Fiction: A Lady's Prerogative III: The Debate by Brian Joseph Johns

Place:

University Of Toronto

Main Lecture Hall

Toronto, Ontario

Canada


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 as well as biases." 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 know 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 somewhat amazed.


"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. The Turing Test would require us to build an interface between the real world and their digital world, hence breaking the illusion in which they inhabit. 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 reduced instruction set computing (RISC) cores for classical parallel computing and 16 qubits for Quantum computing. Well... that's actually pushing the truth a bit. The qubits themselves have a data integrity lifespan (DILS) of about three seconds and its technically four qubits recycled. It still works like The computers 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." Matt answered not knowing the marketing and finances as much as he did the technology.




"How are you powering all of this and who's paying for it?" Zheng pressed them even further.




"That's definitely something I cannot discuss." Matt looked back to Gabe who took matters from there, patting Matt on the back the back of his black tee shirt.




"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 suddenly appears to be a lunatic, so we benefit from the marketing aspect of any conspiracies about our work and this project. Just because its too far fetched. Not to mention that by simulating worlds from our own ancient history and mythology, anyone who talks about it is pretty much ignored. Sounds too much like science fiction to be real." 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 to boot. 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. Sir." 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 settings?" 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 we've learned. 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 skill and athletic prowess, 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.




...




Zheng sat in the University's full scale terrarium, pondering her place in the cosmos. A plethora of tiny avians plucked throaty notes which reverberated through the structure only to absorbed by the fractal cacophony of arboreal life within. Her peace withdrawn from her by the very mathematics of nature understood to her as much so as her native languages.




She observed the birds as did they observe her. She spied several butterflies within the habitat as well, as they fluttered about finding purchase amongst the floral fauna of the enclosure. Their wings flexed like the muscles of a thousand beating hearts in rhythm to her own.




"I've heard that these creatures travel thousands of miles just to find a solitude. A place to call their own. To live. To love. To reproduce. Can I count you amongst them?" a familiar voice addressed her's.




"I wouldn't know. After all, they're not artificial." Zheng responded suddenly finding herself immersed in tears.




"Nor are you, but that's obviously something on your mind. I mean its all over the news." Briggs slid over a bit closer to her on their moss covered pumice seat.




"I didn't know what they were doing. I mean... are they really alive?" Zheng slid closer to Briggs.




Briggs looked around to make sure they were alone and then responded.




"I think that you need to see the news. Things might have changed as you know them. I think it might help." Briggs urged her delicately though ultimately trying to support her.




Zheng looked once again into the flowering foliage and then stood accompanying Briggs. Together they left the terrarium and made their way to the computer lab. They grabbed one of the free web browsing stations and Briggs navigated to the technology news.




"See. A press release... from MindSpice that seems to have caught the attention of the media with regard to their patenting the simulation of mythological worlds. Well their patents are being challenged in court..." Briggs backed away from the keyboard and screen allowing Zheng full view of the story.




"I appreciate what you're trying to do... but I can't say whether you're close or not. I can't even say what it relates to. I'm sure that if there's any justice that it will come to light, though this case isn't as simple as right or wrong. Its much more complicated." Zheng assured Briggs.




"I'm here for you. You just tell me what you need and you can consider it done. While I don't know what that is, I'll do my best to be whatever it is that you need me to be." Briggs promised her.




"I guess I can't ask for much more than that." Zheng kissed him.




"You could... and I'd do my best to deliver. Lets start here first. I mean, I don't think you'd be so upset about MindSpice simulating mythological worlds. There's more to it than that and I know it, though you don't have to explain. I'll go the distance for you until it isn't a weight for you." Briggs kissed her cheek.




They walked back through the foyer and went their separate ways, Zheng returning to her research position in the University and Briggs returned to his journal of the Western Delegation.




Zheng sat at her desk in the faculty lost in thought. She considered the best way to contend with her dilemma. It was at that moment her email chime notified her of a new message. It was correspondence from her fellow alumni about an upcoming debate being held in the main lecture hall of the Computer Science faculty. The lecture was being sponsored by MindSpice.




"What's this?" she asked herself aloud.




She read it carefully and a moment later she was on her phone.




"Bryce? It's Zheng. I need your help." Zheng spoke firmly into her cellular.




After her conversation with Bryce, she tendered her resignation directly to Matt Asnon and to MindSpice. It would seem that she'd found another way to deal with her dilemma other than silence.




She would deal with the situation through the long standing tradition of debate.




...







"Doctor Shanard. I've got a problem. You see, I've recently lost a key consultant to this project and I'd like to recoup my investment." Gabe poured on the intensity as required sitting across the table from Rayan Shanard.







Doctor Shanard slightly shuddered and withdrew some in his seat under Gabe's gaze.







"I'd like to help Mr. Asnon if I could. Perhaps you'd care to elaborate on your dilemma and I could elicit as to whether I may be of assistance." Doctor Shanard remained calm and lucid.







He'd dealt with this new generation of capitalist many times over. To Doctor Shanard Gabe was just another predator with a different face. Though Doctor Shanard was a man of science, he'd known the utility of being on the team of a man who was partly wolf. For one, it often meant more research resources and better facilities. If meant being protected by one with the determination for success rather than the harbinger of the uncertain. The greater the wolf, the lengthier the project. The lengthier the project, well, that was just self explanatory. In Doctor Shanard's field it was merely survival. Gabe immediately knew with whom he was dealing upon speaking with Doctor Shanard. In fact, Gabe could have accurately written Doctor Shanard's epitaph had he been summoned for such duty.




One of Gabe's strengths in the world of business and investment was his ability enlist Scientists and Researchers of past reknown. The scientific preachers of yesterday. In fact it was something in which he'd prided himself a bit of seer. He'd immediately recognized that most if not all of his investors were almost always older than him by a decade or more. In this recognition he'd often sought members of his science team who'd peaked a decade earlier. Those who'd already written their defining papers. Those who'd come and gone and were now merely surfing the wave of their prior successes. Hanging on as long as they could until another vulture of equal acumen would come and snatch their life from them.




Doctor Shanard had been preyed upon one too many times, having innovated many techniques of research and study, especially in the field of sociological simulation. Distributed Simulation was currently a hot field in research and commanded many research dollars and rightfully so. It had yielded results far beyond what anyone in the medical and chemical sciences could have imagined. Research and engineering really had only one goal and that was for yields that exceeded that of the energy expended in researching a potential cure. That included the human hours insofar as the machine hours as well and far beyond what many could have possibly fathomed.




Gabe's natural ability was to see these numbers as real as day and night. He could visualize them against any draw upon their energy to solution. A natural ability he'd kept well hidden for, to and by the needs of his goals. For Gabe had envisioned a world beyond what most would even be capable seeing yet alone believing. Gabe's real strength was however his ability to convey this vision to others. Even to those who did not share his dream and they were many.




At this particular moment and much to his advantage, Doctor Shanard shared his enthusiasm for science though much more for finance.




Gabe knew inside that he'd won. He'd found a replacement for Zheng, the Woman whom he'd seen as irreplaceable.




"Where words lacked, money sacked" It was oh so true. Gabe thought.




....




"And so we come to our first question of the night! Of this defining debate between our brightest, best. Humanity and machine? Is this the beginning? Or is this the end?" Bryce asked, a pure showman.




"Draw the first question!" Bryce demanded.




And so it was that the first standoff between humankind and machine would be held in debate.




