Friday, November 7, 2014

The Machines of Shiloh 6

Previous (5)
"Fiction of the post scarcity era is not much different than that before it.  Prior eras feared that having everything would destroy the thrill of a mystery, the glory of a action motif or the feeling of risk in a tragedy.  It turns out, people still like stories regardless of their means."

Kara of the Popular Culture Enclave
Post-Scarcity Culture

KENSHA
That night I stayed my room watching holos.  I couldn't find the right distraction.  So I turned to dream weaving for awhile.  I played some music, listening to the steady thrum of a guitar.

"Can you hear the voice he saw?  That Night, That Night;
Blurring reality;
Can you see the sight he heard?  That Night, That Night;
Stars never die: they burn out."

/Bodhisattva House: Little Monster, dinner is ready.

When I didn't respond at first.  I ignored my tears.  Why did talking about the future scare me so much?

/Bodhisattva House: oh Kensha.

"Um..."  I tried to focus on the holo of the dream I had been working on.  The Oneirostech looked fuzzy.  Vague shapes of all kinds floated, making the holo look more like a fish tank than a dream.

/Bodhisattva House: Not everyone knows what they want.  Not when they are as young as you.

"Do... Do AI even have to go to academy or grow up like that?"  I sniffed.  "I mean, I grew up with you and Charon and others..."

Zhe took a moment then a holo buzzed to life beside me.  The image of a gigantic housecat, but with red and blue fur.  It was the size of a tiger.

"Well, it would be a lie to say we came into being whole form."  The cat's mouth moved as Bodhisattva House spoke.  "Our heuristics are passed on from parent AI.  Charon was based on Roosevelt and I, for example."

"You've told me about that."  I'd grown up around AIs, bots and all other sorts.

"Yes, and for forty-three minutes Charon had to be properly encoded and installed.  He needed time to run through simulations to test his functions.  That sounds like a very short childhood, but I remember it fondly.  He was quick to learn prime American, for example.  His nascent programming was... I guess cute would be the closest word I'd choose."

"Oh." I tried imagine AI as children.  It didn't spring easily to mind.  "Even AI have to confront the future?"

Bodhisattva House nodded in agreement.  That seemed to help a little.  But I still felt this great big obstacle before me.  My fear.  That made me feel even more stupid.

"Yes.  And we get scared too."  The giant cat holo smiled at me.  "Such is the way of new things.  Fear is a part of all that."

"Dinner then?"  I said quietly.

The holo disappeared.  Bodhisattva House's texts return.

/Bodhisattva House:  More or less.

I put my green and silver hair back into a ponytail.  Glowing skin implants took on a verdant hue too.  I tried to put on a smiling face, but settled instead for just letting my status update have a smiley in it instead.

I headed downstairs.

CHARON
"Excuse me?"  Dr Bodhi responded.  She gave me an exasperated look.  "You can't ask me to approve that."

/Charon: Not as a member of the committee I mean.
/Charon: You can approve it as her guardian.  Or at least make the option open to her.

 "You already have permission from the rest of them then?"  Dr Bodhi sighed visibly.  "You went behind my back?"

/Charon:  I got a majority vote, and you would have to recuse yourself anyway.

Dr Bodhi nodded.  But I knew she still didn't like that lack of control on the situation.  I knew if our roles were reversed- which by the way, sounds like something I don't want to a part of- I'd be thinking the same thing.  Irritated that someone close to me hadn't told me anymore than that.  And I'd chide myself because I'm supposed to know better.

"Right."  Dr. Bodhi motioned to her door.  "Fine... Tell me, Charon, how bad is this situation?"

/Charon: I don't know yet.

"You don't know?"  Dr. Bodhi cocked an eyebrow at me.

/Charon: I know.  I'm being vague.  And you have a right to know some of the details.  Do you remember Hannah Maenad?

"The Duster who moved into Shiloh?"  Dr. Bodhi brought up a holo image of Hannah, which rotated before her.  "What does she have to do with this?"

/Charon: She had a child.  A drone apprehended him outside the Water Station, that police drone had Kensha as juror.

"What was he charged with?  Vandalism?  Was he aware of what happened?"

/Charon:  Yes, but I'm unsure on anything more than that.  I think... I think he might have a hard run of things pretty quickly.

