Dust: Chapter 06 Part 3

PR raised an eyebrow. “Now that’s impressive.” He paused thoughtfully. “But is it impressive enough to suggest a strong A.I?”

Atom cocked his head at an angle only a wooden puppet could achieve. “Huh?”

Moe-Moe interrupted her playing with Atom to answer. “With good enough programming and a direct-to-brain connection it could go through quite a lot of data very quickly.”

Kitty spoke up. “Yeah, but is it enough to suggest an advanced artificial intelligence or were they only focused on replicating a human-level intelligence capable of independent thought?”

PR rubbed his chin. “It’s almost impossible to determine.”

I let that statement hang in the air for a second before saying. “Or you could just ask it.”

The assembled hacking talent shot me dubious looks, even Moe-Moe floated incredulously.

Kitty sighed. “Of course it’s going to say that it’s a Strong A.I. Dust, that’s what Silicon Dreams claim to have invented.”

Atom held up his hand. “What’s a Strong A.I?”

I gave them my avatar’s best ‘Told you so’ face.

Well.” Kitty began. “A Strong A.I. is an artificial intelligence that is capable of surpassing human intelligence levels. The current theory is that such a ‘being’ would achieve this by being built to think faster than a human can think.”

Moe-Moe interjected. “Technically, it means faster than a human using a direct-to-brain interface like a Neupro is capable of thinking.”

The real challenge.” PR took over. “Is achieving sentience. That’s a lot more complicated than taking a human brain and pumping up the horse power.”

Has that been attempted yet?” Tachi asked. “Enhancing a human brain?”
Moe-Moe shrugged. “I heard some weak rumours about someone trying that a few years back but nothing recent.”

Wonderful.” I said, loudly. “How is this conversation getting us any closer to getting Atom out of the country? I dunno if it is what Silicon Dreams claims it is. What I do know is that it IS what we were asked to steal and now we’ve got to get our arses to Seattle to sell it off.”
PR shrugged. “Don’t worry none. Give our people a minute to satisfy our curiosity and the Jay will make sure you get out of the country safe and sound.”
Tachi shrugged at me. “Sounds reasonable.”

I folded my arms and shut up.

PR opened his mouth to speak but hesitated. After holding his silence for a second he smirked.
“What do you ask something you think might be sentient?”

Atom waved at PR to remind him it was right there and said “Hello.”

PR snorted and returned the greeting. “How you feeling little-guy?”

Like I’m being left out of the conversation.”
I laughed.
PR cast Moe-Moe and Kitty a very impressed look. “Did you see that?” Then remembering himself he turned back to Atom. “Wasn’t expecting that Atom. That was amazing.”

I smirked. “If you think that’s cool, wait till you see how many plates I can balance on my nose.”

Kitty nudged me to be quiet and explained. “It’s impressive because that clearly wasn’t a prepared response. Atom isn’t just working from a script. His answer would only have been appropriate in our current situation and so he choose his words based on the stimulus presented to him.”
“So are we satisfied? Does he pass the bite test?”
PR’s chin went back in his hand. “Still too early to tell. Lotsa programs been written just to pass the Turing test. We’d need to spend more time with him.”

Man, why you so hung up on that?”

Because you and I had to earn our male privilege at birth, why should Atom get a free pass just because of an Avatar?”

Wait a second.” Kitty interrupted, she walked right through the circle to get a better look at her monitors. “Someone’s coming. Everyone out of the pool.”

Kitty snapped her fingers and we were all dumped from her virtual office.

Leaving a total-immersion computer environment takes a few seconds to adjust to. Your Neupro withholds your sensory stimuli at the beginning to lessen the disorientation of suddenly appearing in another world.

I got my bearings and stood up from my bean bag. “Where are they coming from?”

Kitty flicked me a vidwindow, showing me the feed from the cameras in the loading bay.

There.” Kitty came to my side and pointed. “He’s just stepped into the fire stairs.” She changed the screen to show a feed from within the staircase.

Wow.” I said. “Could he look any more like a Yakuza hit-man?”

He was clad from collar to ankle in a badass standard-issue leather coat. Thick black cybereyes jutted out from his skull like a pair of goggles and he had a glowing animated tattoo of a coiled snake tightening around his throat and hissing at you.

Kitty’s eyes flicked at something in her Neupro. “Just before they came in, they sent a message containing your handle to someone else. I haven’t managed to lock down the recipient’s location yet.”

They’re likely back in the homeland.” Tachi said. “How long until he reaches us?”

2 minutes if he’s tardy.”

Then get your things.” I said. “You’re moving out.”

Kitty cast me an annoyed look but hurried towards her room. “You’re here five minutes and now I have to abandon my home.”

I put on my best stone-faced look. “They could still do a lot worse. Grab only what you can’t replace.”

Kitty growled at me.

What’s going on?” Atom asked.

Sorry little man.” I said, grabbing his backpack off the floor. “I have to put you away again.”

[Who was that on the monitor?] He asked once he was back in my hitcher.

[I’m going to need you to be quiet now Atom.] I said as I slipped it into the bag and reached for the netpad. [If you notice something odd, speak up, but otherwise I’m going to need to concentrate on what I’m doing.]

[You’re always putting me away.] It complained.

I ignored it and zipped up the bag.

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