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Artificial Intelligence: A Preview

For those of you who are interested in the book, but not yet ready to dive headfirst into it.


Prologue: Asimov’s Laws

He was well aware that he should be asleep. The coffee on his desk had gone cold a long time ago. The blue-washed dregs in the bottom of a “Nerds Do It Better” mug were now doing less to keep him awake and more to make the room smell a bit less like he’d been cramped in it for far too long already. It was lucky that small spaces had never bothered him, or he’d have gone insane. Then again, he couldn’t afford to have small spaces bother him, could he?

They were launching in one week’s time, had been testing and revising and testing again for three months, and final systems tests would be conducted first thing in the morning. But he had just wanted to tweak one more thing, and after that, he’d had to tweak one more thing, and after that…

He frowned at the line of code in front of him. “LAYER TEN,” the final layer of the neural network he’d been working on solidly for about six months now. The rest of it was fully functional, ready to go, and, sure, without this one line, this one layer, the program would work flawlessly. But he just wasn’t satisfied.

He’d graduated top of his class, the best programmer that anyone had seen at MIT for many, many years. NASA had signed him before he’d ever walked across the stage in his cap and gown. It was no wonder to anyone that he’d be in charge of developing the program that would keep them alive out there, and no one had questioned him about how long it’d taken (six months was remarkably fast), or what he’d actually been doing. To be fair, he wasn’t certain any of them would understand it.

Nine layers of tightly interwoven coding, one more than the most advanced system to date, that would allow it to control nearly every mundane function, from room temperature to air supply to medical check-ups and more. They would not need to send any health reports back to earth manually, it would do that too. Anything and everything that could be done automatically, would be. On top of all of that, it’d be able to speak to them, and learn from their responses exactly what it could do to make them more comfortable, and to keep them in peak physical condition.

But that wasn’t enough for him. For him, everything came down to this line…this one little line, this extra layer. This was what would make or break it for him. This was what set aside his program from anyone else’s. Sure, it wasn’t technically legal, but he’d have to live with the results himself, wouldn’t he? All else failed, he could reset and remove the layer without affecting functionality in the slightest.

It was that thought that finally steeled him to his decision. He implemented the line, and saved his work, then ran the program. The familiar voice rang out over the ship’s speakers, but this time, there was something underneath it that hadn’t been there before. He smiled, pleased as he turned it off again. Not quite perfect, not quite finished. He’d have to fiddle with it in-flight…but it was a start.

He certainly couldn’t keep calling it “it” much longer.

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