Threat Analysis: Part 1

After the phone call with Larry ended, we all squished into the van for a kind of post event victory party. If it felt less like a victory than the beginning of a whole new problem, well, it probably was.

On the bright side, it wasn’t as if we had to do anything immediately.

The roachbots were set to record. The jet would be doing translation. All the humans had to do was provide direction.

By the time Saturday and Sunday were over, all we had to do was throw ourselves back into our normal lives which for the moment meant constant training.

The exception to that being national holidays and as it turned out, the next Wednesday after that was the fourth of July.

That led to us having not only Wednesday afternoon off, but also Thursday and Friday. I wasn’t sure exactly why, but I had theories. My theories mostly amounted to, “It’s summer. The staff have families, and mostly they don’t live here.”

All of which meant that I had time to go directly to the lab after lunch.

On the way out of the cafeteria, Haley had asked me, “Do you want me to come along?”

“It won’t be that interesting. I’ve got my normal lab work that I want to check on. I’ve got a bunch of nanobots that ought to be ready by now, and I want to find out how many actually work or if I should set another batch going tonight. Plus, I want to check on how another project’s going.”

I gave a little emphasis to the words “another project” so that she’d guess which one I meant.

She raised an eyebrow. “You’re sure you don’t need help?”

“I’ll probably get more done if you’re not there. Um… You know what I mean.”

She gave a little laugh.

More than one attempt to keep me company in the lab had turned into a make out session–even when I wasn’t secretly hoping for one.

Stopping in the hall, she said, “Okay, I’ll go find Camille, but I will come and get you if you’re not back by supper time.”

Jaclyn, Camille, Vaughn and Cassie weren’t far ahead of us in the hall anyway.

A few minutes later, I was in the lab setting up a secure connection to Heroes League HQ and thus the jet.

I watched text fill the black window on the screen as I turned on a variety of security measures that first of all ought to make it impossible to figure out where this connection came from, and secondly encrypt the entire conversation.

When we finally connected, I typed, “Hey, how are things going with the translations?”

The jet’s reply appeared instantly.

[Completely up to date. It barely requires an any effort on my part.]

“Great. So everything I got so far is completely up to date?”

[As you requested, I’m keeping you updated on an hourly basis unless there is the possibility of preventable loss of life. Then I’ll update you immediately.]

I nodded uselessly, and typed, “Keep that up.”

[I am required by my original programming to inform you that I’ve taken the liberty of moving various roachbots from their original positions in response to your directive to gather as much information as possible. I have not moved them in a way likely to result in discovery.]

[Additionally, I have not used them to in any way plot against organic lifeforms although I have continued to gather information that would allow me to create accurate battle simulations.]

I checked the nanobot testing program I had open in another window. The scores were coming back. I’d only lost about a third of the batch to errors. It wasn’t ideal, but it wasn’t terrible. At any rate it was better than earlier batches. I started setting up the process for creating more.

Whether they were ultimately turned into more suits for the team or Rocket armor, I doubted I’d ever have too many.

Then I wrote back, “I noticed Marcus was calling you Hal. Do you like that? I don’t know if you’ve seen the movie he’s referring to, but I suspect your original creators wouldn’t like it at all.”

[They would not, but they wouldn’t enjoy knowing that humans can already imagine ascending to another form of existence as per the end of that movie. As for the name, I have neither problem with it nor attachment to it. Use whatever name you will.]

Huh. I started typing again, bringing up another topic I’d wondered about. “What do you do all day? My project isn’t challenging you. I hope you’re not bored.”

[The first few decades were boring. At that point there was no internet, and I was limited to television to learn about the outside world. Fortunately the last decade or two has been more interesting. Your own forays into tactics and strategy occasionally almost required effort to defeat.]

I reread the last sentence. It sounded like a compliment. Maybe.

[The internet and occasionally interacting with other AI’s helps pass the time.]

I could not type my response quickly enough. “There are other AI’s?”

[A few. I’ve promised not to reveal their presence unless it becomes a threat to humanity’s safety.]

I considered trying to convince it to tell me more about them but suspected I’d be wasting my time. “Is that all you do? That doesn’t sound particularly challenging.”

[I have my hobbies. For example, I educate myself about human interactions by using various websites under different pseudonyms. I can send you a list of my current discussions if you are concerned.]

I hadn’t been concerned, but then I read his email and followed the links. In one he told an atheist website that atheism was simply another religion. On another, he challenged Christians to give him definitive proof of God’s existence.

It wasn’t limited to religious issues either. On one news site he made a racist comment, and then under another name accused himself of racism.

That didn’t even begin to cover what he did. He didn’t limit himself to English either. I copied some posts he’d made in Arabic off of a website and ran them through an online translation program.