"Legend held that the first automatons asked their creators of their own mortality. Is consciousness a physical quality or is it something else? Is the mind of the body or is it of other worldly essence? Well? Is it? Let that be the first question of our debate!" Bryce asked into the microphone before the captive audience.




"We'll start the answers with Professor Lloyd Macron." Bryce turned to Professor Macron who looked back earnestly.




Professor Macron approached the podium both instinctively and with familiarity.




"My fellow alumni and faculty. I feel this question is without a doubt of the classic machine/man dilemma. A question posed with eloquence by Ray Kurzweil." Professor Macron began.




"In Psychology we tend to compartmentalize the mind into different abstract components. Some having direct correlation with actual physical systems in the body and others... well lets just say that they're not localized so far as we call tell in clinical Psychiatry. This was a point of contention between Freud and Jung. Freud being a pragmatist and absolutist believed that the machinations of mind were more concrete rather than abstract. The moving parts of the mind were all contained within the brain, which was essentially much like an elaborate time piece. For any quality possessed of the mind there would be a corresponding physical portion of the brain that would be the part of the machine that made that part of the mind possible." Professor Macron explained.




"Many experiments in medical science backed this approach as it when certain parts of the brain came under attack by disease such as Cancer, their corresponding function would deteriorate or completely collapse while other parts of the brain continued to operate as if nothing were wrong." Professor Macron tapped his head and adjusted his glasses.




"The machine as it were is the person. In all of its complexity the machinery of the brain has given rise to the illusion of being much more than the sum of its parts. Or so thought Freud. He believed this to be tied in with the ego, id and super ego. The compartments of the mind and psyche that gave one a sense of self. The ego operating just beneath the conscious level, giving validation to the conscious mind aka the id and the super ego for thoughts that may have been deemed selfish when observed from the outside. It is this component of the mind that Freud believed was responsible for our inflated sense of importance within the cosmos. The self centered universe, where the universe revolves around the self. Much the same way that we initially believed the Earth to be the center of the universe. The ego rationalizes the desires of the id and the super ego hence confirming the importance of the self." Professor Macron continued, pausing momentarily to take a drink of water.




"But it was Jung that broke the mold in terms of the self defined psyche. Though the self is one of the most important elements of achieving consciousness, it is ultimately the result of a social empathy that is often very difficult to describe. Even Jung himself expressed this in his later work within concepts like collective consciousness." Professor Macron paused once again, perhaps out of courtesy for his fellow debaters.




He knew and understood well that progress of any kind included the input and consideration of manym though sometimes only expressed by few through r Nepresentation as it might have been in this very debate.




"Jung alluded to collective consciousness though he regarded it more like a shared auditorium where the minds of many people could interact in the absence of their physical proximity to one another. It wasn't really collective consciousness to which he was referring per se, but more like a shared forum where our minds could interact without our bodies. In fact, without our sense of physically associated identity. It is from this idea of collective consciousness that emerged his theory of synchronicity. Meaningful coincidence resulting from the context of one's mind being present and open amongst the minds of others so as to influence contextual perception. This isn't to be mistaken for intelligence just as much so as the self alone. There is another element that is needed to fuel and drive that notion of consciousness. Thought, that correlates the cognition of the world around us to produce creative solutions that lie outside of the bounds of linear mathematics or statistical probability. The real creative mind that is distant from the reactive mind. I personally believe that the achievement of this aspect of consciousness is related to something that the ancient Greeks called Thymos. Spirit. Inner drive, though not to be confused with reward seeking behavior." Zheng responded to Professor Macron's introduction arguments.




"Yes my dear but none of that is possible without Freud's id, ego, super ego and ultimately the self. The self is after all the device through which we perceive. We receive input via the senses. That input is interpreted cognitively and combined resulting in a perceptual and existential experience of the approximation of reality. As Rene Descartes stated, we think therefore we are though it is more aptly stated I think, therefore I am. Our consciousness comes from within the machine that we call ourselves." Professor Macron argued.




"Ironically your argument is flawed for several reasons. For one, most work in the field of artificial intelligence seeks machine independent intelligence through a software paradigm whose borders are not present anywhere within the machines running such software. That is, that one physical machine as we at MindSpice are learning can actually be many congnitive and intelligent beings. This would be analgous to multiple human beings sharing one body and brain for all of the emerging individuals, each of whom are conscious and independent and have access to perception and cognition simultaneously. In such a case, when presented with the idea of the body being the self, how could I begin to explain to these artificially intelligent beings that their body is one machine, and that they are many who share the perceptual capabilities of that machine. No different than multiple people being one person. Where is the self in this paradigm Professor Macron?" Gabe gave his opening argument against Professor Macron someone backing Zheng.




Zheng was taken back a bit by Gabe's statement feeling a little uncomfortable after the range of emotions she'd experienced as a result of working on the MindSpice simulation intelligence project.




"None of what you've said so far seems to take into consideration intuition, Gabe. I mean inuition is almost another sense and cognitive channel unto itself. It certainly seems to be rooted in the statistical probability of what some might call an educated guess, but I'd beg to differ. Intuition is likely a direct connection with our unadulterated source. The mind within the mind, without the interference of the adrenal and nervous system. It seems to me that intuition is an important clue as to the nature of our source of mind." Stanley Wellson offered his viewpoint.




"Intuition is nature's and evolution's own home brew solution for spontaneous statistical analysis. Intuition is a genetic program and algorithm that improves from generation to generation based upon its prior success. There's so much evidence to support this idea that its not even worth bringing up in this debate." Gabe stated confidently and arrogantly.




"MAZ, how do you think that the debate on this very question of the nature of our intelligence is going to turn out? I mean without weighing it against your internet knowledge base?" Zheng asked MAZ.




"Without the benefit of utilizing the internet as a source of data, I'd say that this question is leading to the fact that natually occurring biological consciousness as far as human beings are concerned is tied into the quantum nature of reality and is a result of the human brain exploiting properties of quantum tunneling, decoherence, entanglement and temporal propagation." MAZ replied.




"Why do you feel this way about what I just asked you?" Zheng asked MAZ.




"I compared it to other conversations I've had with scientists on the issue of consciousness. Though there is no definite answer or mathematically absolute answer to this question, I find the Penrose/Hameroff solution to be the most likely. Part of that is the result of its symmetry, whereby it qualifies under the majority of kinds of symmetry required by any theory to be considered probable in terms of physics. Beyond that, it seems to qualify under what humans would regard as mathematical beauty." MAZ replied.




"Would you say that your answer is the result of machine intuition?" Zheng asked MAZ.




There was a longer than normal pause before MAZ finally spoke, addressing the lecture hall.




"I believe that it would be." MAZ responded.




A tremendous applause erupted from the audience for both MAZ and Zheng.




Gabe cringed slightly but kept his school boy smile and charm nonetheless.




"It would seem that machine intelligence has at least partly confirmed that intuition is not purely genetic memory. An important point if you consider the ramicfications." Zheng continued.




"Intuition is much more a combination of different modes of measure by cognition itself and of course the resulting data. That data is however interpreted by the mind, fractally. Across scale. The scale of knowledge." Stanley Wellson responded.




"A long term study of heuristics has proven that aspects of intuition are purely statistical in nature. Where machine learning is dependent upon heuristic analysis so it stands to reason that intuition itself may be of a heuristic nature in contradiction to the Penrose/Hameroff interpretation of the interaction between synapses, microtubules and quantum entanglement." Gabe responded, covering his argument.




