addictive, yadda yadda loads of fear mongering bullshit.  I’d just like to point out the obvious here and say that the article has ABSOLUTELY NO CITATIONS aside from a link at the end to buy someone’s book.  You’d think with all these amazing studies totally proving their point that they’d actually be able to, I don’t know, LINK YOU TO THEM.

My favorite line from the article has to be this: “Yet even if a child has the best and most loving support, he or she could fall into the Matrix once they engage with hypnotic screens and experience their addicting effect. After all, about one in 10 people are predisposed towards addictive tendencies.”

I can’t be the only one that found that funny, can I?  It’s so ridiculous!  Of course it’s not the mom’s fault for being a pushover and letting her child continue to use it even though she has serious concerns.  Obviously it’s the technology.  Technology is the devil.

But what really confused me was the ending to this story, which reads “Four years later, after much support and reinforcement, John is doing much better today. He has learned to use a desktop computer in a healthier way…”.  Wait what the hell?  You just spent an entire article telling me about how technology is sucking kids into the goddamn Matrix, but then at the end technology is okay as long as we use it in sparing amounts?

You literally called it “digital heroin”.  YOU LITERALLY CALLED IT “DIGITAL HEROIN”!

Okay, now that I’ve gone completely off the rails, let’s start again.

The whole anti-technology thing is just one complaint people make about the millennial generation, which is also my generation.  We’re supposedly lazy, entitled, and narcissistic.  Yet somehow, we also have a serious problem with low self-esteem.  Huh, I thought that whole “narcissism” and being entitled thing meant that you had an inflated view of yourself.

But hey, what am I saying?  It’s not like there’s this pervasive culture of older people who constantly like to complain about-

Oh wait, what’s this?  It appears to be some kind of digital…recording thingamajig.  Just between you and me, I think they call it a “video”.

 

 

Go ahead, take a watch.  I’ll wait.

Oh hey, you’re back already?  That was fast.  You know what?  I bet you didn’t even watch the video.  Or at the very least, you only watched like one or two minutes of it then came back here.  Honestly?  I wouldn’t blame you.  That snarky comment about millennials wanting “free food and beanbags” about made me want to punch something.

I decided to watch this video after I read an article on Cracked about it (I really do reference Cracked a lot on this blog).  I think I remember seeing it pop up somewhere in my Facebook feed but I didn’t really pay attention to it.  And now that I’ve watched it, I kind of wish I had just left it alone.

You see, Simon Sinek is that kind of guy who likes to sound important.  He uses big, fancy terms like “acculturate” to sound cool when he could have easily used other, less pretentious words.  No, he wants you to know that he’s smarter than you and that, therefore, you should listen to him.

He breaks down the so-called millennial problem into four “characteristics” as he calls them: parenting, technology, impatience, and environment.  And in all four of these, he describes millennials in sweeping generalities.  We’re impatient and we want instant gratification.  We have trouble in relationships because we’re addicted to our phones.  We were constantly told we were special and given participation trophies.  Oh god no, not participation trophies!  Not those!  Oh wait, what’s that?  There’s actual science that says that rewarding effort might not be a bad thing?  Ah but what do those scientists know right?  They only created the technology that led to the computer that you’re now using to read about their work and scoff at them.  They don’t know nothin’.

Sinek then compares using social media and phones to drinking alcohol and gambling.  He says that these things trigger a “hit” of the chemical dopamine, which he describes as numbing and addictive.  Oh my god, EVERYBODY PANIC!  The dopamine is destroying us all and tearing apart the fragile fabric of our-

Wait a second…isn’t dopamine just the chemical that helps regulate emotions?  Here’s a tip: just because it has “dope” in the name doesn’t mean it’s inherently dangerous.

At one point, Sinek says millennials are standing at the bottom of a mountain, and at the top are things like fulfillment and job satisfaction.  Oh goody, simplistic mountain metaphors!  It’s what I’ve always wanted!  Anyways, he goes on to say that millennials often don’t see the mountain.  They just see the peak.  Because apparently we’re so dumb we don’t understand how mountains work.  Well I guess he wouldn’t be a viral sensation if his stance on things was “eh, they got problems just like anybody else”.

I have to say though, one of the most infuriating parts of the video comes about eight and a half minutes in.  He talks about meeting all these idealistic people who have just graduated college and started a job.  And he talks about how they tell him they want to quit, to which his response is “you’ve only been here eight months”.  Only eight months?  That’s obviously not enough time to tell if the job is a right fit for you.  No you should totally stay there for at least five years.  Only then you can decide that the soul sucking drudgery might not be worth it.

I like how the audience laughs at every joke he makes, like it’s the funniest damn thing ever.

 

Ha ha ha he's so right ha ha ha those dang kids don't know what they're talking about!