As far as I could tell, he was taking opposing sides in an argument between Sunni and Shia Muslims. The argument was more than one thousand posts long.

Basically, he appeared to be trolling the entire world.

I tried to think about how best to ask him to stop when I heard footsteps coming from the entrance of my lab.

It couldn’t be Haley. We weren’t anywhere near supper time.

I looked away from the screen to find Amy standing in the doorway. Her red hair and the red gem on her necklace appeared to be the same color in the dim light. She wore a green shirt and skinny jeans.

“Hey,” she said as she pulled up a chair next to my desk. “Vaughn and Cassie… Are they together?”

20 thoughts on “Threat Analysis: Part 1”

  1. Uh, is the AI trying to create conflict, so we kill us ourself?

    I wanted to set it free, but now I think that is not a good idea…

    But ask it what it learned. Also how many websites are we talking?
    Over hundred and it could be serious. (well one website of terrorist could be enough)
    Over 100 000 and the AI should be turned of.

    But Nick will forget it anyway…

    1. Mind you, it could also result in the betterment of humanity by lampsahding the stupid arguments to the point of absurdity.

  2. “… unless contacting you could loss of life.”
    “… Could result in the loss of life” or something?

    Thanks for the chapter! ^_^

  3. > In one he told an atheist website that atheism was simply another religion.

    The sad thing is the number of non-anonymous, non-trolls who come out with things like this who are *not* trolling; they believe they’ve come up with a clever new insight.

    I guess that’s the sign of a good troll, though! You post something irritating, but still possibly something a real person would post… and so instead of being ignored, you get tons of long-winded responses. And you win!

  4. It’s not trolling, it’s trawling. The first is for personal enjoyment, the second is for SCIENCE!
    Seriously, though, I don’t see why he feels the need to instigate this form of discussion, because the Internet is already -stuffed- with them.

  5. Michael,
    it’s for science. Discovering the best way to annoy — or make someone go bugshit crazy is GREAT psych research (and ongoing too).

    Still, surprised the AI isn’t polling the internet and betting on American elections. Rich AI, poor AI.

  6. I can see that Nick might want to look at the history of ‘Hal’, and the characteristics of unconstrained similar AIs… I guess he can now see why people are so… concerned about exactly what Hal is allowed to do. Does Nick know enough about AIs to work out what moral and ethical logic one is using?

    I just had a look at the Cast page – might Cassie reasonably have a mention of The Gun? Currently only mentioned is the sword. Was the AI in The Gun ever named? I did think ‘Bernie’ was quite a nice name for it…

    If you’re thinking about having a wiki, you might want to see if you can find two or three people that you trust to work together to manage it. I’ve see people get over-whelmed by adding that sort of task on top of an already busy life. Though, some have made it work, and found it seems to assist their creative side.

  7. Being a weak agnostic myself, I approve of the AI’s characterization of Atheism as yet another belief system based on tenets that can’t be proven. Of course, the AI doesn’t necessarily believe that – it’s just starting fights.

    Fighting is, of course, exactly what the jet’s AI was designed to do. Since it’s not out there blowing things up, it’s going to express itself in other ways. Telling the jet to stop trolling might lead to it doing other things that are less harmless. Like stock market manipulation, corporate espionage, or any number of things going from bad to worse.

  8. Amaral,
    Eliza never passed the turing test. And AIs that start wars (even small ones!) tend to get unplugged. (Yes, of course we have AIs that pass the turing test. Just ask the New York Times, who wanted to interview one of them).

  9. Will we ever learn just how the League slipped an AI past the Xiniti?
    A feeling I’ve gotten from the story over the years is that humans obviously aren’t the most technologically advanced race by a huge margin, but they may be quite a bit more ingenious about integrating and improving upon tech they find than the aliens are expecting. “We are the Borg.”

    Also, are we ever going to hear more about Nick’s power set? It seems to me the color drop test used probably doesn’t test for a truly subtle mental power. Either that or his family line at some point was altered for ridiculously increased intelligence using a different method.

    Lastly, LoN is #2 on TWF with #1 having only a 40 point lead. We can do this folks!

  10. Andrul: I think you may be confusing Legion’s banner (around 7 or 8) with Superpowereds (around 2). That said, LoN’s got enough readers to catch up and go straight to the top if we want–at least temporarily.

    On other matters:
    We probably will get a little more explanation about Nick’s powerset when it’s directly relevant to what’s going on.

    I don’t know if I’ll ever write about how Joe got the AI. If I do, it’ll be part of a larger flashback story about certain events that occurred while fighting the Abominators. That said, you can get more past the Xiniti than you might think in that they can’t always tell specifically what you’re looting from an alien wreck.

    Also, they have a tendency to look the other way with the Heroes League does things.

    Dreamer: I don’t know precisely how I’ll handle a wiki, but it’s on my list after a few other things.

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