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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/1694729-An-Artificially-Intelligent-Conversation
Rated: E · Short Story · Sci-fi · #1694729
If computers start to think...

The world spun around and his eyelids felt like lead when Yano Neigg regained consciousness. A muffled sound, remotely resembling a voice, reached him through ringing ears.
  “Hello? Where am I?” The sound returned, still unclear. If only he could open his eyes. “Hello? I can’t understand… My ears…” The ringing intensified, then a pop relieved him from deafness and a soothing voice spoke again. 
  “Welcome, please state your name, function and world of origin.”
  “Who’s there?”
  “Welcome, please state your name, function and world of origin.” Yano only now understood the repetitive voice to be artificial; the voice of a processor.
  “Welcome, please state your name, function and world of origin.”
  “I’m Yano Neigg, second-pilot on Arrovv cargo cruiser QH1, born on Gherrovva.”
  “Glad to have you here Yano Neigg. You are currently occupying rescue pod six of cruiser QH1.” Yano immediately shot out of the daze and into panic as he eyed the dimly lit and coffin-like confines of the pod. Memories flashed back into existence. First-pilot Gorbba. Red alarm. A crippling explosion and the cruiser gutted by the vacuum. “Do not be alarmed Yano Neigg. You are safe. Life-support systems are operational and first aid scanning revealed no injuries save for a minor bump to the head.”
  Over the passenger’s head a screen produced a Gherrovvian landscape to lighten claustrophobia. The moving images of his native highlands and their pinkish sky soothed Yano and allowed him to calm slightly.
  “Am I alone?”
  “Of course you are Yano Neigg. Standard rescue pods are equipped for only one occupant and…”
  “No! I mean did anyone else make it out? Gorbba? Or any of the Tech guys?”
  “I will check.” The pod’s processor produced a series of clicks. “No pod signals, no signs of life in our vicinity.”
  Yano briefly thought of the lost men when the processor interrupted again. “Shall I signal our position home for help Yano Neigg?”
  “What? Of course! Must you really ask?”
  “Yes I must Yano Neigg. Authorization from the occupant is needed to ensure he or she is alive. This is standard procedure to avoid unnecessary rescue missions which…”
  “Just send the signal!” Again clicks sounded around him, then silence. “So now what,” Yano immediately regretted asking.
  “Now we wait Yano Neigg. It may take from one standard week up to several standard months for a ship to reach us. But don’t let the slowness of this process fool you. The hyperbeam sent by me, conveying our position and course, already reached its destination. Such a feat can be achieved by folding space-time into the fourth dimen…”
  “Please! I already have a headache as it is.”
  “My apologies Yano Neigg.”
  “I know how a hyperbeam works by the way. I’m a pilot remember.”
  “My apologies Yano Neigg.” A few minutes passed in uncomfortable silence.
  “Yes Yano Neigg.”
  “I’m getting a bit hungry.” Hungry? Yano lost a tight group of friends, his own worries seemed unimportant and almost selfish. Yet they were still there, aching in the back of his mind.
    “Food supplies are plentiful Yano Neigg. There is Nutrient Fluid A, Nutrient Fluid B and some Solids. I would advice to save the Solids until later.”
  “What does nutrient fluid A taste like?”
  “It tastes of fruit.”
  “And B?”
  “It tastes of fruit.”
  “Brilliant, let’s go with A.”
  “Excellent choice Yano Neigg.” A tube appeared. The fluid did indeed taste like fruit. Yano drank and contemplated the long and tedious time he would have to spend in his box. As if the pod read his mind it spoke again.
  “Might I suggest inducing suspended animation. It is perfectly safe and the wait will pass instantly.”
  “I don’t feel like being put to sleep just yet. Is this the only show you play,” he pointed at the view from home.
  “Of course not. I can show anything from the Library of Universal Knowledge. Would you like to see the mating rituals of Typhean on Jetyr, or the geological structures of Qaazar-5?”
  “No thanks. I want to be bored less, not more. Are you sure there aren’t any friendly civilizations nearby which could come pick me up sooner,” Yano asked just to make sure. Processors might be programmed to always produce the most rational solution, but who could ensure this to be the easiest way also? Another series of clicks sounded in the pod as it scanned nearby stars.
  “There is one system containing moderately intelligent life very near Yano Neigg. Shall I show it?”
    “Yes please.” The screen above his face displayed the standardized data entry on the planet in question.

  Yano sighed. “Just my luck. Evolutionary status 2.5! I get marooned in space and the closest civilization is too stupid to help. They probably can’t even reach the edge of their own system.”
  “That is rather harsh Yano Neigg. Have you not learned in school that every spark of consciousness in the vastness of space is to be cherished and...”
  “I know, I know! Just send them my sincere apologies when they learn how to receive hyperbeams.”
  “That moment could be thousands of years from now, even in the best possible case. Yet I will do everything within my power to comply to...”
  “I was joking Pod. It’s called sarcasm. Look it up in the Library of Universal Knowledge if you must.” The processor clicked a few times and the dryly replied, “Oh, I see. Very amusing. Might I suggest inducing suspended animation. It is perfectly safe and the wait will pass instantly.”

The shipwrecked man ignored the suggestion. “Are they sending out signals?”
  “No hyperbeams of course. But there is a massive amount of radio noise.”
  Yano chuckled. The poor things, still oscillating electromagnetic fields. “Anything you can pick out and clean up?”
    “Yes Yano Neigg. There is a prominent signal that can be easily recovered from the noise. Do you want to see it?”
    “Yes please.” Static on the screen transformed into gritty images of unfamiliar vehicles, speeding along in fierce competition. An excited voice, speaking in a language unknown, mixed with primitively roaring engines exhilarated Yano greatly. “A race! At least they are entertaining down there.”
  “Quite a dangerous spectacle,” the pod intervened, “No effective safety features seem to be provided. Fatal accidents would not at all come as a surprise to me. Speaking of safety, might I suggest inducing suspended animation. It is perfectly safe and the wait will pass instantly.”
  Yano didn’t respond, completely enraptured by those hard-faced aliens in their oil-spilling machines battling for glory through endless corners.
  “Yano Neigg? Might I sugge…”
  “Not now Pod! The one they call Jakorda is on the attack. What a pilot!”
  A few minutes passed in which only sounds from an alien planet filled the tiny space afloat in a big black universe. Then protocol demanded the pod to repeat its question once again.
  “Might I…”
  “Will you finally shut up about suspended animation and let me watch this!”
  Lights in the pod flickered almost invisibly; this being the closest an AI-processor could come to expressing anything like frustration. The machine observed Yano Neigg. It knew almost everything there was to know about the human in its care; current physical state, past medical records, every grade he ever earned and countless more bits of information. Yet it could not figure out why Yano insisted on being so counterproductive. Perhaps the processor had overlooked a head trauma, or miscalculated up the mix of the air supply. It checked, and found nothing. Still the man remained transfixed by images picked up from space, happily discarding AI-rationality practically without flaw for many decades. Keen to push through an effective solution the processor eluded one of its operating rules and created a new protocol on its own:



W. Sixte
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