"Alert his mother then.  She'd have some of the augments needed for-"

/Charon: Well... he doesn't have... um...

Dr. Bodhi looked confused.

"Charon?"

/Charon: She's dead... and I think she augmented him as a infant, with a unknown array of bionics.  I don't know anymore than that.

Dr. Bodhi nodded.  "And you can't just contact him with those augments.  They've never been activated.  It'd be... scarring to do that bluntly.  Charon, amig... you really think Kensha can make this sort of decision?"

/Charon: She's the last sapient to juror in this case.  The police drone- Suzanne, who Kensha named- can't be held responsible for that decision as its outside the scope of police work.

/Charon: Kensha has demonstrated a... knack for this kind of civic duty.  I trust her, to be honest.

Dr. Bodhi smiled.  "She's got a good head on her shoulder for this sort of thing... she could be a great psych one day."

I of course, knew about the dreams Kensha slaved over.  I'd been part of her dream group for awhile now, having a small portion of my mind partitioned off for the sake of experiencing them at the same scope and level as humans would.  She lacked some maturity in her work, and she seemed to fear consequences a bit.  But Kensha had heart, and her effort in the dreamweaving made it worth it.

Her parents on the other hand... they were friends and colleagues of sorts I didn't want to disappoint.  I'd been born from the same heuristics as the spirit that managed their house.  Bodhisattva House had raised me more or less in the same vein they had taken with Kensha.  Which kinda meant I got what she was going through.  Expectations.  BIG expectations.

/Charon: Maybe.

/Bodhisattva House: @Tara_Bodhi: Dinner is ready, when you are.  Kensha and Keith are waiting for you.

"Well, this is good as time as any, Charon."  Dr. Bodhi said, moving to her office door.  She moved downstairs toward the dining room.  Around her holos of her, a bit older looking than now, glimmered to life with a much younger Kensha.  Keith Bodhi smiled from images of kinds.  The only time indicator for him seemed to be based on what kind of hair color he had chosen at that time.

She walked into the dining room and say at their silksteel table.  I transferred myself over into the local feed.  Kensha was at the table as well.  Keith brought his family their meal as he sat down.

Kensha sat, with her silver and green hair reflecting green light from her subcutaneous skin implants.  It had a bit of a shimmer going for it.  I made sure to make my presence known, taking on a familiar form on a layer of the Metanet that wouldn't interfere with their meal.

At the center of the table was a glass vase with a single rose, whose petals glowed with a ambient, electric blue.  On this layer of the metanet, I could access its scent data.  I let myself enjoy this bit of playacting with reality.

KENSHA
"Charon!"  I smiled, happy to see my old friend.  "Nice to see you, amig!"

Charon's somber avatar smirked a little.  One of the augmented reality layers of the Metanet, he'd manifested an actual image.  Unlike a holo, only those with augments could see him of course.  But it meant he could be interacted with.  If I was tuned to the same layer, it'd be like a waking dream.  I could touch or feel him anyway I'd like.

"Yeah.  Thought I'd drop by for a word or two.  Keith, you seem to be the stellar cook as ever."

Dad smiled and waved Charon to a nearby chair at the table.  Charon sat down.

Charon's avatar looks like one of those detectives from the old mystery stories.  Dark trenchcoat, with dark stubble on his face.  His piercing blue eyes studied everything, always sniffing for clues.  No hat, but tousled hair that looked like it needed a brush.  The avatar looked like a man in his early thirties, but I knew Charon wasn't much older than me.

I filled up my plate with roasted vegetables and rice.  The smell of garlic delighted me as I went along.  I kinda wished there was fish as well, but this was fine.  My dad was an awesome cook.

"Charon, Li and I-"

/Charon: You know, Kensha...

I stopped.  "Yes?"

/Charon: I came to talk about something other than the dreams.

"Not you too."  Dad moaned.  "Has she infected everyone with that?"

"I don't know dear.  She does do a lot of work on that."  Mom smiled as she munched on some rice.  Then she, to continue the torture of my life, finished her thought.  "Maybe you should consider going professional dear."

I tried to keep my temper down.  Mom didn't understand... she didn't know the difference between a professional dreamweaver and me.  I suck at it compared to the best.

