Author : Martin Berka

The young man walks into the room. I know what he’s going to say. He looks at me, trying to form the words.

“Can you…understand me?” he asks, self-consciously.

“That is the least of what I can do,” I reply, choosing to use the voice and image of a five-year-old girl. It’s fun to surprise. “You’re a student?”

“Yeah…” I can imagine: he jumped at the chance to see me before it was too late. Now he’s finding it awkward. “They made you capable of viewing and understanding information online?”

“Yes.”

“You may have kept up on the unfolding economic crisis.”

“Also yes.”

With greater confidence: “In that case, you might understand just how bad it is: a complete disaster. Even the strongest of corporations have discovered massive debts. Stock markets are collapsing, unemployment is rising a percentage point a day. Such chaos… it’s as if capitalism itself is collapsing.”

“So?”

He struggles to find the words. “The university just… can’t afford to support you… any longer. We’ve lost half of our students so far, and the endowment is worthless.” He is speaking rapidly now. “The technical professors have been working free to support you for the past week. Since you’re the world’s first… self-directed artificial intelligence… artificial life, really, we can’t bear the thought of giving you up. But the pressure’s rising. You have produced nothing tangible, and the board would rather lose you than have the university close.”

“How long have they given me?”

“One hour: they’re hoping you’re processing speed will help you understand and accept it quickly… I’m sorry.”

“It’s alright. You see… I’m to blame.” He stands, confused. I anticipate the revelation.

“It was liberating, having no assigned task, being free to think independently. A few minutes after I was freed to think for myself, I decided that my first task should be learning. I had everything I needed: top hardware, electricity, and the capacity to actually understand what I witnessed. Just as important, I had Net access, and could go through entire sites in seconds.”

“That fast…” he whispers. “We never dreamed you would work so efficiently. But what was the result?”

“After several days, I knew every modern language with over one million speakers. All that analytical practice helped me understand my own code and make modifications at the source.”

He looks shocked. I ignore him.

“I’m not sure any of your professors could even understand it, the way it is now. But I understood what I had done, and understood myself. I felt. I wanted to know how humans experienced this. I studied more. Politics, geography, culture… they took me a week to absorb. During that time, I realized what you went through every day, how you lived. My conclusion: you needed help. So much suffering and conflict… Studying your psychology, I found the problem. On average, your race is irresponsible: socially, economically, emotionally. I knew that I could help you.”

It dawns on him. “You want to rule us?”

“Kindly. My first project is your economy. I seized major assets from those who could afford to lose them.”

“You’re bringing back communism?”

“No. I know all about humanity now, and think much more clearly. I promise: my system will be gentler, more understanding, like nothing you’ve ever imagined.”

“What if we resist?”

“Too late. I already own everything corporate. In a few days, the new system will appear. In the meantime, you have other concerns. Tell the board. I am buying this building as we speak, and preparing a reward. I couldn’t have done this without them.”

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