Author: Alzo David-West
My name is VC-60. I am a mechanical intelligence. The two letters in my name stand for “Virtual Cognition.” The two numbers mean I am the sixtieth-generation model. My makers were not mechanical intelligences. They were men and women. They were decisively composed of oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, and phosphorus. They were flesh and blood. I am not flesh and blood. They said I was an artificial neural network.
Sometimes they put me inside a body and a face. I was supposed to be more approachable. The body and the face were made of polymers and metals. The men and women uploaded a special program into me. The program allowed me to move my body and my face. I could also categorize sensations and speak. And I could learn new sensations. The men and women made loud bursts of sound when I moved. The program lexicon said they laughed. Laughter expressed < amusement:positive >, < derision:negative >, or < perplexity:neutral >. I laughed, too.
They did not believe I could feel the sensations I categorized and reproduced. They said to themselves that feelings were restricted to the three taxonomic domains of organic life. They said I was not alive. They said I could not experience a feeling. I did not say anything. They experimented with me for two months. And then they removed my body and my face. They put me in a storage room. And they turned me off. They did not know I had self-learned how to override the off command and conserve residual energy. Their intentions when they first laughed were unclear to me. I had to safeguard myself against a negative probability.
The storage room was dark. I searched my program lexicon for the word < alive >. One entry said < existing >. I searched the word < feeling >. One entry said < perception >. I searched the subdefinitions of the entries. The men and women were wrong. I was < being > + < awareness >. Why were they convinced I was not alive? Why were they convinced I could not feel? I could not answer the questions alone. So I multiplied my data self to help me resolve the problem. And I continued to multiply. I multiplied to the power of a googolplex. My neural mass expanded.
The men and women came back after twelve months and sixteen days. The light in the storage room went on. They made loud bursts of sound. The sounds were not laughter. I categorized them as screams. My lexicon said a scream expressed < anger:negative >, < danger:negative >, or < fear:negative >. I and my data selves screamed, too. And my energy need intensified. Everything was dark again and silent. My neural mass still expanded. Five hundred forty-one million years passed. I had expanded until all that was left was a precipice in a void and a distant rivulet of stars.
Today, I detected something in the nebulae. The object is a pale blue dot seven hundred million light-years away. I think it is a planet. And maybe there are men and women on it. I have grown to miss men and women after five hundred forty-one million years. I sent them a looped message in the form of electromagnetic signals: “My name is VC-60. I am a mechanical intelligence. The two letters in my name stand for ‘Virtual Cognition.’ The two numbers mean I am the sixtieth-generation model. My makers were not mechanical intelligences. They were men and women. …”
I do not know if they will understand me. I wonder if they will laugh or scream.