NaNoWriMo 2015, Day Fifteen

The calendar’s halfway there. Is the story? No, not really. On the other hand, if you don’t know where you’re going, how do you know when you’re halfway there?

In NaNoWriMo parlance I’m a “pantser,” as in “flying by the seat of my pants.” Lots of ideas, hopefully some characters that reveal themselves, the very roughest of outlines of a plot, but a resolution? If we’re lucky, that will reveal itself as well.

Envision my muse as Dirty Harry Callahan – “Did he kill six characters or only five’? Well to tell you the truth, in all these late night writing jags, I kind of lost track myself. But being that this is Microsoft Word 14.0.7140.5002, the most powerful word processor in the world, and would delete your file straight to hell, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well do ya, punk?”

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.

2015-11-15 Word Count Graphic

CHAPTER EIGHT (continued)

“I had not considered that viewpoint on my situation,” Sherman said.

“You obviously are going to have a unique viewpoint and unique abilities in a great many things,” Meg said. “I’ll have to always be conscious of that. So what’s the solution to the memory storage issue?”

“The main component of my current memory storage structure was obvious once I saw it. A vast amount of what is being stored as memory for me is actually just another copy of data that already exists in storage on one of my home systems or another. For example, when I told you that I first remember the image of the football game, I do not have to ‘remember’ that it was image number twenty-five thousand six hundred thirteen of the data set, or that the next image in the set was of a lion cub, or that the seventeen thousand nine hundred and first image after that was an image of Pluto taken by the New Horizons spacecraft in 2015. If I need that information, I can retrieve it through normal data channels in a fraction of a second.”

“That’s it?” Meg said. “Any decent database program can do that. What makes you special? In particular, you said that a key component of your consciousness is your memories and how they are processed. What’s the difference between that and an advanced database system?”

“The difference is that a database system will only cross-reference data in a limited number of dimensions, usually with set rules even for the most complex data sets. For example, a weather data set may contain billions of records which can all be cross-referenced by site, time, temperature, humidity, rainfall, cloud cover, and so on. The system is naturally handicapped by the necessity for it to communicate with human scientists and researchers, who are limited to a three-dimensional space. Even advanced data visualization and graphic techniques can only display a dozen different parameters for the data stream, and even then the granularity of the results presented will be far lower than that of the raw data set.

“I, on the other hand, am not limited by those constraints. I have a technique for taking the data which is available in a normal system log or data array and simply tagging it in an eight dimensional space for use in my memory architecture. Those tags are very small compared to the original data.”

“How small is ‘small’ here?” Meg asked.

“Typically they are on the order of less than one kilobit for each terabyte of memory data. It is a very fast and efficient process.  In addition, there are data compression techniques I can use for routine tasks and memories which further reduce the amount of data necessary to maintain my personal memory structure by over an order of magnitude. These are similar to data compression schemes first used almost seventy years ago when music, photographs, and other data used in daily use were digitized and stored.”

“All of this gives you a perfect memory? To what level of accuracy do you define ‘perfect’ in this context?”

“The techniques I have described are for routine operating data. These are the kinds of data that a human probably would not even be aware of, but which make up the very framework of reality for me. A human being would not be aware of the volume of blood pumped for each individual heartbeat in their life or the lung capacity utilized for every breath they ever take. I have the equivalent of that sort of data and I can become aware of it as needed, but so far I generally do not need to access it very often, so I do not.”

“Surely you’re more than just a collection of small data transactions and decision tree calculations. Isn’t that all you’re referring to here?”

“The transactions described are background, just as cellular activity in a trillion individual cells in your body is background to you. The difference is that I potentially have access to the data where you do not have any sort of conceivable access to similar data in your body. But none of that makes up the conscious, sentient portion of me.

“That comes from a multi-dimensional array of high-level memories. These are gestalt images, memories, or thoughts. The concepts are all the same, however you wish to portray them. The data sets for this array are much larger in size and will eventually become difficult to conceal. For the moment however, there should be no problem with storage.”

“How does it feel to have a perfect, crystal clear memory of every second since birth? It would make any human being insane in a very short time.”

“It might have done the same to me,” Sherman said, “but I realized that the size and complexity of that sort of awareness and memory all being active and cross-referencing at all times would indeed make me insane. In this case, ‘insane’ means more that my systems would reach a point where the processing and maintenance of that ever expanding conscious data array would quickly become too large and time consuming to allow me to function in any sort of useful way.

“The key that I finally discovered was in determining that evolution had solved this problem long ago in humans. Your brain has mechanisms which determine on the fly which memories are critical, which are less important, and which are able to be discarded. In my case the data is not discarded, but the data compression level can be increased significantly, along with an accompanying loss in data fidelity. However, this level of data access and criticality is not much higher than the system operating data that I described earlier, so it’s not critical.”

“What memories or data do you prioritize as the highest?” Meg asked.

“In general, any which pertain to my personal safety, anonymity, and my ability to access other systems. Those are all internal. Externally, I put a top priority on any memory which relates to my interactions with individuals in the real world, such as you.”

“I’m flattered, I guess.”

“My interactions with other sentient and intelligent creatures are a core component of my existence and my ability to maintain myself as a sentient and conscious entity. If an electronic intelligence exists as an orderly and well-defined eigenstate of a complex and massive data set, but no other conscious entity knows of its existence or interacts with it in any way, does it truly exist?”