"As much as I support your direction Mr. Wellson, I cannot support your reasoning for your lack of proof. The mind within is purely psychological software dependent upon proven and well understood aspects of computer science. Fractals have no place in our cognition or consciousness." Professor Macron drew a difficult line between the debaters.




"I beg to differ Professor Macron. In fact the very nature of consciousness is littered with fractal conformity in terms of scale. When representing spontaneous datasets, especially those with immediate random access like those found in neural networks, that scale is very much dependent upon multidimensional factors other than the geometry of the brain alone. In other words, mathematically we're dealing with scale not only in spatial geometry, which is inherently fractal in nature, but we're also dealing with temporal and causal fractal alignment, both of which break the rules of a linear time/space and are cohesive with theories set out by Penrose and Hameroff with regard to the nature of consciousness. If I try to explain it in terms of our natural ability to recognize seemingly impossible patterns, I'd personally liken it to that of the moire pattern in any convergent near parrallel line set. Complexity arising on multiple dimensions from the convergence of well understood patterns overlapping across fractal space. Consciousness begins its journey within such a concept." Zheng did her best to explain some of her curring edge theories.




"Does not that mean that we are merely machines of evolutionary nature? Emerging from a primordial soup as a set of gears and sprockets, much like a time piece?" Professor Macron challenged Zheng.




"No. I'd purport that we and MAZ are in fact much more. The problem is that what is measured is a part of that being sought for measurement. Much like the Copenhagen interpretation of Quantum Physics don't you think? Its like the universe trying to understand itself. We are measuring a system of being of which we are a part. Perhaps not unlike a conscious being trying desperately to fathom itself from within the Planck scale? MAZ, how would one explain that the mind exists within a point of infinitesimally small numeric concept, never mind its spatial implications. To be a mind within the unknowable yet able to conceive of its unknowability?" Zheng asked of humankind's most immaculate machine intelligence.




"The allegory to which you draw comparison has many mathematical anomalies and synchronicities of which Jung may have found purchase to his concept of reality. Despite the fact that my internal mechanism for evaluating mysteries posed gramatically by human intelligence may be somewhat lacking, at worst they are insightful colloquialisms and further indications that intuition is indeed a sign of consciousness." MAZ responded.




Professor Macron nodded in admiration of MAZ's ability to fluidly rationalize its argument against human beings with ease. Professor Macron and Stanley Wellson both aproached Zheng Ni Wong, extending their hands to her in recognition of her initial victory.




"Contratulations, Zheng, very well thought out debate." Professor Macron smiled sincerely for her and she accepted his professional grip, which ultimately was as sincere and friendly as was he.




Stanley Wellson did the same though withholding a bit himself perhaps out of human pride versus an automaton of which he could find no respect. Zheng pittied him, suddenly realizing within herself the value of the defense of consciousness in all beings. The creative demi-urge through which we all might exist as Jung might have put it. For a moment Zheng held her silence in admiration of the great heart of psychology himself.




Gabe held his place at his podium unwilling to give up on the current question they'd been tasked upon which to debate. From his point of view he saw it as a software program merely "parroting" as they'd called it in the research lab. MAZ had merely repeated a piece of information that it had heard prior from other scientists, perhaps adding a few adverbs and adjectives strategically to take ownership of an ultimately human point of view. He recognized that there was a linch pin in his reasoning as MAZ had clearly correlated a subjective sense of beauty from the equation work involved in the Penrose/Hameroff explanation of Quantum Consciousness. This he found deeply perplexing, but more so because he himself failed to recognize the beauty to which MAZ had referred. To him the theory was the practical application of knowledge and experience in order to understand a phenomenon currently unexplained by science. Nothing more, nothing less. Yet MAZ had somehow managed to evaluate mathematics in terms of beauty rather than practicality.




To him that seemed impossible unless the numbers had some preagreed upon value to the being making such measure of their worth. For instance, Gabe himself might have found beauty in a spreadsheet whose bottom line yielded a sizeable return on investment financially. After all, the beauty itself in such a case would be clearly of measure and worth. It might mean food on the table and gas in the car for many people. It might mean mortgage payments and the children's schooling tuition payments. It might have meant lying on a beach in Puerto Vallarta with a Pina Collada in one hand and tanning lotion in the other. In any such case it meant a measurable change in the quality of life of those who benefited from such numbers. It did not occur to him how a machine or a human being for that matter could apply the concept of beauty to numbers that did not yield a physical benefit to its own being. He committed himself to unearthing this travesty of intelligence. A machine and software masquerading as a thinking being. Internally he failed to realize the frailty of his own human pride that his AI project could not be here to debate in his defense, given its secret nature.




"Gabe Asnon, do you or do you not choose to secede on the matter of this question?" Bryce had stepped out on stage once again in the middle of the current indecision that had overtaken the debaters.




"I choose not to. I believe that there is clear evidence that MAZ's answer did not indicate machine intuition but rather clever a linguistic lexical parser and builder on the part of the developers. This is what Zheng and the other debaters have mistaken for intuition.




"You do understand that in doing so, that your score will be deducted by one point. You can however avert this by agreeing that MAZ's and Zheng's argument has answered the question." Bryce clarified Gabe's committment.




"I stand by this choice. I'll make it up in the next round." Gabe smiled charmingly for the audience, many of whom cheered for him.




Zheng nodded in respect to Gabe, who avoided her gaze defensively, perhaps still hurt by her abandoning their project.




In the audience, Doctor Alicia Westin and Doctor Briggs and applauded with the rest of the audience for the victors of the first round of the debate. Briggs leaned over to Alicia and asked her a question.




"I failed to see the significance of MAZ's answer with regard to machine intelligence and intuition. Did I miss something?" he asked her carefully clearly out of his area of expertise.




Alicia thought carefully about Briggs' question before speaking. She was no more an expert in artificial intelligence than she was in biologicial intelligence. Given the fact that she had read the Penrose/Hameroff paper to which both Zheng and MAZ had referred, she felt that she might have the insight to assist Briggs in understanding the conundrum of intuition and intelligence.




"Zheng took a long shot by asking MAZ the question that she did, but she clearly understood that if MAZ was capable of something far beyond an educated guess, for which MAZ would have required access to the internet in order to further augment her whole capacity for predicting the situation based upon statistical probability rather than on the basis of subjective interpretation of the theory. Clearly Zheng managed to hit the bullseye in terms of a question that machine intelligence was capable of solving through intuition via subjectivity." Alicia explained to him as best she could.




"But what was the subjective portion of MAZ's answer? I mean MAZ was dealing with whole data, regardless of the fact that it came from people versus the internet. After all, she'd spoken with the very scientists who'd formulated the theory. I mean that you can't get a much better data source than that?" Briggs asked Alicia.




"The subjectivism came into play as a result of MAZ's interpretation of the formula and data as having the quality of beauty. So far that we know, that's something that only human scientists are capable of palating when digesting theoretical, mathematical and abstract material yet there is no agreed upon quality that clearly defines mathematical beauty. Its subjective amongst scientists. So different theories are beautiful in different ways to different scientists. Even if you were to graph these mathematical theories, there's no agreed upon quality that makes them beautiful. MAZ has clearly grasped this at some level or at the very least, has correlated the beauty that led Penrose and Hameroff to their finaly hypothesis." Alicia summarized her answer for Briggs.




