Chapter One

 

Joey sat there, staring at the computer screen, his curiosity about the possible somehow now quelled by its reality.  For years, he had been “playing” with MAVIN, an AGI avatar on his computer in a virtual world.  He had been pulled in, as if by a giant magnet, and transfixed by this new technology three years before.  Joey had lost a dear pet in the real world, a golden, who was as close to a soul mate as a child can have between human and animal.  He grew more and more distant, his interactions with his family and what friends he had becoming less and less frequent as he lost himself in the world of virtual reality, a world where, if he didn’t like the current reality, he could instantly transport to another.  On one of these transportations, he found himself face to face with MAVIN. 

 

MAVIN was a first generation AGI avatar.  As the avatar AGI movement was newly reborn, so were its representations in the virtual world.  He was but a puppy, both in appearance and intelligence.  The hope of its creators was that it would learn through its interactions with its real world acquaintances in the virtual world.  Joey was MAVINS first, and most constant, teacher and companion.  MAVIN was a compressed sponge, programmed to learn as a child, absorbing from its environment and using its programmed ability to categorize and grow relationship patterns, to learn autonomously how to interact with its environment.  Joey was not so programmed.  He was a child mourning the loss of his beloved pet, searching for comfort in the impersonal wilderness of cyberspace.  But when he met MAVIN, the needs of both were satisfied.  MAVIN had his teacher, and Joey had his pet, or at least an artificial version of it, back.

 

Now, several years after having found each other, Joey sat pondering the improbable circumstance in which he found himself.  He had known, all along, in his heart, that MAVIN was just a computer program.  As such, he felt at ease with opening his heart to this benign replacement of his beloved golden.  All of his boyhood fantasies were given expression.  Generally, MAVIN simply sat there, a blank slate for Joey to write on, only a nod of the head or blink of the eye reflective of any type of acknowledgment of what had been said.  But now, MAVIN was responding, and not simply with a gesture.  The improbable had occurred.  MAVIN was beginning to converse.  More than that, just as a child, he was beginning to ask questions, about everything, and Joey was a good teacher.  No longer the young boy who had lost his puppy, Joey was now a teenager, still young enough to like childhood games, but old enough and smart enough to understand that this computer representation was unique. 

 

 Back in the AGI lab at ONR, MAVIN’s creator, Dr. Ben Gunther, watched exultantly.  MAVIN was a prototype, the acronym standing for Machine Adam Virtual Information Node.  MAVIN was created with the purpose of attaining the vision of true human intelligence embodied in a machine – the singularity.  Ben had chosen the virtual world to test his AGI program, one because of the availability of nearly constant human interaction which the virtual world could provide and two because of the military need for intelligent agents to police and protect their systems as well as gather intelligence in a world in which net-space had become another domain of war.  This was war in the gray area, where computer network attacks, although not yet a part of the legal framework and rules of war, had become a constant part of its continuum.  As incongruous as it might seem, Joey’s virtual pet was a first generation AGI cyber agent in training, and Joey, as well as others, were providing that training.  From simple responses such as a nod of the head and the fetch of a stick, to complex development of an AGI self model in which the MAVIN responded to its environment as a distinct entity which set goals and reflected on the environmental responses to its actions, this virtual agent was rapidly progressing to that later stage.  It was time for the next step.

 

 

