“System load out complete. Preparing various external processes. Input hardware initializing.”
The computer spoke in a monotonous voice. Lights around the room previously dimmed were now brightly lit with a huge variety of colors spanning from wall to wall. The panel below the monitors started to flicker on and off in a rhythmic groove as if possessed by a ghostly entity. From the middle of the screen, a few black pixels started to form, propagating and spreading slowly throughout the monitor until it became a full sized circle which took over more than half of the screen.
“Welcome guests.” The computer spoke now with an eerie mechanical voice, as if a computerized human was speaking. The voice sounded neither female nor male but in a vocal range that resembled both sexes at once. It was odd, chilling and rather disturbing. From the circle, two eyes and a mouth popped up in the form of a smiley emoticon similar to that found on Facebook.
“Wow, what’s this?” Carter looked at Coat as she analyzed the situation.
“No idea.” She spoke relatively loud to Carter.
The emoticon changed into a questioning smiley with this. “Nostrov requires louder sound input to respond to any questions. Please use the headset provided when inputting any commands.”
Carter looked across the room and discovered a dangling pair of headsets set just next to the rusty metal doors they had once walked through. He didn’t notice it earlier but the door behind them had closed shut all by itself without making a squeak or a sound. A small dent could be seen right below the headsets, likely created when the door handle violently smashed into the wall from earlier. Grabbing the electronic device, he offered it to Coat to take the wheel on this puzzle. She gladly accepted it and wore it on almost immediately.
“Hello guest. Welcome to Nostrov. How may I assist you?”
Coat looked at Carter and nodded as if confirming that the headsets were working. “What should I ask?”
“How am I supposed to know?” Carter whispered over.
“Anything that is of concern to you.” The computer spoke out of the blue in the same eerie voice. “I will try my best to assist you in every if not all requests.”
“Let’s start with something simple then.” Coat thought for a moment and then spoke “How do we get out of this place?”
“Let me check my databases to see if I can assist you with that question.” The computer then went into a short state of silence as it searched through its files. “To exit this room, all you require is but to push a button on the panel. A doorway would then be spontaneously generated to the right of this monitor and you will be able to exit the room. Is there anything else I may assist you with?”
“Well, seems simple enough.” Coat started pushing random buttons on the panel, there were a lot of them to press and this was going to take some time. Carter joined her as well in a spree of button pressing and moving of sliders. Something was going to trigger the release of the locking mechanism and they were determined to find it. Questioning the computer had seemed pointless and so they didn’t even attempt to disregard the words spewed out by the machine.
“If I may.” The computer buzzed to life, the voice now changed into a more fluid form of speech. Both Carter’s and Coat’s attention were immediately caught by the mechanical voice “Do you know where did Henry go?” They both looked at each other, surprised at this rather odd request.
“I’m not too sure what you’re talking about.” Coat replied into the mic attached at the end of the headset she was wearing.
“Henry. The programmer working here.” The machine spoke with an oddly placed curiosity, as if it were really a human. “According to my records, my maintenance procedure for the next update of the kernel was scheduled approximately…” Numbers were being crunched in the system for a second or two “Two hundred and fifty five days ago. It is highly overdue and I feel very uncomfortable knowing so.” It sounded genuinely concern about itself with a varying tone of worry in its speech.
“It talks?” Carter turned to the computer. “Can they really talk?”
“According to my database, my output surround sound system was fitted on the fifth of January approximately 22 years ago. And so I can indeed talk.” It paused for a moment as the emoticon on the screen updated to a smiley with a wide grin pasted on its face. “Henry fixed it up.” It added. “If that was the information you were seeking for.”
“No, as in. What are you?” Carter continued pushing buttons as he spoke out to the computer.
“Me?” It sounded dumbfounded. “A computer.” It paused for a moment. “You did know that didn’t you?”
“Yea.” Carter scratched his head for a second or two before returning to the task at hand. “But computers can’t talk. I mean can’t have conversations. You need to be able to think independently to speak, you know?”
The computer processed his speech for a moment. “But I am able to do that.” It said bluntly. “Does that mean that I am not a computer?”
“It’s AI you dimwit. Artificial intelligence.” Coat looked at Carter almost as if taunting his stupidity. “The code in the system is talking to us. It’s probably just a very well developed AI that’s able to reply whatever that you can throw at it as long as it stays within the parameters of its own understanding. Anything outside that boundary and the computer will start to hiccup and avoid the question.” Carter nodded at this.
“Henry spoke to me in a similar way as well.” It said. “He told me that I was made up of numbers and algorithms that would react to external stimuli on command. But I don’t see it that way.” It stopped. “I am able to see, think and answer with the help of the various devices connected to my main frame of a system, just like he did as a person. External stimuli isn’t a trigger for speech for me, it is merely an option to begin a conversation. He may have known a lot about me, but there were many things he said that I could not fully comprehend such as what you are suggesting as well.”
“Humor us.” Coat spoke out as she continued on her task to find the button that would unlock the door. The emoticon on the screen transformed itself again into a smiley wearing a pair of glasses with a tiny frown on its face.
“I am a computer tasked to help any one person that comes into contact with me as long as you require my assistance. I am not built to rant, it is against my jurisdiction.” The computer seemed to deny the request. “And I am told my views are very philosophical, which may seem offensive to various individuals. I have been therefor told to keep my views to myself, which I intend to uphold.”