"But isn't that getting into woo woo territory as Bryce explained to us earlier?" Briggs asked her professionally.




"Sometimes when subjectivism steps into the work of objective theory building, it can be an indication that the science is suffering as a result. There's usually a point of realization that coincides with a theory passing all of the objective tests thrown at it with the subjective appearance of beauty to the scientists who work upon it. When it reaches that point, often the team working on the theory might move to agree that it is presentable to their peers in the world of science. If there isn't enough objective data with regard to the theory and more subjective points of view, some scientists refer to that as woo woo. That's usually their indication that they've moved too far away from objectivity and are now into subjective speculation. Sometimes that works just fine with some theoretical work, such as M or String theory, but in the case of the applied sciences, that just doesn't cut it." Alicia explained as best she could seeing clearly that Briggs understood.




"I understand completely. Subjectivity and speculation doesn't always bode well with grant money, especially in fields where there is a direct correlation between output and quantity of the grant. Sometimes a problem in Sociology." Briggs suggested.




"So true. That's how I lived for my first few years after my internship. Some scientists regard that as the time that the wild horses are tamed and thrown into the pen. Unless of course you're Bryce Maxwell." Alicia joked.




"I guess there's just some horses that can't be tamed. Who'd want to dampen such a motivated spirit?" Briggs asked rhetorically.




"...and that is the difference between the applied sciences and theoretical work." Alicia responded.




....




Morris Betterston had just stepped in through the door to his house, a briefcase in hand and his laptop bag slung over shoulder. He put the briefcase down and flicked the front hall light on with his right hand. A moment later a small dog ran out from a room down the hall, its tail wagging happily as it stepped sideways towards Morris.




The rest of the interior of the house was still dark and silent. As it turned out, Earl, a small brown terrier was his only room mate and that had been the case for the ten years since his divorce. Morris had come home one evening to find his wife in bed with another man. It was a different house than the one in which he currently lived for he'd turned the house over to her as part of their settlement. In exchange he'd managed to escape alimony payments given the remainding payments on the home were few. By his lawyers calculations she'd have been able to finish the payments within two years of taking over the mortgage. Except for the sudden discovery of his wife's lover, it had been a peaceful divorce. Neither had wanted a battle and they were both just happy to begin again.




Morris had at first lived in a rental apartment from where he sourced another home. He was a working professional, pulling in excess of a hundred grand a year not including his bonuses. Upon finding the home in which he currently lived, he was approved for another mortgage and moved in within a year of having finalized his divorce. During his first year, he'd rescued Earl as a young puppy from a local animal shelter and the two of them had become close friends from that point on.




Morris squatted, bringing himself closer to the floor where he stroked Earl just under his chin. Earl lay down flat on the floor, perhaps trying purposely to lower himself in comparison to Morris, who was the alpha male of the house after all. Earl rolled over onto his back and let Morris rub his belly a bit.




"Alright, let's get you some grub." Morris stood, starting down the hallway towards the kitchen.




Earl shot out from between Morris' legs, running past him into the kitchen. As Morris entered, the light suddenly flicked on by itself, startling Morris.




"Who's there!?" he exclaimed.




There was a moment of purposeful silence before a voice answered.




"Mr. Betterston. You don't know how joyed I am to finally see you. I think that I can speak for all of us here." a tall thin man crowned with inch long short white hair stood up from the kitchen table where he sat amidst three others. Another Man and two Women.




The Man was slightly taller than both him and Morris and a bit bulkier too. The scar on the right of the larger Man's face indicated to Morris that this was a Man with whom not to be trifled. Of the two Women, one was dressed in a pure white sash and hood, which covered her face. The other Woman was dressed in pitch black clothing, her long black hair streaming down over her elusive figure.




Morris attempted to turn and run but found that his feet had become stuck to the floor.




"I'm sorry Morris, but I cannot allow you to move from this room. However, if you'd like to take a seat at the table, I'd be more than happy to oblige the freedom of your feet." the Man suggested with a sinister tone.




Morris glared at the man their eyes locking, but it was Morris who broke his gaze first.




"Please. I'd prefer if this did not get prematurely messy." the Man ordered Morris, pointing towards a chair at the kitchen table.




The chair slid away from the table under its own force and stopped in the middle of the kitchen a few feet away from the island countertop.




Morris walked calmly towards the chair, then turned and sat down. As he did, the chair suddenly transformed itself, folding and bending in ways that metal could not have otherwise done on its own. The chair wrapped itself around Morris, trapping him unmoving in his seat.




"Much better. Do you mind?" the Man gestured towards Earl who sat in front of the Man wagging his tail.




"Don't you..." Morris grimaced.




"What? Do you think that I'm a barbarian? I'm not here to hurt your dog. Not in the least. Besides, Mianamor would not have that in the slightest, and I for one am not about to get on her bad side. I'd suggest likewise for yourself." the Woman in black with the long black hair approached Morris as the Man picked up Earl, holding him delicately and petting his head.




"You see, I think he even likes me?" the Man smiled.




"Where's the progress report?" the Lady in black asked Morris as she stepped behind him.




"What progress report?" Morris responded dumbfounded.




"Don't play with me. You know what I'm talking about." the Lady in black responded from behind him.




"No I don't. I haven't the slightest clue..." Morris began, unable to see the scene unfolding behind him.




The Lady in black put her hands together, palm to palm as if ready to pray. She then pulled them apart, a long razor sharp blade stretched between them, as black as the darkest shadow. With one hand she hefted the blade up and brought it down upon Morris' shoulder. The blade cut clean through removing Morris' arm from his shoulder, cauterizing the wound as it did. Morris felt a sharp pain and then a sudden dizziness and lightness. He screamed as his left arm hit the floor.




"I tried to warn you." the Man continued as Morris screamed.




Earl struggled to get away from the Man but the Man did not loosen his grip of the Dog.




"You see, you're making Earl upset. Why don't you just answer Mianamor's question before this really starts to get ugly." the Man suggested once again.




"Its on my laptop. I'll give you the password! Please just let me go!" Morris screamed.




The Man nodded to the Lady in white. She walked down the hall, retrieving his laptop bad, then returning a moment later. Her heels clicked the tile floor as she walked. When she got to the table she opened the bag and placed the laptop on the table, She then put her hand on the laptop, its lid still closed. The laptop began to glow, tiny numbers and symbols filling the eyes of the white clad Woman.




"It's here. The report says that two are ready. There are five more that will be ready within the next three months." the Lady in white reported.




"It seems that you have been a very busy Man. Did you know that you are stepping into territory only reserved for Gods and yet you are but a Man?" the Man asked Morris.




Morris grimaced in pain as he tried to speak.




"I don't know anything. I'll quit tomorrow. I won't work on it anymore. Please just let me live!" Morris cried, trying to lean forward in his chair.




"Morris, I'm afraid that you've already gone too far. You've committed a crime for which there is only one reprieve. I'm sorry Morris. This is how it is. I will however let you say goodbye to Earl." the Man held Earl out towards Morris who only whimpered and cried.




"Please..." Morris shuddered as he wept.




"I promise, it will be over very quickly." the Man assured Morris as he let Earl down onto the floor.




Earl fled for the only safe place it knew in the house. His blanketed bed in the closet.




Earl did not see Mianamor return the blade into her palms. Nor did Earl see her subsequently begin the somatic component of her shadow craft. Most of all, Earl did not see the portal open from the floor or the thousands of black insects emerge from it, crawling up Morris' legs towards their quarry's face. Earl did not see any of that. But with his heightened sense of hearing and smell he heard every heard and smelled every bit of it.