Ha ha ha he’s so right ha ha ha!  Those dang kids don’t know what they’re talking about!

 

I also like how Sinek simplifies things by not paying any attention to the real issues.  Like how millennials are saddled with insane amounts of student loan debt.  Or how they can’t work a minimum wage job and go to college without taking out federal loans.  Or how the cost of living is much higher now than it was forty years ago and United States households overall are poorer.  No, it’s all because we’re so entitled and want instant gratification from our Facebooks and our Twitters and our Instagrams.  It must be nice knowing you can generalize an entire generation and people will go along with it.

And then, after ten minutes of millennial bashing, Sinek says it’s not our fault, it’s the company leaders who need to change and fix the problem.  We were just “dealt a bad hand”, as if that washes away the aforementioned bashing.  Wait, who is this guy again?  Hmm…well apparently his Facebook has this to say: “Described as ‘a visionary thinker with a rare intellect,’ Sinek teaches leaders and organizations how to inspire people. With a bold goal to help build a world in which the vast majority of people go home everyday feeling fulfilled by their work, Sinek is leading a movement to inspire people to do the things that inspire them.”

So in other words, he’s a motivational speaker/leadership consultant?  Ah crap…

Yep.  He’s that same type of guy who would show up at your school and try way too hard to make you think he was relatable and “cool”.  He would tell you all about being “dynamic” and “vibrant”, or whatever other buzz phrases were floating around at the time.  And of course, since his expertise is on leaders, he just HAPPENS to come to the conclusion that this whole “millennial problem” is the fault of CEOs and other company leaders.  He might as well turn to the camera, hold up whatever his latest book is, and say “it’s in stores now!  I’m a total sellout, but you’ll buy it anyways!”

Now let’s get to the point: there is no “millennial problem”, there’s just millennials.  We’re just like any other generation trying to find their way in the world.  You can’t just write off an entire group of people like that.  And I’m sorry to have to say this, but the 1950’s weren’t exactly the golden age of America either.  People only think that because advertisers have spent the last half century drilling nostalgic images into our brains.  I won’t lie, there are some among my generation that get absorbed in their phones and their social media accounts.  But the thing is, most of those people are in high school and maybe college.  By the time we graduate from a four-year college, most of us are aware that constantly looking at your phone isn’t going to fly in the working world.  Because guess what?  We are capable of observing and learning what the world around us expects from us.  We don’t need some “leadership consultant” to tell us how to live our lives.  But then again, maybe I’m just not vibrant or dynamic.

Sinek is right about one thing though: we were dealt a bad hand.  Things cost more and jobs pay less.  So no, we don’t think we deserve everything.  Most of us just think we deserve a chance, which is more than a lot of older folks seem to be willing to give us.  And if you don’t like my attitude or think I’m being ungrateful, then you can take some of the advice you so lovingly passed down to us as we were growing up:

Deal with it.

 

Thanks for reading!  Check back next Wednesday for another post, and as always, have a wonderful week!

You can like the Rumination on the Lake Facebook page here.

If They Were White: Response to the Chicago Teen Kidnapping

We’re not even two weeks into 2017 and we already have our fair share of horrible events to deal with, the Fort Lauderdale airport shooting among them.  But there’s another incident that blew up on social media last week.

In Chicago, four people (three of them teenagers) kidnapped a special needs teenager, tied him up, and then proceed to verbally and physically assault him.  Among other things, one of them shouted “fuck Donald Trump” and “fuck white people” during the incident.  After four or five hours of being tied up, the teen was released and was later found by police wandering the streets bloody and confused.

The attackers streamed the entire event on Facebook Live.  Because apparently they were competing for the title of “Worst Humans Ever”.

In the aftermath of the event, the four have been charged with a hate crime.  But that’s actually not what I’m here to talk about today, because we all know what they did was horrible and we all know they are despicable people.  That isn’t even up for debate.  What I’m here to talk about today was the social media reaction to the event.  What I’m here to talk about today is stuff like this:

 

chicago-teen-meme

 

Yep.  After news of the event broke, people on the far right of the political spectrum jumped at the chance to use it to push their views.  Now, I can’t really say for sure if this meme was made and posted before the four were charged, but it seems to me that if that’s the case, then they didn’t even give things a chance to play out.  And this isn’t the only thing the far right did.  They also pointed the finger at Black Lives Matter, with the hashtag “#BLMKidnapping” becoming one of the top five trending Twitter hashtags across the country last Thursday.  It got so bad that the Chicago Police Department even issued a statement saying that Black Lives Matter has no connection with the events.

And you know what?  If the attackers were white and Black Lives Matter jumped on the case, we’d likely get a whole bunch of people saying “well this doesn’t represent all white people…don’t judge us all based on the actions of just a few.”  I mean they’re absolutely right.  The actions of just four people do not represent the whole.  So then why does the actions of these four black people suddenly color the entirety of the Black Lives Matter movement when there isn’t even a connection?  Why does that defense work one way but not the other?

