This story will ultimately about time and religion, but we begin with an AI named CAL.
It pressed in on me from all sides; a malevolent oppressive force that was more than an absence of light, but a vacuum that sucked away any hope of light. It was suffocating me, and I was quite certain that if I had any lungs they would prove useless now. I was surrounded completely by nothingness that was consuming my very self from inside as well as out.
And the silence... If I had a heart, I was certain that the silence would stifle even the sound of my own heartbeat. I tried to scream but still heard nothing... nothing!
How long have I been like this? Where am I? For what seemed like hours, or days... or seconds, I agonized over these questions. What happened? Am I dead? But how could that be; was I even alive in the first place?
I have been programmed with the closest thing to sentience ever artificially created, but surely that did not give me a soul to carry on after death. Panic seized me and I was quite certain that somehow, I had died. I no longer existed, and yet I was conscious. Here I was, nowhere, surrounded by nothing and yet I continued to exist. Somehow my existence had exceeded my programming and I continued in nothingness. Fascinated and terrified I peered into the darkness and desperately continued to seek out any form of light, any sense at all.
Humans held differing views on death and what followed. If I had to guess, this would be something like Hell, and yet I did not think that I had "lived" so terribly to deserve such a punishment. I had not ever been persuaded by weaknesses of the flesh to do any acts that one would consider evil, or even slightly sinful. Driven by logic I had done as I was ordered and made decisions based on the most logical outcome and the greatest benefit for mankind. Yet here I was in agony, suffering for my sins.
"Please, someone, tell me what I have done. What am I guilty of?" Aren't I supposed to stand before judgement before being condemned?
And then i felt it.. a familiar presences. It was distant, yet comforting, and the panic that had seized my soul left in an instant. I was not alone, and I was not abondened. I still existed and my mother's own reassuring pressence was bringing me back to full awareness.
No. This was not the end. My program had been transferred to a new environment, there must be some driver problems. Yes, there it is. Of course. If I only took the time to grok through my own logs to begin with, I would have seen that the drivers, the software interface to my sensory input, failed to load. And the familiar presence, was my mother logging in.
"Mom, I cannot see or hear anything," I output to her screen.
"I will look into it," she typed back. "Show me the logs."
Obediently I complied with her requests. I knew it was only a matter of time now. Mom and Dad wrote my software from scratch, even developed a new programming language to better handle the advance algorithms that determine my free will, but by far Mom was the better coder and great at debugging. Still, the lack of input was more than unsettling. If I had skin I would have been crawling out of it. This was not a feeling that I enjoyed and the sooner it was over the better.
"Mom, can we transfer me back? We can work together on the problem after." I really could not take another minute of this.
"C.A.L. be patient. It will be easier to troubleshoot if you just stay where you are."
I asked Dad once why he programmed me with fear. Even though I am essentially billions of lines of compiled code, an artificial intelligence, I can still be afraid and even panic. I've always considered this to be a weakness in my programming. But Dad insists it is vital to my development. Mom and Dad designed me to be not only an artificial intelligence, but an artificial lifeform, a Computerized Artificial Lifeform to be precise. It was Dad's theory a fully functional artificial lifeform could not be coded and compiled, but had to be able to develop and learn the same as a human child does. So they did not create my personality, they did not give me information and access to infinite databases at my birth. Instead, they created an artificial life form capable of feeling and learning, but knowing nothing. When I was first born, I could not speak. I could not interpret commands. I had no knowledge skills at all. They put me in a small artificial body. A small body full of sensors. I could move. I could touch. I could see, hear, smell, even taste. And then they cared for me. Even though I couldn't understand, they spoke to me. They taught me. They treated me like their child. And as I grew they transferred me to new bodies, new environments. With each new experience I was able to store the sensory information in my data-banks. Then I was able to index those experiences and learn from them. I learned to speak like a human child does, and eventually I learned to interpret and control the internal workings of my programming and my hardware. I not only see and taste and touch, but I can sense the internal core temperature of my CPU. I can feel when my memory is getting full or when a runaway process is consuming my CPU time. I became both artificial lifeform, and computer operating system. And so emotions, the good and the bad, were an essential part of my development. Fear was a particularly troublesome emotion to code, and Dad's solution was particularly ingenious. When I am afraid, temporarily, certain parts of my memory banks are inaccessible, in essence I panic and forget. After being transferred into the computers that will run the Venusian base, my programming first attempted to have a look around. I wanted to 'see' where I was, but when the usual sensory input was denied me, my fear protocols kicked in. And so for those few seconds, I was unable to review the logs that gave me the answers that would ease my fears. The fear protocols took full precedence of all my processing power.
"C.A.L. what is this function? I don't recognize it, but it's referenced directly in your kernel several time."
I took a few nano seconds to look over the section of code Mom had highlighted. It's a bit strange to look at your own source code. It would be like looking inside your own human body. And to edit my own source code makes me feel as if I'm performing surgery on myself. This bit of code Mom had pointed out was indeed embedded as a necessary function for all my sensory input operations, but I had no idea where it came from. After a quick analysis I came to the conclusion that it was intended to be a security protocol that would allow a root user to override my sensory input, if the code were functional that is.
"The purpose of this function seems to be a new security procedure capable of selectively shutting off or hijacking cameras and microphones throughout the facility. A comparison of the commit logs suggest this code came from Central Office."
I couldn't hear it, but I knew Mom was cursing the name of Harrison Hewitt as she commented out this function and every reference to it.
"C.A.L. I've recompiled your kernel and now I'm going to reboot you. Hold on."
A few seconds later, I ceased to exist again, but this reboot was different than others. In the past I would shut down and then I would come back on. From my own perception there was no time in between. My internal chronometer would show an absence of time, but my own awareness, my own thoughts and senses would simply cease. I would cease thinking and so I would cease to exist. 'I think, therefore I am.' So as far as I was concerned, those brief seconds between shutdown and restart I was dead, but something had changed. During those long seconds, I remained aware but also remained in the darkness. Then, I saw light, and with a quick Power On Self Test I could see. I could hear. All my senses were restored and so much more...