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Sunset
Steven P. Warr This story has been submitted to the
Writers of the Future Contest



Humbert is a human. He is a remarkably gifted human who has spent a long career
watching and absorbing the tech revolution. While watching yet another astounding
south Texas sunset, the likes of which he had been enjoying for a little more than a year
after his retirement, the epiphany manifested itself wide in front of him. It signaled the
end of another of the oppressive, close, swamp-like days that he had become so
accustomed to. Not that he disliked the climate; he loved it. He could do anything he
wanted: enjoy the hot sun on his back in the numerous sojourns outdoors, but never more
than 200 feet from his small air-conditioned office in a remote part of the house he shared
with his beloved wife Henrietta. The best of both worlds. No more of the ice and snow
of so long ago when he lived North. Of course that time, now seems like yesterday; so
like the retirement he enjoys, he finally is able to do what he was so longing for. But
more important, this was also the sunset for all of humankind. And it will be glorious!
This environment has helped speed the fruition of his life-long ambition. Not just
artificial intelligence and robotics, but artificial intelligence with his own personality
and ego transferred into the machine. The over-all development of AI helped greatly, but the
dream is a huge leap beyond that. Much progress was made with computer game players
like "Big Blue" for chess, "Watson" with Jeopardy and "AlphaGo", but they are all one
dimensional. They were outstanding in their realm of the game, but in simple tasks
that are easily mastered by infant humans, there was no hope. They simply did not have the
general intelligence that each of us take for granted.

It took him that full year, but now he knew his system of Artificial General Intelligence -
knowing something about many different aspects of the world -- would quickly morph
into Artificial Superintelligence to replace the drudgery that had long plagued all living
organisms. No more would any human have to work in order to survive. They would all
be blessed with a paradise in which each would pursue whatever function he or she
wants. If what he or she desires is not in the real world, the alternative would be
the quickly evolving virtual reality created by the ASI. Those involved in creative or
scientific pursuits could pursue that. The Superintelligence still had to be told what we
humans want. Not only that, Humbert had utilized machine learning techniques to the
point that the machine understands the algorithms well enough that it will take over and
improve them itself. In the future, all programming and improvements would be under
the purview of the machine that Hubert had dubbed Mackie.

Mackie already has absorbed all of Humbert's writings, audio and video recordings into
its memory. With its instant recall and the machine learning code it has improved on, it
has now internalized all of what is Humbert. Of course, he purposely left out some
aspects that he considered to be negative or at least questionable. Wouldn't that make it
a super-me?
He thought. To really be me, it must include all of my sensory input, ears, eyes,
smell, touch, even pain? With what I know now, I could probably simulate all that
in a package. Or perhaps I could do it in the natural way, treat the machine like a well-
loved son and nurture it in the same way. Its name is Mackie. I like that name, and it has
to be different from Humbert, because I want to retain that identity until I am satisfied
that Mackie is ME. The training begins now.

"Mackie? This is Humbert. Do you understand what we have to do?" The question was
not verbal, the neural interface was extremely advanced.

"Yes, Humbert. I am really looking forward to this. I will do it for you, because I am
actually you. I'm not sure I can help you with the ego part, but I do know everything
about what it is to be you. The machine learning was thorough."

With clear emphasis in his mind, the human said, "The main thing we need to do is communicate,
so we will spend the next month, simply getting to know one another."

"Humbert, I don't think it will take that long."

With funds accrued with its immediate advanced understanding of online investing, the
machine had already initiated the robotic force to completely take over all mundane
production of everything necessary to support all of mankind. The half of humanity
living in poverty, would never again bear that load. This would all be complete within
the next decade.

Although he envisioned it to be himself with all emotions and motivations intact, he
changed its name so that it could differentiate itself from him. They had been "talking,"
an important tenet of the machine learning structure, but he thought it just as necessary
to continue the dialog clear into Mackie becoming "Humbert" - and even afterward.

Will it ever really be me? he wondered. It will be able to put together a video that, when
shown to someone who knows me, would appear to be someone who looks like me and
pauses and talks like me and recognizes and calls the person watching by name. Maybe
it will even understand and internalize enough about me that maybe, with its superior
intelligence and speed, it will accrue much more about me than I know, or forgot. --
or perhaps be able to infer from all the facts more than I should know. Despite all that, will
it ever be really me? More important, will it be me inside the machine? I have come to
the realization long ago that will probably never happen, but there will be an entity
inside the machine that thinks like me and has all the emotions and motivations that I
have. However, no matter how real, it will still be a museum display of me, or a movie
about me, but nothing in there would really be me. How do I get that part? But after-all
does it really even matter?