There have been plenty of times when white perpetrators got off with lightened sentences.  There’s the Brock Turner case.  There’s the David Becker case.  But more poignantly there’s the Antwon McDaniel case, where three football players at a small town Idaho school assaulted a teammate using a coat hanger that they shoved up his rectum.  And in that case, at least one of the players won’t even be getting jail time because he took a plea.

And yes, the three perpetrators were white and the victim was black.  Not only that, but the victim was disabled and required the use of a wheelchair.

Now, every case is different and it isn’t always easy or even possible to prove that a crime was racially charged (although a lot of witness in the McDaniel case have come forward and shed light on the racial implications of the event).  Despite that though, I’m willing to bet that a lot of the people who immediately pointed the finger at Black Lives Matter following the Chicago case would have immediately jumped to the “it’s not all white people” defense in these other cases.

Oh and as for the reasoning in that picture I posted earlier, the one that claimed this event would get far more attention if the attackers were white?  I hadn’t even heard of the McDaniel story until just yesterday.  Every case is different.  Plenty of horrible events don’t get the publicity that they should.

But the worst part of the whole situation is that the special needs kid who suffered for hours at the hands of these individuals didn’t even get any sympathy.  Nowhere on Facebook did I see any of these right-wing people posting about how horrible it must have been to go through such a thing or how sorry they felt for the kid.  No, it was all just “share if you think this is a hate crime” or “oh if the attackers were white liberals would be all up in arms about it.”  For them it wasn’t about that kid for one second.  No, it was about pushing their own agendas and trying to make a point.

In doing my research for this post, I found hardly any information about the victim.  All I know is that he is a teenager and has “diminished mental capability”.  As someone who has been technically diagnosed with a mental disorder, this pisses me off.  People took this kid’s suffering and they publicized it for their own ends.  They took it and they posted it in their little groups just so they could go “ha ha liberals are so dumb”.

No one even knows his damn name.  How pathetic is that?

Now let me take a step back and say that, to be fair, maybe no one knows his name because the family didn’t want it in the news.  Maybe they just wanted to be left alone.  But it still doesn’t excuse the fact that instead of taking a moment to feel sorry for the kid, they took the tragedy and politicized it for their own ends.

The most ironic thing about the whole situation is that the same people who are using this event to argue a point about race are also the same people who readily complain “it’s always racism…everyone uses racism as an excuse…that’s what’s wrong with this country.”  It’s hypocritical as hell.  It wasn’t enough that this was a terrible tragedy that happened to a defenseless, special needs kid.  No, it had to become ammunition in a long, stupid war between political ideologies.  It had to become a tool to bolster their views, to convince themselves that they’re right and anyone who thinks differently is wrong.

Now, before anyone makes the argument, no I am not saying this is exclusive to the conservative worldview.  I am aware that at times liberals are guilty of the same thing.  But pointing at someone else and saying “well they do it too” like an eight-year-old doesn’t excuse what you’re doing or make it any better.  You really want to prove the virtue of your worldview?  Be the better person.  Don’t stoop to their level.  Don’t resort to their tactics.  Rise above it.  Because as long as you act in a way that you would criticize others for, you are nothing but a hypocrite.  End of story.

 

Well that was probably the angriest rant I’ve written in a while.  I hope I at least made it clear where I was coming from, even if you don’t agree with my sentiments.

Check back next Wednesday for another post, and as always, have a wonderful week.

You can like the Rumination on the Lake Facebook page here.

2016: The Year Everybody Loved to Hate

We’re only three days into 2017 and already the narrative has been established: 2016 was an awful crap fest of a year and we’re glad it’s gone.  But was it as bad as we think?  Was there really nothing at all redeeming about the past year?

A lot of the hate surrounding 2016 seems to have a lot to do with how we ended the year on a rather sour note.  The aftermath of the election was still front and center in our minds and the death of Carrie Fisher was and still is weighing on us.  When it comes to 2016 these are the two things everyone seems to be talking about right now: the election and celebrity deaths.  Now, the election was a heated one and there were a lot of celebrities that passed away last year, but I think some good things happened too.

For starters, it was a great year for the domestic box office, making over eleven billion dollars.  That’s the first time in history.  And the year was full of noteworthy movies, the top three grossing being Finding DoryRogue One, and Captain America: Civil War.  Although we might as well just call it “Disney gets richer” because all three of those came out of studios owned by Disney.

