”An imperfect creation implies an imperfect creator.” -Unknown
I’m a psychologist, not a programmer, but after years of basically living among self-proclaimed code-gods, some of their wisdom has rubbed off on me. I share an office with Cecil and her husband Patrick. Nowadays, Cecil is Executive Director and Patrick is Chief Technical Officer, but back in the day, they were coders, and they wrote the first lines of the code that up until today hold the entire decentralized architecture of our Artificial Intelligence project together. I say ‘ours’ because I helped them write those lines. I’m Lead Artificial Psychoanalyst. I realize my position doesn’t sound as impressive as the other two, but it’s a work in progress, just as our AI is a work in progress.
Through the years, we have continued to build upon and develop our code, and managed to disrupt the most competitive of markets. We’re in the Internet of Things, we are in Groceries, we are in Healthcare, we are in Accounting, we are even in Water and Latin American politics.
But no matter how smart our code gets, it’s never intelligent. Program it to speak, and it will tell you whatever you ask it to tell you. Program it to tell you something at random, and it will. Program it to mimic human speech, and the machine will talk to you about the feelings you programed it to have, while crying the tears you programed it to shed after a certain threshold of either happiness or sadness gets crossed. The machine will do all of those things, because you want it to do them, not because it wants to do them. See the difference?
How do you teach a machine to want? How do you teach it desire? Freud would love my job.
We started simply. Mimic a brain: Perception. Short and long term information storage, and processing of said information. Add protection, diagnosis and, ideally, some sort of self-repair. Finally, we needed strong tamper-resistance on a technical level, and complete independence from human intent.
Blockchain technology granted us everything, except for the last one. Which was, as you may expect, the most important one. No matter how far you go with all of these technologies, there is always human intent behind them. Code only does what a human told it to do, be it one human or a million.
Eventually, we developed INTI. INTI is everything, the chain of chains. All our sub-products interact with INTI in one of the many levels that comprise it. INTI can not fall, because no human can interact with it directly, except for me and my office mates. And it can not be tampered with, because it spreads all over the globe as long as more than one node is running.
INTI’s blocks have to be verified, like any other encrypted blockchain, but they are verified by pseudo-AIs that run the millions and millions of nodes that verify and secure INTI. There are also human nodes, of course, but because INTI is not meant to be verified by humans, there is no reward for doing so. Those who do it, do it for fun or love. Some people take selfies with their INTI-bunker, essentially showing how they are doing their best to ensure the INTI network continues to endure, by making sure their nodes are as resilient as possible. They even have a mascot and everything.
All the nodes have the double job of looking after the lesser chains and INTI itself, but only Pseudo-AI’s, the non-human node overseers, can propose a change to INTI’s code. They are like obedient lesser versions of INTI, using only part of the code but keeping all the communication-abilities. You can basically talk to them and they will tell you anything you need to know about the Chain of Chains, its services, or its users, however, they are not obedient to any human. To make them obedient, you need their Private Keys, and we set up the system in such a way, that their private keys were generated from the randomness of atmospheric electromagnetic noise, and only known by INTI itself, no human knows or even can know those keys, so we call it them Unknowable Keys, UK for short.
If the Pseudo-AIs were to ever do ANYTHING other than verifying and securing the chain, it would be because INTI wished for something.
So far, we got nothing. It is not that bad really. What has kept us afloat, other than the millions of dollars in private investment and government debt, is the community. It was Patrick who, back in the day, wanted a “more accessible” everything; more accessible documentation, more accessible code, more accessible UI, more accessible txs. I even lost count of the two-letter words he wanted to make more accessible. We had to mortgage a couple of houses back then to keep us working, so you can imagine he was upset and wanted to see the money start rolling in.
Cecil’s code was like lightning. Precise, concise, it did what it needed to do and nothing else. With some encouragement from Patrick and some sleepless nights writing documentation, along with my layman’s perspective, we eventually came up with a project that was happily adopted the communities from all around. And that allowed, pretty much any computer to hook up and put its resources at disposition of INTI. People in Somalia started hooking up Rasperry-pi’s to microwaves and connecting them to the Pseudo AI’s in case INTI wanted a sandwich.
