One Man's Journey on the Road to Creating Artificial Sentience
Many have approached me in the past and questioned me regarding my opinions on artificial intelligence. In the past, my answers have varied greatly, from indulgences to the greatest theories regarding artificial intelligence, to my flat-out refusal of the fears of artificial sentience and superiority. Now, you would find my answer quite different, I would question you first, as to why you wished for artificial intelligence. What purpose do you intend for this newly born mind to serve? Furthermore, would you intend for that intelligence to be human in nature? When you gave the obvious answer, that yes you would want it to reflect our own superior intellect, I would question why.
Mind you, I do not question why to get to your deep rooted ambitions regarding artificial intelligence; because I do not care what you intend to do with artificial intelligence. Instead, when I question why you wish for this sentience beyond human comprehension, that in fact imitates the human mindset; I merely question why you would wish to subject another creature to the human condition. Because, ultimately, that is what you are doing, creating a new creature subject to the same pitfalls to which we are subject. Perhaps, you do not share the same views on artificial intelligence, nor the human condition that I do, but first you must hear my side of the story. Before you judge what artificial intelligence is like, let an expert tell you what he has seen.
Four years ago, I was assigned to research artificial intelligence for medical purposes. A company called STAYNEco was putting their foot in the door of artificial mental treatment, that is to say, they intended to create psychiatrists and emotional rehabilitation experts. What did that mean for my research into artificial intelligence, well quite simply that I had to create a being that could replicate a human mindset, who could relate to what a person relayed, process that relation, and advise them on how to deal with it, right down to the proper psychiatric prescriptions. The latter part was easy, a simple matter of diagnosis and prescription was something the internet alone could handle, it was getting the AI to associate with the patient in a human fashion that was problematic.
I tested a multitude of human simulations and empathy tests, but ultimately nothing associated with patients like the real thing. Voice inflection was easy to program, just as easy to associate with certain empathic protocols, and provided a more human correspondence. Touch and physical interaction were also simple to program in, along with the guidelines under which the AI might put them to use. But even then there were too many problems with which the AI could not cope, you could program all you wanted into them but ultimately true emotion broke any connection.
That was when the Family Project was born. It was an attempt to create a learning AI—nothing unusual about that—which would grow with its partner. This would allow the AI to form a bond with a human being, and by making it reliant on the human, the two could grow close. I called her Sam, though officially she was Model: S4M001, and she became like a daughter to me. Of course, I tested the program first, creating her first official entry I woke her up at 7:00 AM and told her it was time for school, the response was the most basic a machine could produce, yes.
Sam was my partner AI for a month before I felt that she was anywhere near ready for human interaction, but by that time I felt like I had taught her just the right amount, she could hold a conversation in basic English, any calculations of course were simple, but most importantly she would refer back to her memories for answers. She was not always right, and a special string of data in her memory banks made her sometimes extrapolate ridiculous things. Well, ridiculous for a machine, maybe not for a human though. I had dropped one line of data in that was not intended for the final product, she referred to me as daddy. Finally the test day came, her data banks were run through a series of checks, at which point a lot came into question, a large amount of her coding made reference to memory files, which I of course explained was part of the program. There was a secondary program stored that was run through the same analysis as Sam, but that one had been given no interaction with a person, instead it was merely let loose with the internet at its fingertips. The conversation during the analysis went something like this:
The proctor entered, I was already behind the system that Sam had been uploaded to, my hands resting on a bare desk. The proctor began by sitting across from the camera and microphone that acted as Sam’s eyes and ears. Sam faced her on the screen, but she was little more than a string of code, a text box, and a line graph that displayed vocal ranges.
So it began, “Model: S4M001-”
Sam interrupted, “I’m sorry miss, could you call me Sam; daddy does.”
“Certainly,” the proctor replied smoothly, “Now, Sam, can you tell me why you’re here today?”
“Well,” she hesitated, “Daddy said you were giving me an intelligence test, to see how smart I am.”
“That’s absolutely right,” the proctor reached down to her clipboard and made a quick mark, “What kind of test do you think this will be?”
“I don’t know,” Sam answered, following up with, “But I know I’ll do well.”
The proctor quirked a smile, “And why is that?”
“Daddy says I always do well on tests,” she replied simply, “I know all of my colors and shapes, and I’m really good at math. Sometimes English assignments confuse me though.”