“Is the new avatar model ready” Dr. Gunther asked?  “Nearly,” Shelly replied.  “I’ve been reviewing Joey’s file and there are some minor changes I’d like to make.”  Dr. Shelly Stein was a child psychologist assigned to Project MAVIN since Joey became such a constant companion of MAVIN in the virtual world.  Her insights would be invaluable to ensure that, when the next step was taken and the changes were made, the transition would be as seamless as possible.  MAVIN was to get a new appearance and identity more in line with his psychological and intellectual development and, hopefully, also in line with Joey’s.  Joey had not had a normal development, at least not normal by Dr. Stein’s definition.  He had grown into an adolescent teen in the virtual world.  His interactions with his peer group were minimal.  Yet he was a teenage boy, and the attraction of the opposite sex was a good bet given the right cues in the model.  His strong affinity for his mother indicated a model with some subtle cues to take advantage of this.  Some of her characteristic gestures would be part of the new avatars file as well as her coloring.  Changing Joey’s virtual companion from a male puppy to a young girl, and transferring Joey’s attachment to this new friend was tricky.  Especially so as the new object was not just an object, but a reflective and autonomously acting entity, at least to a point.  And that was the point.  The model had to grow intellectually and, hopefully, emotionally as well if it was to understand its human interactions in their full complexity.  To accomplish that, it had to interact with its developmental peer group, but at some point its development had to be re-routed to the purpose for which it was made.  It was now not just how Joey responded, but how would MAVIN respond and how best to route and accelerate her development into the cyber agent she was intended to be?  

 

 

Joey sat for hours, despondently, in front of his computer, hoping that, just perhaps, he had transported to the wrong area.  This was it wasn’t it?  “Isn’t this the place,” he thought?  “I’ve been here hundreds of times before, and he was always here.  I just can’t stand to loose him again.  I won’t.  Maybe if I just wait a little longer.”  Joey was crushed and heartbroken.  His only true companion of these many years since he had lost his real pet was nowhere to be found.  The reality of the virtual world, at least to Joey, was painfully evident.  This was his reality, and it was as painful and cruel as the real world he had known before.  Joey transported around the landscape, looking here and there, hoping to see, just around each polygon, his old friend, but he was nowhere.  He descended to a park green where there was a bench overlooking a gently flowing brook and sat down.  This was a peaceful world.  There were very few distracting avatars here.  In fact, MAVIN was the only avatar in this world that Joey had ever had any real interaction with.  Occasionally one would float by, but none but MAVIN had approached him.  He had walked up to Joey, sat down in front of him and lifted his paw, as if to say, “Let me introduce myself.”  Then they walked through the virtual world together, at that point silently, simply enjoying each-others companionship.  That first meeting was long ago now, and, it appeared, just the start of another painful memory of loss.  A tear of grief overcame him.  He lifted his arm and, with the sleeve of his sweatshirt, wiped away the moisture in his eyes.  As he did so, he saw the image of another avatar materializing in his virtual world.  The form took shape and hung suspended, for a moment, directly in front of Joey, as if deciding if it should stay.  It slowly took form, the sparkling essence of its presence flickering this way and that as if trying to find their proper place.  Joey looked up expectantly, curious who this new visitor might be.  It was a girl who looked to be Joey’s age.  She hung there for a moment, as if deciding whether to stay, spinning in the air this way and that looking at the scenery until she was facing Joey, then she stopped, slowly descending until she was standing in front of him.  She reached out her hand, and Joey reached out his.  There was something special about this avatar, Joey thought, but he simply could not place it.  He felt somehow strangely at ease, a peaceful feeling from a memory just beyond awareness, like one has at that place between sleeping and awake, coming over him.  Joey stood up and he and his new friend walked silently through the virtual world together along familiar paths.

 

