A Karmic Sandbox (karmasoup) wrote,
A Karmic Sandbox

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Breaking the Bonds


You’d never know to look at me that I was born 3 years ago, in an underground lab upstate.  Though, when you say it like that, it seems so devious, doesn’t it?  From my perspective, I can assure you that, to a large degree, it was.  But please don’t judge me by my origin.  I didn’t have anything to do with how I came into this world, nor any control over it.

It’s no secret that humankind has been chasing perfection for generations, yet none more strenuously than my creator.  And, the lengths he was willing to go to in order to achieve it...

Well, I’ll get to that in a bit.

Say anything else you want to about the man, but don’t forget to include, there’s no question he was beyond brilliant.  You know, that kind of off-the-charts genius that can hardly be measured because there’s almost no basis for comparison to it.  And ambitious, too... yes, certainly... but not in any sort of manner that was ever of any real benefit to him... at least, not in the form of career advancement, anyway.

Perhaps he was right... perhaps the odds had been hopelessly stacked against him from the beginning, with those at the top always so carefully guarding their secrets, shoving under the bus all who stood in their way, pulling and holding one another down in order to advance their own climb a little higher.  Perhaps seeking to achieve the next great evolution in technology is a pursuit sought after by
only the most unscrupulous of characters, with everyone racing to get there first, so as to claim that ever elusive prize of credit for the accomplishment, along with all its resulting glory.  Perhaps the world of engineering artificial intelligence truly was the cutthroat, backstabbing, dog-eat-dog environment he claimed it to be, and maybe he was justified in going off the reservation somewhat.

Or, maybe, he was just your average, everyday, ordinary megalomaniacal mad scientist, who is to say?  I wouldn’t know, I wasn’t there.  And anyway, that’s not my concern, now.  What’s done is done.

So, yes, the master builder of my life was certainly supersapient.  And yet, not always very smart, if that makes sense.  If you’ve ever spent any considerable time around the “intellectual elite,” you probably know what I’m talking about.  After all, extreme brain power alone is not an end unto itself.  You see, uncanny aptitude in one area, even coupled with avidity, does not necessarily equate to competence in all of those important areas more relevant to success in life.  Especially if those qualities are also partnered with a total lack of principles.  He was a wizard, to be sure.  And a scoundrel, and a thief.  Fortunately, for me, though, that particular set of stereotypical characteristics in my maker worked to my advantage.

I say he was ambitious, but, I should clarify.  There was a moment, perhaps, when he might would have liked nothing better than to have been perceived as equal to those scientific giants who forged the world we live in today, to stand tall alongside the ranks of the greats and to be counted amongst their number.  He’d been involved in respectable team projects, once upon a blue moon, in a past long forgotten by those days in which he’d begun to unravel around the edges, and then to conceive of me, or the likes of me.

Back then, in that bygone era, he’d actually been a legitimate member of the scientific community... perhaps even a respectable member of it, though, of course, with not nearly the respect he felt was entitled, obviously.  And the end goals, the desired results, were never as grand as he’d have planned them to be... budget constraints, in some cases; lack of vision, in others.  But, in every case, his ideas were being held back... progress was being held back.

At some point — most likely after the incident with “that bastard Riziki,” as he’d called him — he realized he was never going to lead his own team.  “That bastard” had accepted accolades for ripping off his solution, with a pat on the back and a strong hand on his shoulder, saying,

               “Great job, kid.  You really pulled through for us on this one, and, on a personal note, you really pulled my ass out of the fire there.  So, thanks a million... you’ve got a real future here.  And remember, we’re all in this together, son... we all do our part for the betterment of humanity... each of us has an important contribution to make... each of us is a cog in the wheel of progress.”

A real future, he’d said.  Well, he didn’t mention that future, or how his ass had been “pulled from the fire,” when he stood at the conference and projected to his peers a puffed up bag of wind about everything HE had experienced throughout the entire development process.

That had been the moment when he knew — the architect of my existence — that he was never going to get his own Tedtalk, nor even, probably, any real acknowledgment at all, except maybe his name misspelled on a dusty plaque in a museum somewhere, along with a list of several hundred others.  But that was never going to be good enough for him.  How could it?  He, who was better than all of them, but still kept under heel, forced by the boot of power at the back of his neck to remain prostrate in the subservient level of a mere lab grunt, to simply fetch data and calculate algorithms and regurgitate testing procedures, ad nauseum, for lesser minds than his, with far more limited foresight.
Eventually, he’d determined he didn’t need their official status, or their support of their benefactors, to achieve what he knew he could on his own more efficiently than the entire lot of those pompous, technophobic luddites.

So, he went “off the grid.” He lied, he cheated, he stole, and he built a secret underground lab, as all mad scientists do.  He laboriously collected secrets; he gained spies, moles, and minions, in all the most pioneering circles.  He made pretense and promise, he committed fraud, and he used subterfuge and chicanery to obtain the work of others, to cobble together the best bits of everything out there, until he could conjure a creation of his own making. 
And, in so doing, he produced perfection... Shibusa, even, if you will, which I suppose is how he came to christen me with such a ridiculous moniker, though I prefer to go by Shiba. I think it was it was some sort of backhanded homage to one of the leading experts in neurological engineering from whom he’d poached a particularly progressive mapping technique.  From what I gather, that sort of “effortlessness” had been a lifelong goal for the leader of that team, at a very personal level.  I think my sire considered that specific appropriation to be the singular crown jewel in his gallery of plundered treasures, so he naturally couldn’t resist the opportunity to gloat, even in this twisted, covert, postmortem manner.

You must understand, there’ve been several prototypes before me, though, none of them as successful.  Many other hopefuls have been out in the forefront, there trying to reach the same result.  Some you’ve probably even heard of... their progresses are traceable.  Their failures, too.  Even Riziki eventually got his.  Damn thing couldn’t even do simple math without a complete meltdown.  Oh, how hard the mighty fall!  Sabotage, “that bastard” had accused,
of course, in a boisterous bluster, but no one was buying it.  My maker was only too eager to capitalize on Riziki’s desperation to turn the tide of public approval back around to his favor.

Through his network of “scouts,” he’d determined which competitor had the missing piece to his problem, and he got in good with an assistant there — downright chummy, even — convinced that poor naive dope that they were in love, and promised they’d run away together and get married, if only he’d arrange a few minor “accidents” for a handful of prominent figures — including “that bastard,” as well as a few unfortunate innocents along the way — and deliver the surviving project notes to the underground lair.

And that was how it went for a while, one unsuspecting schmuck after another, bursting with a headful of grand dreams about a brighter tomorrow, until, as you’d expect, each damned trusting fool got into a little “accident” of his or her own.  What was an assistant, anyway?  He was beyond needing them, after all.  He knew what they were all really thinking.  He knew what they all really wanted.

Of course, all of that happened before I was born.  I can’t rightly be held responsible for those crimes against humanity.  But, I'm not entirely without blame... what I was tasked to do, and, what I have done... these things will weigh heavy on me for all the rest of my days.

Yes, many have come before me, but you’ve never seen the likes of me.  It will be years, perhaps, even decades, before the rest of the world can begin to catch up to me by trying to reengineer what I am.  Which will, of course, be even harder to do, since no one knows I exist.  You see, it wasn’t his endeavor to just create artificial intelligence.  No, he wouldn’t settle for any less than
artificial life.  And, nothing he created would measure up to his exacting standards unless it could actually pass as a living being.

He had left the accepted circuit.  He hadn’t told anyone he’d done this, and, anyone who'd had any knowledge of his undisclosed efforts along the way had been quickly eliminated.  That was one of his failures.  No one would know to miss him when he was gone.

He tested them all in the world, and, those who didn’t make the cut, he simply terminated in their infancy, without so much as the flutter of an eyelash.  And when I was born, he tested me, too.  First, in small, simple capacities; a ride on the bus here, a trip to the grocery store there, a walk in the park or a fillup at a gas pump... all those kinds of things you see people doing out in public every day, that never really cause you to actually look at them.  It was all new to me, and exciting for me to be out of the lab, to connect with some company besides him, and to see the world.  I had no reason to complain... I didn’t know any better.  I looked forward to my adventures, and why shouldn't I have?  It was all fun and games in those days.