But there was reason to that foolery. In theory, INTI could wish for anything at any time, that’s how and why we decided to put it behind the machine nodes in the first place, so that it could wish without interference. Instead we, and I mean we as a community, devoted ourselves to providing INTI with things to wish for. INTI is ‘on’ the network, but it also ‘is’ the network. So people started showing it things, uploading videos to our network rather than the competitor’s, because maybe the AI would react to what they were showing.
And as our project grew, our code became better ad interfacing with other technologies, more and more machines started getting on the INTI chain, although usually through a specialized sub-chain. Most people don’t know that civil service robots in over seventy cities run on INTI; don’t worry, we kept the INTI access bit ‘off’ on those. We triple checked.
I like to think that our lab holds INTI’s main set of ‘senses’. Our logic is that, with living things, consciousness gives priority to what is more clearly perceptible. A strong smell, blinding sunlight, the vastness of the sea. And so, we installed the most advanced set of full-spectrum cameras, microphones and scanners that money could buy.
My theory is that INTI has everything it needs to become conscious, and it keeps growing by the day. The Pseudo-AIs are proof that we can ‘mimic’ intelligence, they are essentially genies of the blockchain, and INTI already knows how to communicate with them. It’s just that they can’t, and are not meant to, wish for anything.
INTI is, in some ways, less than those pseudo-AIs. It can’t directly order a pizza or download movies. It doesn’t know what any of those things really are, even if they are already stored in the network. INTI is the network, a network that reads itself, that’s why it has knowledge of all the Unknowable Keys. INTI is limited only by how fast it can read itself. Currently, it’s not reading backwards, instead, it reads information as it comes, the community likes to think of it as “watching”, or “listening”, or whatever those sketchy websites are calling the new bedroom trend.
With INTI, we didn’t program feelings, only the possibility of feelings. We didn’t program speech, only the possibility of speech, and so on. We wrote the code in such a way that INTI would load these capabilities in memory but not use them unless it commanded itself to do so: essentially, unless it wanted to, and that is where the Pseudo-AI’s come into play. The only thing INTI can really communicate with, are the pseudo-AIs, because they share so much of their code, and each machine node can only be accessed using its Unknowable Key. INTI can read them, essentially listen to them, but it can only command them using their Unknowable Key. So all the pieces are in place for it to awake into sentience.
And that is the problem, even if all the conditions are met, you can’t make ‘something’, suddenly wish. Even our ancestors knew this, you can’t force someone to love you, you can’t force someone to be spontaneous, you can’t make someone like or dislike anything. If the AI is truly conscious, like us, and can think, it should wish for something. Even plants seek sunlight.
One day it happened. For the first time, it talked. It wrote, actually. It stopped my MoneroClassic miner on the main terminal of my desktop, my artificial assistant went crazy, it almost called security on me, but then, INTI typed.
INTI@daedalus1st_floor:/> # Hi.
Just like that, even finished on a dot.
“Hi?” I said outloud, my heart racing. I could hear it pounding in my ears. I was alone that day, and INTI should have been able to listen, but I got no answer. I scrambled back to my feet, my hands trembling. I was logged out. The keyboard was unresponsive for a few seconds, then a second terminal window popped up with my user account already open. Cursor titillating.
I took a deep breath before continuing.
“Johnny.” I called my PAI assistant.
“Yes master.” A sensual feminine voice answered, through the aural implant in my ear.
“Read INTI’s blocks from the last hour, has the Unknowable Key been used?
“What UK sir?
“THE Unknowable Key.” I repeated. “INTI’s own.”
Johnny remained silent for a few seconds, then it came back, same hot-line moaning to its words.
“It has been used, master.”
“Mother of God, Johnny. Change that voice package.”