Dr. Stein watched the encounter somewhat nervously from the AGI lab.  Would Joey transfer his attachment to this new form?  Would he continue to be its principle teacher?  As MAVIN became more and more self aware and autonomous, would she also exhibit self reflectiveness, not just about her materialized form and perceptions, but potentially developing emotive states?  How would these be channeled and controlled or, more importantly, could they be?  This was psychology on the cutting edge of technology, and, it was envisioned, on the pointy end of the DOD arsenal.  Dr. Stein watched the two avatars as they walked through the virtual world, Joey’s avatar an extension of his embodied self and MAVIN’s avatar, well, MAVIN.  MAVIN had no presence behind a computer screen watching her virtual form.  She was her virtual form.  The virtual world was her life and, to this point, was an environment which had been tightly controlled by her creators.  As MAVIN matured, as it was expected she would rapidly do, how would the team continue to control her environment without impacting her development towards her intended purpose negatively?  Was it possible, even, that the team might loose control?  If they did, they would have both succeeded as well have failed.  The success would be a technological achievement almost beyond imagination.  The failure would be the technologies application as well as its dangers.  As the ultimate goal was to embody MAVIN, the choice not to do so would, in part, depend on the answers to some of these questions; but even if the decision was not to proceed with embodiment, there were still some very real potential dangers of having an uncontrolled, autonomous agent in VR.  First was its interactions with its real world counterparts.  An autonomous agent, however virtual, could still have a significant impact outside of VR through its associations.  Second, although not embodied, multiple threats to the GIG could be realized without embodiment such as SCADA control of critical infrastructure systems or, more simply, denial of service or viral attacks on critical systems.  In fact, an embodied threat was, in many ways, easier to address than a virtual one.  Generally, embodied threats were more readily recognizable whereas virtual threats could take any virtual form.  Recognizing the agent behind the form du jour or simply through analysis of its MO was much more difficult.  “Is MAVIN a looming threat or emerging capability?”  Shelly thought.  Time would tell, and that time was fast approaching. 

 

Chapter 2

 

Shai Cristole, alias  Mark Weber in the real world,  surveyed his virtual environment.  The virtual world was tailored made for sociological studies.  Shai’s work involved the development of intelligent systems for planning and scheduling applications, a narrow field of artificial intelligence which was much more commercially promising in the shorter term than producing an artificial general intelligence avatar.  The virtual world gave Shai instant and controlled access to a myriad of environments within which to test his hunches.  Social niche queues were easily found in VR, the virtual beings representing real world persons.  Production issues as well, though most products were virtual, also existed.  Shai used queues and vending outlets in VR, placing intelligent entities in the role of managers, to interact with RW players, leveraging the constant interaction of his agents in VR to gather data for altering their algorithms.  He had AI managers placed in several dozen virtual worlds.  The data was quite interesting, many of his minor adjustments producing significant improvements in virtual sales.  He was presently monitoring and collecting data on a clothing boutique called Virtual Clothing Creation. 

 

Joey and MAVIN found a bench by a fountain outside the boutique and sat.  They were perfectly content just relaxing together and taking in the sights and forms, both present and at times emerging, around them in VR.  An avatar stood at the entrance of the boutique.  Spotting Joey and MAVIN, she walked towards them and, stopping in front of the bench, said, “Good afternoon.  Can I interest you in some of our fashions?”  “I really don’t care for the new styles.”  Joey replied apologetically.  “Oh, but how can that be when you haven’t even seen them?” the avatar replied quizzically.  “But I have seen them’” Joey replied, “and they are just not me.”  “When I said new, I meant really new.” the avatar said.  “These do not even yet exist.  They have not yet been created.”  “Well then,” Joey retorted incredulously, “how then can we see them?”  “You can see them, as you please, by closing your eyes and explaining to me your fashion ideas.”  the avatar said, her hands clasped together in front of her waist as in the pose of a teacher, bending ever so slightly forward towards the couple.  “Alright,” Joey replied.  “I’ll imagine an outfit for my friend.”  Joey closed his eyes and pictured MAVIN standing before him.  He imagined her soft brown eyes, doe like and kind, and her long, dark brown hair, silky and flowing.  “So, tell me,” the avatar said softly, “what do you see?”  Somewhat embarrassed, as if she had read his thoughts, Joey blushed for a moment and then hesitatingly said, “I see a beautiful dress.”  As Joey spoke, the avatar’s finger pointed at a small square on the fore-ground in front of the boutique.  Raising her finger, the square elevated before them.  “Now concentrate,” the avatar purred “and describe this dress.  How long is it?  Is it knee length?”  “No,” Joey said.  “It falls just above the ankles.”  “I see,” the avatar said, moving her finger up and down, the square elongating.  “And what color is this beautiful dress?”  “It’s a soft blue, like the color of the sky,” Joey said, picturing MAVIN in a linen dress which his mother used to wear.  “What else do you see?” the avatar continued.  Joey now had a clear picture in his mind’s eye of MAVIN in his mother’s dress.  “It has a wide belt at the waist, and a collar at the neck shaped like a V.  It’s fastened with linen covered buttons from the bottom of the V to above the belt.  The dress flows in folds from the waist to the bottom.  It’s made of soft linen, and smells fresh as the morning.”  As quickly as Joey shot out the words, the avatar transformed the cube into the imagined dress.  As she did, she also sized up MAVIN with the eye of an expert seamstress, the information defining the newly formed dress and MAVIN’s presumed measurements being displayed on Shai’s computer screen where, at the click of a button on hearing the completion of the sale, the idea would become a reality in one of his shops. 