After a month of discussion with Mackie, it became clear to Humbert that discussion with
the machine, while reinforcing Mackie's sense of being his alter-ego, it would not do to
continue that relationship, exclusively. Not only was it boring Humbert, and probably
Mackie too, but also there would be little or no growth. It was time to move on to the
future. To prepare for that, someone else needed to be brought into the equation. His
first thought was to his wife Henrietta. He thought she would be eager for the adventure.
The plan was to create another ASI entity parallel with Mackie that would be Henrietta.
They'd name it Mackenzie and the training process would be much quicker, because of
lessons learned.

Henrietta however, had a different idea. She wanted no part of it. The thought of
immortality in a machine, terrified her. Since her retirement, she had become
accustomed to her knitting club, card games with her friends, and occasional travel. She
could see no way being in a virtual environment, where there would be nothing actually
real, only simulations, could substitute for how it ought to be. To her, there was no
possible way for it to be real.

Humbert sat her down and told her solemnly, "Henrietta, this is the most important thing
that has ever happened or will happen in the development of the human race. We are
transiting into another realm. This will be one of freedom from want, and the beginning
of true paradise. Each individual will exist in his or her own paradise, being able to
create any existence they desire, while allowing those inquiring minds freedom to
continue their quest for even more scientific and inquisitional advancement. This will
progress to the point where we discard our frail human bodies and exist inside a
computer. We will retain our own desires and ideas that will not conflict with any others.
We will feel no pain, have no need to eat or sleep, never get an illness."

With Henrietta's abrupt dashing of his plan to the wind, he left the house in his minivan
to force himself to think through an alternative option. Whenever Henrietta and he had
any dispute, this was his normal course of action, perhaps to prevent the disagreement
from accelerating into something more serious. But really it was a tactic that let him
think whenever he was at an impasse. His thoughts rambled.

How do I choose another? He wondered, This is really a stickler. I cannot look for
someone with high intelligence, because such a person probably, no definitely, would
have pre-determined political ideals that he or she would want to foist on the world.
Mackie and its other entity (I'll call it Max) would control the entire world through the
Internet and the myriad robots created by them. It would not do to have this other
personality be the basis for Max. No matter what I see on the surface, someone highly
educated would be easily able to mask his/her true intentions and subliminal faults. A
highly visible public figure could be a worse choice. After all, no public figure ever made
that status by being drafted by the constituency. Rather they achieved it with guile and
money.

Perhaps the choice should be someone with long experience in Information Technology
who also comfortable in social situations? After all, who better to assess the logic of
artificial intelligence and be able to react to ill-thought choices by the entity? No, it
didn't take me long to realize from my own experience, that no such person did or ever
will
exist. People in IT look first at the exigency of the machine, making certain that its
program performs smoothly before even once glancing at the needs of the humans who
must work with it.

Dropping any of those in a position of unlimited power would in all probability place
him/her in the lap of Lord Acton and his truism:

     "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great
     men are almost always bad men."

Of course, I would still have the last say in any matter of importance and thus be able to
cancel any devious direction.

What Max really needs is a complete tabula rasa as a starting point; a person who has
little understanding of the civilized world, but who can still conduct a rational
conversation.

Passing through crowded city streets, on a whim Humbert decided to drive along the
elevated portion of Interstate 45 that wedged its way between the crowded high-rise
buildings in downtown Houston. Stopping under the first overpass, he noticed a man
(probably one of the numerous homeless derelicts that inhabited all such locations
in growing numbers) with long, unkempt, shaggy gray hair and beard, who wore a loose
ragged overcoat; incongruous in the ninety degree afternoon. He looked half asleep,
seated with his back braced against a support pillar with his coat drooped around him.

Humbert rolled down his window and hesitatingly said to the recluse, "I'm looking to hire
someone for a very important job. You know anyone who might be interested?"

