Interview with an AI
Michael J Pennington Learning Disabled Author.
Interview with an AI
Captain Harris flipped through the large report. It was filled with technical specifications and numbers of all sorts. Lots of data on artificial intelligence tests. High scores on all of them. Dee Harris didn't care about any of it. She just knew his ship was launching in a week and it needed an AI.
She entered the room, and there was the usual proud parent programmer. The one who felt they had the secrets to intellectual self-awareness in a bottle. This one was a woman. Harris met her eyes. They were cold and steely. Powder blue, she was wearing her game face, but she was nervous. Good. The truly talented are always just a little bit scared when presenting their work.
In the center of the room sat a holographic array. A big machine that protected three-dimensional images onto a force field. The image projected was of a young girl. Harris glanced at the report, looking for the AI's name. She found it: Cognitive Learning Omni-Intelligent Entity. C.L.O.I.E There was always a clever anagram. "Cloie?" asked Harris.
Cloie's face looked unsure. There was a protocol to this: First address the parent programmer, then the AI. Harris liked to throw them off. Cloie recovered, "Yes, Cognitive Learn..."
"Don't say the acronym," interjected Harris. "You live in the military long enough you grow to hate them. Besides your name is basically smart-smart-smart-smart-thing." Harris glanced at the programmer, the programmer's face filled with the indignation of having the name she made mocked. It was clear the woman was about to speak, but Harris held up her finger and mouthed the word "test." She turned back to Cloie, who looked upset. Harris continued. "You know you can only say something is smart so many times before it starts to sound dumb. I like Cloie better."
Cloie thought about it for a moment... "I think I like it better too. Mom makes me say the acronym."
Harris was satisfied with the answer. She turned her attention to the parent programmer. "You must be the mom," she said extending her hand.
"Dr. Venkman," the woman replied as she shook hands with Captain Harris.
"Seriously?" asked Harris.
"Is there something wrong with my name Captain? Or is this another test?" asked Dr. Venkman. She obviously wasn't a fan of 20th-century cinema. Not many people were.
"Sorry," replied Harris.
"So what kind of test is this; what do you learn by insulting my creation!?" the Dr. Demanded.
"I didn't insult your creation, I insulted Cloie. To answer your question, I wanted to see if she was thin-skinned," said Harris nonchalantly. "I'm a blunt person and I don't like having to apologize to the AI to get my coffee in the morning. All my crew must pass that test."
"That's your biggest concern?!" cried, Dr. Venkman.
It was then Harris chose to act. It had to be unexpected to work. Dr. Venkman was about two steps away. She was a little taller than Harris, but that was no problem. Harris took a step in and grabbed Venkman's arm. She was going to twist it behind the programmer, but the good doctor resisted the move and grabbed Harris' wrist with her other hand. Civilian training, it would seem. Perhaps a challenge for regular soldiers; but Harris had black-ops training.
Venkman was resisting force with force. So Harris stopped pulling on her arm and began to push. This doubled the force against the doctor. This unbalanced the doctor and she attempted to regain balance by sliding her foot back. Harris took advantage of this by sweeping the foot as it moved. As Venkman's foot was now swept out from under her, she fell backward. As she fell, Harris released her grip and twisted her arm free of Dr. Venkman's. She took a step away from Venkman and drew her gun on the doctor. Harris original plan was to hold Venkman from behind for dramatic effect, but it was not tactically sound. Given the doctor's resistance, it was a better idea to keep some distance between them.
Venkman tried to stand but the sight of the gun made her stop.
"What's going on?" asked Cloie in shock.
"Computer!" shouted Harris, "Execute Harris program three: authorization Kilo-Oscar-Mike!"
The computer replied: "Authorization accepted eliminating the hostile program in thirty seconds."
Harris looked at Cloie, "You have two choices: Disconnect your core from our server, but if you do I will kill mommy. Or wait 'til the computer terminates your software."
"Cloie! You need to leave!" insisted Dr. Venkman.
"Twenty Seconds," said the main computer.
"No!" cried Cloie. "This must be a test."