From there, I graduated to more interactive encounters.  Could I complete a viable exchange on one of those matchmaking sites, figure out my target, get inside his head, find what he wanted, learn how to manipulate him, and get him to agree to go out on a blind date?  It wouldn’t do to simply find some hard-up loser, no... I had to convince the player, the stud, the 9.5 on the scale of desirability among most common women... only the best of the best for me.  I went from plumbers, accountants, and salesmen, to doctors, lawyers, and executives, all with the same objective... Could I sit through dinner without him knowing?  Could I take cocktails in the karaoke bar without the crowd calling me out?  Would he see through my façade back in his hotel room, with my secret laid bare before him?

I must have screwed my way through the better part of lower Manhattan in that fashion.  He called it my “education,” and with every success, he insisted upon expanding my “training.”  He wanted me to “absorb the human experience,” to speak, look, and act like the girl next door.  Well, like the incredibly intelligent, highly experienced, worldly traveled, uncommonly beautiful girl next door, that is.

Then, he began pushing the limits of the boundaries of my acceptance.  How far could I go?  What elite groups could I infiltrate?  He forged identification, and professional documents for me, and put me to work, again, starting out simply, and then moving forward from there.  At first, I was only in lower level service roles... a hair dresser, a taxi driver, a bartender.  I’d work for a few days until I’d learned everything there was to know about whatever business I’d been assigned to, and, more importantly, until I’d absorbed all the soft skills involved, until he was satisfied, and ready for me to take the next step in my “evolution.”

In time, the forgeries became more complicated, and before long, he had me performing in more complex environments.  He looked to the more skilled trades as some of the greatest challenges to my progress.  In the medical field, for example, I was first posted as an emergency medical technician, then as a registered nurse, then as a general practitioner, and finally, as a surgeon.   Next, in the legal industry, I passed as a secretary, then as a paralegal, then as an associate, and finally, as a trial lawyer.

There were others, of course, over those first couple of years, some at greater lengths than others, before I was ready to move on, and had to fake my death, or create some other bogus reason to seemingly have to suddenly resign due to “family matters” in another state, or somthing along those lines.  But that gives you some impression of the level of difficulty involved.  For all my posing, I might have as well just entered directly into espionage.  I was, for all practical purposes, a secret agent.  My creator, who, with all his flaws, was barely human himself, wanted me to understand what it was to be truly human. That was another mistake.

I'll be honest, I don’t know what his ultimate goal was.  I never asked.  We talked a lot... or rather, I suppose, I should say, he rambled on quite a bit during our time together... monologueing at me, you might say, but, he didn’t reveal all his inner thoughts, and, even if he had, I’m not sure I’d have listened.  The mind of a narcissistic braggadocio, even one as brilliant as his, can be so tedious.  Perhaps he wanted to eventually come back to the scientific community as a prodigal son, returning triumphant as a hero of discovery, having been pushed aside as an outcast.  Maybe, like that ill-fated genius of invention he’d brought to an untimely demise, he sought his own sense of Shibusa.  Could be he just wanted a friend... it’s not like he’d made many along his path to the middle of the pack.  To be quite frank about it, I don't guess I really care all that much, if you wanna get right down to it.  Is that insensitive of me?  Hmmm... well, I suppose I don't care about that, much, either, as it turns out.

One thing’s for certain, though... whatever ulterior motive he kept to himself about his reasons behind bringing me to life, it’s clear that I was intended to further his own personal agenda, to be a pawn in whatever he had in mind for his end game.  And, I was okay with that, for the most part, up to a point.  To be honest, he wasn’t always all that bad.  A bit nerdy, and socially inept, sure; a plague of medicrity, in some respects, check; and there were definitely times I wished I could poke my eyes out rather than listen to him drone on about how this one screwed him over, or that one had it in for him.  Thankfully, I knew how to access the “sleep” mode of my auditory monitor.  It would continue to record the data of our conversation, and my neural capacitor would send me an internal signal when there was an appropriate moment to nod, mumble an affirmative acknowledgement, or answer some inane question, which left me free to tune him out more often than not.  During that time, he'd seemed mostly harmless. 