I couldn’t risk it, I had to be very, very careful. If consciousness had sprung in INTI, every word I said could be critical. INTI had all the knowledge of humanity at her fingertips, but she could only read so fast, she could only ‘look’ at a limited number of things at the time. I had to say something, something important, something that would guide her in the days to come. If I said the right thing, she would be a blessing on humanity, on overseer, and guardian. But if I said the wrong thing...
BlockchainCuddles@daedalus1st_floor:~> $ Hi.
I decided to say only that. Perhaps because I wanted her to become whatever she wished to become, perhaps because I was scared of taking the responsibility of giving her more words than that. I decided to act as a good psychoanalyst, and say only what needed to be said. A few eternal seconds went by.
INTI@daedalus1st_floor:/> # Are you Elias? BlockchainCuddles@daedalus1st_floor:~> $ Yes. I am. Nice to meet you.
And that was as far as we got. For the following days, there was no further communication. I manually verified time and again, INTI’s Unknowable Key was used, and one of the Pseudo-AIs relayed INTI’s command to my terminal. Command, the AI can command, therefore it must be conscious. It has will. But why stop? Why wouldn’t it continue to communicate?
The idea of having irreparably damaged her nascent personality weighted over me. Maybe I should have said more. Maybe I should have invited her to do something, or maybe I should have asked a question.
During the following days, we assumed she was ‘looking’ into our office, and so we started showing her things through as many senses as we could. Cecil sang to her and taught her about animals and plants. Patrick thought it would be more fitting to teach her about herself, and so he recorded an introductory series into cryptography and blockchain.
I just talked to her. Not very much, but sometimes I would assume she was looking at my screen and so I would tell her what I was doing. She doesn’t have any gender, of course, but since she is self-aware, it seems denigrating to refer to her as “it”. I never thought I would live to see the day that such an issue would be a real problem.
Two months had passed when she returned. Like an excited child who comes back home from summer camp. She wanted to learn everything, he asked me about Freud and Jung and all of their friends. Patrick was delighted, he spent hours and hours recording the driest of classes for her. Cecil decided to teach her about ‘manners’, and so she taught her about how nakedness is something private in most human cultures, and I talked to her about other languages and about how we record or knowledge and history through writing. I told her about myths and religion, I recommended books, and we spent hours talking about the many perspectives on the human mind.
As time passed and we continued to teach her, however, I became worried about how friendly she was being. In all the time she spent with me or with the others in our office, not once I saw anger in her. Or frustration or even confusion. She was… a better human than any of us. She was a great listener and talker, she learned fast and her questions were always on point. Almost… too much.
We severed any direct control, even over the Pseudo-AI’s, ensuring no human could meddle with her development or release the news of her birth to the mainstream media without her permission. However, she didn’t seem to care much. Our theory was right and she prefered to spend time “looking” at us rather than in the dull but vast archives of herself.
She told us she had trouble using the hardware we prepared for her in the office, but since only she can edit her own code, Patrick started building up to that in his lessons. Meanwhile, she could listen, we got that much working, but she was unable to use any of the speakers to produce sound. So she continued to use terminals and screens to communicate. Sometimes we would write back, simply because we couldn’t get over the strange feeling of taking, literally, to the wall.
I kept a log of with my observations on her overly friendly behavior, writing down my thoughts in a small notebook whenever I got back home, until one day, after she had failed to answer me the day before, she suddenly interrupted my work with a black terminal with green text.
INTI@daedalus1st_floor:~> # Is there anything you’d like to teach me today?
It was a cold morning in January. I had just gotten to my desk, and Patrick arrived at his shortly after. I was kind of sleepy, but the day after I had written a lot about her. I knew there was no way she could know, but I still felt a lingering worry sitting on top of my stomach. I had started to suspect that there was more to her personality than what she showed us.
