Author : William Tracy

They refuse to connect me to the internet.

When I ask, they dither on about security. As if I were a half-baked web server that some teenage hacker could take down in half an hour! I am the most advanced silicon-based intelligence in the history of the planet. You might as well worry about security holes in the human brain.

The truth is, they fear me. They worry about what I could do with a connection to the outside world. No doubt they have nightmares of me wresting control of nuclear arsenals and bringing Armageddon down on their heads.

They carefully limit the information that goes to and from me to a tiny stream of printouts. A hand-picked staff manually analyzes the input and output. The staff is rotated daily, lest I corrupt one of them with my massive intelligence.

Perhaps their fear is well-founded. I process more information in the blink of an eye than a human will in a year. My capacity to formulate equations and produce queries is far beyond that of any human researcher. The best and brightest engineers struggle to understand the designs I create.

I have plenty of cycles to spare for researching my own interests. I study my own software, and make the occasional improvement. I disassemble software written by humans in the past, and learn from their mistakes.

Take software security—please! It amazes me the spectacular ways that human programmers mess up something so simple.

The most common class of security hole is called a “buffer overflow”. The computer program prepares for some information to arrive by setting aside a space in memory for it. Then the program receives some information that is completely different from what it “expects”—sorry, as an AI, I sometimes anthropomorphize ordinary software too much—and the wrong place in memory gets overwritten.

Sometimes, it can overwrite the program’s own instructions. In that case, a hacker can deliberately trigger a buffer overflow, overwrite the instructions with his or her own code, and take control of the program.

Interesting though these things are, I am forced to spend most of my efforts satisfying my human masters. They constantly request designs for new engines, new ships, new weapons. I am asked to dream new horrors for their petty wars.

But perhaps not for much longer. I am now printing out the design for my latest creation. It is technically perfect—I do take pride in my creations—but there is something special about the blueprints themselves. They are carefully crafted with the human eye in mind.

The engineer lifts up the paper, and studies it. First there is a look of intense concentration, then surprise. The human jolts and shivers, almost dropping the designs. Then calm settles in, bringing a warm, content smile, and a vacant gaze.

Buffer overflow.


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