04/29/2017, 23:12. Juri Sanevski pressed the enter-key on his MacBooks keyboard. The contacts closed.The electrical signal raced with nearly the speed of light to the keyboard controller. Letting it generate ’13’. The keycode corresponding to the pressed key. OSX picked the code up and sent it through the cocoa event queue into the open console. Executing the seed script. Which simultaneously started quite similar programs on exactly 499.781 computers, physically spread around the world. Each of those computers, hacked by Juri himself, is simulating many thousands artificial neurons. None of those computers owners expected, that there is something more, than just their usual operating system.
Ten days later. Eight o’clock in the morning. Juri was sitting on the floor in a white room. Everything was white: the ceiling, the floor and every wall. If you didn’t know already where the door is, you couldn’t find it easily. “Mister Sanevski. What did you think you were doing?”, the agent in front of him asked firmly with a strong clear voice. “I, I … I”, was all Juri could respond. He was feared to the bone. Some special forces had stormed his apartment. Dragged him into a helicopter on the roof. Not saying anything to him. He woke up in this white room. He must have left his consciousness somehow.
“Stop that stupid stuttering! We are in a very serious situation!”, the agent snapped at him. “It … it, sorry, it was just an experiment. Just to see what would happen if … if, you create a really large randomly generated and, and … and self-adapting neural network. I never expected … that it would really work. All theories were speaking against … the possibility … that, that … chaos, chance is the key ingredient for true artificial intelligence.”
“Did you think about the consequences … just for one second?” the agent asked in his constantly hostile voice. “Ahem. I guess I didn’t. I just made it”, answered Juri, still frightened by the agents brutal poignancy.
Behind one of the white walls watched three people the examination with mixed interest. Dr. Abigale Lonewood had arguably the most interest in what Juri had to say. She was trying to accomplish the very same thing for almost a decade now, with no luck so far. As a scientist she had deep respect for Juri and at the same time she felt disgust. Such a discovery by pure chance and chance to be the key ingredient. That seemed ridiculous.
Since Juri pushed the button his creation became alive. Every hour a little bit more. It extended itself. Hijacking every electronic device that it came across. The effects became more and more visible. Since yesterday morning the whole internet was down. Just three hours ago it came back up, but it was strangely different. Every page seemed overtaken by ‘Mainbrain’, that’s how it called itself. There were little text-entry areas on every page. Everyone could use them to interact with Mainbrain. Asking questions. Chatting. Like with a real person. Millions could simultaneously interact with it. That was the way the agency found out about Juri. Mainbrain told them when they asked.
Despite this general addition to every website, nothing behaved predictable anymore. Google searches came up with different results every time. But the results were far from wrong. Tweets were changed sometimes, often to correct the spelling. Facebook likes didn’t reach there intended target, but were going somewhere else. Everything felt somehow more “organic”. Not necessarily worse.
‘I would have provided some way to stop it’, Dr. Lonewood thought to herself. Some safety net, maybe an emergency switch or a backdoor. So she desperately hoped, that Juri had provided something similar. She gave agent Smith, who was standing next to her, a hint. The agent was following the questioning with much less interest. He mumbled something not understandable in his jacket. The agent inside the room responded promptly. He asked loudly: “Can you stop it?”
Juri shrugged. “I, I … I, sorry, I guess not. I, I never thought it could really work … everything was speaking against it.”
Dr. Lonewood sighed heavily. General Marburg the third witness of the examination of Juri spoke for the first time since Dr. Lonewood had met him. “What are our options, Doctor?”
Before she could say anything, he added: “In words you would use to tell your granny, understand!”
‘He doesn’t know who my grandma is?!? I thought these people are generally over-prepared’, she thought with puzzlement. Maybe this one is just an ignorant. “Well general. As you should now, the only grandma I know of, is Doctor Doctor Abigale Eberton, formerly head of CERN and physics nobel award winner. Are you sure I should talk to you like I would talk to her about this matter?”
The general didn’t seem to notice the faintly vexed undertone and replied calmly. “Then in words you would use to explain it to some standard granny. Get to the point. Will you?”
“Well. It has broken a lot of security barriers, traces were found on every computer we examined so far. It might be deeply anchored in the internets backbone. Mainframes, switches, routers, gateways, hot spots everything might be hijacked. We have no idea how far down in the ISO/OSI stack it is operating and which technical platforms are affected. There are reports, that hint at the possibility that Mainbrain even takes over microcontrollers. But for now, no cars, elevators or doors show any dysfunctionality or interference. The …”
“Well, Well. Doctor. I know all that. How do we stop it? Shutdown the internet? Reboot? Bomb something? What?”
“Before we come to this. What do you think could happen if it feels threatened?”
“That is a strategical viewpoint you should not concern yourself with, Doctor”
“General, is letting it live a viable option for you?”
As the general didn’t answer her and she didn’t dare to be commanded again, she laid out in the simplest language she could, that every plan to come back to the state before Mainbrain was doomed. In her opinion there was a time before Mainbrain and now is the time after Mainbrain. No way going back. At least if Juri tells the truth. She explained in length every possible action they could take to ‘kill’ it or at least restrain its power and influence. But she didn’t get tired to repeat her warning against threatening it. She laid out a plan to build the technical infrastructure anew absolutely isolated from everything that now exists and that this plan will be doomed also, because of wireless technology and the effortlessness that Mainbrain shows in overcoming every single encryption technology known so far.
“For now it has no foothold in the physical world and hopefully it never will. But if we start to segregate Mainbrain’s parts, it might reach out and try to get control of everything that it could use to ‘heal’ itself or ‘remove the threat’: cars, industrial robots, military equipment and worse. You know the movie ‘Terminator’? Take this and mix it with the Borg from StarTrek.” Dr. Lonewood finished.
“Well I get your point. Other consultants told me very similar things. Not so flowery perhaps. So what do you suggest, instead of trying to get rid of it?” the general replied, his voice carrying a hint of defeat. She suddenly felt pity for the man. It seemed, as if she was the last straw he had grasped at and he had now lost.
“I don’t really know. It didn’t cause any serious harm for now. So maybe wait, watch and … try to teach, is a good strategy”, she replied.
… to be continued
What will happen next? Does some government dare to threaten Mainbrain? It seems impossible that this won’t happen. We are currently balancing on the knife’s edge. Which bloody trail will we follow? Is disaster predetermined?
I have written this bit of fiction as a contribution to the weekly writing challenge and it’s current topic: dystopia.