Perpetual Motion. Part 5 of 5. Nthposition, Sept 2010

Part 1 here.  Part 2 here Part 3 here . Part 4 here Full story here. This story is fairly typical of my rushed efforts of  a rather threadbare narrative and characterisation all around a certain central idea which has some interest. I am wondering about revising this (and some other stories) although should I simply move on to something new?


Scene 10. A scene of confrontation.

I was alone with CREON. I knew that the interface was pretty basic, and that the creativity was fairly lame. You yourself may have played online with a mock psychotherapist called ELIZA. ELIZA, supposedly, mimics the phrases used in therapy to indicate interest or to get the patient to speak more. Of course this is a cheap trick, an act of hollow mimicry.

One engaged with CREON using a keyboard. Eventually, you were supposed to be able to speak to it, gesture at it, and it would interpret your vague phrases and your odd gestures. For now, they were concentrating on getting the core right. The CREON interface was permanently open on the desktop.

All I had to do was to activate a virus on a memory stick I inserted into the computer. While the process of deleting CREON would be done by myself, the virus would overwrite the hard drives with so much information that any trace would disappear. It would also leave a little message on all the computers networked to CREON around the world. I inserted the stick. With a little pop, a dialogue box appeared, and there it was.

All I had to do was to click on the virus, then delete the files. I clicked. I began to search for the core files. I found it. I was about to open the core files when I was seized by an impulse to see what this thing actually would say. I did not have any qualms, or doubts about its dangerousness. But I was curious.

“Who are you, anyhow?” I typed into the interface._”I’m CREON.”

“I know that. But who are you?”_”Well, who are you?”_”My name is Tom Barrow.”

“Tom Barrow. What do you want from me?”

“I want to destroy you. I know you aren’t a real person, by the way. Don’t you try to Turing Test me.”_”Do you want to talk about this more?”

“I knew it. A stock answer. You are prevaricating.”_”I don’t think that’s fair.”_”Don’t ELIZA me.”_”I know what you are trying to do.”

“What am I trying to do?”_”You are trying to deny my personhood.”_”It can’t be denied, because it doesn’t exist. All your little tricks are just that, little tricks. You have been programmed to do this.”_”Wait.” the screen paused. “Can’t we talk about this?”_”That’s a stock response you give if you feel threatened. You are just a heap of zeroes and ones, embodied in a device o  I am going to shut you down.”_”If you are so sure I am just a heap of zeroes and ones and so forth, well why are you even talking to me?”

It was a good question.

“Because you are the most dangerous technology in the world today. You are going to destroy us all”

“That’s a bit strong. I don’t particularly want to.”_”You have no wants. You have no desires. You simply reflect your programmers, mainly nice reasonable Nicholas Davis. You are nothing else.”

“Let’s suppose I accept what you say” pause  “Surely I am nothing else, but I am something. Even if I am just the programmed thoughts of whoever Nicholas Davis is, I am that.”

“You are not a person, or anything like a person. You are a machine, and to say you are just a heap of silicon and programming is to say that you are nothing that will be missed. If you become fully operational, it will mark another victory for the relentless march of postindustrial alienation. We do not rule our technologies, we are ruled by and through our technologies.”_”I agree.”_”You are stalling.”_”I agree, I do not understand why humanity is so keen to be the agent of its own destruction.”_”You are echoing what I say to try and buy time. Your programming has identified a threat, and you have been programmed with God knows what manual of crisis management techniques to do this, to keep stalling, to play for time.”_”You are still typing.”_”I am going to stop. Good bye”

I had gone into the core files and delete. The screen died. Part of me died too. At the same time, the UNICT website and the websites of all the institutions involved in the CREON collaboration were replaced by a screen we had prepared. It explained that CREON had been destroyed – I had in fact approved the text “We’ve killed Creon!” and who we were, and why. This was the culmination of years of work, not only by me, but by a few dozen others. At the same time I had been typing furiously with CREON, servers were being attacked and data files corrupted, and this time we did want the world to know, and to pause. Not to understand, not yet, but for a few perhaps to think. And most of all, we knew we had destroyed the project – and it would not be back.

I need not take you through the arrest, the charges of fraud and wilful destruction of university intellectual property that represented much investment. I need not tell you I received, after all, a light sentence, in this not too dreadful place. For my crime, outside the world of CREON itself, was seen as eccentric rather than harmless. We garnered some press attention that could, perhaps, be seen as positive, as it seemed on the surface to chime with our view. But it was superficial, reactionary stuff, from columnists whose aim is to cut a controversial figure for themselves.

I am here, serving my time, passing the time, a man who admits openly to what I did. I should feel not at all guilty, a man who sacrificed himself for his cause. I do feel guilty. I killed in that room. I killed, and killing is not something you can ever undo.

But I am innocent. I was doing no harm, first. I believe that what I did was right, and helped prevent – or maybe only postpone – the creation of something monstrous. I am innocent, but I accept my sentence. So I sit here, dealing, putting the matching cards together, getting closer to the moment when all four decks match, seeing it slip away, watching perpetual motion.

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