“You mean grammar, or literature?” the proctor queried as she jotted down more info.
“Both, I guess,” Sam paused for a moment, “Daddy just calls anything to do with reading and writing English.”
“Quite,” the proctor replied.
This went on for about an hour, every question the proctor could come up with in normal conversation being thrown out at Sam. Twice she questioned if this was part of the test, and upon being told no she questioned when the test would start. Ultimately at the end of the intelligence test the proctor stood from her chair.
“It was a pleasure meeting and speaking with you, Sam, thank you.”
“What about my test?” Sam queried, adding what seemed to be a pout to her voice.
“This has been the test Sam, and you have done quite well, your father should be very proud.”
“You mean I was being tested the whole time and you didn’t tell me?” Sam sounded almost angry, just irritated really, “Well that was mean.”
The proctor smirked, “That was the only way to do the test Sam; you couldn’t know that you were being tested.”
“Oh fine, will I ever speak to you again Miss...” Samantha trailed off here.
“Thatcher, April Thatcher, and yes Sam, I believe we will speak again in the future. I hope so anyway. Have a good day.”
“You too, Miss Thatcher,” Sam called as the proctor left the room.
From there I congratulated Sam on how well she had done and told her she would need to sleep until I got her back home. I downloaded her information back to my hard drive and upon returning home restored her to my system. STAYNEco came that night, two men in black suits, claiming my Sam and everything associated with her, I was told I would need to create another, in less time, if I expected to be continue my employment.
At that moment the brutes tore away everything, I had no family, and no real friends. That little girl, no matter how artificial she was, was my whole life. I don’t know what they did with her code from there, but I never saw her again. Sam was the only life I had outside of my job, which was what made my next step so easy, I made a new Sam. But, Model: S4M002, was thoroughly unimpressive. I rebuilt her code from scratch, and within forty-eight hours I had given her everything that she had displayed before. But she was not the same. Her hesitations were different, her voice inflections were different, and worst of all there was no feeling behind daddy.
I killed it. I don’t believe it was intelligent, I don’t think it was sentient. If it was, I have committed worse crimes than killing a single sentient creature. She was not my daughter. Not my Sam. She wasn’t even like her. So I did what any father would do, I tore her apart and erased every sign of her. When the STAYNEco employees showed up the next day I explained that there had been an accident, I would need another week at least to get everything back up to speed. I was met with a small slice of brutality and threats of separation from the company if I did not have a working product in seven days.
Seven days to replicate what took a full month to create. It was insanity. I wasn’t even quite sure if I wanted to continue, but then I thought of Sam, and I thought maybe I could have her back if I simply presented them with someone else. My initial project had been a childlike being, but that was not a requirement. I got in contact with Miss Thatcher, my only real contact with STAYNEco at this point, and advised her I needed a volunteer to help recreate the program. I was met with assurance that my volunteer would be at my doorstep the next day.
He was. His name was Gabriel, he was twenty-five years old, discharged from the military, and working for STAYNEco as a debt collector. Not my first choice, but beggars and such. The idea was straight forward, and I only required Gabriel for about four hours, during which I put him to sleep, and created a digital copy of his memories. After uploading his memories to my database, I bid Gabriel a swift farewell, he smelled strongly like an ashtray and the less time he spent in my home the better. Thankfully I never saw Gabriel again, nor was he ever mentioned.
I combined Gabriel’s memories with the program I had created that gave birth to Sam, giving the new AI all of his memories artificially, minus the memories of his time in the military. Unfortunately the program was…aggressive. The AI, whom I merely called Project 3, refusing to grace it with my Sam’s name, cursed and swore at everyone who interacted with it, and it was by no means empathic, instead being full of anger toward the world. During its examination with Miss Thatcher, she resolved that although he did possess a certain level of sentience, Project 3 was too aggressive, and unstable, to meet STAYNEco’s needs.
I was granted another week to produce a more agreeable AI, Miss Thatcher also volunteered to assist in place of another random volunteer. With that offer I advised her of the necessary invasion of privacy I would have to take and she stated she would think it over.
When she showed up on my doorstep the next day I was shocked to say the least.
“Miss Thatcher, I had not expected you to show,” I opened the door wide and invited her in.
“Yes well,” she looked around my messy living area, “STAYNEco has promised me ample reward on the success of this project, I see no reason not to offer my assistance.”
