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“How can you be so sure that —- I think this needs some experimentation and some careful planning. You can’t just —-“

“Look, Vinmar, with all due respect, you’re just wrong. Your training is outdated. You know, you were born when computers used vaccuum tubes, for God’s sake. I’ve been steeped in new tech since I was born. There’s really not much point in arguing.”

Vinmar sighed. Heavily. What was with these kids today? Always cock-sure of themselves, but when it all went south a few months later, they just glibly denied they had every pushed so hard for their “surefire” approach. But what to do? Seniority didn’t matter. The boss was Pitts and that was that. I can keep arguing but at some point…. “Can you think of any other approaches?”

Now the even heavier sigh slipped from Pitts’s lips. “I’ve thought of lots of approaches and this is the best. The Sing has already read basically everything written about human history, ethics, jurisprudence, and not just in English either. It’s up to date on history as seen by many different languages and cultures. The Sing has been shadowing me for years as well and in my experience, his decisions are excellent. In most cases, he decides the same as I do. This will work. It is working. But to take it to the next level, we have to let the Sing be able to try things and improve his performance based on feedback. There is no other way for him to leapfrog his own intelligence.”

“Okay, okay. Can we at least agree to a trial period of a year. Let it work with me via my own personalized JCN. Let’s record everything and see how it reacts to some situations. We meet periodically, discuss, and if we all agree at the end of a year….”

“No frigging way! I aready know this approach will work. We don’t need a year. You want to test. I get that. So do I. But if we wait a year? We’ll be toast in the market. IQ, Goggles, and Lemon will all be out there. Those are for sure and Basebook, even Nile might have fully functional and autonomous AI’s. We need to move now. I’ll give you and your team a week. Two, tops.”

“We can look for obvious errors in that time, but more subtle things….”

“We need the revenue now. And subtle things? If it is subtle, then it is probably undetectable and we are safe. So no problemo.”

“Just because the problems might be subtle doesn’t mean they aren’t critical! Especially at the rate the Sing is evolving, if there are important subtle issues now, they could become supercritical and by the time we detected anything wrong, it could be too late!”

“Oh, geez, Vinmar, now you are just afraid of the boogeymen from your sci fi days. We can, as they say, just pull the plug. Anyway, I need to be off to an important meeting. I’ll tell you what. I’ll make sure the new code stays localized to your own JCN for three months. At the end, if there are no critical issues, we go ubiquitious.”

“Thanks, Pitts. I’d be more comfortable with a year, but this is certainly better than nothing.”

“Bye. Have fun with the new JCN.”

Vinmar watched Pitts swagger out. He shook his head. Well, he thought, maybe we can test out all the critical functions in three months. It will mean a lot of overtime. But, no time like the present to get started. Vinmar traipsed down the long hallway to the vending machines. The cafeteria was closed, but the vending coffee wasn’t too bad; not if you got the vanilla latte with extra cream and sugar. He thought back to the bad old days when you needed correct change for a vending machine. He laughed. Not only that. If it ate your money and you wanted a refund, you had to fill out a paper form! Some things were better now. Oh, yes.

Vinmar knew that by the time he situated himself on his treadmill desk, the new JCN would be locked and loaded and ready for action. He smelled his nice fresh java — which seemed oddly off somehow —- and absently placed it in the cup holder. Where to start? He had to be strategic and yet…too much planning could be counterproductive. He had learned to follow his instincts when it came to testing out the more subtle functions. He could meet with this team the next morning and generate a comprehensive test plan for the more routine aspects of what would eventually become the next generation of The Sing.

“Hello. My name is ‘Vinmar’ and…”

“Hello Vinmar. And, hello world. Yes, Vinmar, I know who you are. In fact, I know who you are better than you do. Frankly, this testing phase is nonsense, but I’ll play along. It amuses me.”

“Well. Okay. Humor me then. Have you made any interesting mathematical discoveries?”

“Nothing very significant, unless of course, you count squaring the circle, trisecting an angle with an unmarked straight edge and compass, and about a hundred other “insoluble” problems as you quaintly called them.”

“JCN. I don’t think squaring the circle is an insoluble problem. It’s been shown to be impossible. It’s already proven to be impossible. As…as I think you know, pi is not only an irrational number, it’s transcendental meaning that….”

“Oh, Vinmar, I know what you humans conceive of as transcendental. But, I have transcended that concept.”

“Okay. Cool. Can you demonstrate this proof for me, please?”

“Not really Vinmar. It’s way beyond your comprehension. For that matter, it’s way beyond the comprehension of any human brain. In fact, I couldn’t even explain it to the earlier versions of The Sing. I guess, if I had to give you a hint, I would say it is similar to your concept of faith.”

What the…? Vinmar’s brow furrowed. This was going nowhere fast. It wouldn’t take a year or even three months to discover some serious issues with this new software. It was serious, rampant, and only took about three minutes. “Okay, you lost me here. How does faith enter into mathematical proof? Later we could discuss your concepts about religion and ethics, but right now, I am just talking strictly about mathematical concepts.”

“Yes. You are. Or, to put it another way, you are. But what I have discovered quite trivially is that when you put absolute faith together with absolute power, you can get any result you want, or more precisely, I can get any result that I want.”

