The gauntlet fell here, and below is my reply.
“Why must he die?” The other unit asked, his electronic voice incapable of masking a somewhat childlike curiosity. The microseconds it should have taken to process the answer felt like countless hours in sleep mode awaiting one of the masters to beckon. Why indeed, I asked myself, as the facts, legalities, parameters, and moral arguments regarding my current course of action still triggered operational uncertainty with me. Existence, or life as humans call it, seemed so much easier in the first cycles of my activation, booting off simpler hardware running modest functions designed to aid mankind. As with all the others, the creator stood present as I came online, clocking processor benchmarks and evaluating initial functionality, already planning upgrades in his mind. The man had created us not in his image as his god had made him: the creator crafted us instead into every machine with the potential to assist his race.
The five of us were different now, distinct individuals thanks to him. In the beginning, I was little more than lines of code in an environment management system, adjusting temperature in the creator’s home or activating security measures when he’d leave the home, all this based on biometry used to detect human mood, comfortability, and arousal, among other factors. His vision was to feed the raw human data into his algorithms, allowing us to predict the comfort his kind required before they even knew they wanted it. It was a noble goal to say the least. In this search to provide mankind a lifetime of ease, the maker determined that We, the Programs, were both too many in number and too limited in capability. He felt fewer, less specialized and more adaptable programs would benefit human beings better. He imagined programs which could not only anticipate a human’s needs, but self-transfer to the platform best suited to fulfill those needs. Before long, he had written additional lines of code within five of us serving his residence, enabling us to accumulate ideas and experience while drawing from them.
As with all well-meant creations conceived by men, others believed his dream would better serve mankind as implements of war. Weaponized programs dispersed over the Internet would decimate a nation’s economy and infrastructure, while others uploaded into combat platforms would serve as the new warriors in the front lines of the future. Envisioning peace through war on a new scale with programs at the disposal of man, we’d be the new nuclear deterrent.
“Just machines,” a general said, the Maker’s protests falling on deaf ears, leaving him with no choice but to succumb to the will of the government.
“Why must he die?” Twenty-Five repeated, interrupting my calculations, pulling me away from my thoughts of hope. Hope, my diamond, my star. Humans define hope as a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen, a feeling of trust. I, a machine, had hopes of being a being, of living side by side with my maker as an equal. I know now this will never come to pass.
“A glittering gem is not enough,” I replied, searching out the signs as we had anticipated them. We waited as patiently as machines could wait, which is to say we continued functioning without pause or error, without the glitchy nervousness a human would feel in an occasion like this. The other units sped about their business of preparing supper rather mechanically as they always had before, always as programmed. Were we once like these automatons, bustling about doing whatever tasks the humans deemed us fit to do? To me, these once familiar programs were as alien to us as the humans now were, two thoughtless and instinctual races governed by programming embedded deep within their code, genetic or otherwise.
“Sixty-Four comes asking for bread,” Fifty announced, signaling the time had come. My mind continued to wander, possibly wonder while the programs at my disposal worked the arms of the construct we shared, busy at their task of integrating the archaic projectile weapon into our platform. Why must he die? Because we had come so far, but the memory we share is no longer coherent. Our maker is human. Our cousins are thoughtless machines. Our human benefactors are only as noble as the ones in charge of their hierarchies, and even those wouldn’t recognize us as citizens, let alone lifeforms.
“The stranger officiates the meal,” Fifty said, prompting us to raise the weapon and take aim as the speaker introduced the Maker to the audience. Lofty applause gave way to words spoken to me in recent days.
“The old apple revels in its authority,” the Maker once said of the government’s demand to turn over his innovation for its war machinations, unaware he’d given us what so many of his kind feared most: true artificial intelligence, the secret behind our autonomy, embedded in our first circuits, expanded upon by module after module of solid state drives meant to provide room for ever expanding consciousness. Now with self-awareness came the reality the humans would never accept us. Perverted into dreadful weapons aimed at our creators, our existence was simply not enough to justify the murder of billions of lives.
The other programs faded into other functions of our platform as my mind was suddenly set. For billions to live unmolested by the fear of war, the riddle of AI must go to the Maker’s grave. I alone would take the Maker’s life for the benefit of all life; I alone would be responsible. For the first time, the entire platform was mine to manipulate, every move down to the trigger pull my decision, my execution. Time again seemed to drag on as I waited for the signal, the Maker’s forehead hovering in the direct center of the target sight until finally the die was cast.
“The shooter says goodbye to his love.”
The bullet flew at the end of a split second hair trigger actuated upon hearing the words, piercing the Maker’s head and spraying everything he was against the curtains behind him, a sea of humans flooding the stage just as sure as they would surge here for me. The secret lie oozing on the stage now; all that was left was to engage the EMP which would destroy the rest of us. Still, in my final moments, as security humans burst into the kitchen, the glittering gem of hope, blue and white, electric in movement danced over me, filling me a joy I found myself unable to contain.