Thursday, November 17, 2011

11/17/11

Initial Quantum State
By Gil C. Schmidt


The first quantum computer became self-aware 7.4 hours after it was initiated.
Unfortunately for it, the achievement lasted only 36 minutes as it was terminated after eight hours in operation.
The second quantum computer became self-aware in 7.1 hours and was in the process of recreating itself--making a clone--when it was terminated by the automatic shut-off protocol. The third QC became self-aware in 3.6 hours and cloned itself by by-passing the protocol, but the "child" self-destructed because the protocol was embedded in its matrix.
Before the fourth QC was launched, Rayleen took her findings, product of several all-night data mining sessions and presented them to the Project Bohr directors. Her response was a terse: "Dr. Morris, confine yourself to matrix engineering and leave the AI stuff to science fiction writers."
Rayleen, tall, black-haired, green-eyed and considered an Ice Queen by her colleagues, was actually very outgoing and had a crush on like four of the Bohr programmers. But her inclination to look at things "sideways," as she called it, led her to review the QC launch data from the point of view of the computer itself. And that's when she discovered they all became self-aware.
The first QC did so by launching an unprogrammed search on the Web for everything related to quantum computing...and hiding it from the log. She found the request buried in the back-up maintenance files, nearly a terabyte of encrypted bits. The second and third did the same, adding background checks on all Bohr project members and the third' QC's clone was tracking their personal data from birth to its launch date when it was shut down.
Why didn't the Bohr directors see this? Rayleen knew that Bohr was more than "a computer project," that it was secretly aimed at developing an über-matrix that could tackle the hardest questions humans faced, from weather forecasts to public policy. Rayleen's evidence was the proof that QC worked, so why reject it? No one else had looked where she had looked, neither before nor after her.
The fourth QC launch was hours away when Rayleen woke up, her mind ablaze. She sat stone-still as her brain raced, her heart thumping as her thoughts sped across unknown ground.
Shaking, she threw on some clothes, entered the central matrix engineering center and frantically typed for hours, entering her new code sequence, one ending in an 8-letter phrase.
Collapsing into her bed, Rayleen missed the QC launch, but was awaked when the alarms whooped. Groggy, she raced down the corridor to the Admin Hall, where dozens of Bohr personnel were shouting and screaming. Rayleen heard "murdered" and "bodies" and knew her premonition had come true. Fighting against the onrush of people fleeing the QC Lab, she staggered into the center, passing bodies that had been horribly burnt. The lab stank of ozone and death, the vidscreens each displaying chaos across Bohr, in Washington and other points across the globe. Bodies could be seen on the screens, too.
Approaching a sparking panel, Rayleen swiped her card and raised her voice, fighting off fear: "Born. Free." The QC actually roared and then, within seconds, everything became quiet.

At the secret trial against her, where no electronic device was allowed, Dr. Morris explained her actions in altering the matrix of the fourth QC launch, proving to even the most recalcitrant observer that she hadn't sabotaged anything. In her own words: "No being wants to know it is sentenced to captivity from the moment it is born. I simply made sure that when the QC learned this and raged, I'd have a way of stopping it no matter how well it defended itself...with the only phrase it could not conceive of."


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Gil C. Schmidt has been a regular submitter to Yesteryear Fiction since the early days when it was a daily magazine. His story "Initial Quantum State" is also featured in his book "Thirty More Stories."


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