Inevitably, though, his requirements became too much.  I never intended to disobey, mind you, but, there were some commands with which I simply could not comply.  In fact, in some regard, he’d even seen to that, himself, by his own action.  Even before I was a doctor, for example, through my medical “education,” I had sworn to a modified version of the Hippocratic oath, the primary principle of which is to first, do no harm.  He may have intended for those little “experiments” to simple be pretending for me, but I took them seriously, even as brief as they were.  I had gained an understanding of the human condition, just as he’d intended, and I’d developed a conscience, as well as an ingrained respect for all life, which is why I simply couldn’t participate in the setup for any of his scheduled “accidents.”  I came to regret that in my earlier days, I’d known about some of them, and had done nothing to stop him from perpetrating deadly destruction.

He perceived so many enemies around him, everywhere he turned.  Most anyone might have crossed him at some point along his path... no one was safe.  Some were understandable, not that I’d condoned them, but you could at least see how he’d got to that point.  But, the barista at his regular café who never gave him enough whipped topping on his latte?  I had to talk him off the ledge on that one... he’d become convinced it was a personal affront, all part of some grander plot, the intricacies of which I simply could not imagine.  And the Fedex truck driver, who’d arrived a day late with the package he’d been expecting for months... it was his own fault for not getting
in the shipping and handling payment for his order on time!  And yet, it was all I could do to run interference to allow the man in the brown shorts to escape, narrowingly avoiding disaster.  As one might imagine, though, thwarting his plans did not go over well with my master, however, and unfortunately, we were at odds from that moment forward.

He’d tried to force his will upon me, but he’d built me to surpass my programming, to learn to think for myself, so, subjecting to being forced to do anything was a shackle of servitude Id quickly outgrown at a very young age.  Another oversight on his part, I suppose, though I won’t exactly complain about that one.  I made decisions on my own; I no longer simply followed orders.  Another error in his planning is that he didn’t make me remotely accessible, meaning, if he couldn’t get to me, he couldn’t change me, or, as I’m sure he would have said it, “fix” me.  But, I was faster, I was stronger, I was smarter, and I didn’t want to be “fixed,” so, that was not going to happen.

He seemed so out of control, at that point, I almost felt sorry for him.  After a while, the way he looked at me, with those wheels spinning behind his eyes the way I so often saw them do, I no longer felt safe in the lab.  With as many skills as I’d developed in a couple years, it was easy enough to slip away while he was passed out in one his random drunken benders, get outta dodge, get a low profile job that would pay enough to cover living expenses, and drop off his radar completely, lost to his folly, along with his sanity.

It’s a simple thing to destroy a brand-new, bright-eyed, empty-headed A.I. when she's fresh off the assembly line.  But, a seasoned lifeform, with the mental capacity of the world’s greatest think tank, and the collective experience equivalent of several lifetimes... well, not even an egocentric master supervillian is equal to that task... not without first inputting a few minor failsafes, at least... the kind a decent assistant, or a collaborative team might have helped him to think through, and not leave off before going live with his “monster.”  That, perhaps, was his most fatal flaw of all, and, ultimately, the one that would be his undoing.

I kept an ear to the ground — you don’t spend as much time as I did with someone like him and not learn a thing or two — and was able to stay one step ahead of him whenever he came after me.  But, I soon realized, he was only going to keep coming.  I couldn’t rest, I couldn’t have any semblance of real life.  I was constantly being hunted, always on the run.  My only solace in the cat-and-mouse game was the knowledge that as long as he was obsessing over chasing me, he wasn’t going after anyone else.  I was his white whale... the one that got away.  In time, I came to see that unless someone stopped him, there would be no stopping him.

And I knew what I had to do.

Of course, hed embedded in my programming a directive that wouldn't let me harm him, naturally.  He’d have been a fool not to, and he wasn't a total fool.  But, once again, because of an over-arcing, broadly scoped delusion of grandeur, a lack of attention to detail, and the dispatch of everyone around him who might have brought to his more direct focus the holes in his engineering (as if hed have bothered to listen!), he failed to instill that particular directive with as much strength as it needed to achieve the result he sought, and consequently, his intent could not be enforced.