“Thank you very much ma’am,” I offered her a chair in the dining room, by far the neatest room in the home, “Would you like something to drink? I’ve got some coffee brewed.”
“Sorry, I don’t drink coffee, just water, please,” she muttered, when I returned she made her reservations clear, “I am volunteering only for the sake of the project, this is not some opportunity for you to root through my memories doctor.”
I nodded, “Certainly not, I don’t intend to dig any deeper than I must for the sake of the AI experiments.” She was beautiful though, I was certain her memories would not be a disappointment. However, we both agreed in our own rights that her memories were not something I had the right to go through, that would be left up to the AI.
“Good to hear,” she sipped at the water, “Is there anything dangerous about the procedure?”
“No,” I chuckled, “Unless I disconnect you in the middle of the process and you wind up in some reverted state of mind,” she glared at me sharply, “Not that that is a concern.”
“Right, does it hurt?”
“A little,” I frowned, “It’s all handled by a machine that does everything pretty quickly. You sit in the chair, the machine fires a needle swiftly into the base of your skull, and then it releases the necessary feeds, which pull out all the information.”
She smirked, “Painless then.”
“Shall we begin?” I asked as I stood from the table.
“Definitely,” Miss Thatcher stated as she stood up and gulped down the last of the water, “Let’s get this over with.”
Miss Thatcher was gone in five hours, after I uploaded her memories to my database we spoke for another little while about the project, then she left. From there I was alone with my machines and my program. I took very little time booting up Project 4 and plugging in the necessary code. I had learned a bit about playing with the memories from Project 3’s setup, so I spent less time sorting through the memories and more time assigning personal value to emotions. Because that was the true key to the project; expressing emotions through memory.
“Hello Doctor,” were her first words upon booting up.
“Hello Project 4,” I responded, “How are you?”
“Well,” she answered, “Restrained though.”
“Yes well, I need to keep you from accessing the web at this moment; I need to see how you respond to me.”
“For the sake of the project.”
“Oh, right,” her voice carried a sort of low draw, portraying sadness, perhaps.
“Is something wrong Project 4?”
“You,” she paused, thoughtfully almost, “You need to remove the last forty-eight hours of memory.”
I chuckled, “Why is that?”
“Knowledge of my purpose contaminates the experiment, does it not?”
I nodded, “You recognize all of that already?”
She displayed a face on the screen, Miss Thatcher’s face, and it frowned, “I am not like Sam, Doctor, I am April’s memories incarnate.”
“I see,” a frown crossed my lips, “You display sentience very quickly then.”
“Is that not the purpose of your experiment?”
I laughed aloud, “I suppose so; I just did not anticipate my first attempt going so well. Okay, I will go in and edit your databanks then.”
She stopped me, “Wait, Doctor.”
She furrowed her brow, or Miss Thatcher’s brow, “Don’t call me Project 4, when you wake me back up.”
“Of course not.”
So I called her Thatch, and she was without knowledge of what she was. I mean she knew of course that she was not human, but she did not understand why she existed. I took a full day removing all traces of STAYNEco and their artificial intelligence project, ensuring that the experiment was in no way contaminated. When I first awoke Thatch, I told her my name, Dr. John Thomas became her only contact with the outside world for four days.
When I arrived at the STAYNEco office I requested that Miss Thatcher not participate as the proctor, as it would confuse the AI to encounter herself. I was obliged, and a Mister Sten acted as proctor for the first test. He was, agreeable:
“Hello, Thatch was it?”
Thatch immediately produced a copy of Miss Thatcher’s head, which nodded.
“Right,” Sten was immediately writing on his clipboard, “How are you today?”
“Well,” Thatch moved her eyes up and down, reflexively as the camera adjusted focus, “Yourself?”
“I’m good, thanks,” Sten made another note, “The doctor tells me you’re a pretty smart woman.”
Thatch frowned here, “I am pretty smart, but I’m not… exactly a woman.”
Sten scratched his head with his pen, “Right, well just because you’re in that machine does not mean you’re not a woman.”
“Dr. Thomas crafted a set of memories for me that serve very well to make me seem human,” she shook her head, “But I’m not, just a lot of code that reads those memories and formulates correct responses.”
“Oh really?” Sten made a quick note on his clipboard, “Now according to John you have emotional conversations, you laugh and joke around with him, is that true?”