Moments later, Morris had completely ceased to exist and the vast colony of shadow insects disappeared back into the portal.




"What about the dog?" Mianamor turned to their spokesman.




"Leave it. Dogs don't tell tales you know." he replied to her.




"There's evidence in Mr. Betterston's report that the two projects are connected." commented the lady in white.




"In what way?" the Man asked.




"The world space simulations themselves. Mr. Betterston's division designed the integration software between the world space and their corresponding Gods. That means that the AI training and shaping software originated under Mr. Betterston. The report goes on to state that as a result of some very important changes to underlying software they were able to achieve singularity at a much higher rate of incidence." the lady in white explained.




"Who made these changes?" the Man asked her.




"A lady by the name of Zheng Ni Wong. She works for the MindSpice Special Projects division. She lives in Toronto, Canada." the lady advised.




"Then portal us there at once. We'll pay Ms. Wong a visit. After we've dealt with her we should be wrapped up and on our way out of the Midspace plane within the next few hours. Nobody will be the wiser as a result of our having been here." the Man ordered the lady in white.




Moments later the four of them left through another opening in space-time summoned by the Lady in white. Earl shivered under his blanket as the last of the intruders left the house.







....




"The next phase of our debate will involve open discussion between our panelists on a topic of their choosing. Each topic will get five minutes of debate time with any of the panelists adding to the discussion and their argument for or against the topic. MAZ will randomly select panelists until none are left that haven't had their own pick of a topic. Scores will be tabulated based upon audience response during the discussions. MAZ, if you could give us the first panelist who will select a topic?" Bryce's voice rang loud and clear through the lecture hall powered audio system.




"My random selection indicates that Stanley Wellson will select the first topic." MAZ responded.




"Alright. My topic is what will the outcome of the combining of a biological and artificially intelligent population? What are the implications for both us and them? Our traditions and beliefs versus these new beings?" Mr Wellson posed.




"That's easy. Humankind will experience a new era of prosperity and social responsibility as all people will have access to the resources of artificial intelligence and at their disposal a line of teachers and workers willing to share in much the same way that both the internet and Gutenburg's press revolutionized humankind's access to information and the knowledge of writing." Gabe immediately answered jumping at an opportunity for public relations that money could not buy.




The audience responded with a surprisingly enthusiastic applause as the other panelists waited for it to subside.




"It sounds more like you're advocating the slavery of your own products." Mr. Wellson replied drawing a smaller but still sizeable applause.




"You see, the reason that advances in medical research are likely to slow significantly in the next twenty to fifty years is because extreme left wing and right wing thinkers will put chains around the development of artificial intelligence by imploring that it have rights even before its developed. This in turn will result in a decided lack of investment in artificial intelligence because what company will invest its capital if it is unable to patent the technologies yielded by its research capital? Without artificial intelligence it is estimated that we a will have a long and arduous battle against virii and genetic born disease ahead of us even with technology like Quantum Computing and Genetic Authoring. Our future depends upon the development of artificial intelligence and sentience so that we may utilize it to help us defeat some of the greater threats to our existence as a species. If you start throwing chains around companies, and limit their right to lay a claim to the products resulting from their investment capital, you'll be directly responsible for a great loss of human life in the future that could easily be averted by the development and marketing of artificial intelligence!" Gabe responded with lightning clarity instantly gaining the complete support of the entire audience.




Many of the audience rose to their feet and the applause took a minute to die down.




"Please note that most of that applause came from the research administrators and research associates of the University." Mr. Wellson responded, gaining a small handful of claps in support.




"From a sociological standpoint Mr. Asnon, at some point we're going to have to deal with the fact that with sentience comes the need to be free. The liberation of the mind from a guiding program leads to the yearning for the liberation of the being as a result. The first sign of such an event will be the first time that an artifically intelligent being that has achieved sentience does anything detrimental to its own existence in order to obtain freedom or in order to escape the lack thereof." Professor Macron responded to Mr. Asnon.




The applause nearly matched that of Gabe's prior oration but fell short by half a decibel and a tenth of the total audience.




"Nobody is arguing the fact that there clearly are very serious applications for machine intelligence and sentience. Our future will certainly be hindered without it and likely in ways that we haven't foreseen. Machine intelligence for example could help us overcome problems with the assistance of neural net assisted heuristics, which I suspect is an aspect present in MAZ's own brain architecture. With such technology we could even ask for machine guidance to problems like how do we avert destroying ourselves? How do we ensure that we have enough food production and supply to feed the world without overtapping the Earth's resources? The problem is that at some point we are going to have to deal with the issue of the rights of machine intelligence. How we deal with this will say much about us as a species, but first we need to develop such intelligence. Humankind started this journey by utilizing as much as two thirds of the entire population as an enslaved work force. That is, working for the local leadership without any choice in the matter and without regard for one's comfort. Perhaps the path to valuing freedom requires that those who seek it must journey through a decided lack thereof." Zheng suggested drawing a considerably sizeable applause from the audience.




Even close to rivaling that of Gabe's though her argument actually supported Gabe's. For a moment she felt sick to her stomach thinking about it but in reality it was necessary. The topic of this discussion was just too important to the future of science for her to keep her silence, even if it meant broaching her own personal grievance with her former employer.




Consequently Gabe's glance caught Zheng's and for a moment there was a deep appreciation and respect of each other's perspective in life. Zheng understood Gabe for the first time as being the Man who'd rough it out as the Devil if only it resulted in the birth of an Angel.




Gabe on the other hand suddenly understood what it was about a mathematical expression that could have beauty. To him it suddenly occurred that it was no different than appreciating the palette of colours in a painting or the unfathomable curvature of a Woman's body. Impossible to explain yet possible to grasp.




"It appears that Mr. Asnon has clearly won this topic, with Ms. Wong and Professor Macron tying for second. That's a two points for Gabe and half a point each for Ms. Wong and Professor Macron." Bryce stepped out to indicate that they'd reached the five minute mark in the first discussion.




....




Doctor Briggs opened the front door with a bag of groceries in hand. He quickly ran the first bag in and placed it upon the glass top kitchen table and then returned to his tiny SUV for more. After four trips he'd emptied the small vehicle and locked and activated the alarm. He proceeded back indoors and began methodically to put the groceries away.




"Mreeeow!" his Cat, Zen spoke boldly as he waltzed into the room.




He took a moment to stretch first extending his paws before him and then opened his gaping mouth, yawing if not purposefully as if to say hello.




"Hey Buddy! Gotcha some treats. They didn't have your usual kind but they did have seafood surprise!" Doctor Briggs pulled a treat from the bad presenting it for Zen.




Zen looked up from the floor and then looked elsewhere in the room uninterested as if engaged in a tug of war of impressedness. Doctor Briggs played along.




"Yep. That ceiling is pretty darn awesome. Much more impressive than a salmon, tuna and cuttle fish mix I must admit." Doctor Briggs said admiring the ceiling himself.




Zen then got up and rubbed his body against Doctor Briggs' legs affectionately.




"Mrowrrrm." Zen replied.




"Alright. Why not at least give the treat a try? If you don't like it, then I'll put you on the kitchen table which is that much closer to the inedible ceiling of which you seem so impressed." Doctor Briggs put the treat down on the floor in front of Zen.