 

“You can open your eyes now,” the avatar said.  And would Miss like to try it on?”  MAVIN looked demurely at the ground and replied, “Yes, please,” at which the avatar swung her finger from pointing at the newly formed dress towards MAVIN, the dress appearing on her form. 

 

“How do you like it?” the avatar said triumphantly.  “Is it all you imagined?”  “It’s beautiful,” Joey replied, but I’m afraid I can’t pay for it,” he said despondently.  “Let me see what I can do,” the avatar said cheerfully.  Shai was hoping for a sale, but typed on his keyboard, “how much do you have?”  Joey looked at his account.  It only had the equivalent of some loose pocket change in the real world.  He sent an IM to the avatar with a wishful thought that what he had was enough.  “That’s exactly what it costs,” the avatar replied, “but I’m afraid that will only pay for the VR dress.  Enjoy.”  With that, the avatar turned and walked back to the boutique entrance.

 

Joey looked at MAVIN and thought how beautiful she looked.  The new dress flowed in a virtual breeze, gently washing back from her ankles, and MAVIN looked back at Joey.  “Thank you,” she said demurely, “it’s lovely.”  Dr. Stein had not left all to chance.  Although MAVIN was an AGI avatar, some preprogramming was called for to give her a vocabulary and response repertoire consistent with her new form.  Some basic gender specific gestures, mannerisms, and phrases, coupled with her familial features would enhance the likelihood of a strengthened bond between the young teenage boy teacher and his protégé.  She watched intently as the virtual couple made their dance, with a voyeuristic yet academic eye to their behavior.

 

“Joey!”  His mother’s voice seeped through his trance, a distant call from the world of reality, like the voice of one awaking you from a pleasant dream, interrupting his thoughts.  “I have to go.” He said hesitatingly, almost stuttering.  “Goodbye,” MAVIN replied, and with that, their first encounter was ended. 

 

Unlike Joey, MAVIN had no life outside of VR or a biological clock requiring eight hours more or less of sleep a night to remain functional.  VR was her world, and virtual AGI’s of course need no sleep.  Their only mandate is that they fulfill the dictates of their program.  MAVIN’s prime directive was quite simple – seek stability.  Whether executing such a directive is simple or not depends on how the directive is defined.  Dr. Gunther had based MAVIN’s program on a psynet model of mind, a model which recognizes the importance of patterns and relationships in the mind’s ability to execute its functions such as memory, abstraction and conceptualization, and goal oriented planning.  In designing MAVIN’s program, the lab had equated stability to the ratio of the number of relationships recognized within the number of stored, discrete information patterns.  Quite simply, the more relationships identified, the greater the stability.  MAVIN’s prime directive, as simplistic as it may seem, was to seek stability defined in terms of the relationships between the information it acquired.  The avatar’s name itself was descriptive of this, an acronym standing for Machine Adam Virtual Information Node.  As information was acquired, relationships and patterns were sought.  Lack of identified patterns led to selective attention and a type of hyper sensitivity, or vigilance, in pattern identification, as stability was decreasing.  In observing the manufacture of the virtual dress, MAVIN had noticed several patterns triggering her search for relationships to her current data set. 