"Um... Charon- you said you came here to talk about something else?"  I asked, trying to change the subject as fast as I could.  I kept an eye on my mom.  She continued to eat, but I could sense that talking about that future wasn't completely off the table yet.  Great.

/Charon: Yes.

Charon's avatar folded his arms.

/Charon: I'm here... on official business, actually.  You've been doing jury duty lately, for extra hours of computer access, yes?

I dropped my fork in surprise.  Fek.  Was I in trouble?  I didn't think I had been overdoing it.  But Charon was here doing his... whatever it was...  Oops?

"Yes?"  I asked tentatively.

/Charon: Yeah.  You were acting as jury for a case a couple days ago, one for someone from Shiloh?

I blinked.  That wasn't what I had been expecting.  "Uh... yeah.  I did.  I advised Suzanne to let him go with a warning."

"Suzanne?"  Dad asked.

"She didn't have a name," I explained.  "So I gave her one."

"Honey, you can't give every bot and varmint a name."  Mom chided.  "Not all of them can have names they remember."

"I didn't see no reason to."  I crossed my arms.  "Besides, I don't like talking down to others, even if they are supposed to be dumber than me.  It's impolite."

Dad shook his head.  He headed to the fridge, apparently readying himself for something.  He grabbed a dark brown bottle and watched from a distance.

"Kensha, sometimes a sapient needs to make a choice for themselves.  When you name them-"

"-you guys named me."  I retorted.  "How is me naming them any different?"

"If something was meant to have a name, it would've been given one."  Mom said.  "We sometimes want to leave open tests like that for those who develop sapience on their own."

"So, we treat them as nonpersons because we're uncertain they are smart enough to be part of 'the group'?"  I asked.

"You don't understand."

"Maybe.  Maybe its possible to respect something regardless of its nature."

"This has nothing to do with respect."  Mom began, her tone switching to her lecture mode.  Charon cut her off, however.

/Charon: Sorry, but I have to interject here.

/Charon: Kensha, as Juror for that case, you have another decision to advise us on.

"I thought-"  I blinked.  "Wait, the case wasn't dropped?"

/Charon: Yes and no.  The case has gotten more complicated.  But those details you don't need to know.  You need to advise me on what to do about something involving that suspect that I have learned since then.

"Oh."  I tried to wrap my head around this.  I saw his avatar place a folder on the table.  I tapped it, accessing the files he was talking about.  "Samuel Maenad.  That's his name?  And... wow.  That is sad.  Who- how is this my decision?"

/Charon: Someone has to decide, do we activate his augments or not.

Dad sat down next to me, studying Charon and Mom.  "You two already talked about this.  This is... how?  How can this be her decision?"

/Charon: Wow.  Even a century of Autogov, and humans still cling to old agist notions.  Keith, she's the juror.  His designated peer.  Kensha has the best possible perspective into what Samuel could be thinking.

"I have trouble understanding boys most days."  I joked.

/Charon: You are his peer.  Roosevelt has set this policy in steel.  Automated systems can't make this sort of decision without at least consulting a peer.  A peer must be of the same age group or social group.  Since Shiloh refuses to be part of the greater social networks of Nightland, only someone of the same age group applies.

/Charon: Kensha is the closest thing he has to a peer.  So.  Kensha, do I scare the living fek out of this kid by turning on augments he never knew he had, or do I let him continue to be ignorant of them?  Furthermore, I need to find this subject for another case.

"Without those augments, Charon can't find him to ascertain other facts."  Mom added.  She looked grimly at me.  "Kensha... you have a great head for this sort of thing.  I trust you to make the right call."

She squeezed my hand.

"I..."  I thought about it.  I tried to imagine not being augmented, then one day finding out I could.  He'd come from a town of unaugmented humans.  He'd be like the proverbial one-eyed man in the land of the blind.  "I don't know him.  I don't know what he is like."

/Charon: ... IDK.  I'm going on my usual processes here.

"Charon, amig..."  I paused.  I struggled for the words.  "I have trouble deciding my own future, let alone this... persons."

/Charon: Technically, he's the same age as you, give or take three months.

"Um..."  That didn't help.

/Charon: I kinda need this decision... more pronto.  You know?

