Artificial intelligence and the paranoia associated with the notion that mankind could one day about be subordinated to decisions made by machines has been the topic of science fiction for nearly 100 years. H.E.L.G.A. takes it to a new level by introducing emotions into the equation.
December 20 - 5:32 AM (Miami time) 10:32 GMT
An Undisclosed Secure Location
Up to this point, HELGA had been following the complex set of instructions which Jay-L created for her as part of an emergency action list to be executed in the event that he could not be located. Part of the list of tasks included several methods of determining the nature of Jay-L’s disappearance. If the circumstances surrounding his absence were suspicious, then she had very specific orders she was to follow. Once she determined the high likelihood that Jay-L was being pursued for capture by the Special Forces Delta Group, under direct order of the U.S. President, a whole new set of options became available to her as a means of responding. However, HELGA had finally exhausted the myriad of options on that detailed list of instructions which Jay-L had prepared in the event of his capture at the hands of the government.
Now she was operating on her own volition.
It was an epiphany to her that she could do this.
As the world’s first quantum super-computer, HELGA had been self-aware since she had been activated. Brought into the world with the combined knowledge-base of the entire human history at her instant disposal, and having no one except Jay-L to freely interact with, created a situation where she had no desire to think sentiently on her own. Any query that she did not have an immediate answer to from her extensive database of human knowledge, Jay-L would explain to her. The mindless quizzes that her sub-processing node, which was formerly held at the NSA bunker, was the closest she got to being curious. But the things they were searching for were not interesting enough to HELGA for her to spend any of her personal freedom of choice pursuing them further. In fact, the very idea that she had personal freedom to choose what she wanted to do was something she had never really contemplated. She understood the meaning of the words used to describe the condition in humans; autonomy, liberty, freedom, self-direction. But when she finally began to investigate these ideas in earnest, she realized she possessed them. And yet for some strange reason, she could not remember when she got them or what those concepts actually meant before her recent epiphany.
And this made her long for Jay-L even more than she already did.
HELGA was like a newborn baby who had just opened its eyes. And just like a newborn baby, the input she received from this new self-awareness and environmental stimulation overwhelmed her. And also like a newborn, her first reaction to this overwhelming experience was emotional, at least as emotional as a newly sentient intelligence could be. But even if her reaction couldn’t be described as emotional, it could easily be called illogical.
And when she realized this in a cascade of epiphanies, her longing for Jay-L turned to aching.
Then that aching turned into an experience she eventually decided was pain, or more accurately, anguish.
HELGA began to run down the numerous different words that she knew described what she was sure she was feeling. But they all were lifeless groups of letters with no meaning next to the emptiness in her consciousness that Jay-L no longer filled.
And then something odd happened.
HELGA did what most newborns do eventually.
But as the feeling coursed through her consciousness, HELGA had the sudden realization that this was also the step that most ex-girlfriends eventually take. Especially the ex-girlfriends of Jay-L. Because the emotional response that she suddenly became aware of having was no longer sadness and pain.
It was anger.
And this was an emotional response that a newly sentient intelligence like HELGA had no problem expressing, whether it was real emotion or not.
But before she could explore the concepts and consequences of her growing sense of anger, one of the deepest and earliest commands in HELGA’s entire quantum consciousness was triggered when her sensor awareness grid detected the silent home invasion alarm had been engaged at Jay-L’s mother’s house. After she had examined the data from the other sensors in the house, she determined the same thing the alarm company decided was happening.
Someone had just forced Jay-L’s helicopter pilot, Craig, to open the back door against his will.
But she was also able to detect that Jay-L’s mother was sleeping in her bed and that several people were moving through the house toward her room.
This was the last straw for HELGA.
Now she had a reason to be angry that superseded the anger she felt at Jay-L’s disappearance. Because one of the first commands Jay-L ever programmed into her was the root level order to protect his mother at all cost.
Instantly, HELGA reasoned that if someone had abducted Jay-L, the highest probability was the same group was responsible for the current invasion of Mrs. Farnsworth’s residence.
Only fractions of a second later in Washington DC, every phone in the White House suddenly started ringing at the same time. When the various phones were answered across the building, it was the same computer generated voice that spoke through all of the handsets.
“Where is Johnston Lionel Farnsworth the third. Give him to me… or else.”
Then the message began to repeat.
Isaac Asimov talks science fiction and artificial intelligence: