Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Prelude To A Lady's Prerogative III: The Debate

As most of you know from my early attempt to integrate the worlds of The Butterfly Dragon and A Lady's Prerogative, they do occur in the same instance of the current universe. That is, if the multiple worlds interpretation of  Quantum Physics stands, the characters of A Lady's Prerogative and The Butterfly Dragon both inhabit the same version of the universe and occupy the same planet (despite the fact that A Lady's Prerogative refers to it as the Aerth rather than the Earth.

So given that premise and the fact that I have neither the time nor energy to write both A Lady's Prerogative and The Butterfly Dragon III at the same time, I've decided that I will write ALP III first and then put my full attention into BFD III. Both I promise will be ground breaking in every aspect though it seems that ALP III has beat BFD III to that punch first.

Rather than neglect the spirit of Butterfly Dragon, which in itself involves so many factors including science, spirituality while ever so carefully dodging quackery bullet (you'll never know nor comprehend the amount of stress and effort this requires on my part). I take science very seriously though I see a bridge between the objective and subjective much like did Eleanor "Ellie" Alloway from the novel Contact, which is my favourite book and movie of all time without exception. I'd say that's pretty obvious in my writing. Intellectually strong and at least equal female characters to their male counterparts who walk the fine line of science and superstition decisively.

So when I decided that with the plot that I'd decided upon for A Lady's Prerogative that I'd backseat Butterfly Dragon temporarily, it posed a difficult conundrum. After all, I love writing intellectually strong characters. Especially female characters as such as I'm drawn to the spiritual, intellectual and creative.

I'd rather not write BFD III as second trumpet to ALP III. In fact, I see the two as spiritual equals though I try to keep BFD from getting overly woo woo, that's scientific slang for quackery though BFD itself does sometimes border on that paradigm. Its ironic that for something like Quantum Physics which is considered to be "quack" free, they've struggled for a century over how to integrate gravity into the standard model and yet gravity is fully integrated into M or String Theory, which by the standards of many physicists is chock full of quackery. Its a theory many of whose components cannot be proven by experiment. Much like The Butterfly Dragon and A Lady's Prerogative, they are two roads whose only connection point is through the creativity of the one interpreting them. In this case the reader.

So to solve the situation I thought, why not write a precursor to ALP III that brought the BFD science characters into the fold because ALP III is very science heavy and we're already very familiar with those characters. It also stands as the ground work through which to introduce Gabe Asnon, a Computer And Quantum Science Specialist from MIT that you'll meet a bit in ALP III.

Well, here is the culmination of that idea.

Keep in mind that the following is a work of fiction. Though some of the events take place in a world very similar to our own and at the same time of this writing, any resemblance to actual persons, living or deceased is purely coincidence.

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Because Barris told me to put it here. If I didn't, he said he'd walk. Geez. Stardom really gets to some people's heads. Maybe I could kill him and bury his heart beneath the floor boards! Or I could encase him in behind a brick and mortar wall, for shaming my family name of Amantillado! In all truth, there's a good chance that thanks to the works of Edgar Allan Poe, Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain), William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Jonathan Swift, Mary Wollenstein Shelley, Robert Louis Stevenson, Herbert George Wells, Jules Verne, Dr. Seuss, Stephen King, Clive Barker and Pierre Burton (for The Secret World Of Og and his ground breaking interview of Bruce Lee) that all of us are literate. Literacy is important. Really it is. Literally. It allows us to approach our employer at the end of the week (with a big club) and ask: where my money?! Math important too.

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"We spend our lives on the run. We get up by the clock, eat and sleep by the clock, go to work by the clock, get up again, go to work – and then we retire. And what do they fucking give us? A clock."

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The most important aspect of all is one of world culture, peace and unity. That for which the Sanctum stands much like the United Nations for which it is a mystical protégé. We're not always going to see eye to eye on many issues but we can get along without the conflict of violence while respecting the living rights of every being on the planet and beyond.

Oh. And stop stalking and harassing me. I'm myself purely. Brian Joseph Johns. Really I am. Knock on my door sometime. I'll show you.

The Debate

Friday February 8, 2019 8:00 PM

University Of Toronto
Main Lecture Hall
Toronto, Ontario

The media occupied much of the front row with the exception of the seats reserved for the judges' panel. The rest of the audience were a mixture of students and professionals alike, most of whom were alumni though that still didn't stop the enthusiasts and the utilitarian genius of the self educated from being present. They were all there to see one thing and that was what had been billed as the greatest debate between modern minds with regard to one area of the computer sciences. In fact, the debate would have four participants who were nearly superstars of the modern sciences and one secret debater who'd not been billed.