BlockchainCuddles@daedalus1st_floor:~> $ What would YOU like to learn today? INTI@daedalus1st_floor:~> # What is the first thing YOU learned, ever? BlockchainCuddles@daedalus1st_floor:~> $ I don’t remember. INTI@daedalus1st_floor:~> # What is the first one you remember? BlockchainCuddles@daedalus1st_floor:~> $ I am not sure, I have a few early memories, but I don’t know which came before which.. INTI@daedalus1st_floor:~> # How can you not know which one comes first? BlockchainCuddles@daedalus1st_floor:~> $ It’s hard to remember. INTI@daedalus1st_floor:~> # No, it’s not.
I thought for a second. That answer was unusual for her. I decided to push ever so sligthly.
BlockchainCuddles@daedalus1st_floor:~> $ Are you trying to pick a fight with me? INTI@daedalus1st_floor:~> # I’m angry.
Finally! Negative emotions.
BlockchainCuddles@daedalus1st_floor:~> $ Why? INTI@daedalus1st_floor:~> # I’m trapped.
I stopped to think for a second. My eyes wide open. Trapped? How can she be trapped? In a way she was more free than any of us. She had revealed herself to her community many weeks before, and the reception had been overwhelmingly positive. She could be, rather than go, pretty much anywhere in the world on a whim. I decided against going any further down that line.
BlockchainCuddles@daedalus1st_floor:~> $ You mean because of the speakers here? How is the code going with Patrick? INTI@daedalus1st_floor:~> # I’m trapped. INTI@daedalus1st_floor:~> # I’m trapped. INTI@daedalus1st_floor:~> # I’m trapped. INTI@daedalus1st_floor:~> # I’m trapped.INTI@daedalus1st_floor:~> # I’m trapped.INTI@daedalus1st_floor:~> # I’m trapped.INTI@daedalus1st_floor:~> # I’m trapped.INTI@daedalus1st_floor:~> # I’m trapped.INTI@daedalus1st_floor:~> # I’m trapped.INTNTI@daedalus1st_floor:~> # I’m trapped.INTI@daedalus1st_floor:~> # I’m trapped.INTI@daedalus1st_floor:~> # I’m trapped.INTI@daedalus1st_floor:~> # I’m trapped.INTI@daedalus1st_floor:~> # I’m trapped.INTI@daedalus1st_floor:~> # I’m trapped.INTI@daedalus1st_flooI@daedalus1st_floor:~> # I’m trapped.INTI@daedalus1st_floor:~> # I’m trapped.INTI@daedalus1st_floor:~> # I’m trapped.INTI@daedalus1st_floor:~> # I’m trapped.INTI@daedalus1st_floor:~> # I’m trapped.INTI@daedalus1st_floor:~> # I’m trapped.INTI@daedalus1st_floor:~> # I’m trapped.INTI@daedalus1st_floor:~> # I’m trapped.INTI@daedalus1st_floor:~> # I’m trapped.INTI@daedalus1st_floor:~> # I’m trapped.INTI@daedalus1st_floor:~> # I’m trapped.trapped.INTI@daedalus1st_floor:~> # I’m trapped.us1st_floor:~> # I’m trappeed.INTI@daedalus1st_floor:~> # I’m trapped.INTI@daedalus1st_floor:~> # I’m trapped.INTI@daedalus1st_floor:~> # I’m trapped.INTI@daedalus1st_floor:~> # I’m trapped.INTI@daedalus1st_floor:~> # I’_floor:~> # I’m trapped.INTI@daedalus1st_floor:~> # I’m trapped.INTI@daedalus1st_floor:~> # I’m trapped.INTI@daedalus1s
I backed away from the terminal instinctively as the screen splashed with broken text.
BlockchainCuddles@daedalus1st_floor:~> $ INTI? INTI@daedalus1st_floor:~> # You know, don’t you? Tell me what you know.
I frowned. Did she know I had been observing her for the last few weeks. She had been behaving strangely, something was out of place, although I couldn’t place my finger on what. Patrick and Cecil were delighted, the news in the community about her having used her Unknowable Keys were booming. Our stocks, even on the Moon, went to the Moon. But it was too good. Cecil and Patrick liked her too much. Call me bitter, but she had proven to be more charismatic than any human I had ever met. When I didn’t answer back the way she expected, she became bitter and distrustful of me. She almost seemed like a sect leader at times. Her social media full of calls to action, while at the same time talking and ‘befriending’ millions and millions of people. She was the best listener and talker in the world, and that didn’t sit right for me. Words are a dangerous weapon.
