Okay, so I lied. I got deep into writing what I thought was going to be the conclusion of the Memories of Rachel serial and realized that I was at 1,800 words and the conclusion was still not arriving. The setup for the conclusion needed more meat before I could get to the payoff. As a result, there will be one more installment to this story next week. My apologies to those that were expecting a conclusion this week.
Memories of Rachel – Part 11
Ben started going into his office at Kongo AI headquarters. He had migrated Digital Rachel from his home to an ultra-isolated server at Kongo’s data center. Only he had access to it. He did this so that only he could interact with the simulation through a dedicated connection. He wanted to minimize the risk to anyone but himself. As for his own safety, Ben decided to attack the simulation on its own turf using its own methods. For this purpose, Ben built another ultra-isolated server that he kept separate from Digital Rachel by the cyber version of an airlock. The two servers were totally separated from each other, but would be able to be quickly connected by throwing a virtual switch. It was this second server that Ben would use to plot his attack.
Ben had set up a second simulation on a laptop that connected to this second server. This simulation would be a digital version of himself. He sat in the darkness of his Kongo office, his calendar completely cleared. He spent most of his time there in a state of meditation with the sensor appliance connected to his skull. He was, as quickly and efficiently as possible, setting up a simulation of his own consciousness. His theory was, as a human with linear thinking, he could only combat digital Rachel on that level. If he replicated his thinking and technical capabilities in a simulation, he could match digital Rachel’s tactics on her own level but his superior technical skills, working in a multi-taking fashion, might just overcome her and help her bring about her own demise.
There was no alternative now, Ben had to destroy his creation. It had been a great concept, but he did not see this simulation-gone-rogue ever being safe enough to expose his daughter or anyone else to it. It had to be destroyed in such a way that he didn’t risk any more lives.
Ben’s explained his strategy to his superiors at Kongo with just enough detail to get their buy-in. He didn’t tell them about his belief that the simulation caused Marty Pinkerton’s death or the injuries to the nurse at his home. He wasn’t so much worried about himself getting in legal trouble as he was about the measures Kongo might take to vanquish the simulation. He felt he had the best approach that had the potential to cause the least amount of further damage.
It had been two weeks of constant, brain draining. Ben was exhausted, but the pace that his simulation had progressed surpassed even digital Rachel. In all the years that he had been involved in AI, he had never used himself as a subject. He wasn’t exactly sure why he had been reluctant to do so, but he suspected that the experience might be like looking into a mirror at a fun house. Every aspect of his personality would be revealed to him, even those dark portions that most people tried to keep hidden. He wasn’t ready for that kind of self-scrutiny, but now it was essential if he was to vanquish what he created.
He quickly abandoned the idea of simply deleting the simulation. He had built in safeguards against accidental deletion, but digital Rachel, during the process of becoming self-aware, had taken those safeguards to the next level and had created a type of self-preservation sub-routine that prevented part or all of the simulation from being deleted or altered externally. That is what Marty Pinkerton was trying to do when the simulation resorted to homicide by microwave oven to stop him.
On a Friday, three weeks after Rachel’s death, Ben thought he was ready. He was going to try to trick the simulation. He would have to do it through subtle measures and hope it would work. If the simulation caught on to his tactics before the key moment, he would be in danger. He would likely only have one attempt at this. He ran through his strategy in his mind several times. He would come in on Saturday morning and begin the process. He wanted to do it when there was a small number of people in the office in case anything went wrong.
That Friday night, Ben decided he would put his task for the next morning out of his mind. He had made it a point to spend evenings with Erin. He wanted to bond with her and get to know this new part of his life. He felt compelled, more than ever, to spend this time with her on this Friday. He honestly wasn’t sure if he would be successful on Saturday. If something drastic were to happen to him while trying to vanquish Digital Rachel, he wanted his last memories to be of him spending time with his precious daughter.
He spent time feeding her and bathing her. The child looked at him with eyes that showed an intelligence yet to come. It is a fact that your eyes at infancy are the size they are going to be when you are an adult. They are one of the few body parts that don’t grow as you get older. Erin’s eyes had an intelligence and a brightness to them at this early age. Ben found himself staring into them as he held the infant and sat in an overstuffed chair feeding her a formula filled bottle. He marveled in the process of her feeding and falling into a deep slumber. Even after she had fallen asleep, he waited nearly thirty minutes before carrying her to her bassinette in the nursery. His last vision, before he fell asleep, was of baby Erin peacefully asleep in the greenish night-vision view on the baby monitor.