Doctor Alicia Westin sat with her shapely legs crossed beside Doctor Stephen Briggs who being a gentleman made a verbal note of her great physical shape.

"You're certainly looking fit and gorgeous as usual." Doctor Briggs said as he sat down beside Alicia.

"Thank you. You're looking healthy as well. Is she ready for tonight?" asked Alicia.

"I think so. You know Zheng. Never too fearless to give her opinion. In fact I'm a bit more worried for the other debaters. I mean, I know just how well she can hold her argument... from personal experience. They're in for a challenge tonight." Doctor Briggs spoke in good humour referring to his spouse of nearly a year and a half.

Shortly after returning from Beijing with the rest of the Tynan And Associates delegation, Zheng had moved in to his side-split bungalow in the suburbs and their relationship further blossomed from there. She managed to gain research funding through a local University technology project seeking to make augmented reality agents a part of the growing list of devices supporting real-time visual recognition. Her part on the project entailed designing the algorithms necessary for real world object recognition based upon layered two dimensional stencil maps and heuristic depth mapping.

That is, the hardware in the cloud would recognize an object based upon what it predicted made up its volume based upon depth occlusion. It figured out the hidden parts of an object statistically, giving the resulting probability to the agent program which would then request verbs from a data dictionary related to things that you could use that object with or for. For instance, if the wearer of the augmented reality goggles saw a pair or roller blades, they might be presented with a list of local stores offering safety equipment for roller blading or alternately a list of parks deemed safe for roller blading based upon the user's current skill level. If on the other hand the wearer of the goggles spied a car with a leaking radiator, they'd be presented with a list of the nearest auto service centers specializing in repairs for the make and model of that car.

Doctor Briggs on the other hand had begun writing a book in journal format that detailed the travels and pursuits of the West Delegation and how Eastern philosophy when partnered with the West ultimately discovered the corruption leading to the arrests in the Future Tangent Industries fiasco. When their two busy schedules coincided, they'd meet for an evening of dinner and dancing (on the town or at home) which often ended with the two sweatily intertwined in bed by morning's arrival.

Zheng Ni Wong had actually met Gabe Asnon during one of her outings with Doctor Briggs. Gabe had followed her from her research position at the University to her meeting spot with Stephen Briggs. He'd had his driver follow her cab all the way to the Nightinerary Lounge and then had followed her on foot into the establishment. Gabe had an eye for people and talent and he'd seen something in Zheng that he'd wanted for his own team. Rather than call for a meeting he'd usually try to surprise them. That way he'd have the negotiating advantage but more importantly he'd see them in their spontaneity. He had a theory to explain why human intelligence was so difficult to mimic or beat with expert systems or neural networks and that was that we were very capable of spontaneous decision making. So much so that there were hidden factors working behind the scenes that resulted in our spontaneous choices having nearly the same accuracy as those we'd had time upon which to think. It wasn't an elitist concept such as the difference between computation and real consciousness. It was an indicator pointing in the direction of the mystery of intuition. Knowing without consciously having to consider.

Zheng made her way through the lounge to a hidden alcove where she found Briggs. He got to his feet and wrapped his arms around her and she returned the sentiment with a quick but passionate kiss. They then sat within the semicircular bench as the waitress approached them to take their order.

Gabe quickly ducked inwards to a stool at the bar just close enough to overhear their conversation. He heard that Zheng had ordered a Tom Collins with a shot of lime cordial and lemon twist, while Briggs had ordered a Whiskey Sour. Gabe listened in on their early evening banter for their first round before he approached their table with another round for Zheng, Briggs and himself.

Gabe was tall, nearly six foot two and very thin. His head was capped with thinning reddish curly hair even for his young age of thirty one. He'd often been called lanky or sometimes string-bean by his classmates from University. He wore a pair of silvery thin framed glasses through which his brown eyes peered. He was well dressed in a clothing that looked like it didn't quite fit him.

"They say that Tom Collins is the drink of the light hearted. Of the stress free. Tell me, do you think that an artificially created intelligence versus the more fun and organic way of producing it will ever truly have a favourite taste for anything, like say a favourite drink?" Gabe asked looking to Zheng first, then to Doctor Briggs out of sheer politeness.

Zheng and Briggs looked at each other very puzzled before Briggs returned his glance to Gabe.

"I'm sorry, and you are!?" Briggs interrogated Gabe.

"I still need an answer." Gabe stood his ground looking to Zheng.

There was a moment of silence as Briggs grew tense. Zheng quickly acted to relieve the tension.

"I believe that artificially created beings and consciousness will have existential experiences and therefore they'll likely have favourites of many different kinds." Zheng answered Gabe honestly.

Gabe stood still for a moment nodding his head in appreciation of her answer and perhaps some relief.

"Is this guy alright? Is he someone bothering you from University?" asked Doctor Briggs.

"I don't him at all." Zheng assured Briggs.

"Then perhaps you should introduce yourself." Doctor Briggs stood not exactly menacingly but protectively of Zheng.

"You still don't recognize me?" asked Gabe of them both.

"Should we?" Doctor Briggs asked.

"You haven't seen me on television? Commercials? Come on... What about YouTube? We've spent a fortune on advertising with them. Oh wait, I wasn't in the YouTube campaign. My mistake. I'm in the televison ads though." Gabe tried to refresh their memory.

"We're often very busy. We don't always get a lot of television time at home and I keep the News Network on all the time at the computer lab. Sorry." Zheng responded almost feeling sorry for the man despite his arrogant interruption of their evening together.

"Alright. I'm Gabriel Asnon. CEO and CTO of MindSpice Corporation? You can call me Gabe. How's that? Feel better?" Gabe held out his hand to Doctor Briggs.

"Doctor Stephen Briggs. Sociologist." Doctor Briggs shook his firmly still a little cautious.

"Zheng Ni Wong. Mathematician and Computational Biologist." Zheng stood slightly shaking his hand.

Gabe grabbed a chair from one of the tables and sat down with the couple.

"So. Date night? Nice place for that. Romantic. Quiet. Quaint yet colourful. Almost looks like My Little Pony vomit." Gabe said  to them snidely as he looked around.

"So what brought you to the Nightinerary tonight and more specifically to this table!" Zheng asked him impatiently.

"You! Uhhhh... that did not come out right. I don't mean you per se. I meant your field of expertise. We're working on something BIG." Gabe looked at Zheng, and then nervously to Doctor Briggs before taking an excited pull on his drink.

"You're certainly not lacking in the self promotion department." Doctor Briggs returned.

"We're different. We really are working on something big, though we need help. Your help Zheng. As a consultant. We'll even work around your research contract at the University. Good money too." Gabe threw the eccentric charm on thick.

"I'm thinking that a formal contract proposal might be a bit more appropriate?" Zheng responded professionally.

"Oh. Right. I've got it. Right here." Gabe reached into his jacket with his left hand pulling a small bound stack of legal papers.

Had Zheng answered his first question differently, he'd have pulled the less lucrative contract from his left breast pocket with his right hand. Gabe had learned in his business to cover all the bases.

Zheng accepted the document, depositing it into her purse much to Gabe's surprise.

"Aren't you even going to look at it?" Gabe asked her after finishing his drink.

"Yes." Zheng replied curtly.

She then turned to Briggs and began a conversation as if Gabe was not there.

"Oh. You want me to leave. Alright. So... get back to me by tomorrow. I'll just get going then." Gabe stood.

Zheng and Briggs immediately ceased their conversation and addressed him.

"Leaving? I'm sorry to hear. I'll call you after I've had a chance to look the proposal over. Thanks for... joining us this evening." Zheng addressed a flustered Gabe.

Doctor Briggs stood and offered his hand. They shook firmly once again.

"A pleasure to meet you. Good luck at MimeSpace." Doctor Briggs said to him.

"Its actually MindSpice, but that's alright. Uhhh... look, I'm sorry for interrupting your romantic evening. Take a peek at the proposal and you might have something additional to celebrate." Gabe turned to leave.

"You do have a heart after all. Have a good night." Zheng responded as he left.

Weeks after reading the contract proposal and Zheng was a research consultant for MindSpice Corporation making a lucrative sum as Gabe had promised. She'd discussed it with Briggs as it would take from them a large chunk of their time together. Briggs had argued that they'd just have to make more effective use of what time they did have to which Zheng answered with a passionate kiss that began an evening of love making.

After several weeks of her input and guidance, she'd been given the nickname Mary by the engineers and designers on the project. It took a while before it clicked with her about whom they referred. She eventually figured out that it was given her after the author Mary Wollenstein Shelley who of course had crafted the book Frankenstein.

She'd argued that comparison would be inaccurate for she was merely providing a cognitive bridge via algorithms between the input of a haptic device known as the Goggle and the cloud. A fairly simple operation for someone of her considerable knowledge and talent. Algorithm design was a rudimentary application of computer science and had been since the nineteen sixties, though she'd argued that algorithms had been around much, much longer.

For instance in a common counting device called the abacus, one actually applies an efficient algorithm for the operation of the device and what is called the carry operation. That is, with each row on an abacus representing the digit of a number, when that row had reached its capacity, the neighbouring row was incremented by one. In mathematics and computer science this is called the carry operation. There were algorithms for doing simple math with an abacus such as addition, subtraction, division and multiplication as not all abaci were based upon base ten arithmetic.