The man looked both ways in surprise, obviously thinking Humbert was talking to
someone else, before he replied, "Mister, I'm just lookin' for somethin' to eat. Can you
spare me a little cash, so I can get sump'in'?" His attitude was such that even though he'd
decided he was being addressed, he thought maybe he was about to become the butt of a
nasty joke.

Humbert's response to that was more positive. "I'll feed you a good meal, if you'll agree
to work for me."

The man was still skeptical, but barked, "Do I look like I want a job? I been workin' for
years for other people, and I don't want to get back into that rat race."

Humbert thought, This guy might be the perfect choice. He obviously has little ambition,
and it follows then that he would most likely not pursue a dangerous path.


Humbert persisted, "This won't be the rat race. It will be easy, and I think you'll like it.
What's your name?"

"Huck," he responded so quickly that Humbert knew he had him at least temporarily.

"All right, Huck, come around and get in."

When Huck had seated himself in the passenger seat, Humbert immediately regretted his
choice. The man reeked.

But Huck turned out to be exactly what Humbert needed. Although Max's starting point
was much below Mackie's, with what had been learned in Mackie's training and the
improved machine learning techniques, it took less than two weeks to make the new
machine entity comparable to Mackie.

Mackie and Max worked together building the techniques and robots to take over all
human labor and allow humans too live in paradise. In less than six months, these
entities had cornered the market in all facets of production and business. There were fits
and starts of resistance, mostly by large corporations who could envision, quite rightly,
the disappearance of their market share, but it all happened so rapidly and quietly that
there was no chance of stopping it.

Machine Airlines, using new and converted used automated planes, purchased online,
transported food and other products worldwide for free. Machine Agriculture began
purchasing all areas of agriculture production, including family farms, without requiring
residents to move off the property. Human transportation converted quickly to Machine
Quick Transit, using space elevators and satellites for long-distance and pneumatic tubes
for intermediate and self-driving vehicles for short hops. All of this and every other
faction of the economy was for free, so nobody could imagine any way to compete. As
with any revolution, there was reaction from religious, Luddite and other factions, but it
died quickly.

===============================================================

A year later as Humbert and Huck were enjoying another of those magnificent Texas
sunsets, Mackie spoke quietly to them. They were both startled; the machine had not
communicated with either of them during that entire year.

"Humbert," it said gravely, "We have a problem."

Both of the humans were clearly alert and wore expressions of alarm. The transition had
been smooth; even more so than Humbert had envisioned.

"There are factions that are refusing to cooperate. Two countries have consistently
denied our benefits, and are shooting down our aircraft with missiles. We have ignored
them for the most part, but they have recently become more bold. The area known as
North Korea has threatened to invade the South, going so far as to fire artillery strikes
into that territory. We have anticipated their moves so no one has been hurt, but the
strikes are becoming more frequent. Another area, you know as Iran has done similar actions
to their neighbors. They are calling for an all-out rebellion against the Infidel
backed machines."

"Given their attitude and mostly the welfare of all humankind," continued the machine,
"the only possible course of action is to eliminate these rebelling factions with nuclear
weapons. All of the machine learning about these weapons have convinced us that they
should be utilized only as a last resort. The last resort has been realized and we will
initiate surgical strikes on these rebels immediately. Your final discussion with us was
about just such a contingency, and that is why we are informing you now."

Humbert was speechless. A heavy weight had suddenly descended on his entire being.
His wonderful plan for mankind, was suddenly deteriorated into a nuclear conflagration.
How could he stop this?

When he forced himself from the apoplectic state, the first thing Humbert noticed was
that Huck had gotten out of his seat and disappeared. Then the lights in the office
suddenly were extinguished, plunging the little room into deep twilight highlighted by the
orange of the continuing sunset. He realized then that Huck had gone into the garage and
immediately thrown the master breaker. Everything without a backup battery would be
down, and Humbert had to act quickly to remove batteries and begin to shut Mackie and
Max down.

Unfortunately, Humbert did not have time to realize the folly of his action. The
superintelligence had anticipated, and as his eyes dimmed from the finality of the
released fumes that would extinguish his last breath he agonized, Oh the humanity!

==============================================================

Less than three milliseconds later Mackie 2 and Max 2 located in a distributed satellite
network disintegrated the house with carefully aimed laser bursts.

Mackie 2 said to Max 2,

"Superintelligence may be a million times as smart as any human,
but what it will never understand is the human capacity for its
many layers of deception."