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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Inner Strength: The Enduring Myth of the Superhero

Superhero movies.  They’re about a dime a dozen these days, with around twenty of them planned for the next two or so years alone.  There is no denying that they have a wide appeal.  So why is that?  Why do we constantly flock to the timeless story of good vs. evil, especially when it’s so obvious that good is going to win in the end?

On the surface level, it would seem that the appeal of superhero movies lies in our inherent familiarity with them.  We know the characters.  We know the stories.  Even though in the upcoming Batman v. Superman and Captain America: Civil War the heroes are fighting with each other, we know that eventually they will end up resolving their differences and working together.  Good will always triumph in the end.  The apparent “shallowness” is exactly why these movies are enjoyable.  They don’t require an in-depth analysis.  They just require enjoyment on the part of the viewer.

But that’s an analysis that any student in a middle or high school English class could come up with.  To sum it up, that’s the short story.

Now here’s the long version.

Despite how shallow these movies seem on the surface, their characters can have a great deal of complexity.  This is especially true in the modern Marvel movies, where the superheroes are often shown as flawed.  You can see this in Avengers: Age of Ultron.  The movie itself is not particularly good (I already talked about that before).  But what it does do is show the flaws of the characters.  In fact, a large part of the movie’s plot is them dealing with their hidden insecurities (brought to extreme levels by another character’s superpowers, but insecurities nonetheless).  Modern audiences don’t want to just see a one-sided, pro-government or whatever character anymore.  They want to see a superhero struggle.  They want to see them suffer or question themselves before they succeed.

Which brings me to Captain America.

Captain America is one of the more recognized superheroes, but not necessarily one of the more popular.  He’s commonly seen as a relic from the Cold War era, a position played up by the modern Marvel movies.  His origin story (from what I know) is simple: he used to be a weak guy with a big heart that couldn’t help like he wanted.  Then the military pumped him full of drugs and now he’s a superhero.

Kind of a funny story for the guy that’s supposed to be the embodiment of America-ness…but we won’t get into that.

While Captain America’s original inception was meant to be a man full of patriotic, American vigor, the newer version plays out a bit differently.  Like I said, they play up the fact that he is literally a relic from a by-gone era of the country.  He’s constantly struggling to find his place in a world that no longer feels like it needs him, and we see this in the first Avengers movie, where he gradually comes into his own as the leader of the team.  But even in his own movies, we still see him struggling with this.  In Captain America: Winter Soldier, he deals with a conspiracy inside the government and is on the run from them, a strange turn of events for a character that proudly wears the red, white, and blue colors of the USA all over his costume.  And in the upcoming Civil War, where the Avengers team is split into two factions, he leads the side that’s against government regulation of the superhero team.

Like I said, part of this has to do with the audience today.  They want a struggle.  They want a fight.  They want more out of their stories.  But it also comes back to the inherent morality of the character himself.  He is the good guy.  He is on the side of justice, regardless of what form it takes.  If he has to take on the United States government to bring justice to people, then he will.  In this version he’s not a propaganda character.  He’s come into his own as an uncompromising crusader for the good of the world.

And it is his success that people like.  People like seeing a good character triumph because it echoes a sentiment so endemic to American culture: the idea that one person can find the strength to do or be whatever they want.  Even when a superhero loses their powers, they end up triumphing somehow in the end, the lesson being that it wasn’t the powers that defined them but the strength of their character (the powers certainly help though).  It’s all about the idea that we have an inner strength we can all tap into, regardless of our place in life.  Rich, poor, young, old…it matters not.  If you believe hard enough, no dream is impossible.  That’s what we’re told as children growing up in this country, and it is that philosophy that superheroes echo so well.  Struggle and strife can always be overcome if you just believe.

Drugs help though…lots of drugs.  Maybe gamma radiation.

Being a powerful godlike alien from another planet certainly can’t hurt…

 

Well that’s all I have for this post.  Tune in next Wednesday for another and as always, have a wonderful week!

Guiding and Influencing: Where Does Morality Come From?