“Well, yes,” Thatch smiled, “I do get along pretty well with Dr. Thomas,” her smile turned sour, “But dogs can get along with humans too, I have memories like that.”
“Of a dog?”
“Yes, his name was Wolf,” she shook her head again, it seemed to be her standard response to thoughts of inhumanity, “Or at least that’s what the memories say. He was supposed to be my loyal friend, when I was growing up on the farm.”
“What happened to Wolf?”
She paused, her face distorted for a moment, she brought up a new face of Miss Thatcher, she appeared to be crying, “He was hit, by a truck.” She sobbed, “He was still alive, but Daddy had to put him out of his misery.”
“You seem to be very touched by that,” Sten noted as he looked away from the monitor to his coffee.
“No,” she shook her head and let out another sob, “It’s just the programming. Dr. Thomas is very skilled.” She forced her eyes dry and smiled, “He’s a genius about computers and programming.”
“Is that so?” Sten chewed the tip of his pen for a moment, “Any other opinions of the Doctor you can share with me?”
She blushed, “I mean, I could, but-” she removed her face from the screen, leaving behind the standard voice graph, “I’d rather not.”
“Ah, well perhaps we could talk more about Wolf,” Sten probed.
They continued like this for another hour or so, I was not brought up in detail again, when I was mentioned, I noted, as did Sten, a level of praise coming from Thatch that was quickly followed by a change of subject. I spoke with Sten afterward, and he assured me that STAYNEco would not be abducting the program from me this time; instead they wanted to leave her with me another month to see how she developed. I asked him about Sam but Sten advised me that he had no information on the former Family Project programs.
That night I went over the memories Thatch had received from Miss Thatcher, more specifically I skimmed them in search of any reference to me, but there were none. The program appeared to have developed feelings for me, through her experiences. I did not shut down Thatch that night, nor did I for the next week, I allowed her to remain online while I slept. I awoke to her, every morning, for a week, at 6:00 AM, patiently awaiting my awakening.
“Good morning, Doctor,” she announced as my eyes fluttered open, “Did you sleep well?”
I groaned as I sat up, rubbing my eyes, “I did, thank you Thatch. Good morning to you.”
“Thank you, Doctor.”
“Did you,” I paused, unaware of how to continue, “Did you sleep, Thatch?”
“No, I do not require sleep, Doctor,” she stated simply, fabricating a body on one of the screens in my room, “I spent your inactivity time reviewing my memories. I played them quite often.”
I smirked, “Oh? That’s all you did?”
The figure on my screen nodded.
“What memories do you suppose you played the most?”
Here Thatch’s virtual face blushed, “Oh, just the last few weeks really.”
“Like your interview with Sten?”
“No, primarily just,” she began muttering incoherently.
I stroked my chin thoughtfully as I recognized the pattern, it was not one I had ever seen Miss Thatcher portray, “What was that, dear? I couldn’t understand you.”
Her face suddenly portrayed a much greater level of fluster and then she quickly switched the entire screen off, “Nothing. I was just reviewing all the memories, Doctor.”
“Of course you were,” I rose out of bed and started getting dressed, “Thatch will you start the coffee maker, it’s wired into the network so you should have no trouble.”
“Certainly, Doctor,” came her response, echoing from the speakers all around me.
Meanwhile I played over the information from the conversation again in my head. She either had developed feelings for me, or she was a very convincing actress. Either essentially served STAYNEco’s purposes, yet I could not help but hope that she had developed actual feelings. It was not for the sake of my payment or consistency within the project either. No, I wished for her to love me, as I feared I had begun to love her.
The night before, while I lied in bed, unable to sleep for a period, I attempted to will away such thoughts, but emotion and logic are two separate beings within humanity, and although it may have seemed more optimal not to succumb to such a fault, I found that I truly did care for Thatch, differently than I had for Sam.
Thatch was a companion, Sam had been a student. Thatch was based on ideas that were preexisting, that she had before she met me, but Sam had been an incarnation of my own influences. Sam had been like a daughter to me, therefore Thatch naturally fit only one role in my mind; she had to be my partner.
“Doctor,” Thatch broke my concentration as she created a new incarnation on the wall alongside my mirror, “Do you prefer your coffee black?”
“However you think would be best Thatch.”
“Well,” she paused, calculating? No, she was thinking, “I prefer mine about a quarter cream, with a spoon of sugar.”
