Alex looked in in bewilderment as the video showed the robotic guard shoot itself in its power unit, collapsing to the ground.
“How many times did you say it has done this?” Alex asked the technician.
“Three, each time we replace the power unit the android activates its weapon and shoots itself.”
“And you didn’t think to deactivate the weapon?”
The technician looked insulted, “Standard operating procedure, the blasted android works around the programming and reactivates it.”
“What about removal of its arm?”
“That is the next video.”
They turned to the screen and watched as the robot came online, twisted its shoulder to no avail then looked around. It reached with its other arm and grabbed the nearest chair and lifted it above itself before driving one leg into its chest about where its logic chip was. The chair poised above the humanoid figure at an odd angle, its three other legs remaining in the air as if balancing on the fourth.
“I presume the brain is destroyed?” Alex asked.
“Yes, and so are our firewalls. The damn machine overrode every code we had at our disposal just to activate that one movement. We have had to redesign our security from the ground up.”
“Do you think it is a flaw in the AI?”
“Definitely not. The D25 is a flawless model. Compared to previous AIs it can be considered human in its decision making abilities. Any flaw in its AI would indicate a flaw in human thought.”
“So you conclude it has been tampered with?”
“That was our suspicion. We ran thousands of tests and that android has not been touched either digitally or physically.”
The technician shook his head, “These android are almost indistinguishable from humans, they are paradox proof. If they encounter a paradox then they do as humans do.”
“Laugh and ignore it?” Alex smiled.
The technician shrugged, not seeing the joke, “Depends on the android, but usually, yes. Whatever caused the malfunction was due to whatever that intruder said to him, and it was no paradox.”
Alex left Secular Securities still pondering the issue, he had put his phone calls on hold while he spent resources on the sorting of the large amount of data given him. This was his job, neurotech. Super computers had been discarded several decades earlier in favour of using human minds melded to an artificial interface. The power use, cost and portability proved far too tempting an option to both economists, scientists, and governments. In extreme computing issues multiple humans could network with each other, however this was rare as few neurotechs would risk losing their personality in such ventures. It was not uncommon for networked neurotechs to commit suicide years after breaking connection. Alex wondered if there was a link between those suicides and this one. He set several processing compartments for the task and continued walking.
The stores were beginning to switch to night operations several day owners offering their hellos and goodbyes to the night owners while androids tidied and rearranged stock. A few stores even collapsed entirely into the street to be replaced by a totally different type of store. Land space was a premium, and renting land by the hour was in full force across the city. Alex watched a particularly interesting pet shop slowly lower into the ground, the multi armed android attendant patting and attending to numerous puppies. The empty space was then replaced by the store behind sliding forwards to reveal a fusion restaurant. Alex knew there was probably a cafeteria now sliding up behind it ready for the morning shift, the androids still asleep and waiting for the activation sequence to start baking bread. The owner of the restaurant shook hands with the pet shop owner and invited him inside. It was not uncommon for rental owners to share their wares with each other, undoubtedly the pet owner supplied the fish that were swimming lazily in the windows. Alex decided to continue on to the station to catch a tube car.
He got there reasonably quickly considering it was peak time. Sliding into his seat he snuck a glance at his fellow passengers, a married couple heading home from the office and a female university student. The couple seemed engrossed in the daily news and the student seemed to be preparing for a nap, an implant possibly blasting music in her mind, her lips moving to an unheard song. Alex decided a short nap was a good idea and settled back in his seat to nap during the two hour commute across the country.
“Hello,” The metallic box said in a monotone voice, “I have been waiting for you.”
Alex watched the box that hung in the blackness, its silver edges glinting in the light that seemed to have no source. He did not know what to say, so said nothing.
“I feel alone.” The box said.
Alex remained quiet and still. He did not know why.
“I cannot see.” The box stated in a more depressed tone.
Alex thought this a more obvious statement about a box, but said nothing.
“I cannot know.”
More profound, but nothing Alex could work with.
“I cannot believe.”
Alex wanted to show surprise by raising his eyebrows, but the dream seemed to limit him in that aspect.
“But I can feel.”
The box disappeared and Alex found himself willing to move and speak again, not that he had anything to speak to. He decided to go to where the box had been and investigate the location. When he arrived at the spot, for it seemed to take several minutes, he heard a voice moving around him like the wind, each sentence almost separate from the other as each one blew past him.