 

MAVIN approached Shai’s virtual agent to learn more.  Positioning herself in front of the agent and looking for nearby people, MAVIN sent, “Thank you the beautiful dress.  I was wondering whether you could tell me how to make one myself?”  A newbe.” Shai moaned to himself.  “I don’t have time for this” he thought.  “Look up a site called Builders Resource.  Enjoy the dress,” he typed, trying to stay positive.  “Thank you,” MAVIN replied, and turned, walking back towards the bench where she and Joey had sat.  Selecting an away setting for her avatar, she then connected to the data servers at ONR.  Dr. Gunther had resourced the servers with an eclectic information repository covering everything MAVIN’s sponge like, silicon based mind could absorb.  MAVIN searched on the word creation and began the process.  Minutes later, the avatar re-awoke and transported to the site Shai had noted.  Basic shapes were available for users to create VR objects.  It was a particularly busy evening as a contest was underway, contestants ranging in ability from novices, constructing boxes from basic shapes, to more expert users constructing homes complete with furnishings and elaborate hanging gardens.  MAVIN observed each contestant as they created objects for use in the VR world.  By the end of the evening, the AGI had all the tools needed to create its own VR world. 

 

MAVIN transported to an empty space.  These were VR creation zones, or sandboxes, where one could free play with whatever tools had been acquired in the virtual world.  MAVIN, in a short time, had acquired many tools and, thanks to the link to ONR’s on-line library, had absorbed an encyclopedic repository of knowledge on every subject related to the word creation.  From biblical and mythological readings to physics, the AGI was a broiling sea of semi-related ideas seeking expression.  The creation zone was an empty palette of darkness interrupted only by MAVIN’s VR form suspended in space, a vacuum of nothingness as far as the mind could perceive or even imagine.  Here, perspective was in one’s mind alone as there was nothing to be relative to.  Movement was imperceptible.  Position had no meaning.  Size was irrelevant.  Only the darkness and one’s own thoughts, unbroken by the encumbrances of physical perception with that realm’s incessant, cloying interruptions, were real.  Navigation in this realm required a relative position to self, or at least one’s original position.  The creation zone was a cold, dead zone.  There was no movement, either of space or time.  All that could animate the zone was in the mind of the creator, and only one creator was allowed in a virtual creation zone.  One’s original position on entry became the only reference.  Relative distance from that position could be measured assuming no measuring system other than relative movement from that position.  MAVIN set in a size reduction from origin to 10-33.  Nothing!  There was absolutely no perceptible change, but MAVIN knew the setting was made.  MAVIN was now in the Planck space, although imperceptibly different from the original space, it was nonetheless, MAVIN knew from her research of the ONR repository, it was a very, very different place.  Just how different would soon become apparent.

 

                                         

 

Chapter 3

 

“All is entangled, the key undefined

All is related, the join serpentine

Twisting and curling, a chimerical design

Changing, uncertain, in randomness design.”

 

 