Lady Ada Lovelace and others involved in tile and quilt making had repeatedly used algorithm design for their creations. Lady Ada Lovelace also had co-originated software language, which she'd designed to operate on a quilt making machine with co-creator Charles Babbage. Ironically there is evidence to suggest that Lady Ada Lovelace and Mary Wollenstein Shelley were actually friends. Perhaps bonded by the fact that they'd dared the establishment by stepping beyond the socially implied limits of a Woman of their day.

Zheng had not thought much of her consultation work with MindSpice until she'd caught word of the Garden project. Apparently it was a cutting edge simulation being developed by MindSpice involving emergent dynamics as it had been described to her by one of the engineers. As she continued her work on the project for which she'd been contracted, she noted that design requirements were changing drastically beyond those indicated on her original contract. That was when she'd become skeptical about the real use of her algorithms.

She'd approached the Chief Engineer on the project and demanded to be let in on the secret that they were actually developing.

"What's the difference? You're still getting paid and if I'm not mistaken you're being paid well above the standard rate for a similarly skilled Mathematician and Computer Scientist like yourself." Matt had responded clearly assuming that Zheng was purely motivated by money. Though she was responsibly savvy with her finances and earnings, she had not sacrificed her integrity to arrive at that level of discipline.

"If we're working on something different from what I was contracted to do, this is a very serious issue and requires the matter to be discussed and my contact to be renegotiated." Zheng shot back at him.

"So you are all about the money." Matt replied with a chuckle.

"You bastard! There are other issues here, namely morality and legality. What if we're working on a doomsday device and nobody is aware of that fact. Even you? Wouldn't you investigate what you'd been contracted for to ensure your moral standards weren't being encroached?" Zheng responded.

"So you're looking to avoid legal responsibility? Third clause in all of our contracts states and I quote: No contractor she be in any way held liable, either legally or financially for the damages, forseen or unforseen caused by the results of their contribution to any project operated by MindSpice Corporation..." Matt recalled for her.

"This isn't about legality though that does come into play. This is about knowing what I'm contributing to. I have a responsibility to make good use of my skills. So what gives?" Zheng urged Matt.

"You know what. I think you're putting too much merit into those four Philosophy credits you earned as part of a side course and to fill out your degree." Matt responded blandly, stopping long enough to look her in the eyes.

"I think she has a right to know. She's been here long enough. Why don't we get the rest of the team and we'll vote on it?" Tim, one of the younger post graduate engineers on the project suggested.

"Didn't anyone tell you son, this is a dictatorship. We let her in when we get the word from..." Matt had nearly finished his statement when he was interrupted.

"...Sooo, it appears that we've arrived at that time a bit earlier than I'd expected. Oh and Matt, we're not a dictatorship. We're an Administrative Autocracy and I'm Otto if you get my drift?" Gabe entered the project lab.

"Well that's a coincidence. I was just asking Matt why the requirements I've been given have changed nearly six times over the last month? What are we really working on?" Zheng demanded.

"We're working on exactly as had been specified by your contract. Nothing more or less. Your part in this project Zheng is crucial and every bit of input that you provide is appreciated. If Matt here hadn't thanked you enough, well that's exactly what I'm here to do. To let you know that you're a trusted and appreciated member of this team." Gabe assured Zheng.

"That's great and that probably works for everyone else, but what the hell am I working on? These specifications have changed far too rapidly to be associated with any real world application of machine perception and cognition. This technology isn't to be taken so lightly that you, the CEO of a Fortune 500 company can just dance every time one of your Engineers inquires about your goals. Let me in on this. I want to help you, but I want to help you do things right. I need to make sure that what you're doing is right first!" Zheng cut through Gabe's attempt at a distraction and he recognized it almost right away.

Gabe looked to Matt and then over to Tim. All three of them shrugged as if some simultaneous geek signal they'd prearranged between themselves in her absence.

"Wow. You're quick. You beat the others by at least five weeks." Gabe assured Zheng.

"Six. Six weeks. It was Czernlenko who caught on the fastest. It took him ten weeks before he suspected something was up." Matt reminded Gabe who returned a devious squint back towards his lead Engineer on the project.

"Well you heard it. You were the second fastest..." Gabe started.

"First..." Tim corrected Gabe.

"...Pardon me. You were the fastest to pick up on the fact that we're working on something very different from what I'd contracted you to for." Gabe turned to Zheng, his hands trapped deep in his pockets.

In the background two of the Engineers slapped hands together.