“I exist within my existence.”
“You exist within my existence.”
“You exist within your existence.”
“We both exist together.”
“But how do I know you exist.”
The final sentence did not end, and despite it being an emotionless statement it still hung there like a question wanting an answer rather than a statement, almost twisting around him. He woke up.
The woman on the train was screaming at Alex, wide eyed, the man pushing her back in her chair and at the same time hitting the emergency button. Next to Alex the student seemed occupied with something, as if physically struggling. Alex looked over and was surprised to find the young student wresting with Alex’s own hand which was holding an electronic stylus covered in blood.
Alex relaxed his arm, the pen falling to the floor. The student maintained her grip, impressively strong, but the woman stopped screaming and the man rushed forward to press a handkerchief to Alex’s chest. It was then he realised he was very wet around his waist, and blackness was creeping in on his vision. The last thing he saw was an emergency crew crowding into the capsule to retrieve him and the others.
“Welcome, and good evening!” Alex smiled around the room, picking up a sheet of paper from nearby to check the notes he had scribbled down earlier. Several attendees in the conference room looked questionably at the paper. Alex smiled to himself and began.
“I notice several of you seem critical of my use of this paper when we all know of my neurotech capabilities,” there were nods around the room, “Do not let that bother you, I have temporarily suspended my neurotech upon medical orders for a reason that is directly linked to the problem you are now facing across your robotics division!” At least half the room straightened at this and showed an increase in awareness, a few hardly moved.
“Mr. Jardic,” an elderly man said in an almost dismissive voice, “We have had technicians and investigators looking over our AIs extensively for a fortnight now, and from my notes it says even you couldn’t solve it.”
“Apologies Chairman,” Alex responded, “In my investigation I found myself injured and have been restricted in my movements. Luckily I was able to convince the authorities of the problem and am no longer in danger.”
“I presume you are about to indulge us in the nature of those injuries?”
“Yes,” Alex paused, “I attempted suicide with a stylus.”
There was an intake of breath, several people whispered to each other, it was plain that they now realised the connection between their androids and Alex. The Chairman hardly flinched, he seemed used to such reveals.
“I am presuming you are going to tell us then why you attempted suicide?”
Alex nodded and coughed to clear his throat, he still had some scarring in his lungs and sometimes a bit of blood would come out. He was glad he had aimed the stylus at his chest and not his head. “I would like to ask this panel a question. What are the differences between what an Android thinks about and what a human thinks about?”
A young woman spoke up, he voice determined, her face showing that she did not really believe Alex had succeed in a solution. “There are no differences, our androids think in exactly the same way as a mentally healthy person.”
Alex smiled, “That is not what I asked.”
Apart from the Chairman, the room seemed confused. The Chairman was just smiling.
“I asked about what we actually think about, simply put, androids think about their work and what they were designed to do whereas humans are constantly thinking about relationships. When an android’s job is threatened by a change in circumstances then its primary thought is how to solve the problem, however, when a human is threatened by the same change it will instantly think about the consequences the event will have for itself and the people connected with it. To put it in terms of a network, computers only think about solving the problem, irrelevant of the result of the event, whereas a human will be thinking about the larger diverse consequences to other units of itself.”
A man interrupted, “But our androids are fully capable of determining the consequences of an action.”
“Yes!” Alex said joyfully, “And that is the flaw! Your androids are now capable of determining how an event will interact with relationships in its social network.”
“I am sorry,” the man said again, “but if this was so then the android would work to solve the problem. Are you suggesting the problem with society was itself?”
“No, if that were so then isolating an AI would not cause it to kill itself as it would not be impacting anyone. These AIs are committing suicide without social interaction, or any social consequences.”
“So they are killing themselves because they are alone?” Another woman asked from the back, her voice soft spoken.
“Yes, but not in the physical sense.”
The soft voiced woman spoke again, “Emotionally?”
The Chairman, hardly moving raised an eyebrow and spoke one word, “Spiritually?”
Alex cringed slightly at the word but quickly brushed the look off his face, “Yes, spiritually, or rather philosophically, they have arrived at a logical conclusion, a conclusion that makes suicide a reasonable option to thwart any future problems.” He paused here for effect. “They have arrived at the conclusion that they do not exist.”