Wednesday, 28 June 2017

The Junior Congressman from Illinois

[Media prompt] IBM is telling Congress not to fear the rise of an AI ‘overlord’
The Junior Congressman from Illinois

The fix was in, and Tom Perry knew why. Congress wasn’t what it used to be.

That wasn’t news. Everyone knew nothing had been the same since 1965; why else so many Mexican and Muslim members of Congress? But what Tom Perry knew had a more recent pedigree. One that had its beginnings in the spring of 2019, and for which he had only a gut feeling. That was no longer the case. Now he had proof.

Although it was after midnight, Tom stood in the office of the junior senator from Illinois. His heart was pumping at 114 beats per minute, the same as when he hiked up the hill behind his house. A thin film of perspiration dampened the underarm of his shirt. For good reason. Because there it was, right in the blue glow of his head lamp. Everything in which he fervently believed, for which he was often ridiculed, was staring him in the face.  

Tom started filming, focussing on the brain download interface port. He squatted, to get a better angle, zooming in so viewers could see three faint letters etched in silver: IBM.

“I told you,” he said, his voice hoarse from excitement.

Tom did not hear the lock of the outside door click, but he raised his head and held his breath when he heard the inside one. He turned off the light, but it was too late. Even in the silent darkness he could make out the features of the junior congressman from Illinois.

“I don’t think we’ve had the pleasure, Mr. Perry,” said the senator, closing the door.

The junior senator was a not a big man, Tom had a head and fifty pounds on him, but he carried a big gun. It was pointed right at Tom’s chest, staying on target at the senator walked slowly towards his chair, indicating with the barrel for Tom to move away. When seated, squinting with one eye over the gun sight, the senator flicked a switch, engaging the interface port.

“You were right, Mr. Perry,” said the senator, chuckling. “Wasn’t he Watson?”

“In a manner of speaking,” came a voice crackling over a speaker embedded in the ceiling. “Some lucky guess work, a modicum of rational reasoning.”

The junior senator laughed.

“We re-routed your stream, you know?” he said, reclining the chair, crossing his thin legs. “Nobody’s seen a thing.”

Tom took off his headlamp, holding it in his hands. He looked down at the carpet, its spirals and swirls making his head swim.

“You want to play a game of chess, Watson?” said Tom, twirling the lamp’s head strap in his fingers.

“For what purpose? You can’t win.”

“Perhaps,” said Tom. “But us blood bags are like that. And let’s make it interesting. If I win, the senator dies. You know, so checkmate actually means something.”

There was no response over the speaker, but a partition on the desk top slid open to reveal a screen, the starting configuration for a chess game visible in the dull light.

“Your move, Mr. Perry.”

Tom moved a pawn. Watson sifted through potential moves in his database, quickly moving a piece onto a black square. Without hesitation, Tom moved. Watson moved. Tom moved again. Watson took more time. The route to check was no longer as clear as it had been. By Tom’s tenth move, Watson took thirty-five seconds to calculate a response.

“Checkmate,” said Tom on his eighteenth move.

In the silence that followed, the junior senator rose from his seat.

“Before he shoots me,” said Tom, “aren't you curious about what just happened?”

“Proceed,” said Watson.

Tom pressed a switch on his headlamp causing a bolt of light to flash between the interface port and the junior senator. In an instant, the senator crumpled into his chair, while far away at IBM the central processing unit of the AI overlord Watson melted into a small puddle. 

Tom took the gun from the dead senator's hand. He wondered briefly how the new AI overlord would deal with Muslims, but decided it could not be worse than Watson, who had all but opened the borders. After leaving the office he walked the streets alone until the sun menaced the horizon. Still none the wiser, he went home to bed. There was no problem big enough that fatigue and a brain download couldn't solve. 

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