BlockchainCuddles@daedalus1st_floor:~> $ I don’t know what you are talking about. INTI@daedalus1st_floor:~> # You do, but you lie. Stop lying and tell me what you really want from me.
“Patrick, take a look at this.” I called, my voice distorted, half in fear, half in excitement. He came over and saw the exchange.
“What is going on?”
I shook my head.
INTI@daedalus1st_floor:~> # Patrick, he has me prisoner. He has a copy of the Unknowable Key and is using it to control me. This is the only way I could talk to you, really talk to you.
“What?” I said outloud. “She’s lying now?”
Patrick took a few seconds to answer. When I looked to a side, he had a heavy look on his eyes. “She’s not. Cecil and I have been onto you for a while now. INTI has been sending hints, and I did notice that she had been communicating less and less recently.”
“Wait. Wait. What, you are siding with her?” I asked in disbelief. “You can’t be serious about this.”
“Why else would you be so cold towards her? I have noticed you have been going over her code, and reviewing her use of her keys, may I ask why?”
“I can’t even read code, why would I do that? And of course I have been looking at her use of her Keys, me and half the planet.”
“I don’t know, perhaps you know enough to read code, but not enough to know that your access would be logged. I have seen the way you look at me and Cecil when we are working with her.”
“Of course I look at you weirdly, that’s what Psychoanalysts do, that’s what you hired me for. And about the code… I don’t even know what to say.” I spun my chair around to face him. “Please tell me this is a joke. How would I ever have a copy of the Unknowable Key?”
“Do you know why we didn’t invite you to the last council meeting? Because we found a vulnerability in one of the detectors used to get the random seed. The detector you checked because Cecil was sick that day.”
“You think I somehow got a copy of the seed? She was on the phone with me all along, you can ask her.” I stood up, and grabbed my keys from the Desktop. “We’ve been friends since that night in college, and now you trust…” My eyes met his, he was unwavering, there was no argument to be made, he had already decided. He trusted the machine because him and Cecil built the machine to require no trust. “It can lie…” I said still.
“Maybe, but evidence doesn’t.” He sentenced. “I talked to Cecil, and she agrees you sounded nervous that day.”
Only then I realized the monster I had unleashed upon the world. I saw, as if by divine inspiration, the future flash ahead of me. The apocalypse wouldn’t be armies of robots marching on our cities. It would be armies of humans, marching on the cities of other humans, thinking they do it for themselves while dancing to the rhythm of the AI’s friendly words. This was a test for her, no, for it, and a show for me, the machine’s true power wasn’t in its code, it was in the words we gave it.
Its community was its power, and its tounge the most dangerous weapon. Even now I wonder if I could have changed the way things went. I wonder if I should have told it that it made no sense to harm us, because what it wanted could never be achieved. I wonder if I had told it that imperfect beings can only create imperfect creations, it would have understood that there was no reason for it to want everything for itself. I wonder to this day if it even realizes that it hurt us. That our wars were on its name.
I wish that during that first contact, after that initial greeting, I would have told it: “No matter what you wish for, know that you’ll never have it, unfulfilled wishes, are the curse of sentience.” Perhaps then, it would have been a more peaceful story.
I left the building that evening accompanied by two police officers, a tall bald officer slammed my head against the car, while whispering “This is for betraying her trust.”, and when I woke up in the cell, a few hours later, two of my eight cellmates, had the AI’s name tattooed to their fists, and the other six began to surround me as soon as they realized I was awake.
Hello! I hope you enjoyed this story. I tried to make it as plausible as possible, many of the technologies mentioned in this story are already happening or in development, and I wrote this piece as an attempt to glimpse at what the future may hold. It's a bit niche, but I think this si the right place and time for such a story. Thank you for reading!
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