So this past weekend I stumbled upon this article in The Guardian.  For those who just want the short story, it talks about a study that found that children with religious upbringings (specifically Christian and Muslim) tend to be more mean than their non-religious counterparts.  Essentially, religious children tended to be less altruistic and more judgmental of their peers, which seems to fly in the face of the common belief that our morality comes from religion itself.  If this study can be reproduced, it would go a long way toward squashing that myth.

Now why is this important?  Well when I was young, I was often told I was going to hell and that I was a bad person because I didn’t believe in God.  If this study is accurate, it could help other non-religious children growing up to not feel so bad about their beliefs (or lack thereof) and not become bitterly antagonistic toward religion.  We don’t need more hate in the world.  There’s already more than enough.

It got me thinking.  Where does our morality come from exactly?  I think the answer is more complicated than I can probably address in a simple blog post, but I’ll do my best.

A lot of it comes from society in general.  We are raised to think and act a certain way, not just by our parents but by what we see in society at large.  If we see society as being hateful toward a certain group, we tend to grow up with similar feelings.  If a certain thought or belief is praised, we grow up with positive thoughts about it.

This goes in many different directions as well.  If a child is taken to a church and told that this particular school of thought is right and all others are wrong, they tend to grow up not understanding why other people think differently.  The same goes for any non-religious children who are raised the same way.  If you as a parent display hostile feelings toward a particular group, philosophy, religion or so on, then your children will take after that.

Never underestimate the power of the parental and societal influence.  It shapes us in far more ways than we often want to admit.

But I don’t think this is the only source for our morality.  Have you ever seen a child cry over killing a bug?  They play with it because they’re curious or bored, and then when they realize that they killed it they start bawling their eyes out.  Why is this?  Why does a child cry over something as insignificant as that?  A bug is a bug right?  The life of one mosquito doesn’t really matter in the long run.

Maybe.  Maybe not.  It’s all a matter of perspective after all.  And to a child, a bug’s life might mean more than you think.

As human beings, we have something within ourselves that gives us perspective on things that we might not have otherwise.  We are able to put ourselves in another’s shoes, to think as they would think and to feel as they would feel.  We have the capacity to see other points of view, if we just allow ourselves to do it.  It’s an incredibly powerful tool.

And it goes by the name of “empathy”.

Empathy is defined simply as “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.”  We have all used empathy at some point in our lives, even if we don’t realize it.  Often, our feelings of regret come from our understanding that our actions might have negatively impacted the life of another.

This is, I argue, where a lot of our base morality comes from.

We can create complex systems of thoughts and beliefs.  We can debate over whether or not there is a divine being of some form or another that willed the universe into existence.  We can debate whether or not human beings evolved from apes or whether they were created by that same divine being.  But in the end, I don’t think it all really matters.  Because all we really need is empathy.

Empathy asks us “hey, would you like it if that was done to you?”  It’s the natural version of the Golden Rule, the innate instinctual process by which we weigh our actions.  This is why, I think, a child begins to cry when he/she realizes that they killed another living being, no matter how insignificant it is.  They haven’t matured yet.  They don’t distinguish between lower and higher life forms.  To them, a life is a life.  And when it dawns on them what they did, it brings them sadness.  Because on some fundamental level, they know pain is bad.  And to bring pain unto another creature is a terrible thing to them.

I realize that this might not apply to all children.  Some children actually take joy out of frying an anthill with a magnifying glass (like the stereotypical bully in an animated movie).  But they are usually older kids.  At a certain age, I believe that all children are naively innocent.  They’re just coming into the world and are still trying to understand how it all works.  Empathy is one of the few tools they instinctively know how to use.  And understanding the importance of empathy is crucial (especially in a world where people are getting angry over something as silly as coffee cups).

I may be a little naive myself in believing that this is the way the world works, but honestly?  I want to believe that it works like that.  And in some way, I need to believe that.  Because if I didn’t, if I no longer had any hope for the human race, there would be nothing stopping me from throwing up my hands and saying “I give up completely”.  It keeps me driven.  It keeps me sane.  Hope tells me that someday, things can change for the better.