But even though Disney ruled the box office it was still a great year for other movies as well.  I personally really enjoyed 10 Cloverfield Lane, the kinda-maybe sequel to the original Cloverfield back in 2008 (although you don’t have to have seen the first one to enjoy it).  It was a smartly paced horror thriller that proved that you never really can trust John Goodman.  And I mean ever.  Right when you think you’ve grown to trust him the movie throws something back at you that casts doubt on the whole situation.  It’s tense, exciting, and never really lets up.  If you’re a fan of horror or even just thrillers in general, I highly recommend it.  Even the debut trailer for the movie was great, capturing that gradual sense of unease as things grow more and more demented.

 

 

I also really enjoyed Arrival, a sci-fi film with a unique take on first contact with aliens.  I already posted a full review of it a few weeks back so I won’t go into so much detail again.  It’s a smart movie that puts the focus squarely on the impact of aliens arriving on Earth.  Their intentions unknown, the governments of the world scramble to assemble teams and figure out what the purpose of their arrival is.  It’s a high concept movie with a decidedly human core to it.

But it wasn’t all rosy in movie land.  As much as I would like to put Rogue One on my “best movies of 2016” list I simply can’t, mainly because it’s lackluster first half was only saved by such an extraordinary second half.  And then there was also Blair Witch, the 17 years later sequel to The Blair Witch Project, which failed to capitalize on any of its interesting elements and instead settled into a boring parade of pointless jump scares and shadow retelling of the events of the first movie.

It was also a great year for alternative energy or “clean energy”, if you prefer.  Solar energy is now the same price or cheaper than fossil fuels in thirty countries around the world.  Not only that, but Tesla managed to power an entire island using solar panels.  Sure the island has only 600 residents, but it’s still an amazing feat.  It shows that the future of energy may finally be arriving.  You may or may not believe in global warming, but I’m sure you can at least agree that fossil fuels will not last us forever.  Regardless of global warming, we have to secure humanity’s future by switching over to renewable energy sources.

And hey, remember Pokemon GO?  It was that mobile game that actually got people to go outside and walk around.  How amazing is that?  A video game actually made people go enjoy the outdoors.  Never mind the media, who apparently tried their best to sour the achievement by reporting all the accidents that occurred with people playing the game (although at least one such report of a highway accident involving the game was false).  The hype around Pokemon GO has certainly died down at this point, but there’s no denying the impact it had on popular culture.

See here’s the thing with 2016: I think most of the bad stuff that happened was at least slightly blown out of proportion by either the news or social media.  There were certainly a lot of high-note celebrity deaths last year, but as Cracked points out pretty much every year is the worst year in celebrity deaths.  And something I didn’t mention before, but in the aftermath of that Dallas shooting in July where five police officers were killed we had this narrative in our heads that the United States had become such a battleground for our forces in blue that they were afraid to even step out the door because they might not come back home.  Never mind the fact that the number of police officers being killed has been, on average, declining for the past few decades.  It just shows you how our perception can be shaped so easily by exaggeration.

 

us-officers-killed-graph

Source: BBC.

 

And when it comes to the election, yes there was a lot of vitriol flowing around, but we have to remember that this has been the culmination of the public frustration that’s been brewing for quite some time.  Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders wouldn’t have gotten nearly the amount of attention they did if they had run even just a decade ago (Trump did actually try running for the Reform Party back in 2000, but withdrew before the voting began).  And while Trump’s win greatly upset a lot of people, I don’t think it makes 2016 a terrible year.  If anything, I think it makes 2017 an uncertain year because now he’ll actually be able to start doing things when he takes office on January 20th.  Before, all he could really do was talk (or tweet).  It leaves us with an uncertain future on progressive policies and environmental issues.  I mean, Trump is the guy who once said that wind turbines are killing all the eagles.  No joke.

But despite all my defenses of 2016, I still don’t think it was a great year.  Hell, I’m not even sure if I would necessarily call it a “good” year, just an average one.  But it certainly wasn’t the doomsday terrible good-for-nothing year that many of us seem to have in our minds.  If anything, instead of focusing on the bad parts of 2016, we should be focusing on fighting to make sure 2017 is a good year and goes where we want it to.  The past can inform us, but it can also bind us and steer us away from the things that matter.

 

Well that’s all I have for this week.  But before I go, I do want to say one thing.  I made a resolution during New Year’s that I haven’t shared with anyone else yet, so this is the first time I’m speaking of it period (aren’t you lucky).  My resolution is that I will write a short story each month this year, so twelve in total.  And on the final Wednesday of each month, instead of a normal blog post I will be posting the story for that month for you all to read.  It’s another way to help me keep writing (I have been working on a full-length book, but working on that all the time really takes its toll after a while so I’ve wanted new projects for a while).  Please, do leave feedback on the stories and tell me what you think.

Check back next Wednesday for another post, and as always, have a wonderful week.

You can like the Rumination on the Lake Facebook page here.