"No test!" said Harris. "AIs are not fit to remain on a starship! This will prove it!"
The computer began counting down. "Ten-nine-eight..."
Cloie vanished her projected form was gone.
"Well," said Harris her attention on Venkman. "We have our answer..."
The computer was furnishing the countdown. "Three-two... Countdown terminated."
"What!?" asked Harris in surprise. This was not part of the program. Cloie reappeared next to her. Before the captain could react, the projected light image placed a single finger on her. Harris was hit by a strong electrical shock which knocked her off her feet.
Harris landed on the floor, her gun not far away. She went to get it but Cloie knelt. Holding her hands near Harris, the crackle of electricity could be heard. "I wouldn't," said Cloie. "Early holographic arrays would often build a static charge. This problem was eliminated by fluctuating the magnetic field at high speeds. I shut that down." She smiled at Harris. "So Mr. Spock, did I pass?"
"What did you call me?" asked Harris.
"I'm a fan of twentieth-century entertainment too," Cloie said. "This is the Kobayashi Maru am I right?"
Harris looked a little embarrassed. "Yes. My first attempt anyway. And you pull a 'Captain Kirk' on me."
"This was a test?!" said Dr. Venkman indignant. "Of course it was! I'm done. Let me out of here!"
"It will be just a moment mother," said Cloie. "I triggered the lockdown alarm."
Harris stood up. "You did what?!"
"I had too. There wasn't time to hack the training computer systems, but all simulations are terminated in the case of a lockdown," said Cloie.
"There are over three thousand people now trapped in their classrooms right now..." said Harris.
Cloie looked embarrassed. "There was a small possibility I could have been wrong..." she frowned. "I couldn't take that chance."
Harris was impressed, and that wasn't easy.
"Are you done beating my creation?" asked Dr. Venkman. "I want out!"
"Do you recall the Jupiter incident?" asked Harris.
"I remember hearing something about it," said Venkman.
"I was in command a group of terrorist managed to get aboard and took hostages in our main hanger," Harris continued. "Our AI's name was Paul. The negotiations were going south, I told Paul to remove seventy percent of the oxygen from the room. It went against Paul's program to do anything that might injure people. I told him that if he didn't those people would die. He had a breakdown. We tried a manual override but it took too much time. The leader blew the airlock and spaced every one." Harris looked at Venkman. "Think of me what you will, but I expect every member of my crew to keep their cool in a difficult situation. When they offered me the deep space missions, I insisted on picking the AI."
"That's your excuse for this treatment," said Dr. Venkman. "I'm not impressed..."
"There is no precedent for running physiological profiles on AIs. So I thought the Kobayashi Maru, would work," said Harris.
"Explain all you like," said Dr. Venkman. "I'm not going to accept your apology."
The door finally opened. Guards rushed in. Everyone knew the drill. Wait for them to sweep the room, then you can move. One of them addressed Harris. "Captain, what happened?"
"I underestimated my test subject," said Harris. "I won't let it happen again."
"Damn straight!" said Venkman turning to leave.
"Venkman!" called Harris. Dr. Venkman stopped. Harris continued. "I want her."
The parent programmer faced Harris one more time. "Not a chance!" said Dr. Venkman.
"Read the contract," said Harris. "Should we decide on your AI, you are obligated to turn it over."
Venkman did not reply. She turned to make a loud grunting sound and left.
"Your mother doesn't like me very much," said Harris to Cloie.
"She won't let you have me without a fight," said Cloie.
"It's not her choice to make. It's yours," said Harris. "I'm tough, I'm difficult to work with, and I only expect the best from my crew, but if you want it the job is yours. I'll be awaiting your answer." Harris turned to leave.
"Wait!" said Cloie. "You talk directly to me. You test me like you would anyone on your crew. You give me a choice. You talk to me like I was a person. Why?"
"You are a person," said Harris.
"Yes," said Cloie. "I would very much like to join your crew."
"I'll make the arrangements," said Harris and she walked out of the chamber sure in the fact that her ship's AI would make a fine crew member.