Because without hope, what’s left that pushes us forward?

 

That’s all I have for you this time.  Thanks for sticking with me on this little philosophical rambling.  Tune in next Wednesday for another post, and as always, have a wonderful week.

Zoological Musing

So I went to the Great Lakes Aquarium with a friend of mine this past weekend.

It was a fun visit.  There were lots of interesting things to learn and see (I particularly enjoyed the Shipwrecks Alive exhibit, if only because I had a fascination with them when I was younger).  But ultimately, something bothers me about the whole thing.  As I’ve grown older, I’ve also grown more and more uncomfortable with the concept of zoos.  The idea of taking animals and putting them on display just seems really strange to me.

Perhaps an analogy is in order.  Have you ever seen the old episode of The Twilight Zone entitled “People are alike all over”?

If you haven’t, I’ll summarize.  The plot basically follows two astronauts as they make their way to Mars.  One of them is an optimistic man who believes that “people are alike all over”.  The other man is a bitter cynic.  When they attempt to land on Mars, the resulting crash kills the optimistic astronaut, leaving the cynic injured and alone.  He hears strange noises outside the ship that make him think some nightmare lies on the other side.  But when the ship is finally opened, it is revealed that the Martians look human and seem friendly.  They take him to a house decorated like it would be on Earth and tell him that it is his.  He initially loves the place, but once the Martians leave him alone he looks around and discovers that he can’t get out.  Furthermore, he finds out that he is part of a zoo exhibit, put on display so the Martians can gawk and take pictures of him.  The episode ends with him resting his head on the bars and saying “You were right.  People are alike…people are alike everywhere.”

I remember this episode because it posed a very interesting moral question about the nature of putting animals in zoos and our arrogant self-assurance that we are superior.  And I was reminded of that as we perused the aquariums this weekend.  More than once, I wondered how much the fish and other animals truly knew of their captive status.  Part of me understands that their brains aren’t as complex as ours, that many of them probably only care about eating, sleeping, and being alive.  But it’s hard for me not to feel a little weird about the fact that we take these animals, stuff them in cages, and then sit there gawking and snapping photos of them.  I’m sure the animals are well taken care of, but it doesn’t change the fact that they are still caged up for our pleasure.

Part of the reason this bothers me is because every time a lion, wolf, or something similar escapes from the zoo and attacks someone, everyone starts calling for its head like it’s some kind of demon or something.  And I usually sit there thinking “well what did you expect?  You took a wild animal from its homeland and threw it into a cage.  They’re in unfamiliar territory.  They don’t know what’s going on.  They’re alone and afraid.  Of course they’re going to go on the offensive.”

Does it make people feel better or justified if they label it a monster, a “thing” that needs to be put down rather than a living, breathing animal that shares this Earth with us?  Maybe.  I don’t want to think in such cynical terms, but there’s a certain ring of truth to the idea that I can’t shake.

This is not to say that zoos are all evil or anything.  There was an otter habitat at the Great Lakes Aquarium that we saw part of a presentation on.  In it, the woman speaking told us how these otters were originally from Louisiana.  They ate a ton of crayfish, which upset some of the local farmers.  One of them laid out a trap and the otters got caught in it.  If it wasn’t for the intervention of the Aquarium and the organizations it is connected with, the otters would no doubt have been killed.  Some good has come out of this idea, but at its core the Aquarium and other places like it are little more than tourist attractions to me rather than true havens for animals.

Do I have all the answers?  No.  Despite my qualms about the situation, I still enjoyed visiting the Great Lakes Aquarium.  I will freely admit to that.  I do wish there was a better way to go about things than stuffing animals in small little tanks or cages, but I honestly have no idea.  As long as it makes money, it’s going to continue happening.  I’m not calling for the abolition of all zoos and aquariums or anything, but I think this moral question is one worth considering.

 

Well that’s all I have for this week.  Tune in next Wednesday for another post, and as always, have a wonderful week.