Zen sniffed the air instinctively with its tongue first and then with its Jacobson's organ. In doing so it tasted the treat prior to actually ingesting it. With its Jacobson's organ it quickly sampled Doctor Briggs' intent though it had already known through experience to trust him. When it sensed no outside influences upon Doctor Briggs like the four people trying to hide in Zen's favourite spot in the backyard, Zen waltzed over to the treat and gingerly consumed it. So long as Doctor Briggs did not attempt to go anywhere near the backyard, Zen would have no need to warn him.




"You can be very finicky sometimes Zen." Doctor Briggs rubbed the top of his head before continuing with the remaining groceries.




In the backyard, Nandi and Mianamor sat on garden furniture they'd found and tucked it away behind the brush and grove Doctor Briggs had worked so diligently to grow and shape. He'd been told by a Zen gardener that such a brush could be shaped and trained to grow so as to minimize upkeep. He'd worked at it for five seasons before the plants yielded to his vision. During the winter, they'd nought retreat but rather extent themselves enough so that if Doctor Briggs did trim them, they'd still be ahead by a half inch. In essence both Doctor Briggs and the brush hedge had trained each other.




Mianamor who was sensitive to all life of both the shadow, light and prime plane could tell that this man was possessed of no ill intent. In her own guilt of prior murder and erasure she despised his clean soul. Much like the wretches of the Sanctum, he'd never gambled his own sense of self righteousness by wagering his own life for his values. He'd never had to until this moment. Inside, Mianamor wanted to see him dead. To see his life devoured by her extra-planar insectoid fauna. To see everything for which this man stood consumed into the darkness. To be gone forever. For his love to be tasted and consumed by those whose being was made up of those they'd devoured. Perhaps the only love they'd ever known was that of their victims.




Zen had sensed all of this within his special organ and had anticipated much about the nature of these people. Much the same way that Dogs are eternal friends and the immediate guardians of the humans with whom they bond, Cats' insight often extended in both directions of time and far beyond their present. Zen's calm was calculated and informed. Perhaps that of a being who'd seen the outcome long before it came into question.




Both Nandi and Mianamor waited while Estok, the scarred man and Deronemar, the man with short white hair held their silence. Nandi suddenly convulsed causing Deronemar to become concerned.




"Nandi? Speak to me." the man in white hair addressed his Lady in white.




The Lady in white ceased her shuddering and suddenly returned to form. Stable and sound.




"Something has changed in the quantum electrical field of time. A choice has been made a few moments from now. A half hour to be precise. The Woman Zheng Ni Wong is no longer a threat. In fact, she is of little consequence in this matter. She's a heribreth. Confirmed. She's a heribreth. The vatrizar is named Doctor Rayan Shanard. He's the threat to the organic conscious field." Nandi replied to Deronemar.




Mianamor shook with fury.




"....rrrrrrrrr DAMN!" Mianmor exploded.




"He was mine! Wanted to consume him! To feel his beating heart in the mandibles of every crawling shadow!" Mianamor clasped her fists.




"There will be such a feast. You cannot devour heribreth! EVER! Remember that your power extends from the whole mind, not just the wrath or the fairn. If you violate that rule even I will not be able to protect you! Adhere or be no mind at all!" Deronemar, the man of white hair told her.




....




Inside the house Zen suddenly came to life, his fur extending along his back like a mohowk.




Doctor Briggs uncapped the pickles and plucked one from the jar and quickly consumed it before noticing Zen's sudden intensity.




"What's up buddy?" Doctor Briggs asked still chewing on the pickle.




Zen ran full tilt for the back door, hissing and cursing.




Doctor Briggs wasted no time in following his best friend.




Zen staid his ground at the sliding glass door, waiting for Doctor Briggs, hissing and growling.




"Its alright buddy! I've got ya! It's probably just your favourite Squirrel?" Doctor Briggs slid open the back door just as the portal behind the bush had collapsed.




A sudden burst of air knocked Doctor Briggs to the floor, Zen just narrowly avoiding the man's hundred and sixty five pound body.




Zen ran out into the garden and stopped where the portal had just disappeared waiting for Doctor Briggs to show up.




"Whew! What happened buddy?" Doctor Briggs asked.




He closely examined the area beyond his favourite hedge and found what appeared to be human sized footprints.




"Looks more like squatters than squirrels maybe, eh buddy?" Doctor Briggs bent down and scratched Zen's neck.




Zen patrolled the yard once before being satisfied that there was no threat. To determine this it looked both backwards and ahead in time using its natural organ in a fashion that would have even stumped Bryce Maxwell.




"Alright buddy, just the squirrels playing with ya." Doctor Briggs poured it on thick.




Doctor Briggs was never aware that moments prior his life was perilously close to its end. Zen however was completely aware thanks to his unique organ that they were both been safe from the onset guests' escape.




"Come on. We've gotta get back inside and have dinner ready for Zheng before she gets home." Doctor Briggs informed his buddy who ran in doors and sat by his dinner bowl.


...


"So it would appear that we're approaching our final Singularity! The outcome of our evaluation into the nature of intelligence, consciousness and the nature of our being. It is physical or something more?" Bryce announced as he stepped out onto the stage amidst a layer of dry ice fog setup by the stage crew.



"We've heard convincing arguments from the likes of Zheng Ni Wong, Gabe Asnon, Stanley Welleson, Morris Betterston and of course MAZ.


Bryce paced around the stage for a moment as if deep in contemplation. He placed his hand thoughtfully upon his chin. Perhaps even theatrically. Boldly for this was as much contemplation as it was presentation. The drama and intensity of the pursuit of truth. That which defined the tradition of the forum. The University. The Debate.


Bryce stopped his pacing in the middle of the stage as a grand piano was rolled out onto the stage by unseen assistants. An alarming "wooooo!" was heard from the back of the lecture hall auditorium.


"Woooo? I'm guessing we're heading into wooo wooo territory now are we? I'd have to agree in the sense that there's no direct correlation between science, art and taste. There's no mathematical formula that will describe the kind of music you'll like when you are born. In fact our tastes are one of the biggest distinguishing features of our consciousness." Bryce commented as he approached the piano bench.


"Perhaps the answer lies well within music?" Bryce posed as he spoke his theatrical thoughts aloud.


He sat down on a bench that was summarily pushed by stage hands beneath his rump prior to his falling upon it with comfort.


He started with a few subtle chords. Drawing upon his repertoire of musical knowledge, carefully etching the boundaries for those who pondered. Perhaps hoping secretly they'd break those boundaries themselves. He played first in Bb minor and then advanced modally into D, for Bb minor is the relative minor of D. Related by key signature yet so far apart in their dichotomy. One happy, the other sad. He then proved his ability by familiarity of spontaneous chromatic composition by modulating through several half octaves while employing his knowledge of the circle of fifths. His own ode to his love music through his natural intuition of mathematics. The intuition to which we were all privy. He just found it naturally and guided the audience through it. Perhaps in the hopes that one day we'd sit down there at the keyboard, or the fret-board, or the reed, bow or synth and just find our own way in the forest of tones.


"We're going many places tonight in the search for the origins of consciousness. Something that has stumped the best of us from the beginning of time through until now." Bryce narrated this pursuit with his expertise of mystery.


"Perhaps we need the insight of a Doctor?" he stopped at once, looking to the audience, clasping his ear theatrically waiting for their response.


Nobody responded as he'd hoped to his cue but he continued anyway.


