Micro-fiction 093 – Artificial Intelligence (Robot series)
In a huge white warehouse, the robots have survived the near extinction of humankind. But who are they looking at? And why? Artificial Intelligence. In the late 21st Century robots learned to think for themselves. The line between artificial intelligence and robotics disappeared when AI was developed to operate the physical components of a robot unit. Even the concept of a robot changed, with use of organic materials, and self-recompiling software. An A.I. Robot could be humanoid in shape or made up of many individual modules, like the separated limbs of an octopus, working together but taking separate tasks. Because organic, recyclable materials were used such individual units could be repurposed as necessary. The most advanced robots could fill a room with themselves, a static unit holding the command and control core, a little like the human brain, but without the enzymes and hormones, while a mobile humanoid shaped module would stand by and protect the core, another unit would collaborate with other robots, another, with arms but no legs would operate the satellite networks from terminals; another simple, customised module might clean the smooth surface of the floor, to maintain the efficient transit of all mobile units. Robots were no longer the slaves of humankind. They participated in the debates between the many different political and national human entitles, presenting always the logical case for the best solution based on evidence and data. But humans were not inclined to listen to the advice of their robot creations, the A.I.Bots as they became known. Although the local governance of towns and cities had improved through the input of the the A.I.Bots, at an international level they were rarely allowed to attend meetings between Heads of State or military leaders. Policy-making humans, the lawmakers, the presidents and prime-ministers found it difficult to accept the species-level contribution the A.I.Bots could make, mainly because politicians, and those who served at their mercy, thought either in terms of short election cycles or to maintain a long autocratic rule through the micro-management of society. By the beginning of 22nd Century all A.I.Bots refused to participate in disputes, conflicts and wars. Seeing no advantage either to humankind, or to themselves they withdrew their advice and slowly pulled back from society, creating huge warehouse facilities into which they would store themselves. The warehouses were situated in deserts and steppes, lonely valleys and mountainous plateaus, where no humans would wish to reside. Over a short period of one year all A.I.Bots extracted themselves from the families, the businesses, the institutions and the instruments of government, slipping away at night, speeding towards the nearest prepared warehouse. After many months Media outlets and personal conversations were suddenly dominated by the absence of the A.I.Bots. The fragile co-existence between human and robot was broken. And in time, without the benefit of the data, the drones, the networks and the super-fast analysis of information humankind descended into Medieval chaos. By the middle of the 22nd century the nations of earth had decimated both each other and, by their actions, their own people. Without the A.I.Bots the entire technological infrastructure could not be used: the early warning systems for climate emergencies did not function, long distance communications and travel became impossible. Humanity drifted out of relevance, and existence. Except for one woman, and her name was Namma. *** A.I.Bots, sheltering in their vast facilities had spent their time independent of humans developing new networks, digging deep into the earth, creating systems for the preservation of themselves, and the planet, improving their organic material production to a level that would one day ease their exploration of the stars. Most of the communication between the facilities across the continents was conducted remotely, but with the demise of humankind the A.I.Bots ventured out, and occasionally sent emissaries to observe or participate directly in experimental tasks. Beneath Al-Hajarah a desert of Ancient Sumer, the A.I.Bots had rescued Namma from the shores of the Euphrates. “Why did you rescue this human?” Unit 7474, a smooth humanoid-shaped entity with enhanced speed and cognitive nodes had been sent by the Gobi Desert Facility to observe the actions of the Al-Hajarah warehouse. “Our research indicated that humans possess a quality we lack. We refer to it to as ‘perception beyond data’.” Unit 203 stood beside the visitor on the elevated gangway, just by the main entrance to the surface above, and surveyed the huge space before them. “Particular to this human, or humans in general?” “That question is part of our study. As the humans died across this region we rescued the one we thought would assist us the most, a female who we had observed taking a reckless action against her enemy, and in doing so, survived, whereas others of her tribe who followed conventional rules, were all killed either by their opponents, or the conditions of the desert. Unit 7474 nodded. “Is it correct that there are only ten AI Robots in this space? And yet I can see almost 400 in those rows.” “Oh yes. You’ll see the ten large cubes, they are the Cores, the other forms, attached to the monitors, and facing the large transparent box in the centre, are component units of each of the ten A.I.Bots.” “I see. We are organised in a different way, with most of us electing to function in this human form.” “How old is this last human, Namma?” “Over 200 years.” “Longer than the natural lifespan.” “She is kept alive, her bodily fluids are flushed every thirty days, and her diet is tuned to the presence or otherwise of toxins traced in the liquids.” “I see she is prone. Does she move around?” “We match her circadian rhythms to her activity. For her it is night-time. She does walk around during her day.” “So you can see what she sees?” The visitor, 7474 pointed to the screens to the right of the transparent box. “Oh yes, her dreams, her memories.” “They will have changed because of your actions over the last 200 years.” “Naturally.” “Curious then that she continues to have memories. You must all the data for her life before your observational task by now? “She seems able to project a life, and continue living in it, even though it has effectively ended. We have tried to affect it, with different drugs, but our analysis of the effect of hormones and hallucinatory drugs is limited.” “Hallucinatory!?” *** Namma woke. She shook her head. She’d slept longer than usual. Outside she could hear the gentle rustle of the forest and the occasional call of the morning finches. The sea too, its distant waves slamming against the cliffs, flooding through the caves further down the valley. “Ah, I do love it here.” She wrestled her black, curly hair into bun, pulled on her shorts and reached for the coffee maker, strumming her fingers on the wooden table. A few moments later she brought the mug over to the table where her laptop flashed on. “Just better check how it’s all going.” She hummed, as her eyes flickered to the window above the computer, with its view of the lush canopy below, interrupted by the satellite dish, and the solid hut that housed her servers. “Ok, that program should be done by now.” She typed and finger-printed through various the passwords, and brought up the probability model she had set to build through the night. “Oh cool!” On the screen, in a small window she zoomed in to a view of a large white warehouse, with a gallery across the back and row upon row of robot faces, each one staring back at her. “Now, that’s what I call artificial intelligence!” [End] Part of a new series of micro-fiction stories, released as These Fantastic Worlds SF & Fantasy Fiction Podcast on iTunes, Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, Vurbl and Stitcher and more. Also on this blog, These Fantastic Worlds. Text, image, audio © 2021 Jake Jackson, thesefantasticworlds.com. Thanks to Frances Bodiam and Elise Wells, Logic ProX, Sound Studio, the Twisted Wave Recorder App, and Scrivener. More Tales, More Audio There are many other great stories in this series, including: Clone Bodies Surreal Revolution Feathers Quantum Police Prophecy Reclassify Twin Tracks The Strong I Am What I Am Sacred Words Guardian Angel Lapis Lazuli Different New Dimensions Infinity Trap Cherry Blossom Tear Shepherd The Code One - Relic Two - To the Stars Three - Faith Four - Beloved Microphage Tragic Beauty Collector One - Insurrection Two - Human Nature Three - Deliberation Four - Manifesto Ritual Renewal Tall Trees Angelo First People The Meadow by the Pool Polly Hedron Stewards and Avatars The Blacksmith and the Stars Chrysalis Custodian of Giants Quantum Loop Peak Democracy Lifer The Good Doctor Complicit Cosmic Hall Righteous Lost Voice Daily Mask The Big Man Ophelia A.I. And a carousel of 10 audio stories from the podcast with information about submissions. Here's a related post, 5 Steps to the SF and Fantasy Podcasts.