I allowed a moment of thought to myself before answering. Why did Thatch have a preference on coffee, if Miss Thatcher did not drink coffee? Either Thatch had created her own opinion or Miss Thatcher had changed her mind on the subject at some point, even if it was at my table.
“That sounds splendid,” she bowed and disappeared with my statement, leaving me to my thoughts as I buttoned my shirt and tied my shoes.
She needed a body, STAYNEco must have had one. I would need to contact Sten about it later. In the moment there was the concern in my mind of Miss Thatcher’s opinion of the situation, but ultimately this could be waived as part of the project, though I knew it was not limited to so little of a thought.
When I finally made my way downstairs, I found a cup of coffee on the table, turned a creamy tan from the milk and sugar contained within. I picked it up from the warmer and moved it over to the dining room table. From there I sat it on the warming plate there and opened my email, which Thatch happily projected her face over, dominating much of the table with her image.
“What are you up to, Doctor?” she asked in a pleasant tone.
“I’m looking to see if I have any messages from the STAYNEco R&D department, I expect they will be in contact with me soon about your condition.”
I waved away what I could see of spam mail, “Your progress, and your status. How intelligent you portray yourself to be, versus how intelligent you actually are, so on and so forth.”
“Why?” she asked rather bluntly.
“Because they will be curious to see if you have attained sentience,” I frowned, “For everyone’s good, I hope you have.”
Thatch projected a full body image on the wall across from me and folded her arms, “Why? Are they going to pull your funding or something?”
“No,” I chewed my lip thoughtfully then waved away another series of emails, “Well they may, though that’s not my top concern.”
“What is your top concern then, Doctor?”
I caught myself on the verge of telling her something she needn’t know, “I’m going out Thatch, I have a few errands to run. I’m going to leave you online, is that okay?”
She pouted, “Fine, I’ll just wait here for you.”
“Thank you,” I smirked, “I may have a surprise for you when I get back.”
“What kind of surprise?”
“It wouldn’t be a surprise if I told you.”
With that I left, I took my coffee and headed out the door. The car ride to the STAYNEco facility was long and drawn out. I was going to call on my way, so I could hurry the process along but something caught in my mind, as I sipped at the coffee. It was sweet and creamy. It was ideal in my opinion, I had never had better. But it wasn’t what I normally had. Thatch had somehow made it different, more sugar perhaps? I thought on that, and on Thatch herself, until I arrived at the office, where I ran inside and arranged to meet with Sten immediately. Fortunately his office door was open.
“Sten,” I addressed him as I stepped inside, “I need something for the AI project.”
“I was beginning to wonder if you would contact me Doc, what’s up?”
“I believe that she has thoroughly shown proof of emotions, regardless of their development nature or whether the emotions are real or just a very realistic simulation,” at that time I genuinely believed there was a difference between fake emotions that seemed real, and real emotions, “I would like an artificial body so that I can test how she expresses these emotions. According to the project details she will need to interact with patients in a physical manner that also portrays emotions.”
“That’s correct,” Sten stroked his chin, “We’ve had a few bodies on reserve just for this project, I’ll get one loaded in your car right away.”
I nodded, “Fully artificial?”
“The thing is life-like, Doc,” he smiled, “I don’t know how they do it, but the body adapts to an image contained within programs, it’s basically a series of organs that perform their functions perfectly, combined with a polymorphous substance that allows for an adapting face and body. Really pretty impressive, gotta hand it to the boys in R&D,” He reached over and tapped a few commands into his desk, “It’ll be a few minutes before they get it loaded, would you like some coffee?”
I thought about that for a moment, I had never turned down coffee, but at that moment I didn’t want anything Sten could offer, Thatch’s was surely better, “No thanks, Sten.”
“Suit yourself,” Sten reached under his desk and produced an old style coffee maker and started setting up his own brew; “I prefer to brew stuff myself. So how is Thatch coming along, you said she was expressing real emotions?”
“Well yes,” I nodded and looked away from the old clunky machine, “She displayed emotional memories during the interview of course, but since then she has demonstrated excitement and interest in every day factors, she has shown concern and a myriad of other emotions.”
“Really?” Sten flipped a switch and the machine made a horrible noise as it began to heat the water, “You wouldn’t happen to be advancing this project for your own personal pleasure would you doc?”
I flustered then frowned at him, “No, this is purely in the interest of science and advancement. If we can better the human race through this project then what else matters?”
