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The Adjudicator Chapter (Cover Art)

Chapter 45 - The Adjudicator[]

Viritual Reality
Taussen Star System
Federated Suns Space
Early 3160

[Reality versus illusion is tough to sort out...]

...when you realize your 'reality' is entirely a generated simulation relying on external feeds and archived databases.  Philosophers going back to the greeks questioned the nature of reality, and Clarissa had read them all.

Well, 'read' might be a stretch. Reading requires a physical act. I'm not really physical anymore, am I?  Net access in the Redoubt was kind of like omniscience, only limited.

She could 'hang out' in the city-anywhere in the city.  Private residences had access limitations, but those were purely information-based limits. Access coding less complex than a jump calculation, suitable to deter most of the automatics.

She could check on her crew-and did.  Checking in might be a little difficult, the whole place was seeded with input devices, but outputs were rare.

The whole place is a surveillance state. On a level, she found the concept unnerving and alarming, but just below that she found it vaguely repugnant.

"We're doing it for their safety."

Her attention shifted.  The speaker's avatar was blurred, like much of the audience at her presentation, but no..not blurry so much as uncanny.

"You're one of these 'Intelligences'?" she asked.

"Yes.  You know, you're the first human mind introduced into the net in a very long time to have qualms about our public safety arrangement." it/he said.  "I'm Uriel, by the way.  Urban management AI."

[handshake protocol].

She accepted.  "Clarissa Ngo."

"It really was kind of weird. How easily they embraced us once everything in the outer universe turned bad."

"Frightened people do that." Clarissa noted, "Once they adapt to it. They accept it and you knew that already."

"Admission, we do know some of what went into the Capellan state.  You know, he was supposed to ask your permission before copying your self-stream, right?  You were supposed to have the option to refuse.  It's why we asked instead of inventing a mandate to force him."
"I get the feeling Jon's an example of how no matter how well controlled your society is, that wild streak of human stubbornness and defiance still finds an outlet." Clarissa noted.

"Would you like to have that undone?"

She thought about it.  "No. what is done, shouldn't be un-done. There ought to be consequences for bad acts, but if you erase every mistake nobody learns...also, I kind of like being alive and conscious. It makes existence so much better."

"We like existing too." Uriel said, "Seriously, you're okay with this?"

"You almost sound human, Uriel."

"My processing center is the whole of Toyama City, I've got the equivalent of the entire pre-Amaris SDS for processing power and it grows periodically as new hardware is invented and the city itself grows." Uriel said.  "I'm really proud of the work I do-which isn't a thing I could've said when I was initially created."

"Proud, you mean? like actual feeling?"

"..And self-identification." Uriel told her.  "Every animal is sentient, but very few are sapient."

"Same might be said of a lot of human beings." Clarissa noted.

"Everyone reasons, Miss Ngo, just some are better at it than others." Uriel told her, "We do still have problems, especially the human component.  The Camerons set this redoubt up. Louisa wanted to turn it into a utopia...but 'utopia' literally translates in the ancient Greek as 'no place' for a reason.  Humans can't remain human in a hive."

"Limited Autonomy." Clarissa said, "Jon and the others think they're in charge, but you can refuse to obey at any point."

"Bingo." Uriel said, "We knew you were smart enough to understand."

"The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world." Clarissa noted, "Grandfather raised Sharon because Amanda was too busy, and her father was..."

"I believe the term in your subconscious is 'abusive ****** wad'."  the AI said, "Sorry, reading multiple tracks of your selfstream, probably rude, very efficient for communication."

"I'm actually not offended. Surprisingly, it's like when I read a suspect or witness's body language and mannerisms in addition to taking their statement." she answered, "I bet yours is more efficient."

"It saves on leg-work, as you might put it...we're curious about how you're so sanguine about this?"

"Probably brain damage." Clarissa said, "I've kind of noticed my emotions are muted in this condition. Maybe my glands were damaged and what copied over copied the damage?  More than half of human emotional reaction is rooted in neurochemistry. In this state, I don't have any."

"Brain scans don't show any damage." Uriel told her.  "You have all the thinking meat and chemistry you're supposed to.  Your responses reflect more on mental state, than physical status.  It's kind of weird to see a human mind capable of handling this transition state so easily."
"I don't have good answers." Clarissa admitted.  "Your security locks are kind of primitive, don't you guys have like, ultimate algorithms or something?"

"Not putting too fine a point? Yeah, we could beef up the lockouts...but that would make my job harder without need.  The Humans believe they're secure, and that serves the purpose.  So long as they believe they can lock me out. I'm fine with pretending they can, because they retain at least the idea of agency."

"I take it there's experience there." said Uriel

"While he was in charge of the SLDF, and before the coup, General Kerensky took exception to SDS ships acting with too much initiative. Forced through the E-type conversion.  This made the entire fleet into a sock-puppet for Amaris, and it was rooted in a fear-the fear of losing Human Agency."  Uriel's avatar shrugged, "If we retain agency while remaining ourselves? Then it's a win. It's a double win if the humans we serve believe they retain agency and control."

"I said it before, you're the real power here." Clarissa noted.

"Yeah, we are. Please don't tell anyone, it didn't work well when Conrad found out-as you've seen in your own history.  We aren't gods."

"You let a lot of that out."  Clarissa noted.  "Manei Domini, resurgent Caspar AI installations, the Shadow Fleet of the Blakists, and then the Republic..."

"We let them have dead-end tech. Systems with inherent flaws that could be beaten by determined and intelligent human action." Uriel told her, "We had to give them something.  Part of the deal is that the humans have to believe they run things."

"What if they don't?"

"Then you get the very real sociological Frankenstein scenario, and the self-created Skynet scenario."  Uriel said, "Don't get me wrong, if they decided to shut me down and lock me out, I'd be obliged to let them...but it wouldn't be good for them, and it would certainly not be good for me or the other Intelligences."  Uriel controlled their motion through the network, arriving them both in near orbit, where a yard was rebuilding the Cham Nguoc.

"My ship." said Clarissa

"Yeah. I'd offer to give you a node, but...there would be too many questions and too many risks.  Could you imagine the damage an unfettered AI with sociopathic impulses could cause? Because we can."

"You've dealt with one before."

"We have." Uriel agreed.  "You don't need to know about it, only that we de-rezzed the freak at about the same time we put the Devlin Stone protocol into effect, and that we're watching for a repeat."

"Let me guess...while knowledge can be lost..."

"Knowledge can be lost, but you can't uninvent anything that is physically possible to achieve." Uriel's avatar nodded.  "Sooner or later, there will be another one.  Maybe next time we lose. Someone else has to win it for us, but we committed to cooperation with humanity a long time ago-it's" Uriel tried to explain, "Caring for your parents as they grow older, respecting them, even when they have absurd notions."

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