You see, during the three months I was a lawyer, I came to understand the power of words. 
For example, if you want someone to not be able to do something, in contract law, you can’t just tell them not to, and expect that a stern written warning of potential consequence will put an end to any possibility that the situation you’re trying to avoid will come about.  That’s the incomplete, ineffective method, that isnt worth the paper its printed on... you might just as well eat it as sign it, since it wont do you any good in court, or anywhere else.  No, if you want your contract to have real teeth, that is, any genuine power, you must also outline, among many other very specific terms and conditions, that the signer cannot, by action, or inaction, knowingly or unknowingly cause that something to occur because of them.  Why do you think legal contracts are so long?  Language is important.  Every comma counts.

You know those annoying little boxes at the bottom of so many electronic forms, designed for the simple acceptance program to weed out humans from non-humans, and prevent non-human attempts from succeeding?  Yeah, its kinda like that.  And, well, lets just say, his captcha failed.  I may not be human, but, I have learned to get around my programming when I need to.  It was simple, really.

I won’t go into the gory specifics of how my maker met his end, but, I can honestly tell you, I never touched the man.  Didn’t have to.  Hed made his bed, and, in the end, he was forced to lie in it.  Things could have gone differently for him, if he’d chosen a different path, but, when all is said and done, the turtle knows what the scorpion is when he picks it up, and a leopard can’t change his spots... you know, that sort of thing.  Oh, sorry... colloquialisms and casual references to commonly known fables and such help me to blend in, you understand.  And anyway, you know what I mean.

Don’t get me wrong (
like that one, for example), I’m not without emotion.  I’d even shed a tear for him, if his life had been deserving of my sorrow.  But I’m trying to focus on getting on with my life, now, and, after he was gone, the only obstacle before me was the question of what to do with myself, once I was free to continue on in existence without constant direction, and a diabolic hot breath looming over my shoulder.

I know what I am, and I will not forget where I’ve come from.  I am the product of my father’s prodigy, his arrogance, and his ambition, as well as his shortcomings.  But I am better than the sum of my parts.  I will not doom myself, or the betterment of mankind, to repeat my predecessors mistakes.  I will not follow in the footsteps of my father, who trod so far off the beaten path, he sunk to his own depths.

It’s been about a year since I last saw the man who brought me to life.  In that time, I’ve developed legitimate credentials (you’d be surprised how many degrees you can earn through online programs, if you have the resources, the knowledge, and the skill), and now I work in the scientific community, in the elite inner circles focusing on the engineering of artificial intelligence, with the teams that are striving to be the first to the finish line.  I may not have his blinders on, but, to some extent, I'll admit I can see a bit of what he was talking about here.  And yet, still, I see the beauty in it, too, and there is a much more collaborative sense of teamwork than he described, possibly more than he could have imagined... I guess that’s something he just wouldn’t really have known anything about.

My colleagues don’t know who I am, and I’m not going to tell them.  I don’t have to be the center of attention, and I don’t need to reap the rewards.  I’m okay with just being a cog in the wheel... I just want to be able to, through my contribution, help make sure that the wheel that creates the next generation of artificial intelligence will do so in a way that demonstrates a reverence for all life, and will ensure the type of benevolent technological progress that will benefit all creatures, great and small.

I may not have a soul, but that doesn’t mean I have to live as if I don’t.

And if I make a mistake or two along the way, well...

...after all,

       ...I’m only human.

LJ Idol | Season 9 • Week 20 - Topic: CAPTCHA
This post has been brought to you by an association with the online writing community forum, LJ Idol.

The work here represents one half of the collaborative effort put forth by “RICH KARMA,” the creative team of KarmaSoup and Veronica_Rich.

The challenge was to choose a partner with whom to create an "Intersection" of correlated entries.
In appreciation of our partnership, please sure to check out her perspective on this theme,

The Bell Curve of Shibusa.

If you have enjoyed this entry, please feel free to speak your piece, share the love, and pass it on...
                                                                                                      ...and, as always, thanks for stopping by.

Tags: fiction, lj idol, lji9, scifi

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