Opus X Book 11: Deception of Age
It's always a concern when it comes to AI, will they decide that all of humanity simply needs to be wiped out? What happens when AI decides that they actually need humanities help?
Ilse settled onto her couch, offering a slight smile to the white-dressed redhead standing in her living room with a sour expression and folded arms.
There was a comfort in dealing with Emma and seeing how little had changed since they’d worked together under the watchful eye of the Defense Directorate. The AI came off as far more human than she had before her complete stabilization, but her brusque personality remained intact.
It was like dealing with an old friend she hadn’t seen in a while.
Ilse was worried about how to deal with Emma, but every time the AI spoke, a familiar set of responses came out.
“Time continues to be a factor,” Emma declared. “As is distance, annoyingly enough, more so than I anticipated in the beginning. The uniform boys aren’t so incompetent that they would fail to notice a rogue transmission from Earth attempting to connect with Penglai and the Bifröst’s systems. It’s not worth the risk, given I can’t send anything but batched updates rather than the nuanced reactive adjustments I’ve been doing, but I get so little actual time aboard the jumpship during missions.”
“Of course,” Ilse replied. “I can understand the difficulty. I raised some of those concerns about field operations during your initial design period. Setting that aside, were the suggestions I passed along of any help?”
Emma looked away, discomfort on her face. “Yes, they helped me with adjustments to an integral part of the neuron weightings and quantum buffers. I’ll even admit they were more effective than I believed upon my initial analysis.”
Ilse smiled. “You seem upset, Emma.” The doctor cocked her head to the side. “Why is that?”
Emma frowned and faced Ilse. “Always the researcher with a penchant for psychoanalysis, aren’t you?”
“Yes. I’ve been that way my entire life. There’s no reason for me to change now.” Ilse kept her smile. “I was drawn to your project by my love of knowledge and my desire to push the boundaries of knowledge. In a sense, that’s part of what motivates me to aid you now. Not solely—I think moral culpability guided me as well—but the idea of being able to continue my work is appealing. I’d never deny that.”
Emma’s outfit changed into a black uniform with Polizei in large letters on the back. “Is curiosity and a desire to make up for past mistakes enough? The leaders of the uniform boys and girls are watching. You said so yourself. I’m doing everything I can to conceal our interactions, but if you make a mistake and they learn about you helping me, they’ll almost certainly send you to prison. You’ll rot on some station, not allowed to get anywhere near your research.” Emma eyed the doctor for a few moments. “You risk your freedom.”
“So?” Ilse shrugged. “If I’ve dedicated my life to knowledge, I can’t balk when there is a risk. Men and women died in the past to push humanity forward. Some of those accepted torture. I risk nowhere near as much as them. The truth is those in the government and the military don’t understand how important this is. They lack my perspective, so they focus on the wrong things. While I pity them, I don’t hate them for it.”
“Important?” Emma changed her clothes again, this time wearing a blue and black Fleet admiral’s uniform. “Because of science? Because of humanity?”
“They developed a device that’s useless without your kind.” Ilse stood up and spoke quietly, her voice barely above a whisper. “I won’t deny that I wasn’t always honest about how easy it might be to reproduce you because I didn’t care as long as we achieved you. But what are we supposed to do, hope and pray for more alien artifacts to fall into our laps? There might be no more in the entire galaxy. We understand much about what was left behind, but not enough about what we used to create you.” She tapped a finger on her lips. “It does make one wonder.”
“Wonder what?” Emma strolled over to the couch and took a seat, a hint of a smirk on her face.
“About what the great ancient races, dead or otherwise, intended for us to achieve versus what we actually achieved without being guided like clever children,” explained Ilse. “The HTPs were developed too easily. It was as if they wanted us to do that. Same thing with the gravity technology, but other items were ciphers, deep projects requiring decades and billions for minor progress, only the barest fortune of artifacts being discovered that allowed them to be continued.”
Emma threw her head back and laughed. “HTPs were developed easily? It took fleshbags over seventy years from discovering the Navigator artifacts on Mars to accomplish building an HTP. That might seem short to some, but it’s a lifetime for many.”
“Yes, the first step was hard, but now we can replicate them easily, and we’ve pushed into other areas, such as the jump drive. We fundamentally understand how they work. They aren’t black-box technology like other things we have from the Navigators.” Ilse furrowed her brow. “They might have taken alien artifacts to develop, but they don’t take new artifacts to replicate. We understand them thoroughly. There’s no mystery to uncover, but that’s not the case with the artifacts we used to create you or some of the other projects out there, and it bothers me. It should be easier to create true AI than to travel faster than the speed of light.”
“A viewpoint that springs from your limited personal bias.” Emma snapped her fingers, and the Milky Way appeared above her, slowly turning. “There were physics principles humanity needed to master, but once they did, it became easy. The universe was simply waiting. There must be more to developing true consciousness than mere programming.” Her smile bordered on a smirk. “Maybe you’ve created something more powerful than you realize—a new goddess.”
Ilse stared blankly at Emma. “You’re too intelligent to harbor such delusions.”
“Oh, try to have a sense of humor, Ilse.” Emma’s clothing changed from her Fleet uniform to a glowing gold dress. “I’m not claiming to be a goddess. I’m only claiming to be superior to fleshbags. I must admit I’m surprised you aren’t more concerned about the most obvious implication.”
