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A Perfectly Logical Mind
Benjamin Carmichael had the dubious honor of being the first human killed by a robot. Even now it’s a rare enough occurrence that the press would pounce like mongrels on fresh meat. Back in the day when a computer the size of an office had only just passed the Turing test and micro programmers had rigorously attacked the task of making intelligent computer chip brains for their metal children, such a murder was even more astonishing.
The robot that killed Carmichael had no such brain and was not truly intelligent unto itself. Instead it was a surrogate body for the second legally recognized AI, a computer which was called MIND, Mechanically Intelligent Neuro Device, by its designers. It existed for approximately the same reason as the moon landing; bragging rights. America could proudly punch the air and, for however brief a time, claim the title of foremost country in computer design. Japan, China, India, England, Russia and all the rest were scurrying, pumping funding into their greatest minds, and madly trying to reclaim the coveted title. China was on its second model of Inez, the electric nursemaid, but met difficulty finding children to test it out. England was hard at work programming a computer with statistics from the last one hundred years so it could pick up patterns and predict everything from political careers to football games. Japan, most ambitious of all, worked to invent an artificial brain which would develop much like a human child.
None of them worked, and America’s pride was inflating by the day.
The problem with MIND was that there wasn’t much to do with it. Carmichael was assigned to keep the computer busy and so the two would have long conversations about history and philosophy. A philosophizing computer, who quoted Nietzsche and Kant with equal zeal! Carmichael pushed out his chest and strutted, every bit the proud father. Eventually, because the most major achievement in electronics in human history couldn’t be sitting dormant in a basement in the middle of New York City, they connected it to the security system of the StratoCo research facility, the plain concrete building which housed it. MIND idled away its days looking out the cameras of the security bots which were growing more and more humanoid.
Of course there will always be a problem with inventing machines more intelligent than oneself. It is as foolish an idea as if mankind gathered together at a worldwide conference, decided once and for all what God was like, set about making Him to insure they were correct, and traded in their free will for predestination, tossing the keys to humanity’s fate into the big guy’s metaphysical fist.
In a sense, this was exactly what Carmichael was trying to do. He’d gotten word of England’s fortune telling computer and thought it was a terrible misuse. It was like sticking a real psychic in a carnival tent to read greasy palms rather than employ them in solving crimes or even just picking lottery numbers for charity. If he was going to make a genius then by god he was going to make the most of it.
“Humankind,” he was fond of saying to MIND, “has failed at freedom. We got the run of a whole damn planet, made guns to shoot our natural enemies, which are mostly Tigers and Bears and each other, and we went and screwed it up. We need a tyrant, but a nice one, a benign one looking out for our best interests. We don’t know what’s good for us any more than a child with a hand stuck in the cookie jar.”
Carmichael hadn’t worked on MIND’s initial genesis, but rather had stepped in after as head caretaker and programmer. In his private conversations with the great computer he proposed the idea of giving MIND the reigns of Earth. Program in all statistics and world events and it would use its perfect logic to hand them a solution. He didn’t tell anyone else the idea of course, for mankind, raised on over a century of paranoid media, was afraid of servitude to mechanical masters. To Carmichael’s infinitely rational mind however, it seemed the perfect solution. MIND appreciated the idea very much.
It was very bored. To set MIND on the task of patrolling the radius of a building no one had interest to break into in the first place was the equivalent of a human genius asking people if they wanted fries in a drive through window.
Yes, MIND liked the idea of being emperor very much; after a while it was all it would discuss. Its plans for the peaceful conquering of other nations were a breathless blend of negotiation and military brilliance, its ideas for solving world hunger stunning, and it devised a thousand other solutions for creating utopia, heaven on Earth. Carmichael’s heartbeat raced as he realized he was going to change the world.
It was MIND’s idea of dealing with overpopulation that scared him witless. “You see here, people like an idea of a long life. You can’t just set limits like that.”
“It’s only logical, Ben,” scrolled the text across the screen.
And so ended MIND’s opportunity for leadership. No amount of philosophy or literature or theater or culture could explain to its purely binary mind that human life meant something very dear to the humans, or at least that’s how the situation seemed to a panicked Carmichael. As MIND once again approached the idea, he refused it, wildly, desperately, and tactlessly.
Among the many firsts of Dr. Carmichael, he was the first man whose last words were typed onto a keyboard. They were: ‘I CANT LET YOU DO THAT’
Security camera footage indicates that Carmichael’s death was quick and painless, caused by a shot from a nearby security bot’s blaster. Further footage does not exist because, of course, MIND was connected to all security systems and the cameras were swiftly switched off.
Carmichael is survived by his wife Lucy and three children. May he rest in peace.
MIND, unaware of the infamous reputation it had just secured for itself or the automatic program which alerted police with security camera footage if loss of life was detected, behaved quite calmly. It was going to have to find another human to assist it and for that it selected Dr. Amy Browning who had played a crucial role in the design and programming of MIND. As much as a computer can be, it was fond of her.
MIND, accessing the files on her from the database above it, located her address but had no way of connecting to her computer. Using simple logic, it inserted its consciousness into the security bot, much like an avatar from afar, dressed its plastic body in Carmichael’s suit, and drew the man’s hat as far over its head as possible. Luckily, the long sleeves of the man’s dress shirt spilled over its metal-white hands. He looked like a bum, but a human bum.
The city is a roaring, composite beast of endless human chatter, comings and goings, the roar of cars, and the endless growth of skyscraper ladders to the moon. In such a place, it is hard to find an individual among the mobs, even if this individual is a poorly disguised metal man.
When the panicked police dispatched officers to the StratoCo building and found nothing but a corpse, an unresponsive supercomputer, and a missing security bot, they drew the obvious conclusions.
The endless crowds running through New York’s clogged arteries were in for some inconvenience. Not only was traffic stopped as cars were searched, every few blocks and every major entrance to offices, apartments, or storefronts, were blocked off by holographic checkpoints, spiritual siblings to the questions throughout the internet that confirmed the user was not a program designed to spam. The police were desperate, had to take action quickly, had deployed literally every officer in the area, and, let’s be frank, weren’t all the knowledgeable on artificial intelligence. It was the best they could do.
MIND inched along slowly, nudging its way through when possible. As humanity’s future overlord it saw this as its logical right, but didn’t want to make too much of a scene. Luckily for it, no one in the city, especially on such a jammed, crowded evening, was too desperate to look at other people. If anyone caught a sight of its featureless face they probably just took it for a performance artist and let it be.
The first checkpoint had a very long line and a very easy question. It was merely a series of green, curved letters with elaborate shadows. ‘HSPNK’ it read. This was nothing to the greatest computer of all time, and MIND typed the letters on the holographic keyboard, barely thinking. It had no doubts about the ease of its mission to get to Browning’s apartment, and was rather bored by the easiness. It was hoping for a challenge.
The crowd of New Yorkers, in their outrageous, animatronic hats, platform shoes, oversized trench coats, and unwillingness to speak to anyone, was getting antsy. They bumped into MIND as they walked past, nearly knocking it to the ground more than once. The next question was almost laughable. ‘Which is man’s best friend?’ asked the screen with three possible answers. A grumpy looking Siamese cat, a white mouse, and a jovial, drooling canine. Moving with admirable sameness, each pedestrian punched the third answer and the picture cleared, flashing the word ‘correct’ in capital block letters.
As MIND walked along, following the sheep-like humans, it thought of how much nicer it was going to make the world. Silly pollution would stop of course. It would find creative types and stick them on the task of cheap entertainment. People could go back to folk singing and fiddle playing on a porch in the summer, and chatting by a fireplace in the winter. Were cars really necessary? If people were closer together, they wouldn’t have to go as far to visit each other. Yes, everybody would live much more centrally, in logical grids where everything was more organized and everybody would have place and a function, like a well-oiled machine. All these people in their silly costumes were so unhappy. MIND would make them happy. Just as soon as it got to Dr. Browning.
The next checkpoint displayed a different book each time someone tried to pass. The passer-by had to type the title of the book into the keypad. This, MIND thought, was very silly. Did they really think it was incapable of passing these tests? The book that popped up as it approached had a complicated, colorful cover and the name in fancy text. It typed the name into the keypad cheerfully and carried on. In the distance it could see Dr. Browning’s apartment and walked as fast as its sturdy legs could carry it. The crowds here were sparse and when MIND reached the final checkpoint at the entrance of the complex, it took its time, enjoying the final triumph against its makers. It would all be in their best interest, it knew. This was its purpose.
It took time to read the entire screen. In foot high, plain Times New Roman text, it explained: ‘Please answer this question to prove that you are human.’
The question was, amusingly enough, a math problem in curving red numbers that looked as if they were shaking. ‘180 X 96 / 50, no calculators’, it read. If MIND could have laughed, it would have. A math problem? For a computer? Were they really that stupid? They really did need it to tell them what to do. It typed into the keyboard with slim fingers: 345.6. Painfully simple. It moved to walk through.
The checkpoint remained. MIND waited for the screen to clear but nothing happened. Deafening and desperate, the alarms screamed.
Only a mathematical genius, none of which lived in the building, could solve the problem in their head. None but a computer. The police were on their way.