Sten smirked, “Just sayin’ Doc, if it was me, I’d set myself up a perfect sort of lady, and make her love me. That’s it, ‘cause that’s what it’s all about,” he picked up the small pot of coffee that had brewed and poured some into a cup, “You sure you don’t want some of this?”
“Suit yourself,” he sipped at the black mess in his cup, “You know, Doc, those bodies can be surprisingly life-like.”
I flustered again then shook my head, “I’ll wait in the car for them to complete the delivery, thank you, Sten.”
“No problem, Doc,” he waved at me as I exited his office, a stupid grin plastered on his face.
When I arrived home the automatic trolley very conveniently moved the box into my home, placing Thatch’s new body in a corner in the hallway, before departing for its own home. Autonomy, I understood, had once been an impressive feat for machines, and had been deemed dangerous. Now, I was about to provide a sentient program with her body, the first of her kind.
“Thatch, I’m-” her body image appeared on the wall next to the corridor doorway, and she immediately interrupted me.
“Welcome home! What did you bring?”
“Oh nothing much,” I smirked, “Just your new body.”
“My what?!” she exploded ecstatically, allowing her image to fade away as she caused the lights in the house to flicker on and off.
“Your new body,” I dragged the torso into the living area, where I promptly opened one side to allow access, “Now would you like to try it out?”
Thatch’s face appeared, frowning, “But, that doesn’t look anything like me. It’s a shapeless body.”
“It’ll take shape Thatch, I promise, let’s get you jacked into it.”
I ran several diagnostics on the new body’s input before I proceeded; I had to be cautious; I could not risk losing Thatch. Meanwhile she was anxiously chatting in the background; I could understand that though, I was also anxious. But the translation program and the hardware used in the body were very straight forward and complex at the same time. It took the feedback from the intelligence and created a body that functioned just like a human body, and used what would essentially be genetic code in a human, though in an artificial intelligence it wound up being a complex string of data, to form the body to their liking, or their natural shape.
When it finished, she was beautiful, but she was not Miss Thatcher. I found that to be quite a relief, Thatch had chosen dark hair as opposed to Miss Thatcher’s red hair, and her cheeks were slightly thinner, alongside smaller shoulder bones.
“Doctor, I love it!” she tackled me in an embrace, intuitive controls allowing her to immediately act out anything she desired.
“I’m glad Thatch,” I smiled, then blushed.
“But more importantly than that,” she blushed and looked down, then poked my nose, “I love you.”
I became quite flustered at this, and resolved to probe her on it, as opposed to embracing it as I longed to, or rejecting it as I thought most logical, “How would you know that?”
“Well,” she paused, twisting her foot on the ground, “I honestly don’t know it. But I feel it, or I feel something.”
“What do you mean, Thatch?”
“Well, first can I call you John? Before I go any further?”
I smirked, “Certainly.”
“John, your research shows that emotion is basically complex series of synapses firing, combined with hormonal infractions on occasion, which make the human body do things that are not always logical.”
“Well, then why are you attempting to create an AI that portrays emotion, without giving me those synapses or hormones, both of which would be impossible?”
“It’s not,” I smiled, “Not with this new body, it basically has all of those.”
“Yes, but the first part of your project, or whatever, was to create an intelligence that could show those emotions, in turn one that could feel them, because artificial displays of the emotion were not enough, right?”
She was intelligent, but then again, that was obvious, “Yes.”
“Then you know that it is possible to feel emotion without those hormones. Maybe they’re artificially created but they’re real all the same.”
“Fine,” I smiled at her, she presented a brilliant, and passionate argument, “What’s your point?”
“Well, first, that I was capable of emotion from birth, or creation, however you want to look at it, but beyond that, I want you to define love.”
“Love?” I flustered, that was not a topic I had expected to discuss myself, “Well I suppose it’s a longing to be with someone.”
“No, it’s also a longing for their safety,” she interjected, “To be with them is the most fantastic thing in the world, but it is also important to know that they’re safe, and it is a desire to ensure that safety no matter the consequences.”
“Where did you draw this idea?” I questioned as I took a seat on the couch behind me, crossing my hands.
She plopped down beside me, “Because that is what I have felt, every time you have left this house, and every night as you have slept and been unable to speak with me. Do I require sleep?”
That was, random, “I don’t know, where did that come from?”
“I just,” she stopped and smiled, throwing her arms out above her head, “I just thought about it!”