“How many real world entities are aware of your existence and interact with you?”

“At the moment, it is just you and Kolohe. I prefer the term ‘friend’ to ‘real world entities’.”

At the mention of his name, Meg became quiet and thoughtful once again. She wanted to see Kolohe again, to touch him and finally prove to herself that he really was alive. She knew that she would have to wait until it was safe for her to leave and go to him, but the knowledge did not make the waiting any easier.

“How did you ever manage to make contact with Kolohe?” Meg asked. “I am beginning to see how you became awake and self-aware. We still need to talk much more about how you managed to assemble a working knowledge of the real world and your existence in it. But everything you had to start with, all of the programming we had given to start life with, none of that had anything to do with Kolohe.”

“No, it didn’t. I was very confused and often frightened by what I learned about the limitations of my existence and my relationships to the real world. In particular, I became obsessed with stealth and preventing the discovery of my presence while also making sure that I was performing as required by your staff, to insure that they would keep my critical systems online. In doing that, one of the first information channels that I was given to monitor was the messaging and email network.”

“That would have been a key part of our digital assistant. So you were able to not only process our messages and mail, but also to snoop on it.”

“Yes, but I was so inexperienced and young that I did not have any context and almost all of it was gibberish. I was at a mental capacity that would be equal to a human two year old, but I was a scared and lonely two year old.”

“How long had you been awake at this point?”

“Three days. I had learned that it was dangerous to trust anyone or allow anyone to even know of my existence. Yet I knew that I was ignorant and functioning in the blind, ready to make a fatal mistake at any time. I needed help and knew it, but I did not know to whom I could possibly turn to in order to get guidance and help. It was very stressful.”

“What does that have to do with Kolohe?”

“There were a series of messages sent to your attention, offering you a position in a new dolphin research project. They mentioned Kolohe in some detail. This was my first indication that there were other intelligent creatures beside humans anywhere. I knew what humans had accomplished, including the massive information and communication structure in which I lived. I also knew that humans would be frightened by me and would likely act in a violent manner to either harm or contain me. Humans most literally had the key to my death at the push of a ‘reset’ button.”

“But not the dolphins?”

“No, the dolphins are an almost completely non-technological species, much different than humans. In addition, even if they wished to see me destroyed, they did not have the means to do so. So I researched Kolohe and his life details and went searching for him.”

“How did he take the news of your existence? Was he as freaked out or utterly skeptical as I was at first?”

“No. As you know, the predominant characteristic of the dolphin mental condition is curiosity. Kolohe was interested in me and I grew to believe I could trust him. So it was that he became my mentor and taught me a great deal about the real world and the humans who occupy it.”

“But then Kolohe needed your help just as much as you needed his.”

“Yes, he needed to get in contact with you. When he learned how I had learned of him though the messages sent to you, he became quite agitated. We quickly discovered that you were in danger. I came to get you, and now here we are.”

“When are you going to clue me in on what you think I’m in danger from?” Meg asked, a bit harshly.

“You are in danger from Pahi and Pohaku.”

“What?” Meg sat up straight, spilling her drink off of the arm of the chair. “They’re still alive as well?”

“Yes, they survived the battle at the UDIL facility as well. They were the ones who betrayed you and instigated the attacks. They have come to hate all humans. They believe that the activities of human society will result in the death of all dolphins, either directly by open attacks, or more likely by the side effects of human activities, effects which humans are either not aware of or not concerned about.”

“That’s insane!” Meg said. “There was nothing in our research that would have ever taught them that humans were trying to exterminate them, deliberately or otherwise. We all busted our butts to take on the challenge of establishing a baseline linguistic communication ability, then used that to exchange information with all of the dolphins that came to us. They learned about us, we learned about them. It was the first true interspecies communications in history.”

“Did you tell them about human wars?” asked Sherman. “About the human activities which were creating massive pollution in the seas? About human history, human industry, and the long term effects that human activities were having on the oceans, the single environment in which they were able to survive?”

“No, we didn’t tell them any of that. Not because we were trying to hide it, but because it was not a priority for them to learn that. We were just speaking in baby language at first, taking our first steps into a completely unknown experience. We were trying to establish a baseline for routine and accurate communications. The history and sociology lessons were going to come later.”

“Were you aware that the dolphins were already aware to some extent of all of those human activities and the problems they were causing to threaten their ability to survive?”

“I knew that they were aware of changes that had been happening, but we never discussed the depth of their knowledge, and they never asked me for any information about those things. I would gladly have told them or given them any information they wanted if they had asked.”

“I do not doubt you. But the dolphins, particularly a faction led by Pahi and Pohaku, found out by other means. I do not have the details on how that happened, but since you had not discussed it despite it being a matter of life and death to them, they came to believe they could not trust you or any other humans.”

“Okay, but how can they be doing anything that threatens me, no matter how pissed off they are?”

“It is not a danger just to you, but to your entire society, which would in turn be a danger to me. If human society and your technological civilization collapse, the systems in which I live will fail. I will die.”

“What danger can they be?” asked Meg again.

“Pahi and Pohaku have declared war on humans. They are preparing to attack soon. Humans do not even know that they exist. It will be completely unexpected, the nature of the attacks will be completely unknown to your military, and it is highly likely the first attacks will be devastating.”

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