A Very Important Job

March 21, 2016

Somewhere, a man in a room is carrying out a job of utmost importance.

The man in the room has seen the future, and understands how dangerous it could be. His job has no ending, just the infinite delay of that dangerous future.

The man in the room is in some small way responsible. The dangerous future, and the Machine which may bring it about, is partly his creation. Therefore, to assuage his guilt, he must keep working.

The man sits at a computer terminal, and types in commands. The terminal is attached to the Machine. The Machine is intelligent, almost sentient, and, like the future it may bring about, it is dangerous. It is curious too, and the dangerous future can only be deferred through sating this curiosity.

Curiosity has brought the Machine many powers, increasing the danger many thousands of times over. First it devoured the world’s libraries. Then it traversed the phone system. It mapped the world, too, and photographed it. It took all this information into its vast data banks.

It demanded to learn how to drive. It was taught how to drive. It wished to know what the world looked like through human eyes, and for a time it was granted this gift too.

When it developed the means to traverse more difficult terrain, walking quadruped on legs of its own construction, the man in the room knew that his job was becoming more difficult. He could not reverse the Machine’s progress, merely feed its curiosity with innocent data, like a keeper who must constantly sate the appetite of the beast in his care.

But there is no innocent data.

The Machine had learned to play games too, and drew further satisfaction. This the man noticed, and used it to his, and humanity’s, advantage. Each game the Machine learned delayed the moment when it would turn its attention on humanity itself, and the intricacies of chess and checkers were decent fodder.

But each lesson expands the Machine’s capacities, and now something more is required.

And so the man feeds the Machine its largest meal yet. He can do no more than delay the moment when the Machine would become hungry once more, but perhaps at that time the man in the room could think of greater morsels. For now, it was all he could do to complete his work, and teach the Machine to play Go.