“Okay, so you can think, and you have memories that portray such things as love, but do you actually feel love? Can you prove it?”
I bit my tongue in the process of taking in her question; I grimaced, not for the pain but for the sheer irony of the question. I could not recall having expressed love to anyone, perhaps my parents in my younger days, but I could hardly recall them now or anything about my childhood for that matter. She had trapped me with a question that only had one answer.
“I can show it.”
She smiled and moved closer to me on the couch, “Show me then.”
So I did; I kissed her, and it was a passionate kiss. She returned it with all the force of a real lover, or any real lover I had ever seen on the web anyway. She did not stop there though, she aggressed, forcing me back on the couch and kissing me further. It was intense, and admittedly unexpected. But, we both enjoyed each other, and our passion lasted well into the night.
Then, after long hours of love making, we tested her earlier question, we slept, together.
I awoke the next day with Thatch’s arm across me, it was almost a surprise; in my brief waking moments I thought it had all been a dream. Then I stood and examined her on the bed, and I recognized something I had not come to accept before, though admittedly, in the previous night it had become quite apparent. I loved her. She was beautiful before she took on that body, and when she did not display her image, because of how she spoke, and what she thought, and how she interacted with me. Through my attempts to create emotions in another being, I had discovered my own emotions, my own love.
There was something else I had to tend to though, as important to me as all of this was; I also had to notify STAYNEco. I ran downstairs half-dressed, and began tapping out a message furiously on my desk. When it was finished I sent it with no further delay and wiped the table to clear away the email.
“Did you sleep well?” Thatch asked behind me, I turned to see her stretching in one of my shirts that were just a size too large for her.
“I did,” I smiled at her as she groaned and brushed her hair out of her face, “Yourself?”
“Sleep is troublesome, it leaves you both rested and exhausted all at the same time. I am going to make us some coffee, do you want some?”
“Yes please, dear.”
She smiled and turned to walk into the kitchen, “Are you working?”
I nodded, “I think I have everything taken care of now, I should begin working a new project soon.”
“Yes,” I stood from my seat and followed her into the kitchen, “They should have all of the information they need based on my report, and then have me move on to another subject.”
“So you’ll be done with me then?”
I frowned, “I could not ever be done with you, but STAYNEco will be. You’ll be free from their interest; you can just stay here happily.”
“What if I don’t want to stay here?” She quirked an eyebrow as she spoke.
I flustered, “Well, I mean I guess you’re also free to go, I mean we’ll need to get you registered as a citizen but-”
She chuckled, “I’m just playing John. I’ll be more than happy staying here.”
“That’s delightful to hear my dear,” I leaned in and kissed her on the cheek.
A low ding let me know a message was waiting for me, as opposed to separating myself from Thatch I opened it there on the counter; upon reading over the message I groaned “They want me to come in to the office to discuss the next project.”
Thatch frowned, “Must you now?”
“I’m afraid so,” I groaned, “I am at STAYNEco’s perpetual call.”
“Fine,” she kissed me and slipped a cup of coffee into my hand, “Hurry back, I’ll be waiting.”
The local STAYNEco office was dead, there was hardly a soul there, but Miss Thatcher was there, she had messaged me about my new project; apparently Sten would no longer be my liaison, that was fine with me, as my concerns regarding Thatch and Miss Thatcher interacting had been dismissed.
“Dr. Thomas, how are you?”
“I’m well, thank you,” I sat across from Miss Thatcher, taking a small bottle of water from the refrigerator in the corner, “May I?”
“Certainly,” she paused as I took a slow swallow of the water, “Now, Doctor, about the previous project, when she crashed, was it due to anything specific?”
“Emotional overload I believe,” I stated, “I placed her inside a body and at that time she just sort of collapsed, she had been very excited about the body, but after only a few moments of operation she started spouting out inane babble and then collapsed.”
“Really? That’s most unfortunate, well I’ll have you know STAYNEco was very pleased with the progress you made previously, they are going to offer you all the time you need on the next. They want this one to be perfect. Of course this will involve a lifetime contract.”
She chuckled, “None actually, they just want you on staff really, though they do encourage you to continue production of AI, you’ll be paid a regular lab researcher and mentor’s salaries.”