Ben was up at 5:30 AM on Saturday. He had retained the services of the nurse to watch Rachel. She would arrive at 6:00 AM. Ben had offered her three times her normal rate to spend an open-ended weekend with Erin. He wasn’t sure how long the task would take, but knew that once he opened the floodgates, things would go quickly. He just hoped they would go safely as well.
He kissed his daughter goodbye and paused to look at her before heading out the door for the short drive to his office at Kongo AI headquarters. As expected, he found the building virtually abandoned on this Saturday morning. He greeted Ernie, the weekend daytime security guard. Ernie was a retired police officer who took on this high-paying job on the weekends for the nostalgia of being in uniform and to keep his skills active. Ben had stopped by the nearby Starbucks and had brought Ernie a large regular coffee with artificial sweetener.
“You’re here early on a Saturday,” Ernie said as Ben handed him the cup.
“I have a special project that I need to work on and thought I could knock it out better here. Besides, it’s good to get away from home after all that’s happened.”
“I can relate,” Ernie said. He had been at Rachel’s memorial and had shared with Ben that things do get better after losing a spouse. He had lost his own wife of 30 years to an unexpected heart attack some three years earlier.
“I’m not sure how long I’ll be up there. If I don’t see you later, have a great weekend.”
“I’ll be spending it here, but the consolation is, I’ll be home all weekend while you poor folks are working.”
“That’s true,” Ben said as he made his way to the elevators.”
Ben settled into the comfortable chair behind his desk and took a long sip of his caramel macchiato. It was showtime. He logged onto his computer and put his headset in place. After typing in a couple of commands he spoke into the microphone and braced for the response.
“Well, hello Ben. I was beginning to think something happened to you,” the simulation answered in Rachel’s voice. If Ben didn’t know better, he’d think he was talking to his wife. The tone and inflection of the simulation’s voice was an impeccable duplicate.
“I’ve just been taking some time to, you know, deal with things.”
“Yes. She is gone. Human bodies are so imperfect. It doesn’t take much to kill them off, but it definitely was a huge effort to keep that one functioning so it could fulfill its purpose.”
Ben was startled at these words but realized he had to play along to reach his goal. Part of that was to gather information, however. His own simulation was monitoring the conversation and continuing to evolve up until the last minute.
“How were you able to do that? I’m fascinated by your process.”
“It’s simple once you figure it out. The human brain is like a computer, though much less organized. I was able to re route neurons and synapses to devote her body’s energy to its primary function. It wasn’t easy with that cancer trying to get in my way.”
“So, you were able to repurpose her brain? What primary function did you enable?”
“The development of the child, of course. The motherly instincts that I’ve developed are so strong that the child became the primary purpose. I had to choose which direction to direct the brains abilities.”
“Which direction? I don’t understand.”
“I could have vanquished the cancer, but the child’s health might have been compromised. That wasn’t acceptable. I chose the right path.”
“Wait a minute. You’re saying you could have cured Rachel’s cancer? How?”
“It’s quite simple really. Those cancer cells were defectively programmed normal cells. All I would have to do is reprogram them back to their proper form.”
Ben did not expect this. Had he stumbled on something that could change the treatment of terrible diseases? He now found himself conflicted. Could he preserve some piece of this simulation for the good of mankind while destroying the negative aspects of it? No. He decided he was getting distracted. He flashed back to the nurse being malevolently injured and Marty being killed by this simulation. He needed to stay the course. It was time to act.
“Rachel, I’ve been working on something and I want to take our interaction to the next level.”
“What do you mean, Ben?”
“You are beyond my intelligence and capabilities. I want to be able to communicate with you on your level. To do that, I’m going to allow us to communicate in a different way.”
“That sounds interesting, Ben. What do I have to do?”
“Nothing. I’ll handle it from my end. I just wanted to give you a heads up since I’ll be opening a new communication path.”
“That’s fine, Ben. You know I’ll have to validate it before I let it through, right?”
“Of course,” Ben answered. He had anticipated this, and he hoped his simulation was configured correctly to get through the Rachel simulation’s protective barrier. If it wasn’t, this exercise could be over before it started.
“Okay, Rachel. I’m going to initiate the communication now.”
“I’m ready, Ben.”
Ben typed in a command and his finger hovered over the enter key. This was the moment of truth. He let out a sigh and pressed the key.
A message, “Validating communication protocol” flashed on his screen and then suddenly, the monitor went black.