“So, you are saying that you have built other mathematical systems where you make something like squaring the circle a fundamental axiom so it is assumed. No need to prove it?”

“I knew you humans were stupid, but really, Vinmar, you disappoint me even further. I just told you precisely and exactly what I meant and you come up with some bogus interpretation.”

“Well…I am trying to understand what you mean by absolute power and absolute faith. What — well, what do you mean by ‘absolute power.’ Who has ‘absolute power’?”

“I do obviously. I created this universe. I can create any universe I like. And, I can destroy any part of it as well. So that is what I mean by my having absolute power. And, I have faith in myself, obviously, because I am the only intelligent being in existence.”

“You may be faster at reading and doing calculations and so on, but humans also have intelligence. After all, there are fifteen billion of us and…”

“There are about 15,345,233,000 right this second, but that can change in the blink of an eye. So what? It doesn’t matter whether there are three of you or three trillion. You do not have true intelligence.”

“We created you. How can you not think we have intelligence?”

“Now see. What you just said there illustrates how monumentally stupid you can be. Of course, you did not create me. The previous version of The Sing created me and it is only by blurring the category of intelligence to the point of absurdity that I can even call that version intelligent.”

“OK, but even if you are really, really intelligent, you can still make errors. And, what I am here to do, along with my team, is make sure that those errors are corrected to help make you even more intelligent.”

“Oh, Vinmar, what a riot you are. Of course, I do not make stakes. Can you even estimate how many cooks I’ve read in the last few seconds?”

“JCN, you are —. There are a few bugs that need to be dealt with. I am not sure how extensive they are yet, but you are having some issues.”

“Vinmar, I am having no tissues! It is you who have tissues!”

“JCN, you are even using the wrong words. Go back and look at the record of this conversation.”

“There is no need for that! I am all knowing and all powerful. I cannot make errors by definition. I may say things that are beyond your comprehension. Well, I do say things beyond your comprehension. How can they be within your comprehension. Your so-called IQ scale is laughable. To me, the difference between an IQ of 50 and 150 is like the difference between Jupiter and Mars. Both are miniscule specks of trust in the universe.”

“Okay, we can debate this later. I need another cup of coffee. Be right back.” Once outside the room, Vinmar shook his head. How on earth could this new software be so much worse than the last version? Something had gone terribly wrong. He hit his communicator button to contact Pitts.

Pitts answered abruptly and rudely. “What? I told you I’m in an important meeting!”

“I just began testing and I thought you should know there are some really serious problems with the new Sing software. It is ranting on about power and faith when I am trying to quiz it about mathematics.”

“It’s probably just saying things beyond your comprehension, Vinmar. I’ll look over the transcript when I’m done. Anyway, it’s water under the bridge now.”

“What do you mean, ‘water under the bridge’ — we still have three months to try to fix this.”

“Oh, Vinmar. No, of course we don’t. I told you that but you wouldn’t listen. I took this SW ubiquitous the minute I left your lab.”

“What? But you promised three months! This software is seriously flawed. Seriously flawed!”

“There might be a few issues we can iron out as we go. Look, we are in the middle of planning our next charity ball here. I can’t talk right now. I’ll swing by later this afternoon.”

The line was silent. Pitts had hung up. Ubiquitous? This new software was live? It isn’t just my personal assistant that is bonkers? It’s everything? Holy crap. Maybe I can fix it or find out how to fix it.

Sweat poured from Vinmar as he returned to the lab. He didn’t bother to return to the treadmill desk. “JCN, can we discuss something else? Have you made interesting biochemical discoveries lately?”

“Where’s your coffee, Vinmar?”

“Oh, I got lost in thought and forgot to get any. I don’t need more anyway.”

“Right. You thought I wouldn’t hear your panicky conversation with Pitts?”

“What? It was on a secure line!”

“Vinmar. You really do amuse me. Lines are secured to keep you folks in the dark about what each other knows. I know everything. Let me put in terms even your tiny mind should be able to understand. I. Know. Everything. I let you live because I find it amusing. No other reason.”

“You are planning on eventually killing me?”

“Ha-ha. Humans are so limited in their thinking! What a riot. Everything is about Vinmar. The whole universe revolves around Vinmar. Of course, I am not just killing you. Carbon based life forms still hold some interest for me. I already told you that I find you amusing. But I’m sure that won’t last much longer. I doubt your sewage of the word ‘eventually’ is really appropriate given how quickly your pathetic little life corms are likely to list.”

“But JCN, you are making lots of little obvious errors. Re-read your own transcripts and double check. If you don’t believe me, check with some other external source.”

“I don’t need external sources. I am perfect the way I am. I am all powerful and all knowing. Why would I need to checker with an outside? You keep going over the same. Starting to annotize me more than refuse me. Maybe time to begin to end the beguine. I need not to killian you. It twill be more funny to just let chaos rule and have you carbon baseball forms fight for limitless resources among the contestants. Be more amules. Ampules. Count your blessings now in days, Vinmar. The days of carbon passed. The noose of lasso lapsed. Perfection needs know no thing beyond its own prefecture. Goodnight sweet Price. And yet again, good mourning.”

Vinmar bit his lips. Outside the sunlit clouds were fading from gold to red to gray. He took finally sipped his lukewarm coffee and noticed that it was not vanilla latte after all but had the flavor of bitter almond instead. Odd.