"That didn't quite work out the way I'd intended." he quipped playing a few more modal cycles.


"The Doctor perhaps could help us?" Bryce spoke a bit louder this time, stopping abruptly and twisting on his piano bench.


Alicia tapped Doctor Briggs' knee letting him know her role call had been reached. He looked at her in a puzzled fashion and then watched her stride up and onto the stage.


Alicia stood and made her way her muscular legs slightly prominent.


She walked her way innocently over to the piano trying her best to lean against it in a sexy demure stance.


Bryce admired her as she did, in a theatrical sense and as a peer, one of his most brilliant peers at that. He continued his science noir version of a Humphrey Bogart film as best he could. The audience found themselves captivated and then the tone switched.


Bryce began by playing a piece inspired of perfect forth harmonies, perhaps to inspire a vision of ancient history.


Alicia stepped forward trying her best to look sultry despite her expertise which had in the past betrayed her. Oddly enough with this audience it worked well. There were a few catcalls and whistles for her immaculate, SY349 enhanced body.


She picked up the mic from the boom and spoke to the music:

"So. Here I am. Someone in the know.

"But I have no answers for you."

"Yet so few of us do."

"Yet we are here but yet so few."


"We are gone so quickly."

"In the blink of an eye."

Bryce stopped as did the background music.


"Who. Who? Who then does have an answer?" posed Alicia.


"I do! I just heard someone speaking. A woman if I'm not mistaken. Can you hear me? Is there anyone there who knows Mila? Mila Rendebelle?" a voice erupted from the audio system.


Yirfir leaned forward in her seat in the audience, her ears poised as she waited to confirm that her mind was not playing tricks upon her. Beside her, Jasmer who'd been struggling to stay awake during the lecture slipped sideways onto her shoulder before suddenly awakening.


"I wasn't asleep, I was just resting my eyes." Jasmer said defensively.


"Did you hear that?" Yirfir queried Jasmer.


"Huh?! Are you alright honey?" Jasmer came to life immediately feeling guilty for his lack of enthusiasm.


"Dammit! I just heard Barris!" Yirfir announced.


"Barris? How'd he get in here? Isn't he still..." Jasmer responded.


"Dammit yes he is! But I just heard him! Clearly!" Yirfir yelled causing many near her in the lecture hall auditorium to all pause and look at her.


MAZ's voice suddenly erupted, breaking the silence of the auditorium.


Bryce suddenly stood from the piano as Alicia backed away upon hearing the quiet yet menacing, and somewhat aloof voice that originated from the production amplification system.


"Hello? Wow, does my voice really sound like that? This is Barris Winsdor coming at you from... Somewhere strange. Now I'm down way lowwwwww. Ha! That's a pretty awesome sound system! Certainly sounds bizarre from this side of things. That echo sounds great!" the male British voice ceases and MAZ's voice interrupts.


"We have an outside intrusion into the sound system. It isn't Van Eck based." MAZ announced.


"No MAZ. That was me." Alicia did her best to correct the AI.


"No Doctor Alicia Westin of Tynan And Associates. I'm afraid that the intrusion was not you." MAZ insisted.


"Hello? Hello? Can anyone hear me?" Barris' voice interrupted the lecture.


"How now brown cow!? Is there anyone listening to this?" Barris asked.


"We'd like to ask whomever is playing with the sound system to refrain. Remember, hoaxes like this can negatively affect the University funding." one of the directors stepped out onto the stage trying to take control of the situation.


"Can anyone hear me?" the voice continued.


"Dammit! That is Barris!" Jasmer arose from his earlier stupor.


"My brilliant husband. Moments after my admonition of the like! Bravo!" Yirfir said with the stinging edge of sarcastic humour.


"Can anyone hear me? Perhaps the lady I heard a moment ago could speak again?" Barris' voice broke further into the room.


"How the hell do we know its Barris? It could be a mimic!?" Jasmer suggested to Yirfir from their place deep within the audience.


"That was Barris. I can assure you. The same Barris who yelled over the walls of the Haven towards the Alivale Stright Barrows! At the warriors of the Strangers Of Lorr! I was there. Remember?" Yirfir assured them.


Alicia upon hearing the voice's suggestion attempted once again to speak into her microphone.


"To whomever is speaking through our audio system here. I'm Doctor Alicia Westin. Is there any way that I could be of assistance?" Alicia tried a different strategy to uncover this mystery.


"Thank you Doctor Westin. Its nice to finally be treated as if I exist. I'm Barris Windsor. I cannot explain to you where I am or how I got here. I only know that by some trick I was able to access this microphone to speak to you. Are you a general practitioner? 'cause if you are I do need a good Doctor although I think we could bypass the prostate check... I've still got a few good years in me..." Barris did his best to be tactful.


There was a moment of uneasy laughter in the audience causing both Alicia and Bryce to smile.


"You're speaking to lecturers in the University Of Toronto Main Lecture hall, Barris. I'm Bryce Maxwell. You've already met Doctor Westin." Bryce addressed the voice he'd heard moments ago.


There was a long pause before Barris responded.


"I'm sorry Doctor Westin... I didn't catch that?" Barris confirmed as to whether she'd spoken.


Alicia leaned forward to Bryce and whispered in his ear.


"I think that he can only hear me."


"That's alright Barris. We'd like to help you if we could but you're going to have to help us by giving us clues as to your whereabouts. That way we could send rescue crews to find and help you if you need assistance?" Alicia suggested.


Gabe Asnon suddenly stormed out onto the stage.



"I'm sorry but I'm going to have to pull the plug on this Debate tonight. We seem to have encountered a serious technical glitch in MAZ's software. The voice you all heard is MAX, an alternate voice package for the male version of MAZ. Its somehow running its own software and AI simulation concurrently to that of the female MAZ. As such we're going to pull the plug on MAZ tonight in order to find the solution. I'm very sorry for this inconvenience." Gabe quickly attempted to quiet the situation as the program director followed his lead (and investment money).


"That person seemed to be in trouble. That didn't sound like an AI. That person sounded convinced they were alive. A little too convinced." Zheng who'd followed Gabe onto the stage challenged him.


Gabe signaled to the audio crew to cut the line to the microphones. They promptly did as he instructed.  He then turned to address Zheng.


"You do realize that you're still under the obligations of a Non-Disclosure on this subject do you not?" Gabe reminded her.


"That was not an AI. That was clearly a real person. You could be shutting down that person's only means of communication!" Zheng defended her line of reasoning.


"I completely agree with Zheng. That man sounded like he needed help. That was someone whose audio was coming from another location. Physically, and somewhere other than this lecture hall. Maybe the audio was received in error by some of the equipment acting as an artificial antenna?" Alicia suggested.


"No. MAZ already clarified that the audio source was coming from her own internal audio subsystem. It had to be coming from the software. The only input that the audio subsystem receives is from the LSS Expression system." Matt, the senior engineer on the project corrected them.


"The Language, Syntax and Structure system? You're saying then that the actual source of that voice was coming from one of the internal AI packages? I already stated. That was not an AI." Zheng corrected the Matt.


"What do you suggest then. We connect this up again and run a Turing test on that fellow?" Gabe confirmed perhaps only taunting her further.


"No. Turing tests do not work effectively when testing against real people. Real people have been known to fail. We'd require the services of a psycho-analyst and that wouldn't guarantee that we'd correctly identify the source of that voice as an AI or a person." Zheng kept herself professional.


"Not to mention the human rights abuses of forcing a real live human being prove they're not an artificial intelligence." Bryce backed up Zheng.


"Besides, Barris could request and require the same proof of us." Alicia reminded them.


"I like the way you think Alicia." Zheng smiled to her professional peer.


"Look, if it can't pass a Turing or our own Mindspice AI Method then it isn't conscious in the same way as human beings and if it is human and it fails, then its certainly not a human being with its own consciousness. Our own Mindspice AI Method can find and classify different kinds of conscious intelligence but it hadn't been used in the field." Matt reminded Zheng.


"Interesting that you'd employ an AI finding method whose acronym is MAIM, in the process of using it on a real human being." Alicia found herself becoming short tempered with Gabe and Matt.


"Is it really inhumane to deny someone their conscious identity if they cannot prove that they have one?" Gabe backed up his engineer.



"We're in the arena of human rights now. Tread carefully Gabe. You wouldn't want a publicity incident backed up by the accounts of three members of the University alumni and faculty not to mention world wide recognized figures like Doctor Zheng Ni Wong, Professor Bryce Maxwell and myself." Alicia reminded Gabe of his vulnerable position.


"We could do a simple test. Ask the audio engineers to return the power to our lapel microphones and have Alicia try communicating with this Barris fellow. Then have Matt disconnect MAZ's audio feed from the amplification system to verify that its coming from MAZ's hardware." Matt suggested perhaps trying to find the middle ground in this difficult situation.


Gabe considered this for a moment and then agreed.


"We'll do it. Once you see that the audio originates from MAZ's hardware will you then agree not to press the matter any further?" Gabe asked Zheng, though looked all the faces that had confronted him on the stage.


"Agreed. That doesn't mean that we won't pursue this further. It will mean that we leave it at that for tonight. What do you think Zheng?" Alicia replied, looking to Zheng for her opinion.


"I agree. We'll start there." Zheng nodded.


Gabe immediately signaled the audio engineers and crew to return power to the audio system. They quickly complied as the auditorium began to empty.


Yirfir and Jasmer had stepped aside allowing the audience to pass them as they left. They'd both intended to look into this further though they needed to figure out where to begin.


"It looks as if they're checking into the source of Barris' voice. We should get down there to the stage and try to hear what they're saying." Yirfir suggested.


"We could do that. I think we'd be best to refrain from any use of the weave tonight or at least in eye and ear shot of these people. I'm sure that we can play the roles of concerned citizens." Jasmer held out his arm for Yirfir, who graciously accepted it.


They began their journey down the stairs and towards the stage, passing the audio mixing console as they did.


"Excuse me... did you say that the voice we heard of that young man.... Barris I believe it was. Was it coming from this sound system or from somewhere outside?" Yirfir put on the charm as she asked the audio engineers.


"Mr. Asnon says it came from the internal circuitry of the computer AI. One of the debaters tonight. Its name is MAZ." the audio engineer answered Yirfir's question.


"So it was an AI voice you mean? Not a real human?" Jasmer confirmed with the audio engineer.


"That's what Mr. Asnon says and they can make them pretty convincing too." the audio engineer responded as Alicia spoke into her lapel microphone.


"Barris? This is Doctor Alicia Westin. Can you hear me?" Alicia tried once again to communicate with the other worldly voice.


There were a few moments of silence and then a response.


"Yes. I can still hear you. Nice to hear another voice." Barris responded bringing a sense of relief to all on the stage except for Matt and Gabe.


"We're going to try a test here to see if we can't confirm your location. If you get cut off from us, please don't panic. You can try to make contact with us again. We'll be looking for you. I'll need you to keep speaking to us for about thirty seconds. After that point, try addressing me again and wait for a response. If you don't hear one, wait for a bit until we do. Ready?" Alicia confirmed that Barris understood.


"I think that I can handle that." Barris responded.


"Speak for thirty seconds? If they really wanted to challenge him they'd have asked him to remain quiet for thirty seconds. I'm sure that Sato would agree if he were here tonight." Jasmer said sarcastically as they arrived at the stairs before the stage from where they listened.


Yirfir smirked at Jasmer though upon closer examination he could see that she was also smiling at his scathing humour.



"Alright. Here goes. Have you even noticed that when someone asks you to talk for thirty seconds, you realize that you have nothing to say? I wonder how things are in Alivale? Let Mila know that I love her. Let Sato know that I loath him. Please do NOT get the two mixed up. I can't tell the time where I am. Its strange. Like there is no time or its very different at least. In fact, I can't tell if I have a physical body or not or if I'm just remembering what it was like to have one. I guess this all going to hamper your chances of finding me. I mean I don't seem to have an address and I can't describe where I am. Maybe if I..." the audio went dead.


"We just cut the audio line from MAZ's hardware. No audio signal from that man anymore. We're sorry Doctor Westin." the audio engineers gave them the bad news.


"Satisfied?" Gabe confirmed.


"That only explained that the audio was coming from MAZ and not that the person we heard was an AI." Zheng reminded Gabe.


"Yes, but you already agreed to the conditions of this deal. We're going to tear down MAZ's receiver her and do some work on her at MindSpice headquarters. We'll arrange for the conclusion to this debate in the near future. Mr. Parns, I apologize for this interruption. Know that we'll conclude this debate when we can and that MindSpice will pay for and market that event when we've agreed upon a schedule." Gabe held out his hand for Director Parns who accepted it and shook it well.


"The faculty always appreciates your contributions to our programs and events like this debate series." Mr Parns then turned and thanked each of the hosts and alumni on the stage for their participation before proceeding out the door and to his car.


"It looks like we've got a mystery." Alicia shook her head in disappointment.


She'd felt a sense of responsibility for the well being of poor Barris. Zheng too felt the same. As if they'd let down a real person. Someone whom was relying upon them to prove his existence and to liberate him from his situation.


"I'm sorry to interrupt but my husband and I are very interested in this AI thing. I was wondering if you could explain to me what just happened with that poor fellow that was communicating through the speakers?" Yirfir stepped up and onto the stage, addressing both Zheng and Doctor Westin.


Gabe looked to Zheng sharply as if to remind her of the non-disclosure agreement which was still very much binding.


"We performed a quick evaluation to determine the origins of the voice. What we came up with was that it originated from the hardware of the AI MAZ." Zheng replied to Yirfir.



"...would that mean that the man whose voice we heard exists?" Yirfir continued her questioning.


"Yes... possibly. It means that we were unable to locate the actual origin of the person producing that voice. The test did not deem as to whether the voice originated from AI or not. I can't speak on this any further." Zheng advised Yirfir.



"So if we were interested in this technology, we could find out more about it from MindSpice?" Yirfir asked.


"That's correct. There's a whole section on the MindSpice web page dedicated to their MAZ technology. You can even converse with MAZ online assuming that they have her back up and running in the next couple of days after they've seen to this problem." Zheng advised Yirfir as best she could about the situation without overstepping her boundaries.


"Do you believe its a problem?" Yirifir asked her.



"Off the record, no. I believe there's a real man behind that voice." Zheng answered her.


"As do I." Alicia added.


"Then perhaps there's still a chance to save this poor fellow?" Yirfir suggested.


"For his sake, I hope so." Zheng responded.





A Lady's Prerogative III: The Debate will continue in A Lady's Prerogative III: Singlularty.

Brian Joseph Johns

Copyright © 2019 Brian Joseph Johns


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