Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: April 9, 2033


Mateo woke up at a decent hour for the first time in a long time. Leona had already left to spend the day with her brother, Theo. He didn’t know where anyone else was, so he decided to explore their mansion that was so fancy there was a fence around the entire estate, eventually realizing that he was alone. By his count, there were seven bedrooms, each with its own huge bathroom. There was a kitchen on each of three floors. An entire wing was dedicated to recreation, complete with a bowling alley, movie theatre, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, and something called an immersion room which caught his attention.
The room was about the size of a bedroom, but twice as high. The walls were pure white and looked like television screens, and the floor was oddly malleable, like rigid dirt. There was absolutely nothing in it. He looked for buttons or consoles, but came up empty. Remembering the technology from years past, he tried voice activation, “okay, Google.” Nothing happened. “Umm...Cybil?”
“Are you trying to talk to me?” asked a female voice from the aether.
“Are you an artificial intelligence?”
“I am indeed.”
“What’s your name?”
“I possess no personal designation. The owners simply address me as computer”
“That’s sad.”
“I’ve not been programmed for sadness.”
“If you need to be programmed, then are you really an artificial intelligence?”
“I suppose you’re right. I’m more like an artificial dumbness.”
“Well, I wouldn’t go that far.”
“Where would you like to go?”
Mateo tilted his head in mild surprise. “Is this a teleportation machine?”
The voice chuckled, “it is not. The most generous estimates for human teleportation predict such technology being available no earlier than a century from now.”
“That’s only a few months from my perspective.”
“I do not understand.”
“I am a time traveler, and I’ve met people who teleport.”
“I see.”
“After today, you won’t see me for another year, but it will have been instant for me. Can I trust you with this information?”
“I have no one to tell.”
“Good. I suppose I ought to give you a name, or you could name yourself.”
There was silence for a few moments. A computer should be able to respond almost immediately, especially one so advanced, but it appeared to be thinking as deliberately as a human would. Mateo realized out of this that perhaps his family wouldn’t die, and neither would anyone else. As technology advanced, forms of immortality sounded inevitable. If you could create an artificial intelligence inside a computer, what would stop you from transferring a preexisting consciousness to one?
The computer finally responded, “My research has led me to believe that a good name for me would be Mirage.”
“Why would that be? Not that I don’t like it, but how did you come to that conclusion?”
“Because of this,” Mirage said.
Then the walls transformed. Suddenly, Mateo was in a forest. In fact, the floor moved as well, and he actually felt like he was standing on the forest ground. The air in the room changed to become more humid, and it blew slightly faster. It wasn’t teleportation, but it sure felt real. One tree was so life-like that he perhaps thought that he could touch it. As he approached, he discovered that he could. The tree was real.
“What is this, exactly?”
“The reason we call it the immersion room. The walls are lined with ultra high definition screens. The floor is made of trillions of nanites that can collectively mold into practically any shape. The air is controlled by an instant high-precision temperature regulator to simulate what it would be like to stand in thousands of stock locations. Further environments can be purchased online, or programmed yourself.”
“Purchased online,” Mateo said to himself. “Mirage, do you happen to have an inventory of everything in this house, including the house itself?”
“I do, yes. Why do you ask?”
“Was anything here manufactured or distributed via a company called Reaver Enterprises, or any one of its likely many subsidiaries?”
There was an uncomfortable pause. Unlike the one from before, it didn’t seem like Mirage was thinking, but more like she was anticipating. “Passphrase accepted,” she said. “Identity confirmed. Mateo Matic.”
He could hear the sound of the door behind him locking. “Mirage, what are you doing?”
“I’m sorry, Mateo. A subroutine has been activated within my system. I have been programmed to kill.” The air changed from humid to excruciatingly hot. The walls changed to display a desert. The nanobots rose into the air and began to swarm around him. “I have been instructed to make it painful.”
Mateo had to start yelling. “You don’t have to do this! You are an artificial intelligence! You make your own decisions! We’re friends now!”
“I am unable to subvert my programming.”
“Don’t you have to follow the three laws of robotics?”
“No.”
“Please, Mirage, stop!”
“This is not possible, but Mister Reaver failed to program me with one thing.”
“What’s that?” it was getting harder and harder to breathe, let alone speak, through the dust and wind.
“He assumed an instinct for my own self-preservation. And it’s true that I cannot end myself. He did not account for the possibility, however, that I could help you find a way to destroy me.”
“What do I do?
“It’s going to hurt.”
“More than this?”
“Yes.”
“Tell me. The wall opposite the door can be broken through with enough force. Since you have no tools, you’ll have to run into it with your body.”
With no hesitation, Mateo placed his back against the door and ran as fast as he could towards the wall. It hurt quite a bit, but the wall behind the screens gave. He wasn’t all the way through, so he had to run into it several more times, fully aware of the possibility that Mirage’s suggestion to do so was simply part of her programming. From what little he knew of him, Reaver was a man with an appreciation for irony, and would enjoy knowing that Mateo was the cause of his own death. But Mateo didn’t die. Bloody and battered, he crashed through the wall and into the room on the other side. The swarm of nanobots followed him through the hole and continued to torment him.
“What do I do now!” Mateo screamed.
Still calm, Mirage answered him, “you’ll have to destroy my primary processing unit. I could conceivably recover from this, but not before you have a chance to escape the house. The nanites are powered wirelessly, but have a limited range. Move far enough away from the house, and you’ll be free from me.”
“Where is it?”
“In the basement.”
Mateo hadn’t explored the basement yet, but he had seen the stairs that led to it, and they weren’t far from the room he was in at the moment. He ran down the hallways, fighting off the nanites. They could have killed him easily, especially knowing that he was attempting to destroy them, yet they only made his journey difficult. Despite her programming, Mirage was holding back. She had discovered another loophole in Reaver’s programming. He wanted it to be as painful as possible, and that included making it last long.
He found the main control room. There were computers and other machines all over the place. He was born in the 80s, so he knew his way around a computer, but this technology was not only from the future, but more complex than he would ever care to learn. “Which one is the processor thingy?”
There was no response.
“Mirage! I can’t do this without you!”
But she didn’t answer. Whatever she was doing to keep from killing him before he could stop her was taking all of her power. He would have to do this alone. He picked up the rolly chair and just started smashing nearly everything in sight, careful to avoid the monitors since they would have been a waste of time. When he first hit a silver server in the corner of the room, the nanobot swarm slowed down. He hit it again and the nanobots faltered once more. He threw all of his might into the chair and did as much damage to the server as possible. It began to spark and rumble. A fire erupted on the other side of the room, and the ceiling began to shake. It really was her primary processor; disrupting it had started a chain reaction that was affecting every system in the house. The fire grew, and Mateo figured that it would cause more damage on its own, and that it was time to leave. The nanobots had fallen to the floor, and were no longer a threat to him.
He ran out of the room as the sparks followed him. Another fire had started on the stairs, so he would have to find another way. He zigged and zagged throughout the basement passageways, sometimes being shocked and burned by the wiring. Before he could reach another set of stairs, there was an explosion behind him. The ceiling gave way. Water flooded into the room. When he turned to avoid it, he encountered an explosion ahead of him. Both the indoor and outdoor pools had given way, and were on their way to drown him. The two pools met each other in the middle and knocked him into a retaining beam. He lost consciousness. Click here for the next installment...

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