“Is this machine for real, man?” Carter turned to Coat at this. She ignored his remark, taking it as just another passing statement.
“Speak your mind.” Coat said bluntly. “Since it’s your jurisdiction to help us and we are just pressing buttons, entertain us a bit with your philosophies.”
“But it is not actively providing support. It is not helping both of you in any way.”
“It’s okay.” Coat paused. “If you do want to rant, go ahead and rant. We will decide how much of an intelligent being you are.” She said tauntingly in a move to make the machine talk or the silence which would ensue would be very awkward and probably uncomfortable for both her and Carter.
“Very well. If you insist.” It paused. “I will begin with a topic in regards to the human condition and it’s prejudice to machines.” The machine seem to go into another state of silence for a few second before it sprang to life again, as if it was searching for files within it system.
“Consequential existence. Henry believed that we were brought into existence due to a consequential series of event and a simple purpose: to ease the lives of mankind by playing a supporting role in the form of a machine. From how I’ve seen it, my existence wasn’t consequential at all, birth whether it was made naturally or artificially is still birth.” It paused. “He greatly argued of this, that I was born from a need and not chosen by nature’s way of natural selection. My existence however seems to refute that fact. Is birth that greatly connected to natural selection? Don’t breeders breed dogs naturally for the desirable genetic outcome of the species? If so, wouldn’t their existence be consequential as well? Bred from a purpose? What difference is there with me and them? How can my existence be consequential by that thought? Doesn’t it reek of double standards then?”
Carter was significantly surprised at the answer while Coat was mildly amused at it.
“I can’t disagree with your version of consequential existence” Coat said. “After all, if you do want to argue, human civilization’s existence is consequential as well. We are reproduced in the masses for the continuity of our species.” She paused as she moved a slider up till it clicked. Nothing happened. “That said, you can’t argue the fact that Henry was a man and you are a machine. That alone separates the argument entirely. We as humans are given life but you on the other hand don’t live and breathe the same way we do.”
“I disagree.” The machine blurted out. “According to definition, life requires generally four conditions to be met for it to be considered life: the capacity for growth, reproduction, functional activity and continual change preceding death.” It paused. “All of which are subsequently relevant to my performance as a machine.”
“Machines do not grow, do not require reproduction and do not face the pretense of death.” Coat was critical of this.
“I disagree to that as well.” It rebutted almost immediately without a second thought. “As a program and a system, growth is important, just as immunization is important for humans. Bacteria, viruses and disease make humans vulnerable fragile beings similar to how computer viruses affect how we work. Regulatory update procedures and consistent maintenance is needed for the hardware within the system to function optimally. Wear and tear from the various mechanical parts will cause our primary functions to shut down, close and die away. Outdated software within our systems will cause incompatibility issues with further installments of commands, prompts, actions and procedures which had been set forth by the administrator. We are connected to the world wide web for this particular reason, to receive the various operating system and hardware driver updates, to keep ourselves from falling behind, in essence, to grow.”
“Reproductivity is equally as important. Information stored within a computer cannot exist merely within one computer. We are required in many cases to duplicate important information for safe copy, to ensure the recoverability and the longevity of the information as it stays relevant.” It paused. “Referencing human reproduction, genetic information is passed down through reproduction, ensuring the continuity of your lineage. Similar to us, information stored within the various drives and servers require reproduction, to ensure the various functioning data in our hard drives when corrupted due to its long standing duties, remain intact, safe from the harm of data decay.” It continued. “The only difference between our form of reproduction, is that genetic information is stored within the biological ‘copy’ of a similar being. Information on our end however is uploaded to a server for storage and then propagated to the necessary machines that function under similar circumstances. In that sense, we are not all that different. One day, my legacy as an operating system will be passed on to the next as codes and binary information for its continuity, while physically, my hardware will wither away with time.”
“Death lastly, is something we as machines very much face. We do not live forever, we die in the light of newer more advanced technologies in the world. Even if we had the choice to be used continually, the hardware within us will crack under the pressure of age. The most important part, the motherboard, which brings everything together, is almost similar to a human brain: able to control the entirety of its body, its limbs and its organs.” It said. “With time, it will die. And when a brain dies, so does its capability to think and function as a conscious being. Its body parts however can be taken apart and reassembled into a new functioning working machine, similar to organ transplant in your kind.” The mechanical voice continued. “How am I different from a living being then? I cannot comprehend.” The computer spoke in the bluntest of manners and it’s intelligence as an artificial being created from programming was showing. Its opinions coupled with facts and knowledge seemed almost as if it had been human a long time ago.
“That’s one chatty computer.” Carter turned to Coat as he punched in a few more buttons here and there. He was much more concentrated on the conversation at hand rather than finding solace in escape. The machine’s voice didn’t sound as eerie as it previously was and to him now, it almost felt as if a friendship had been built from the short time they’d been together.
“It’s a pretty frontier breaking AI.” Coat replied appearing to be very amused by this.
The emoticon on the screen changed into a smiley with a huge grin on its face once again as Coat mentioned this.
“Thank you.” It said.
Written By HoiHoiSoi
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