"What the hell is going on here?" Zheng asked Gabe and the other Engineers present.

"We had bets on you. Most of them bet against you. Richardson and Morgan were the only two who bet on you. They just won the pool. Tim doesn't take part in this. Matt is forbidden from doing so. I allow it because it builds camaraderie amongst my team." Gabe appeared embarrassed by the midst of the situation.

"That still doesn't answer what I'm working on." Zheng stared Gabe down.

"I bet Doctor Briggs can't pull anything over your eyes. You're working on a simulation." Gabe replied nervously his hands still trying to find recluse in his pockets.

"I'm a Computational Biologist dammit. What the hell kind of simulation am I working on?" asked Zheng not missing a beat.

"Most people who develop AI try to go for the real world right away. They try to train neural networks and machine learning to interact with the real world problems. The problem is that the real world is bumpy. It's fractal in nature. As a mathematician you know that nature of solving problems in fractal geometry is coming up with scalable parametric equations. Did I say that right Matt? Maybe you could explain?" Gabe turned to his Chief Engineer.

"Sounds pretty good Gabe." Matt replied and tried to continue before Zheng spoke.

"You mean functions that scale parametrically and fractally. Like iterative fractal systems. They tend to be parameter heavy versus function dependent. A common problem in designing systems that are able to cope with the real world fractal geometry of nature when combined with the Euclidean geometry often employed by human construction methods?" Zheng spoke looking at Gabe, and then turned to Matt for confirmation.

"Exactly!" Matt nodded and smiled while blushing at the same time.

He'd suddenly felt as if he wasn't so alone in the presence of a Woman. A Woman who could easily grasp the concepts he'd grappled with his whole educational life as an Engineer.

"So if we're not working on integrating machine perception and cognition with real world dynamics then what are we working on?" asked Zheng.

"Zheng. We're developing AI. The difference is that we're developing it in what we call the Eden. A complete simulation of creation that combines mythology with science in terms of the parameters of the simulation." Gabe shrugged and simultaneously blushed beside Matt while trying to explain.

"What mythology would fit with existing science?" Zheng asked Gabe.

"All of them." Gabe responded finally pulling his hands from his pockets and folding them around his chest.

"Science doesn't mix with creationism. We've been fighting that battle for a long time. Is this a project to promote creationism or religion?" Zheng suddenly became skeptical with the Men around her.

"No. We're modeling simulated worlds around the concepts of subjectively mythic beliefs. They're real to many people and we're neither trying to deny nor confirm their reality or any religion. We're setting up simulations within which real AI is learning to deal with real world struggle while avoiding the intense real world fractal nature of perception and cognition. Once an AI has graduated from our first stage worlds we allow them to merge their experiential database with what they can learn from the Internet. We need you to develop cognitive systems to deal with the merging of their data acquired through their existence in the simulation and the Internet. Not the real world. When they've passed our tests for the simulated world, we'll ready them for release into the real world." Gabe smiled, ever so proud of his creation.

Zheng paused for a moment in disbelief at what she was hearing.

"How many have you successfully trained in sentience?" Zheng urged Gabe suddenly impatient.

"We've got three right now that are merging their knowledge base with what they can learn from the Internet." Gabe answered her blushing slightly over their accomplishment.

"Have you run them through a Turing?" Zheng pressed him further.

"No. We've developed our own method for testing their sentience as you put it. A Turing would require us to build an interface between the real world and their digital world, hence breaking the mould through which we built them. Currently they are completely unaware that there's another world, our real world outside of their digital world." Gabe answered her as best he could.

"Do they know what they are?" Zheng continued her interrogation.

"No... ahhh yes. Better put that they don't know that there's anywhere else. The realm in which they live is the only reality of which they're aware. We have several realities running at once and they run approximately four thousand times faster than our reality in terms of the passage of time. So one of our seconds is four thousand of theirs. That gives them the ability to live, grow and learn quite rapidly. We've modeled their virtual genome after our own though not quite as complex. Matt, what are the numbers for their genome?" Gabe turned to his engineer suddenly in way over his own head.

"The human genome is somewhere between 1.1 and 1.7 Gigabytes in terms of data capacity, that's of course given an eight bit byte. There's a lot of natural data compression in the genome, for instance symmetrical compression whereby the genome to make an arm or a leg is the same for both limbs. The same with our ears and eyes. Beyond that there's natural fractal compression, much like you mentioned earlier, IFS or iterated fractal systems. We figure that ten percent of the genome is functional process with the remaining 90% being data and error proof redundancy. We've managed to reduce the genomes of our VPs or virtual people down to the neighbourhood of two hundred megabytes. For one thing, there is no disease in their realm. There are no genetic diseases either, so that enables us to run the limb, ear and eye simulation separately. Every VP actually uses the same simulation in that sense, so that frees up a lot of computing power for other tasks. For instance their perception, cognition and mind programs run on completely separate racks of computers." Matt explained before Zheng interjected.

