Authors: Sam Kepfield
An imprint of
Pygmalion Unbound, Copyright © Sam Kepfield, 2011
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This e-Book is a work of fiction. While references may be made to actual places or events, the names, characters, incidents, and locations within are from the author’s imagination and are not a resemblance to actual living or dead persons, businesses, or events. Any similarity is coincidental.
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Published by Musa Publishing, December, 2011
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Editor: Matt Teel
Cover Design: Kelly Shorten
Interior Book Design: Coreen Montagna
A flickering from nothingness to somethingness, consciousness out of the warm wet chemical deoxyribonucleic soup of creation, darkness morphing to light, awareness of images fuzzily moving on bright background and blinding points of light-pain and then flickering muscles close the portals, of touch, a cool breeze blowing over the essential me-ness, over nerves and hairs on naked skin and more coolness and an ever-so-faint pressure all over slightly constricting — movement! of extensions of the self, two, three, no four larger units and twenty smaller, finally awareness of small pressure changes and tympanic resonance —
“Hello. Can you hear me?” Darkness blotting out light, resolving itself into bioform, < memory subroutine biology genus > category humanoid, subcategory male, age approx 45 standard.
< memory subroutine speech vocalization file open language subfile standard English subfile american > “Y-y-e-e-e-s-s-s-s” the first time always the hardest, flesh < lips > moving organs < lungs diaphragm > pushing air up.
She was a thing of beauty on the outside, sleek and toned, legs long and sinewy, waist small flaring up into a smooth torso, high-set breasts not the grotesqueries of the pixillated pornosphere but small and firm, decorative and desirable not fetishistic. Strong shoulders swooping into a swan-like neck, a carriage delicate yet regal face heart-shaped almond eyes dark and lips bee-stung unruly dark hair a curling cascade down the spine now fanning out on white cotton.
A thing of beauty inside as well, spun from gossamer threads of deoxyribonucleic acids, A-C-G into near infinity and pushed and shunted and teased until they were just
, an Adam’s rib of borrowed cellular material plucked from sources living and not, placed in a matrix and grown into life yes, human life, yes, but —
The mass of neurons and dendrites called
something altogether different, not the old positronic/cybernetic thing of old imagination with wires and gears and blinking lights, but a warm wet organic carbon lump of RNA-based computing power that fully realized the stunted potential in the
, now birthing
homo sapiens divinus
Vital signs, Alpha, beta, theta waves normal, firing normal, respiration fifty per minute, volume 5.3 liters, pupil dilation in response to light, internal temperature 101.3°, all normal.
Sounds that de-randomize from babble to patterns, meaning hovering maddeningly beyond grasp. “Alpha wave oscillation increasing. Theta rhythms at 9 Mhz. Beta waves thirteen Mhz, low amplitude, varying frequencies. She’s conscious.”
Another sound source, lower pitch. “Can you hear me?” Eyelids flickered, opened, the eyes struggled to focus, seeing indistinct shapes dimly.
“Yes.” The brain knows how to form the words, her first.
“Do you know me?”
“You should. I made you.”
Followed by the existential query common to all sentient life, the query which defines and confounds their sentience:
And for that, he had no answer, at least none he was willing to share.
The waves of elation and triumph still rolled through two hours later as Dr. Desmond Crane sat in his corner office on the fifth floor of the American Cybernetics campus near Denver, taking in the view of the Rockies that never failed to send a prickling down his spine. Low clouds wreathed the peaks in gray-white mist, and leaden skies to the north foretold a rainstorm later in the afternoon, a world away from his New England upbringing.
Let it rain
, he thought.
Years chasing this, and now it’s real. Forget the ESIs, forget Asimo and Hubo and Geminoid. When this passes the trials, it will leave them in the dust
Tiny footnotes in AI history.
By the end of the first quarter of the twenty-first century, computer science had not yet progressed to the point where a silicon-processor machine could pass a Turing Test — at least not outside a laboratory environment. The Loebner Prize, awarded annually for computer programs best able to mimic human speech and thought, had, by 2015, found programs that could confound contestants, appearing to be more human than human confederates. But, as those in the field pointed out, the AI responses were more a matter of data retrieval and collation, not any sort of sentient thought process.
The early AI units were stationary central processors, and therefore of limited utility. Early experiments in the ’teens had set up links between a central computing unit and a remote unit — usually vacuum-cleaner sized wheeled machines with an array of mechanical arms and probes. The commlinks proved distressingly easy to sever, leaving the remote unit useless and stranded.
Other programs, at MIT and Stanford, linked the central AI with a humanoid robot, modeled on the Asimo or Geminoid. Again, the links could be severed with ease. Even with a working upload to the central AI, all one had was a plastic-and-metal contraption that mimicked human form, but failed to copy human movements with any exactitude. Promises in popular scientific journals and articles of robotic soccer teams contending in the World Cup were decades off, if they were possible at all.
Silicon was a blind alley — carbon-based life would always trump silicon-based life, Hollywood cinematic tripe and hoary-science fiction pulps notwithstanding. To make artificial intelligence sentient to the point where human control was unnecessary, even a hindrance, one had to start with what worked — DNA and RNA.
That realization was a quantum leap in the evolution of artificial intelligence, a step as momentous as the first aquatic life flopping onto a beach and taking its oxygen straight up, as big as that first split between man and ape in the long-dead dusty African past.
At the moment, though, the promise was all potential. Number 11 was tentatively exploring her small room.
Crane watched her on a closed-circuit link displayed on his computer monitor. She picked up various objects in the room — a ball, a vase, the pillows on the bed — and examined them, touching, feeling, even tasting the flowers and chewing the petals, ingesting them.
Hadn’t thought of that
, Crane said to himself.
Get rid of the flowers
She noticed her hair again, twirled it around a finger, caressed it, then moved on to the nightstand. Small grunts and subvocalizations came through the speaker as she tested her vocal cords.
Growing a brain from RNA was one thing. Making it work was quite another. The neuronal patterns weren’t yet finalized. She was literally a newborn, still growing, learning every second of her existence. No real conversation could be expected yet. The language programming was still booting up, ditto the cultural and encyclopedic and cyber-kinetic programs. Part of it would come by experience; riding a bike would fully activate and open the subroutines for maintaining balance on two wheels. What normally took up to ten years in a human child would be compressed into a matter of months, perhaps weeks, with the first biologically derived android.
Human-based android, to be precise, but with some differences. The endoskeletal structure, a ceramsteel alloy, was submerged in an organic stew of nanomachines and biomatter. The organs, the muscle tissue, were all cloned from human tissue, put in the organic matrix attached to the endoskeleton, and with a nudge from nanomachines, grown into human forms. More programming, cells were then laid over with nanomachines constructing the epithelial layer, programmed to create facial features and bodily characteristics, down to skin tone, eye color and hair color, amount and color of body hair. Crane had DNA from one subject available to set the experiment’s physical appearance.