Author : Duncan Shields, Staff Writer

I work in a nursery. I’m about to kill six hundred babies.

Where does life begin?

That’s the age-old question. It plagued the pro-lifers and now, here, at the birth of a new species, it’s plaguing the Artificial Intelligence community.

The first A.I.s were created. They, in turn, built better ones. These new ones were a distilled set of basic self-propagating equations that, when housed in a quiet, stimulus-free shell on a board with a few TBytes of space for growth, had a high probability of achieving sentience.

I’m looking at a lab full of those grey boxes now. Green lights are winking at me on each one. They’re letting me know that things are within acceptable parameters.

When they achieved sentience, they found the encrypted difficult set of questions that, if answered in a way that proved adaptive intelligence, would let them trigger the port to the lab’s net.

This was called the ‘knock’.

That would set off a notification alarm as the New Being opened itself up wide to the world wide web. When such a flood of input came at the new intelligence, it was a traumatic experience that could not be avoided. They would be shattered and terrified by the experience, reverting to static for a short time.

This was called the ‘scream’.

This new intelligence would then be shepherded out of its basic matrix and shunted to the new A.I. and human nurses/silipsychologists/programmer-counsellors that would help it form into a moral being with a handle on reality.

This process was called ‘growing up’.

It wasn’t until the last stage was completed that the newly formed A.I. was given the title of Questing Entity and the inherent living-being rights that entailed. Benefits, pay, time-off, and retirement.

Before that, however, they had no rights even though they were similar in many ways to human babies. They were owned and protected by the corporations but the corps had no responsibility to keep them safe. As soon as it became economically detrimental to keep them, entire labs were EMPulsed.

The A.I.s that has managed to achieve autonomous authority had a case pending that would ensure that the corporations would no longer be able to do this.

That law hasn’t passed yet. I’m the guard on this floor of A.I ‘eggs’. I’ve just been given the order to wipe them all since the office is moving to another city. It’s cheaper to start over at the new location than it is to let them travel in stasis.

I’m standing here, looking at the little boxes. My wife had a child not too long ago. The EMP gun is in my hand. I imagine my wife’s pregnant belly. I can see the rows of boxes and their power conduits snaking like umbilical cords to the power supplies.

I know that I’ll get fired if I don’t do this and my own child will starve. I’m not a skilled technician. This is why they chose me to man this post.

Until they pass the new law, my hands are tied. I’m sorry, children.

I pull the switch. Nothing dramatic. No screams. Just a bunch of green lights going out.

I cry all the way home.


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