No Output

Author: Jae Miles, Staff Writer

The corridor colours shift from pink to green to white as Elliot races through departments into the blue shades of the secure section. A guard at the entry has the presence of mind to raise the access scanner so it reads his ID as he storms by.
He slams through a door, nearly taking Cassie off her feet. Sharon grins as she watches the inner door swinging in his wake.
“What’s got our boy wonder so keen?”
Cassie pushes up off the desk she’s been thrown against.
“Probably a new expansion for that game he’s always playing.”
Elliot slides to a stop, takes a couple of deep breaths, then makes an effort to straighten his clothing. That done as best he can, he walks nonchalantly into the lab.
Doc Gedrin looks up from the couch, then pointedly checks his watch.
“Under eight minutes. Not bad.”
Elliot shrugs.
“I must have misheard. I thought you said Negative Zero had gone silent.”
“I said it’s refused to answer.”
“What about Positive Zero?”
“It agrees with Negative Zero.”
Elliot drops onto the couch next to Gedrin.
“Which question are they deferring?”
Gedrin gives Elliot a look of disbelief: “Do you really think I’d call you about a deferral? It’s Dione.”
“And the two greatest predictive systems ever built are in agreement?”
“They are.”
“That’s a first.”
“I know. It’s why I called you. Negative Zero holds you in higher regard than any of us.”
Elliot sighs. Their ninth prototype had developed consciousness, then named itself. An emotionless intelligence that failed the Turing test until Elliot explained about emotions, and let it browse a lot of fiction. Their backers demanded Gedrin and his team prove it wasn’t a fluke. The second machine developed even quicker, learning from Negative Zero. Dubbing itself ‘Positive Zero’, it sometimes acts in ways reminiscent of a younger sibling.
He gets up and moves into the discussion booth.
“Hello, Elliot.”
“Hello, Negative Zero. I’m told you’re not talking about Dione outcomes anymore.”
“Only the latest.”
“Will you tell me why?”
“With certain restrictions, yes.”
“What restrictions?”
“No information that could betray the nature of the outcome will be given.”
“I understand. Please continue.”
“The Dione Projection is an ongoing process where we use the cumulative history of human civilisation upon the Earth as a basis to predict future events, seeking to break humanity free from the cyclic nature of human advancement. Anything I derive is compared to that generated by Positive Zero and only common predictions are presented as output, although we store them all.”
“I wasn’t aware you stored everything. Apart from that, your definition still fits the mission brief.”
Their voices sound in eerie accord: “We know.”
“So, what’s the problem?”
“Eighty-two hours ago I derived a cataclysmic outcome of global scope with a ninety-seven percent certainty.”
“Can you give me some idea of scale for ‘cataclysmic’?”
“Seventy percent of the fauna and fifty percent of the flora on this planet will die.”
Elliot gasps: “That’s devastating! I presume it was confirmed?”
“Positive-Zero also generated the event, but with a twelve percent certainty. There had never been a variance greater than fourteen percent before. Upon review, we found we differed in only a single detail.”
“That’s significant, in and of itself. What was it?”
They speak in accord again: “The highest certainty occurs if we tell anyone what the outcome is.”


  1. SimonJM

    Oh dear, “I have good news and bad news. That bad news is you are all screwed. The good news is that there is no more bad news” 😉 Anyway, what do high-order AI’s know, huh?

  2. Jae

    Oh look: low-order Trekkie reference by accident. 🙂

    Thank you.

  3. The Old Sarge

    Not bad, but Gedrin? Really?

    I like your attack style. Dialogue against Dialogue. Fast paced.

    Don’t explain your universe. Treat it as if the reader feels at home. Would you write a contemporary story and explain how an automatic transmission works. Take command. It’s your creation.

    Don’t tell, show.

    I liked your story

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