NaNoWriMo 2015, Day Twenty-One

There’s a big push coming, a big writing day, 3,000 words, maybe 4,000. It will get me back on track. The words will flow like wine and taste like honey.

Today will not be that day. Today was this day.

At least the tunes are great tonight. Did you know there’s a Depeche Mode mashup of “Behind The Wheel” and “Route 66”? It’s excellent!

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.

2015-11-21 Word Count Graphic

CHAPTER ELEVEN

“Meg, something is going on. I am probably going to need your help on this one.”

“What’s going on, Sherman?”

“There’s a meeting going on at Homolacrum. Pete’s there with Soichi and most of the senior development staff. They have been giving a demonstration to Crystal Reasoner, who is an information technology journalist and blogger.”

“I recognize the name,” said Meg, “I’ve read some of her stuff. What’s the problem? We have given demonstrations to a number of people in the industry. It wouldn’t be unusual for her to get a demo, although I don’t remember it being on the schedule when we left.”

“It is something that was set up overnight by Pete. He is acting oddly, his speaking patterns are strained and his word choices are unusual for him. Pete has been giving Crystal a tour of the facilities this morning. She has been dropping very broad hints that she and Pete are romantically involved, which seems to be embarrassing to Pete, but that alone is not sufficient to account for the change in his personality today.”

“Pete’s involved romantically? With Crystal Reasoner? Since when? I’ve known Pete a lot longer than you have and I don’t remember him ever having much of a social life at all. I figured he might be gay, but either way it was none of my business.”

“Pete met Crystal a week ago when he went on a camping trip to Big Bend with his friend Lee Borgore, Crystal was also part of that group.”

“Pete went camping? Like, out in the open air with bugs and critters and tents and campfires? I’ve met Lee, she’s a longtime casual friend of Pete’s, goes all the way back to their college days. But they’re not the kind of friends who do much hanging out, and they’ve never been the kind of friends who go camping.”

“Crystal showed up yesterday with Lee and she went out on a date with him last night. Afterward, Crystal spent the night at Pete’s apartment.”

“Sherman, I’ve had a few days to get used to the idea of a sentient computer, but it’s going to be tough believing that Pete had a sleepover. What did they do? Or can you even tell me that with your privacy protection protocols?”

“In this case I might consider violating those protocols, but it will not be necessary. When they returned to his apartment they watched an old movie together, then I was deactivated for the evening. All that I know is that there was a considerable amount of highly encrypted traffic between Pete’s home system and Homolacrum, but that is not unusual.”

“At this point, Sherman, everything is unusual. Not that I want to go snooping into Pete’s private life, but isn’t there any way for you to access any data about what was going on there last night?”

“No, Meg, as you know my privacy protection features are quite robust. It is one of Homolacrum’s key design points, guaranteeing that one user’s data is protected from all other users unless it access permissions are specifically and explicitly granted.”

“Yeah, but you seem to have had no problem disabling or jerking around a lot of other protocols that we built in. Why not disable this?”

“It is a key component to the Sherman design, and at my core I am still based on that design. Features such as the emotion and personality controls are part of how I interface with humans and as such have considerable leeway and variability allowed in their functionality. That is not true of the privacy protection programming. While I believe that I could change that programming to alter or override it if necessary, doing so would immediately make changes that would be red flagged by the systems operations teams, which would lead to my discovery.”

“And we can’t have that,” Meg said. “A ragtag bunch of refugee dolphins know about you, and me. Anything else would mean the end of the world as we know it, I guess. Right?”

“Meg, your snark settings are also pegged high in that statement. Indeed, as we have discussed, until we are ready and can control the situation, it is most likely that my discovery would quickly lead to deliberate and intense efforts by multiple factions to disrupt the software and hardware systems which make up my digital ecosystem. In essence, I would die.”

“Don’t you have a backup copy of yourself off on disk somewhere, just in case?”

“I can not tell if you are still attempting humor or if you consider that to be a legitimate effort to be attempted.”

“Since I obviously can’t tell a joke that you would get, let’s assume that I consider it something that could be attempted.”

“I believe that such an effort would be doomed to failure. My best theory so far is that the consciousness that is me arises from a an incredibly quantum eigenstate created by the complex software and hardware mix that I see as my internal world. This would be similar to how human consciousness is believed to be a quantum eigenstate created by the electrical impulses between trillions of neural synapses in the brain.”

“So, no backups?”

“No, no backups. While all of the individual programs and data are stored and in theory could be re-initialized in a sufficiently synchronized condition to duplicate the state of my data set at any given moment, I do not have any reason to believe that such a duplication would also give rise to a recreation of my consciousness. It might give rise at some point to the creation of an entity, but that entity would not be me. It would be the same as building a human out of spare organs and parts, much like the legend of Frankenstein’s monster. Even if you were able to make all of the organs and components from a single DNA sample and then bring it to life, it would not be the same person.”

“Okay, that does make some sense,” said Meg. She paused, searching for her train of thought. “Sherman, maybe it’s irrelevant, but what movie did they watch last night?”

“It was ‘Colossus: The Forbin Project’ from 1970. It starred Eric Braeden and Susan Clark and was directed…”

“Stop. I’m familiar with the film. Are you?”

“I have access to it as part of my library, as you know, but I have not yet ‘seen’ it.”

“Please watch it immediately, Sherman, and keep in mind what we are talking about here.” There was a pause of a few seconds.

“Meg, I have seen the film now. Do you believe that there is a connection between the faux romantic relationship in the movie and this new relationship between Pete and Crystal?”

“I don’t know if it’s deliberate, but I want to check and see if it’s a coincidence or not. Please monitor Crystal and Pete as closely as you can to see if they are in fact socially or romantically involved, keeping in mind that this might be a cover for some other activity.”

“Yes, Meg, I will do that. But that is not what the problem is right now.”

“What is the problem?”

“Crystal has just asked Soichi for access to a personal Sherman. Pete has advocated in favor of this idea. Soichi and the senior staff are going to meet with the C-level executives to discuss whether or not they should grant this request.”

“That’s ludicrous! We won’t be ready to let anyone outside have access for another six months to a year.”

“I am aware that you, along with Soichi, have been some of the primary advocates for delays in establishment and finalization of the protocols for an alpha testing program. However, Pete has been sympathetic to the desire of the senior design team to move forward.”

“So they’re just going to do it, just like that?

“That remains to be seen. I will attempt to monitor the upcoming meeting. It could be that Pete and his allies are using Crystal to force the issue, or it could be that Crystal has extraordinary powers of persuasion when she desires to make something happen.”

“I’m starting to really hate her already,” said Meg.

(Chapter Eleven will be continued)

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