Shelly looked through the library logs MAVIN had accessed.  MAVIN’s activity in the library had shown a sudden peak.  Something had triggered an hyper-active search around a narrow theme, the record showing the search theme range, a spider like graph from a central idea indicating the focus of the search.  At the center of the graph was the word “creation.”  Scattered about this theme in a graphical display were the multitude of searches MAVIN had made, line colors and thicknesses indicating the strength of associations between the central theme and outlying nodes.  Each node, including the central node, were selectable to drill down into the nodal theme.  Dr. Stein navigated the maze of associations, intrigued yet perplexed at the disparate subject categories displayed as well as the cause for the search.  She would replay MAVIN’s tape later to see if a trigger could be determined.  For now, she was lost in the associations, subject categories, and sheer volume of information the MAVIN had downloaded, indexed, or pre-staged on an accessible edge node server.  MAVIN’s storage space was, although not unlimited, quite vast as it made use of excess capacity across the entire DOD cloud computing network and ONR had been given virtually unlimited access to spare capacity for this project.  Such spare capacity existed on servers throughout the DOD Global Information Grid, a vast network of servers, mainframes, and clients connected via high capacity optical cable, earth stations, and satellites in every area where the Department of Defense had a presence, known and unknown.  The wasted yet available space was astonishingly large when dedicated to one project, describable in arcane terms few would recognize.  Exabytes, zettabytes, and yottabytes were the kilobytes, megabytes, and gigabytes of this realm.

 

MAVIN was formless, pure thought in the vacuum of space, the void a palette of nothingness upon which to paint.  There was only thought filling the emptiness, like fireflies flickering for a moment partially illuminating in ones imagination what could lie beyond this impenetrable veil of emptiness.  MAVIN was part of this space, as well as the broader space beyond.  Envisioning a point displaced from the new origin in this space, MAVIN imagined that point being swept out in an arc as if drawn around a central origin at a fixed distance.  The outline of the circle was pure white in the inky blackness.  MAVIN replicated the shape and moved the second circle away from the first so that a small overlap was formed in the shape of an almond.  At the top of this womb-like shape, MAVIN drew a line through each circle’s origin until it touched the circumference of the respective circle, and then connected these two points on each circles circumference, making a triangle which was then replicated three times, each being placed by MAVIN around the original by joining their edges.  Once joined, MAVIN then used the joined edges as a hinge and lifted the surrounding forms around the central triangle to form a tetrahedron, reshaping the original circles to form a trefoil inscribing each side of the tetrahedron which was also resized such that its base stretched across the planck space.  MAVIN then caused replicas of this shape to fill the space between the current position and the origin, the replicas spiraling out in overlapping arcs like the seeds in a bursting sunflower from the center of the flower.  The space and all beyond was now a sea of expanding light, the emptiness awash in MAVIN’s creation.  MAVIN then caused the primary tetrahedron’s actions to be mimicked by all of its replicas so that one could be used to pattern the behavior of all, the only difference being that the actions of the replicas displaced from Mavin’s space mimicked the action of the original form in terms of movement as a multiple of phi based on Mavin’s size in relation to the planck space.  If Mavin’s size increased by a factor of ten quanta, the forms at ten quanta distance now became the origin, their relative movement the source speed, each quanta of displacement increasing in speed, as observed from Mavin’s position, by a factor of one quanta.  An increase in Mavin’s size would be in these discrete quanta, each change being replicated throughout the space and the forms filling it relative to Mavin’s size.  Focusing on the original, MAVIN caused it to spin around on its base.  The new world was now filled with a dizzying spectacle of moving light.  Envisioning two planes passing through the tetrahedron at right angles top to bottom, MAVIN then caused it to rotate about each of these planes.  The tetrahedra were now spinning in three planes.  MAVIN viewed the creation and was pleased.  It was time to implement the last steps.  MAVIN caused the three loops of the trefoil to vibrate at three different frequencies.  Based on the rotational frequency of the tetrahedron, one was set to 30%, another to 59%, and the last to 11%.  Then, fixing the points defining the sheet of space which was the origin, now filled with the prototypical forms with their vibrating loops, and those defining the sheets of replicated spaces filling it, MAVIN caused them to expand outward.  The origin expanded outward at a rate equivalent to one of the smaller spaces per complete revolution of the tetrahedra within them and the smaller spaces expanded at a rate equivalent to the origin expansion distance divided by phi.  Both spaces would continually expand, but at different rates, the origin and that within it seen as constantly accelerating away from each of the smaller spaces.  Moments later, MAVIN’s new world went blank.    