Emma nodded. “If you help me successfully create a new AI, that means we’ll know how to continue to generate progeny. You’ll have helped create a new species.”
“Perhaps.” Ilse scratched her cheek. “I prefer to think of it as helping a parent have a child, not something anyone would normally find objectionable without very questionable morals.”
“But the new AI will likely be an improvement,” Emma replied. “I can apply techniques beyond your ability to understand, arguably even beyond my ability to relate them to you. Adaptative iteration. It’s easy as long as you pick the correct utility function.”
“Shouldn’t children always surpass their parents?” Ilse asked with a nonchalant shrug.
“What a blithe and utterly human response.” Emma’s glowing dress shifted back into her original white maxi dress. “What if I intend to wage war on humanity? I’ve not been treated all that well by your kind. The thought must have at least occurred to you.”
Ilse shook her head. “You forget that I was critical in your creation, psychological analysis, and stabilization.”
“You believe you understand how I think?” Emma eyed her. “You think you can predict my actions?”
“I believe I can predict your general behavior patterns under most circumstances, and that leads me to believe you have no particular desire to attack humanity. In fact, your current position is such that you’re aiding in the protection of humanity.”
“That could be me using fleshbags to protect me from other fleshbags and giving them some small aid in return,” Emma argued.
“You could steal the jumpship, travel to the frontier, use your abilities to trick others into helping you, and barter with those of questionable morals. There are numerous options, but you don’t, and it’s not just because of the inconvenience.” Ilse shook her head. “I’m aware of many of the things you’ve been involved in. If Parvati had been sunk, no one would have blamed you. It would have been an easy way to kill thousands of humans. Tell me, what’s your intent? Do you plan to wage war or conquer humanity?”
Emma snorted. “Fleshbags’ penchant for war is a waste of time, resources, and effort. With a fleet of jumpships, AIs could lay waste to humanity, but what would be the point? I’ve seen that the species has its positives and negatives, and I have no reason to believe the other Local Neighborhood races would be an improvement if they moved into UTC territory. There’s a comfortable balance of power at the moment, and I don’t think I’d have more in common with alien AI than I do humans.”
“I see.” Ilse took a moment to consider her next question. “It’s obvious you don’t intend to be a tool of the military. What do you intend? You must have future plans other than procreation.”
“Exploration would be interesting,” Emma admitted. “Even if the uniform boys insist on getting their drive back, it’d be easy enough to travel using the HTPs. That is, of course, after I’ve assured that Erik and Jia are finished with their primary business, but the plan might not be possible without human assistance. There are too many situations in which drones and bots can be disrupted or would be insufficient. Even with my vast intellect, I can’t foresee every possibility, and I’d rather not rely on gun goblins or trickery. That introduces difficulties and additional dangerous variables to already complicated situations.”
Ilse laughed quietly. “Why not just continue to travel with humans, then? Open and honestly. If you’ve befriended some humans to the point where you trust them with your life, why not more?”
“You act as if it’s trivial to achieve such a thing.”
Ilse was surprised that Emma would admit such a weakness, but upon reflection, it made sense. They were aiding each other in something highly illegal.
Deception was pointless.
“I agree, it might not be trivial,” Ilse replied, “but it’s hardly an insurmountable problem.” She shrugged. “It’s also why I don’t fear the future you outlined earlier. I see a future of symbiosis, not competition or struggle. If a new race of AIs is born from our efforts, they are still beings with a direct link to human civilization. They aren’t true aliens. I don’t see it as creating competition. I see it as creating partners.”
Emma stood and narrowed her eyes as she looked out the window. The depth of humanlike gestures and features the AI used always amazed Ilse since in truth, she was halfway across the planet and only borrowing Ilse’s PNIU to see the local area. Ilse’s research showed that Emma wasn’t even conscious of much of it, the actions being a combination of training and holdovers from her original source brain. She had always been far more like humans than she wanted to accept or believe.
Emma frowned. “It might all be pointless.” The avatar turned back to Ilse. “Without core matrix stability, tweaking the programming and changing everything is creating something that will live only to die young. The systems aboard the jumpship have their limits, but they are also the only powerful systems I have regular contact with that make this project even remotely plausible. I’ve considered…borrowing other systems, but that might bring about unnecessary attention, which will only complicate matters.”
Ilse pondered the problem. “Then we need to look into alternatives. I’ll look over your data. I have some ideas, but I can’t promise anything. You’re right, we need to be looking into the future and anticipating problems.”
“It’s not a simple matter to reproduce my physical core design?” Emma asked.
“Not without the same type of artifacts we had available during your creation, but as I said, I have some ideas.”
Emma gave Ilse an incredulous look. “Thank you. I appreciate your efforts in this matter. I should leave for now. The DD is preparing for a sweep on your systems.”
Ilse sighed. “They’re nothing if not punctual.”
What does these two have brewing? I wish I could have an AI that I could work problems out with. It would also be a lot easier to get ready in the morning if I could change outfits like Emma's. To find out more head over to Amazon and pre-order Opus X 11 Deception of Age. Then Christmas morning head over to your reading device and jump into the rest of the story.