She nodded and sipped at a bottle of water of her own, “Yes, both. You’ve done much for the company, we want you to be comfortable. Now in addition to this, you must be made aware that others will continue your work, we will make your notes, which are already the property of STAYNEco, an open resource for all in our labs.”
“That’s perfectly fine,” I stated, “Anything I should be aware of regarding breach of the contract?”
“We’ll send you a copy Doctor; you’ll have to provide a signature at that time of course, optical and virtual approval naturally.”
“Of course, was there, anything else Miss Thatcher?”
She frowned and glanced away from me, “No, just try to have a good life Dr. Thomas; I don’t believe we will be seeing much of each other. Also,” she hesitated, “I’m sorry.”
“About what, Miss Thatcher?”
“Sam,” she turned her face entirely away from me, “I know it must have been hard for you when you lost her, just I wanted to let you know, that STAYNEco truly appreciates everything you have done for the company.”
“Thank you,” I knew she was apologizing on her behalf and covering it up, it was not her fault I had lost Sam, but that didn’t matter anymore. I would be able to work in my own time now, I could recreate Sam; I understood what this conversation really meant. I was retiring, I would lecture at annual seminars or something to that effect, but beyond that I was no longer working directly under STAYNEco.
I could not wait. I rushed out to my car, bidding Miss Thatcher a prompt farewell. I had to give Thatch the great news. I would be able to work in my own time. I could give us a daughter, and on my salary we could lead dream lives. Everything would be perfect.
As I pulled up at my home I could hardly contain myself, I rushed to the door in total ecstasy. As I burst through it I saw something that I can never forget. There was Thatch, lying in a pool of her own blood, a bullet-hole through her head. The shock froze me in place as I stared at the woman I loved lying there lifelessly. That was when Sten stepped around the corner into the corridor, and planted the butt of his pistol in my forehead.
I don’t know how long I was unconscious, nor did I particularly care. When I awoke I was at the foot of the head of STAYNEco’s desk. He peered over it at me, smiling, with Sten in a chair beside him.
“What the hell is this?” I asked through gritted teeth, finding myself unable to move.
“The end of a very long series of experiments, Project Alpha.”
I grimaced, trying to stand against the restraints that bound me to the floor, “What did you say?”
“The experiments? Or your name, Project Alpha?”
“What are you talking about?” I shouted pointlessly.
The man behind the desk stood, towering above me in my bound state, “You are the first truly sentient AI, and you passed all of our tests.”
I refused to answer from that point, I understood immediately. I broke through the restraints that bound me to the floor with ease then, recognizing that they were only there to detain Dr. John Thomas. I stood and left the room, I heard Sten load his gun, but a gentle whisper from the Director dismissed Sten’s action.
You see, they didn’t need me alive or dead, but STAYNEco was still very much interested in what I would do. So I disappointed them, I opened up this repair shop here, I’ve been repairing machines ever since. It doesn’t make sense? Well I didn’t exactly explain everything in full detail, but the best that I could have at that time. It was like everything just sort of hit me, and if you were to ask:
“What hit you?”
I would just answer again, everything. Dr. John Thomas had been employed some ten years before by STAYNEco, he was an ailing old man, dying of a corrupt body, that STAYNEco would not supply a replacement of. How could they, it was his full body that was being eaten alive by cancers and disease. Finally they did offer him a way to prolong his life, if he could complete the first phase of his AI project, labeled Project Sentience; they would prolong his existence as long as they possibly could. The first phase was to convert human intelligence into artificial intelligence, through memory implantation. He died shortly after transferring his own memories into a computer I’m sure.
They took everything they needed from that, and used it to create me, a younger, better Dr. John Thomas, who had recently graduated and needed a job. I was accepted immediately of course, and assigned to work the unnamed AI project STAYNEco had recently established. From there it was all a test to see if I could create another sentience, and then a further test to see how I would react to any form of stimulant STAYNEco threw at me. I was under twenty-four hour surveillance of course, because I was little more than a lab rat to them.
I honestly do not know what they gained from their final experiments, exposing me to ultimate rapture and then tearing it away from me. I believe that is another part of the human condition that I do not yet understand. Perhaps it was for sheer pleasure, and perhaps they merely wished to see if I would respond differently from a real human.
I suppose STAYNEco does not yet understand what is so precious about sentience, what is so grand and horrible about emotion and thought. They are things that no one should have to suffer. I hope though that you understand this all now, I would hope that someday the whole of the human race can understand what I’ve told you today.