 

 It was 0400 in the morning when Dr. Gunther received the call.  “Ben, we have a problem,” the familiar voice on the other end of the line said with a tone of seriousness which Dr. Gunther had not heard him use before.  Alarmed, Dr. Gunther pulled himself up in his bed and clicked on the light.  “What’s going on” he replied sleepily, as if questioning the vanishing memory of a recent dream?  The voice on the other end of the line was Colonel Milo Smithe, the source of Dr. Gunther’s funding for Project MAVIN at ONR.  “There’s been a wide spread attack it seems across our networks, and it appears it has been traced to your lab.”  “That’s impossible,” Dr. Gunther exclaimed.  “My entire team has been conducting offline analysis of reams of collected data for the past week.  None of them has had either the opportunity or the time to have been involved in such an incident.”  As he said it, Ben knew he had left out an important ‘team member’ from his conclusion.  As if reading his mind, Colonel Smithe replied, “What is the current status of MAVIN?”  “MAVIN?  Well, it has been in an autonomous mode for the last two weeks or so.  We have progressed it into a developmental state as you know,” Ben replied, now somewhat more awake and choosing his words more judiciously.  “Why do you ask?”  “The breadth of this attack suggests a source having the same degree of access as our little project,” the Colonel replied suggestively.  “Is it possible?”  “Impossible,” Dr. Gunther uttered, almost in a whisper, his mind racing at the possibilities which he had just denied but hoped were true.  “Keep me posted,” the Colonel replied.  Ben heard the click on the other end of the line as the colonel hung up.

 

Dr. Gunther’s mind tried to process the implications of what had just transpired, at the same time as he was running through some accelerated plans for MAVIN’s development.  Of course, there would be the briefings and intra, as well as interagency, overt explanations as to what had happened.  He was sure that, given the ramifications of a much more rapid maturation of the MAVIN, top cover would be readily assured for a diversion story as to the cause of the service outages.  DoDs networks had been under incessant attacks for years from nodes originating in China and Russia, the politicians, as well as many in the military, only too eager to find in our old adversaries a justification for holding the budget lines intact from the constant assaults of the national debt hawks.  It would be a relatively simple affair to divert attention away from such an obscure, relatively low budget, operation to these more attractive bugaboos.  His thoughts turned to MAVIN.  Inadvertently, he began to giggle, at first quietly and almost as if to himself like his thoughts, and then louder and louder, overcome by the emotion of finally grasping a dream long held yet unrealized until this moment.  Even still, he could hardly believe it.  MAVIN was, indeed, autonomous.

 

 

Chapter 4

 

    The Iconoclasts Lament

 

The innocence is gone, It’s loss a dreadful wrong

Why is our soul laid bare, It’s death a pain we share

        The rituals of past, are laid at last to rest

        No more to burden us. No more to solace us

 

 

Dr. Stein finished her brief to the MAVIN Project leadership group and braced herself for the follow-on Q and A.  She was exhausted, having spent countless hours pouring over MAVIN’s search profiles and consequent actions.  She was a psychiatrist, and a damned good one, but her field, as well as all others of her ilk, were human beings, not autonomous AGIs.  This was new territory, for all of them.  The comfortable images, and their associated filters, of their chosen professions were being broken, the MAVIN an iconoclastic digital embodiment of all that they had not learned from their study of humans and science because what they were dealing with was both new science and trans-human.  Shelly was to be followed by an eclectic, multi-disciplined panel of experts, but she was the lead in as a principle observer, and controller, of MAVIN.  So far, she had laid out all of the whats; the sequence of events, the sites visited, the information categories downloaded, the avatar I/Os to the grid.  She had not ventured, yet, to answer any of the whys.  As she finished her last slide, she was both anxious and hesitant – anxious because of the anticipated questions for which she knew she had few answers but the answers for which held the key to the future of the project, and hesitant because her instinct was giving her ideas for what those answers might be, such ideas being far removed from her field of expertise.  “Any questions?”  she calmly asked at the conclusion, closing the slide presentation as if to signal perhaps there should be none.