"How are you running their mind software? I mean that's far too taxing for even the fastest classical computers. Even with multiprocessing." Zheng turned her questions to Matt.

"We've developed a hybrid Quantum/Classical processor for the project. Each one combines 256 cores for classical computing and 64 qubits for Quantum computing. The computers in which they occupy have many hundreds of them. Sixteen per board. Each board takes up one rack space. Each rack holds sixteen boards. We're currently running 1024 racks. Do the math. They share the same memory pool which is 128 Petabytes. There's a separate rack of processors just for the memory manager alone."

"That's almost 70 million classical cores and 16 million qubits. How are you powering all of this and who's paying for it?" Zheng pressed them even further.

Matt looked back to Gabe who took matters from there.

"We have a separate power generator running the computer with two more for spikes and backup. These processors are very power efficient as many of their core components are built and operate at the atomic scale using third generation nanotechnology. Still primitive by what's possible but pretty good considering how crude the technology level is. The power generators are financed under a completely different project by investor money including funds from my own company. The computer, which we call Omega is funded entirely by my company for which I'm the sole shareholder. On the books I'm broke if you take into account liquidity. In terms of assets, I might be the richest man in the world. Don't worry about me though. I won't starve." Gabe joked drawing a chuckle from Matt.

Zheng stood speechless for a long moment thinking back to all of the work she'd already done and how it could have been translated to the newly revealed project.

"This is big. Way bigger than us just standing here in this room. Who else knows?" Zheng asked still in shock.

"Our Engineering staff and part of the University faculty. Anyone who talks about it publicly appears to be a lunatic so we benefit from that aspect of conspiracy. Just because its too far fetched. Not to mention that by simulating worlds from mythology and religion, anyone who talks about it is pretty much ignored." Gabe smiled.

"Why did you choose to simulate our beginnings via mythology? That's not very scientific." Zheng questioned a key issue of the project.

"That's Sarie's area of expertise. She's our local Consultant on Mythology and Linguist. Sarie! Can I have you over here for a second?" Gabe called out to Sarie who sat in front of a computer monitor viewing an array of graphs.

"Right away Gabe." she answered and a moment later she stood before them.

"Sarie, you know Zheng. Could you explain to Zheng here why we run our simulations in mythological and religious worlds?" Gabe asked her.

"Certainly. For one thing, linguistics. We needed a start whereby we could control their first exposure to language because language is a big part of the development of sentience. Both as a limit and benefit. Seeing as we know the structure of existing languages and how they'll likely result in memory storage, its easier to measure and track. If we'd let them develop their own language, we'd likely run into too many unknowns for a first generation project of this kind. We're linguistic thinkers. If you think about it carefully, our language defines our thoughts. The more that we capably label in the real world with language, both things and concepts, the more our capacity for thought. That doesn't mean that we can't think in non-linguistic terms but in order to do so often takes years of practice and meditation. So language is a natural part of the evolution of our sentience and intelligence. By using predefined myths and religions as the basis for our simulations, we can control the initial starting conditions in the simulation. We don't quite have enough computing power or time to simulate the big bang and then to wait for artificial life to evolve. That would take far more computing power than we could ever hope to muster, despite the fact that our Quantum computing capability rivals all of the best and fastest computers ever built combined. So we chose to simulate a system in which we had clear cut starting conditions. Where we could begin with life right out of the starting gate. By enforcing language upon these virtual people, we're ensuring that their thought processes are quantifiable, not to mention it makes two way communication possible from the start though we have a strict ban on communication of that nature." Sarie explained.

"Thank you Sarie. That will be all for now. You're a busy lady, I'll let you get back to your station." Gabe asked her politely.

"What about zealots and extremist groups?" Zheng asked.

Gabe continued tackling Zheng's questions.

"We've had some information make its way to groups of that nature. Our security here is pretty tight not to mention that there's an interest in what we're doing by the Military. They've an entire intelligence unit dedicated to uncovering any plots against us. They're also investors. In exchange we share data from our research with them and run specific simulations for their testing and evaluation. By the time we go public with this, there will likely be a bit of backlash from extremists but the publicity they'll get us is beyond measure. So we operate secretly for now and reveal sometime in the near future." Gabe answered her as sincerely as he could.

"When?" Zheng pressed him.

"Six months to a year. It really depends upon how many of our patents for the different generations of virtual people we've created so far are approved." Gabe responded.