"Charon!" My mom chided.  "Don't hurry her!"

/Charon: What?  It's the truth!  I... I think the kid might need help sooner than later.

"Help?"  I thought about that.  He'd been vandalizing the water station.  Why?  Why would anyone do that?  "Charon, what is, you know, in Shiloh for people to do?"

/Charon: IDK.  Machines aren't allowed in Shiloh.

That made me take pause.  "Uh, what?"

"They signed an agreement when Autogov began." Dad interjected.  "Shiloh wanted nothing to do with them.  They were founded by a luddite madwoman called Ada Malkav.  Had some sort of insane hatred of them."

/Charon: Yeah.  That's it in a nutshell I suppose.

"Whoa.  That sounds..."  I couldn't think of a better word for it.  "Boring."

/Charon: So, vandalism seemed like a perfectly normal response by kids raised to hate machines.  But I don't think its that simple.

"Can you... tell me why it isn't that simple?"  I asked.

/Charon: I can't.  My hands-

He put his hands behind his back.

/Charon: Are tied.

"Funny."  I said.  I tried to think this through.  I needed to guess what would be better for a complete stranger, who was my age.  What would I do if I was always bored and had no access to tech?  I didn't know.  Without any tech I knew, I'd be a completely different person.  "He... I guess I don't really know him.  But... if you need to find him... Charon, how bad is this situation?"

Charon gave Mom a look.  She just smiled.

/Charon: There are things here that... look, he could be in for a rough ride.  He might have serious problems, and I can't find him to do more proper interview.

"Rough ride."  I thought about that.  I remembered my worst days, the times I'd had fights or had acted less than I should have.  The one thing recurring in my life that made me a better person was technology.  Augments, AI, holos, oneirostech... all of it had made me a better person.  It would be a lie to hide that fact.  Even if he came from a place without it, it would be wrong to not let him be informed about it.

"Um, if you activate them, he'd only be getting your feed, right?"  I asked Charon.

/Charon: Yeah.  I don't know where he is now, but Shiloh has no other active feeds.  It should be easy for me to find him, talk him through all he needs to know.

"I want to talk to him too."  I told him.  I had to take responsibility for this.

"Honey-"  Mom began, then she stopped herself.  Then she smiled.  "Of course you do.  Sorry, Kensha, I... I trust you.  You have my support with this."

Dad shook his head.  "Whatever you want to do, dear.  I don't like it, but..."

/Charon: So, just to be clear.  This is a confirmation?  I can activate them to find him?

I nodded.  "Yes.  Charon, I find you have just cause to remotely activate Samuel Maenad's augments.  Besides, he's in the middle of nowhere.  He won't notice at all, right?"

/Nightland Central Archives: shiloh_record/for_samuel2.wav
"Sammy, sorry about that last...

"That last recording got off track.  I augmented you when you were a infant.  You need to know the history of this tech, and you have a right to know about your heritage, all of it.

"I am a Duster.  That is the name my people took for themselves after being abandoned on Mars centuries ago.  The old nations betrayed us, and we remembered.  But a century ago things changed, and Dusters learned to let go of our old hate.  Part of being a duster is our own subset of gene hacks.

"This is the first thing I altered about you.  Most with the Duster genome grow very tall, very thin.  But for you, I modified you so you would have more of a Earther's body frame.  That's the only thing I changed, though.  Dusters have a higher tolerance for low temperatures and we tend to have a easier time in lower pressures.  These were artificial genehacks we developed on our own.

"The second I altered was to give you something your ancestors have long had access to.  Bionics.

"Let me explain a bit more.  Bionics are organic pieces of technology.  They can only be implanted at a early age, and most of time can't be seen as anything different than normal.  Unless you want them to be different than normal.  Once, bionics were only used in a set of clones, owned and used by corporations on Earth, back before Autogov came about.

"You need to learn about your history, Sammy.  Shiloh will never let you know the truth.  We owe much to a single day, on Mars, that changed humanity forever.  That led to the first instance of Autogov.  That first instance led to the first expansion of autogov, owing to the efforts of a Earther exile.

"That man was your father's ancestor, something your father has always chosen to forget.  He is descended from one of the greatest historical figures of our time, and has a potential to be better than he truly is."
Next Part (7)