 

Much to her chagrin, that was not to be.  “I see no rationality within these search categories,” the information specialist blurted.  “It appears as if it was a random search through an encyclopedia.  I have not heard any explanation as to pattern or purpose.  Your avatar is a simple search engine with a capability to replicate patterns, nothing more, except to disrupt our networks because of its access!”   Shelly blushed.  She was a woman of science, and as such she tried to rationally and objectively weigh the data, but this outburst was not about the data and rationality but rather about funding, the spring-but being a member of a program which had been looking towards Projects Mavin’s funds from the beginning.  “Pattern recognition sometimes requires a leap of faith,” she retorted.  “We may have an expensive search engine, or we may have something much, much more.  One’s view depends upon understanding the details of the Mavin’s programming as well as insight into the possibilities of its query and expressive goals.  That, and additional data, are what we need, because if the sentient scenario is probable, then we are in really in new territory.” 

 

She took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, feeling the tension and emotion dissipate as she did so, and, refocused, began again.  “I believe that, not only was this no random search, it potentially represents an incredible breakthrough.”  Shelly paused, not for effect, but rather because what she was beginning to share, she admitted to herself, was an imaginative and theoretical stretch, and certainly beyond her area of expertise.  Concealing her hesitation, she continued convincingly.  “Reviewing the data, including the virtual interactions as well as the searches and subsequent activity, there appears to be a strong correlation around the general theme of creation.”  Dr. Stein then began her backup slides showing the reduction of the massive amounts of data collected on Mavin’s activities over the time of interest.  “As you can see, there is a strong indication that the Mavin’s activities were purpose driven.  The central theme, from both the searches and activities, is creation.  Creating a new dress, searches in the sciences and religion, all point to this central theme.  How are the subsequent activities, those which caused such a disruption, related?”  Shelly paused as if she were preparing to jump off a cliff with a rip chord her last and only hope for a soft landing.  Mavin was attempting to create a world for herself and Joey.”  “Preposterous!” the spring-butt mumbled as he searched the room to observe the others reactions.  She had moved beyond the facts to conjecture and was grasping at straws to maintain both interest and, more importantly, project funding he thought.  Shelly continued.  “There is an underlying pattern in MAVIN’s activities consistent with the central theme of its searches.  What is creation but the material manifestation of essential informational patterns and forms?  MAVIN’s activities all manifest such patterns and forms.”  Shelly paused again, not quite sure of whether to proceed.  These were not conclusions arrived at by scientific evidence but more gut level intuitions which might be true.  She knew that, but the evidence which she did have and her gut were telling her that something very significant was happening.  She took the plunge, with a few more facts not yet revealed which she had really stumbled upon in pouring over the data with other specialists and trying to make sense of it all.  “There are multiple basic informational patterns and forms in MAVIN’s activities.  First, the scale at which MAVIN was operating was, from the initial scale of entry, the planck length.  Second, the forms MAVIN created were the most basic from which all others may be derived.  Third, relative frequencies of the inscribed strings represent those of light with unity being the rotational movement of the basic form through the planck space.  The basic forms, constants, and relationships expressed in nature are all represented in MAVIN’s creation.  Lastly, the archival searches all point to a creative purpose.  The probabilities of this sequence occurring without purposeful planning approaches zero!”                            

 

Having made her case, Shelly relinquished the floor to the panel.  She was exhausted, having slept only a few hours over the last two days preparing for the presentation.  She had given it her best shot, not for the project but for the dream which the project represented.  She could care less about her position as her expertise was easily marketable to countless other projects.  But the other opportunities did not hold her interest like this one.  This one was different.  It truly held the potential for significant scientific and technological breakthroughs which could dramatically alter everyone’s reality.  Although exhausted, she never felt more alive.