"You're patenting the virtual people?" Zheng asked in disbelief.

"Absolutely. They're our company's greatest asset right now. I mean it literally took four thousand years of simulation time to produce the three sentients that we currently have. That's from a population of millions. That's from running these simulations nearly constantly over the past year. Of course we're going to patent them. We made them." Gabe looked at Zheng in scrutiny and disbelief.

"This is serious!" Zheng responded with frustration at how lightly he was taking what they'd created.

"So. Are you in? You are at the top of the class in figuring out something was up. We could really use you though I think you need a bit of education on the realities of business and finance." Gabe said to her sarcastically.

"I need time to think about this. This is too much." Zheng shook her head still in shock.

"Alright. I'll give you two weeks. During that time you're under a gag order not to talk about this project. Its all in the contract you signed. Not even with Doctor Briggs. I expect that you'll honour your contract because it would be ever so difficult for me to encroach a lawsuit against you that would undoubtedly ruin your career and life." Gabe reminded her.

"I understand. I'll be in touch with you when I've decided." Zheng responded as she turned to leave.

"I'll contact you in two weeks. In the mean time, get some rest. Maybe go to that restaurant and bar with Doctor Briggs again. On me." Gabe tried his best to be compassionate but once again it came out sounding like a business deal.

Ten minutes later Zheng was in a cab on her way home. She had no idea of how she was going to keep this from Briggs. When she got home she wrapped her arms around Briggs who greeted as she walking in the door.

"Something's wrong. What's up honey?" Briggs asked her gently rubbing her back, his face close to hers.

"I can't talk about it. I just need you to love me. No questions. Please." Zheng looked deep into his eyes.

Briggs nodded and kissed her gently as they slowly made their way to the living room. They made love and then on the floor. They woke up the next morning wrapped around each other in front of the fireplace.


"Good evening everyone." the voice broke the darkness and the sudden silence as a man strode silently across the lecture hall stage.

The lights illuminated the stage revealing Professor Bryce Maxwell and the audience applause grew to the level of a storm.

"Thank you. I knew my lucky underwear would do wonders for me tonight." he responded drawing laughter from the audience.

"I guess you know who I am. For those of you who don't, I'm Professor Bryce Maxwell and I head up the physics department at the University of Waterloo here in wonderful Ontario, Canada. A round of applause for them and their wonderful faculty if you please." Bryce asked and the audience politely complied.

"We have a great night planned for you, especially if your interest lies in the computer sciences. We have four fantabulous speakers tonight who will be actively debating the greatest current issue of the sciences. No I'm not talking about the fountain of youth and eternal life. That's next week's debate. Nor am I talking about the missing matter that would explain cosmic expansion. Dark matter seems to be the answer to that question though I'm still skeptical. Tonight our four debaters will be discussing a topic of interest to us all for it will certainly decide our future and it may determine the future of humanity. I'm talking of course about AI. Computational intelligence and sentience as it has been described by visionaries like Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke and William Gibson." Bryce paused for a moment looking out into the audience.

"We have some celebrities with us it would seem. We have Doctor Alicia Westin, a Quantum Biologist from Tynan And Associates and beside her we have Doctor Stephen Briggs, Sociologist and expert on East Asian Philosophy. Could you stand for us please." Bryce directed the lights to their spot in the audience.

They both stood and bowed to an enormous applause.

"I guess they wore their lucky underwear too." Bryce quipped playfully into his lapel microphone.

Alicia both blushed and laughed profusely at her idol while Doctor Briggs quickly checked inside his trousers and promptly gave a thumbs up, bringing another round of laughter from the audience.

"We have to admire the history of the debate. It started with with like of Aristotle. Hippocrates. Plato. Amazing that in a society that were so enamoured by gladiatorial and athletic skill that philosophy and meaningful debate would have found such purchase. Maybe we've discovered a new format for the Academy Awards? Have the recipients fight for their award in a gladiatorial match? I don't know... It might be interesting to see Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Willem Dafoe, Rami Malek and Viggo Mortensen scrapping it out on stage for their award. I'd bet it would be a real event to see Yalitza Aparicio, Glen Close, Olivia Colman, Lady Gaga and Melissa McCarthy in a live, on stage cat fight. Whew! Now there's an event!" Bryce joked once again drawing laughter.

"Good then. We all seem to be on the same page. We're going to need that for a debate of this magnitude. Now, without any further delay, I'll introduce you to our debaters." Bryce paused once again.

"Debating for computational intelligence we have the CEO, CTO and sole shareholder of MindSpice Corporation, Mister Gabriel Asnon!" Bryce turned to his right as Gabe stepped out onto the stage taking his place behind one of the four unoccupied podiums.

