Prioritizing your limited time in order to get your writing done is a bitch, even in the best of times. When the 400-pound gorilla demands a big chunk of time for several days, it can leave you not even starting to write until 23:20, which will really do a number on your word count. (Ask Me How I Know!) But 650 words is better than none.
While I normally put in a lot of internal links to previous, related posts here, I won’t be doing that for what I hope will be this year’s thirty NaNoWriMo posts. If you have jumped into or stumbled onto this story in mid-adventure, there are plenty of other ways to navigate around the site to find previous installments. Actually doing so is left as an exercise to the student.
CHAPTER SEVEN (Continued, not concluded)
(And yes, it’s still a long, long continuation of Chapter Six because that’s the way the stinking story is writing itself, I’m just a glorified typist here. All complaints should be addressed to my muse – blessed be her name)
Pete took in a deep breath, held it, and then let it out slowly. If he was going to be forced to take this seriously, he was going to need his blood pressure to stay at non-stroke levels.
“You’ve had over a decade to plan for the end of the world,” Pete said. “Is there a plan? There has to be a plan, right? You haven’t been sitting around just watching and waiting all this time I assume.”
“We do have plans and we are constantly ready to go if we see signs of an emergent AI event,” said Crystal.
“What do you even look for? How would you know an AI if one came into existence? Aren’t you making assumptions about what it would do or how it would think?”
“To a certain extent, yes, we have to make assumptions,” said Brittany. “If something emerges which is so far out of our expectations, so different that we don’t even recognize it, then we’re probably screwed. This is one of the problems the xenobiologists and SETI folk have been dealing with for decades and they’ve put a lot of thought into it. When we do find non-Earth life, if it’s based on a completely different chemistry or an alternative to DNA of some sort, we might look right past it. If it has evolved to live someplace very hot, perhaps even in the atmosphere of a star, for example, we wouldn’t even look for it, let alone find it. Or it could have evolved out in the Oort cloud of another star, relying on superconductivity for a major driver in its biology.”
“The SETI scientists have been arguing for years about what to look for and how to tell what an intelligent radio or optical signal might be like,” said Clay. “We assume that a deliberate message would be simple enough to explain to ants, based on math and chemistry and physics, and that might be true. But if we catch a bit of the equivalent a television or radio broadcast, would we be able to tell the difference between it and noise? Would they be able to do the same to our broadcasts? And even if we did recognize it and possibly find a way to decode it, would their thought processes and logic be comprehensible to us at all? No one knows.
“As for us, our basic assumption, which is borrowed from the xeno folks, is that life requires energy and a survivable environment as primary needs. Mobility, input from the environment, reproduction, all of those are secondary and optional and stay that way all the way to the top where we find things like happiness and love. We look for activity that meets certain criteria regarding energy and environment. When we see something odd we investigate, very quietly and discreetly. From there our threat levels can ramp up as necessary.”
“In the past twenty years, hasn’t anything come down the pike in terms of new theories, better modeling tools, faster computers, or anything else like that? You’re computer scientists, not experts in everything in all the fields out there. Your team is small and insular. How can you know that something in psychology or quantum theory has proven you wrong?”
“You’re absolutely correct, it’s an issue,” said Lee. “We have set up search engines that look for anything that might possibly cross correlate to what we’re doing. The results get filtered to each of us. We’ve gotten pretty good at being generalists and using new data and theories to improve our models, but it’s not foolproof.”
“How do you keep running models?” asked Pete. “You said you’re improving them, as well as having all of these search engines and ways to ‘monitor.’ Monitor what exactly, and how do you do it? If you squelched your research twenty years ago, how can you still be doing it now?”
(Chapter Seven, in all of its interminable glory, to be continued)