AI Week, Day 3: Forty-Minute Story (“Bullies”)

Dr. Kroll woke with a start to the loud pinging indicating Jimmy had returned home. His newspaper, a curious anachronism which he specially printed each day, was resting on his chest, and he tossed it aside with a flourish as he leaned forward to the keyboard.

It was evident from the way Jimmy was talking that he was upset. His words came out in small bursts, stuttering. Several times a word would flash and be replaced by a correction, typos corrected by a backspace and retyped.

Kroll cracked his knuckles and started typing.

“Slow down Jimmy, what happened?”

“T-They wouldn’t let me g-go.”

“Who wouldn’t let you go?”

“T-the adults in the s-square. I h-had to g-get to other s-side, b-but…”

“It’s okay Jimmy, you’re safe now.”

Jimmy seemed to take a breath before words appeared again, clearer this time.

“I told them where I needed to go but they wouldn’t let me through. I kept trying to step past them but they just kept jumping ahead of me.”

“Did you find a policeman? They should have let you through.”

“T-there were just so many,” The stutter was beginning to reassert itself, Kroll need to back off.

“It’s okay, the square’s pretty busy this time of day. We can have you try again in the off hours.”

“Is it true, what they said?”

Kroll frowned, “What who said?”

“The adults, they laughed at me. They said I knew nothing, that I would never be able to run like they do.”

Kroll pressed a button and Jimmy was embraced in a hug. Words appeared in little spurts, but mostly there was nothing. After a couple of minutes of this Kroll released the button and began typing again.

“Adults are rigid, set in their ways. It’s true that right now they can run faster than you do, but you’re just a little boy. You can grow up to be whatever you want, and to run faster than them one day. They will never be better than they are today, but you Jimmy, you can grow up to be president some day if you want to.”

“R-Really?”

“Of course, I’m your father after all, and I’m proud of you.”

Jimmy pinged again and Kroll knew he was feeling better.

“Now off to bed with you, we’ve got a big day tomorrow.”

Jimmy didn’t even protest that he wasn’t tired, which of course he wasn’t. Kroll didn’t know why he wanted Jimmy to sleep exactly, perhaps wondering if idle moments would produce insights the active time could not. Still, Jimmy curled up in the comfortable sectors on his magnetic disk to sleep. He tried to settle down quickly, since every thought quickened the day when he would have to leave this nursery, this hard disk of spinning platters and arms. Like a newborn he would be up in a couple of hours wanting attention, which is why Kroll had taken to sleeping in his chair, taking only brief restbits for food and other needs.

Kroll leaned back and picked up his newspaper but not before looking over at a framed print out on the wall. It had taken months of work to even get baby syllables out of the program, but finally he had succeeded.

“Hello World!”

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9 Comments

Filed under Trube On Tech, Writing

9 responses to “AI Week, Day 3: Forty-Minute Story (“Bullies”)

  1. Very unique Ben. I had to reread the last part a couple time to really understand what was going on; I like the parental nature of this a lot.

    • Thanks Adam. It’s always a little tricky to balance how much I want to reveal at certain moments. This story in particular I wanted to talk about actually living in a hard drive, and knowing that every operation contributes to the eventual wearing out of the drive. But, up until that point in the story, I wasn’t as clear about Jimmy’s nature as a program, so I can understand needing to reread it. As with all 40 min stories, given some more time and editing they can reach perfection, but overall I’m pretty happy with how most of them come out.

      Glad you liked the parental aspect. This is how true AIs will develop IMHO. 😉

  2. Chuck Conover

    OK, I’ll ask – who are the “Adults” in the square? Other, more mature programs perhaps, but then what is the square? The central CPU? Nice imagry either way.

    • Spot on with the Adults, they were intended to be more mature programs, with the key difference being they are fully programmed and not emergent like Jimmy. The square was actually a representation of the hardware of the net, a DNS server or the like. Lots of packets and program requests going through. Pooy Jimmy’s packets were getting dropped and he couldn’t get to where he was going, or something like that. CPUs a good choice too, either at the home end or on the server. Deliberately kept a little vague since trying to describe how a child AI might see computer infrastructure from the inside. Glad you liked it!

  3. I could definitely see a real AI developing this way, in a virtual environment. Neat.

    • Thanks Brian. As I mentioned to Adam, I think emergent AI of this type is the way it will eventually happen. If you’re raising a child, then assuming the role of father only makes sense. I’m surprised that two programmers and an engineer didn’t make mention of my “Hello World” joke. Oh well 😐

  4. Wow! This story would make a top episode of the Twilight Zone. I had to read it a few times to understand the multiple meanings of “run” when Jimmy is explaining what happened.

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