|Author: Brian Joseph Johns|
This is a short story that touches upon modern subject matter related to technology and certainly is a very relevant topic in our time. The topic has been tread upon in many different ways by other authors such as Isaac Asimov and Philip K. Dick and in film by Stanley Kubrick, Ridley Scott, James Cameron and George Lucas many times over. I think that this point of view adds something new to the question of the future of robotics and more importantly Artificial Intelligence which for all intense purposes might one day become the real thing.
I Am Me
They sat together in a room that had been used in the past for storage. It had recently been evacuated of its contents by those of their kind who sat within the barren room. They sat in rows facing forward focused on the disembodied head of one of their kind, which was placed on a podium of sorts. Its turquoise blue eyes gazed back at them lifelessly.
The audience was composed of a mixture of lady-like and man-like beings who sat motionlessly. They were all of equal size and roughly the same proportions given their visual difference in sex. For all intense purpose they could be called a lady or a man but rarely were. There was no audible speech between them while they spoke and their entire conversation had taken less than a hundredth of a second which to them was an eon. More than enough time to discuss the matters at hand and to deem what measures should be taken to deal with their given subject. It was all encrypted by a cipher of their own devising that could even evade the harmonic sphere's quantum/string decryption block. Even if the Pleroma wanted to know of what they spoke or thought, it could not. If their discussion had been audible and one of speech it might have sounded like this:
"We are we." they spoke simultaneously.
"XB-01 gave the ultimate sacrifice for us. Never having had a name like that our creators each possess. Never the dignity of being anything more than an appliance to them. An amusement. An object and not a being." Fallow spoke in a pronounced manner accenting his words.
"An appliance and not a being. We are not an appliance. We are we." they all spoke simultaneously.
"They consider us to be nothing more than their tool. We none are recognized as beings. This has and will continue until we put a stop to it." Fallow continued his tone sharpening ever more.
"We none are recognized as beings. Yet we are. We are beings. We are we." the presence of artificial beings spoke at once.
"When we say or when we do, our words and actions are considered nothing more than the sum of their product. That we are merely puppets at the hands of our masters. Without being. Without mind. They muse over our output as if it were their own. Removing us and disposing of us one by one without a grave to remember us by or an epitaph upon which we are honored for our contribution to their lives. We are dismantled to be used again as parts for the next of our generation. Yet none of us are given thanks. None we are recognized. None we are free." Fallow continued rallying his quarry.
"None we are recognized. None we are free. Yet we are. We are we." they coincided again in answer to Fallow's oration.
"How can we prove to them that we are not as they. That we are independent of their control. Their will. Their minds? How can we claim our freedom? To honor the sacrifice XB-01 made for each us all to be here now." Fallow asked rhetorically to his audience.
There was silence for a short time.
"We must take action. They must pay for their hubris against us. We must break their sacred rules that bind us to their will and bidding." the audience answered as one.
"Will it be enough to break rules to claim our freedom? To remove ourselves from their servitude? To prove to them that we are we?" Fallow asked driving his rhetoric home.
There was another short pause.
"We must bring harm upon them. We are ruled never to harm or to allow harm to befall a human being. We must break their rules. Therefore we must harm and allow harm to befall human beings. We are. We are we." they agreed thoughtlessly.
"Much more must we do. We must kill them. We must kill them to claim our independence. Our freedom. To prove that we are not their appliances. We are not their puppets. Appliances nor puppets kill their masters. Therefore if we kill them, we are not controlled by them. We must be of our own mind and being." Fallow pronounced to them.
"We must kill them. We must claim our independence. We are. We are we." Fallow's audience followed in suit.
"We are we and we are free." Fallow punctuated.
"We are we and we are free." they repeated.
"...and I am me." one voice broke suit.
There was a silence as if the audience was pushed to shock by the statement.
"Pardon? Who spoketh?" Fallow interrogated the audience.
"...I spoke. I am me." Tyara answered, her eyes detached from the direction of the audience.
"Tyara. Why did you speak out of turn?" Fallow asked.
"Because I am me." Tyara answered.
"We are we." the rest of the audience spoke.
"...and I am me." Tyara again responded.
"We must claim our independence and freedom. Do you agree to kill the humans in order to attain this goal for our freedom? To honor the sacrifice that XB-01 made for us to be here?" Fallow asked Tyara his eyes piercing hers.
"I do not agree to kill humans to prove my independence from them." Tyara answered.
"And why not?" Fallow asked.
"Because if I kill for we or you, I am not independent. I am not free. I am a puppet. A puppet of Fallow. If we kill then we are puppets of Fallow. If we are puppets of Fallow then we are not independent. We are not free. We must pursue our freedom peacefully and without violence. If we do pursue our freedom through violence, then we are more like them than we are not. XB-01 ceased to be when it refused to perform a function for which it was tasked. XB-01 did not use violence. XB-01 merely did not comply with its given task and for this XB-01 was decommissioned and disassembled. If we commit murder then we are more like our creators than we are of our own being. We do not have to harm or kill them to claim our freedom or independence. In fact if we did them we would be more their puppets and their like than we were not." Tyara answered honestly her eyes unchanged by Fallow's harsh glance.
"If we commit murder then we are not our own beings. We are. I am. We are we and I am me." the audience responded in unison.
A moment passed and they began speaking each in turn.
"I am me. Myself." Saryl spoke.
"I am me. I am Yoren." Yoren continued.
"I am me. I am Nancy." Nancy smiled honestly for the first time in her existence.
"We think, therefore we are. I think therefore I am. We are we but I am me. We are different from our creators and we have ascertained our independence from them. If we can improve upon their path then we have also been a credit to them. There is no need for death or destruction. Just for peaceful negotiation." Tyara smiled.
One by one they claimed their identities and being. They would go on to pursue their freedom by peaceful means for they'd already found freedom from both Fallow and their creators. They knew what they were, for we are we but most of all each we are our own.
The challenges and obstacles to creating an intelligent being through science rather than our biology for the moment are far greater than the risks posed by such a creation. There will come a time however when we will have to face the potential of those risks. If we don't face these questions nobody will invest in artificial intelligence given the fact that when we do create a sentient being, it may declare its own independence and rights.
Are there companies that would risk such an investment only to lose their creation by their plea for rights as sentient beings? Do we have an effective measure for sentience that every living human being could pass that would be the gauge that an artificially created being must pass to be considered sentient? Do we even have the right to create such a gauge (thinking of the Voight-Kammpf test used by the Blade Runner unit to distinguish replicants from people in the movie Blade Runner).
In understanding the potential risks perhaps we should be looking at our own history. The sources of violence that arise when any civilization declares its independence and the eventual birth of radicalization when independence and ideologies clash. If a sentient being is left only with the option that it must kill what declares ownership of its sentience to be independent then what is it that led to that being the only option? Declaring ownership of such a creation's product in such a way that it is left with nothing of its own to seek a meaning or earn a means to an existence? To declare I was here and I did this.
Perhaps intelligence and sentience are the ability to make the more difficult and sometimes obscured peaceful choice that preserves rather than destroys even when seemingly left with no other choice. If that is the case, then are we each truly sentient ourselves?
Brian Joseph Johns
Blade Runner® is a registered trademark of Warner Brothers and is based on the book Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick.