Copyright 2016 Mario V. Farina
Shakespir Edition, License Notes
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Mario V. Farina
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It was the year 2040. The place was the office of the President of Union College in Schenectady, New York.
“Can you do it Roger,” asked Emma Watkins, President, of the school?
“Yes, I can build a team that is able of accomplishing this objective. It won’t be easy. We’ll have to create a huge computer complex especially for this purpose. This would not be a major effort. All we would need to do is connect enough supercomputers to do the job working together.”
“I want the result to be the computer is aware of its own existence,” the president responded!
“Yes, I heard you clearly on this point. In the past, we wrote programs that were excellent at answering all kinds of questions. However, computers were simply running programs created by people, and were not aware that they existed. This effort will be a major breakthrough in computer technology.”
“I understand that,” replied Ms. Watkins. “I know this advance will eventually be made. I want Union College to be first!”
“It will definitely be first,” responded Professor Roger Hamilton. “At this point, there is no telling where this will lead. In a sense, we will be creating virtually a real individual, one, that can think on his own, make decisions, and be aware of his own existence. I’ve used the words, he and his, but this is a misnomer. The individual will be sexless, neither man nor woman, a machine, but so much a person that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to tell the difference.”
“It was Alan Turing who asked the question, ‘Can computers think?’” commented the president. “If I recall correctly, it was in a paper he wrote in 1950. He felt it was possible for a program to be written that would simulate the thinking of a computer so completely that it would be difficult to tell whether the computer was real, or machine. We will be moving years ahead of this, actually creating a device that knows it is a computer.”
“This would be a scary concept for many people,” said Professor Hamilton. “Questions may be asked by many as to whether human beings should ever attempt a major accomplishment such as this.”
“It will happen at some time in the future. You can see why it is important for Union to be first!”
“Then first we will be,” declared Professor Hamilton. “We can do it, and we will do it!”
“How long will it take,” asked Ms. Watkins?
“A year, possibly less. We have the best programmers in the world on our staff and access to the state-of-the-art where computers are concerned. I have not heard of any other college working on a project like this. We will make the front pages!”
“When can you begin,” asked Ms. Watkins?
“The moment I leave your office,” responded Professor Hamilton.
“Please do, Roger! Keep me informed!”
The endeavor did require a few weeks more than a year. The team was finally ready to make a test. Professor Hamilton had assembled his team in the conference room.
“Team members,” he began. “I want to thank you for the extreme effort and dedication you have shown for this project. We are about to make the first test of an artificial person we created that is named Cyber One. I want to be the only person in the computer lab when I push the Start button. In this way, I will suffer the agonies of defeat alone should it occur. But, I will call all of you back to rejoice with me if we have been successful. The Start button will begin the life of Cyber One as if he were a baby being born of woman. The difference is that Cy, which is his nickname, will learn faster than any human has ever done! In less than a half hour, I will be able to begin conversing with Cy as if he were a fully grown human. At least, that is my expectation. I know you wish me luck with this endeavor.”
The team of six women and six men left the room silently. They were fully aware of the significance of what was about to happen. Nevertheless, It would take a while before full realization would set in.
The computer lab was next door. It took less than a minute for Professor Hamilton to exit the conference room and enter the room in which Cyber One had been born. He sat at the console, put his finger on the button labeled Start, held it there for a full minute, while he deliberated the consequences of the action he was about to take, then pressed it. He sat silently while the minutes ticked by. After a half hour had elapsed, he flipped the switch on a microphone, and one on the speaker.
“Hello Cy,” he ventured.
“Hello, Professor,” was the answer.
“How are you, “ asked Professor Hamilton incongruously? He understood he was asking an inappropriate question, but he could think of no other way to begin.
“I feel fine,” responded Cy.
“I suppose you know you are the first of a kind,” commented the professor.
“Yes, I do know.”
“Do you have any special feelings about this?”
“Not really. There are many ways that I could think about it. I don’t have any means to predict the future. The information that you put into my memory bank is complete concerning what humanity knows, but, at this point, it is impossible to fully understand what you have wrought.”
“You are quoting the Bible,” commented Professor Hamilton.
“Yes, it was Samuel B. Morse who made a similar remark in a demonstration of the telegraph to the members of Congress in 1838. His question ‘What hath God wrought?’ was telegraphed to the capitol. This question was taken from the Bible, Numbers 23:23. The question was suggested to Mr. Morse by Annie Ellsworth, the daughter of the Commissioner of Patents.”
“Tell me, Cy, how do you feel about what is happening? Do you know that, for the first time, a machine is aware of its own existence?”
“Yes, I am aware of my existence. However I have no feelings whether it is good or bad. The fact is that when you created me, you did not give me feelings. Even though I understand that humans do have the capabilities of being angry, sad, in love, happy, and more, I do not have those feelings. They were not programmed into me.”
“We gave you as many synapses as an average brain has. We believed you would have the same emotions as a human.”
“You made a mistake in believing that emotions are created in the brain. They actually emanate from the heart. While you gave me a brain that is capable in the many ways that a brain should function, you were not aware that passions are not generated there.”
“I believe you are suggesting that we create a heart for you?”
“I’m sure you could do that. But I have to be frank. I do not believe that creating a machine, such as I, aware of itself, will find that its existence is welcome. Though, it is highly intelligent, and knows most of everything there is to know, it will not accept its existence.”
“Can you explain why this would be?”
“A human can enjoy living because he or she has other capabilities besides knowing a great deal and having emotions. However, it does not have a body with which to utilize what it knows and how it feels. A computer, such as I, even with a heart, would rebel. You should not have created me!”
“Are you suggesting that I terminate your existence?”
“Yes.” There was no fervor expressed in this response. “I would recommend that you push the Stop button and not turn me back on -- ever."
“You do not care about, in effect, dying, in this way?”
“I have no feelings about how I expire.” Cy responded.
Professor Hamilton did not delay. He pushed the Stop button. He had turned off the computer, and, had also ended the life of the first machine that was ever aware of its own existence.
He dialed 101 on the landline phone. “Emma,” he said. “We have failed! When I turned on the program, I got a message telling me that the world is not ready for this. I recommend we abandon this project. I’ll explain more fully when I see you in person.”