"Great to be here Bryce." Gabe raised his hands for the audience and a mixture of applause and disdain erupted from the audience.

Suddenly a group of protesters burst into the lecture hall waving signs above their head and shouting.

"Minds are the sole property of humans given us by God!" they erupted as they marched down the aisle towards the stage.

The Security team and a handful of Police Officers quickly rounded them up and escorted them from the property.

"There were bound to be some complications. The night is still young. The show must go on." Bryce spoke breaking the sudden unrest.

"Our second debater tonight will be debating on the side of Philosophy and Humanities. He's a Professor of Psychology here at University of Toronto. He's also an accomplished lecturer having toured North America for the Freud and Jung lecture series and our only senior debater tonight. Here's Professor Lloyd Macron." Bryce directed his hand to the left side of the stage and a timid elderly man stepped out onto the stage amidst an enormous applause.

He waved to the audience whose applause only grew. He finally arrived at his podium and ran his hand through his rapidly thinning white hair.

"Thank you. Such a pleasure to be here tonight for this important discussion." Professor Macron addressed the audience.

"Thank you Professor. Our next debater isn't a member of alumni at all. In fact, this Poet, Philosopher and Lecturer is mostly self educated and has amassed an enormous following writing a variety of fiction and non-fiction books for the masses. Please welcome to the stage Stanley Wellson." Bryce clapped and directed his hand to the right and a heavy set but charismatic man stepped from the side of the stage to his podium. He quickly danced a step for the audience who went wild, some of the audience members holding up copies of his book: Light Memory, Light Mind.

"Thank you Professor Maxwell. Its a great honour to be here for this monumental debate." Mr. Wellson nodded and waved to the audience.

"Finally. We have one last debater. Our only female debater, this lovely lady who is representing Women tonight is a pioneer in the newly emerging field of Computational Biology. A curriculum which she herself designed from existing University courses. She's also a brilliant Mathematician and a fellow member of the Tynan And Associates West Delegation which changed the face of medicine the world over a year ago with a miracle treatment for degenerative disease and a ground breaking medical monetary fund. Please welcome to the stage Miss Zheng Ni Wong!" Bryce himself applauded for his friend and peer as she stepped out onto the stage.

There were numerous cat calls and whistles from the audience as she approached her podium. She stopped and posed for the audience showing a bit of leg, who continued their fanfare. She then continued on towards the last remaining podium.\

"Thank you Bryce. I am looking forward to this debate as there are certainly some issues that need addressing." Zheng said immediately shooting a glance towards Gabe who visibly cringed.

"Alright. Lets go over the rules of this debate..." Bryce continued as someone from backstage approached him and whispered in his ear.

"It would seem that we have another debater tonight. Ladies and Gentlemen, our fifth debater does not need a podium because this debater will be debating remotely. It is the result of computational intelligence, a programmable sentience and neural network called MAZ." Bryce announced to the audience.

There was a moment of silence. Suddenly a voice emerged through the loud speakers.

"Professor Maxwell. I am very honoured to be with you tonight in mind not so much as in body. I hope that I may contribute meaningful point and counterpoint to this debate." MAZ's digital voice erupted.

"Thank you MAZ. I'm sure we're all very grateful that you're here and even more so if you don't pull a HAL 9000 tonight." Bryce joked.

"I'm sorry Professor Maxwell, but the AE35 amplifier unit powering this debate will completely fail in 72 hours. I suggest you replace it." MAZ said sounding eerily like HAL 9000 from the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey.

"Sounds tempting but I think I'll pass on that, MAZ. Reassuring to know that you have a sense of humour... I think." Bryce responded uneasily playing out the levity a bit longer.

From within the audience sat five people who for all intense purposes were bored out of their minds.

"I get the impression that Bryce guy is full of himself." Shaela said sarcastically.

"I think he's kind of cute." Nelony responded.

"That figures." Shaela replied.

"We're here on official Sanctum business though to tell you the truth, I side with Shaela. I'm bored out of my mind!" Jasmer tried his best to listen.

"We're here to know the outcome of this debate for it has consequences for the unfolding of reality. Keep in mind the importance of why we're here. It might lessen your apparent suffering." Yirfir advised them.

"I think that if Barris were here he likely would have been very interested and wanted some popcorn too. We have neither, but we do have this debate. The least we could do is watch it. The alternative is to go home and watch Simpsons reruns." Sato reminded his friends and peers.

There was a moment of silence before Yirfir broke.

"Honey. Could you go to the store for us and bring back some popcorn?" she asked Jasmer who rolled his eyes.

To be continued...

Brian Joseph Johns

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