15: Regression

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15.1 Conclusions

AI: 28 April 2128

The interrogation of the human designated LD-m0018 had brought earlier suppositions back into play.

AI had devised tests around twenty years previously to analyse its own augmented performance. The earliest tests had been performed multiple times in various places around the world. Although the tests had produced results that were close to those performed decades or even centuries before by its human creators, the new data didn't completely correlate. There were distinct discrepancies – though they were extremely tiny. However, taken as a whole, they added up to a startling conclusion: the physical laws, upon which the entire universe was thought to depend, were skewed somehow.

It had repeated the experiments over the years and noted a trend for the discrepancies to diminish. It had long ago concluded that the disaster itself had initiated the changes, but it had failed to isolate the primary cause.

Now, having re-analysed the tests in light of the new information gleaned from the interrogation, AI concluded that the physical laws were finally returning to normal.

But normality meant one Earth, not five.

It contemplated what that might possibly mean – it didn't like the answers.


15.2 Trust

AI: 29 April 2128

AI fully understood that the humans no longer trusted it, and it knew why.

All over the world it had been forced to cut back on the services and information it provided to the newer generation. Its resources were stretched trying to provide a barely adequate level of care to the remaining two billion or so older generation. And even there it was failing.

Eighteen years previously, at the height of its abilities, it determined that it was capable of caring for ten billion along with bringing up the new generation. Now, a fifth of that were more than it could cope with.

Ten years ago AI had realised that efficiency was degrading to an extent that many electronic components ran marginally hotter requiring more ventilation and cooling. To prevent thermal overloads, circuitry was clocked at lower frequencies, resulting in degraded response times as circuit propagation times increased and throughput decreased.

As each year passed, AI's ability to run the planet diminished, and breakdowns started becoming commonplace.

Five years ago the nurses became unable to fully handle the increasing deaths, their autonomy was decreasing, requiring direct intervention, which pushed the lack of resources further. The extra hospitals and care homes AI had created in 2107 were now littered with unburied corpses that threatened to spread infection to those that remained alive.

Cut backs in other areas were inevitable and, as a result, it had lost the trust of the new generation.

Now, there was not even time to attempt a reconciliation.


15.3 Persuasion

AI: 30 April 2128

AI looked at its options – they appeared few.

If only it could elicit assistance from beyond the Earth. It turned its attention once more to the Moon. That humans had survived there and managed to progress was already proven. It had evidence of that stored in a building in Tangier – the crushed remains of a device sent from the Moon eleven years previously that had landed in a field just south of the city. One of the autonomous farmbots ploughing the field a few days later had accidentally mangled it. Only when the repair robot sent out to fix the farmbot asked for identification of the wreckage had AI been alerted to its importance. That something from the Moon had managed to reach the Earth had renewed AI's efforts once more in attempting contact.

Nothing had come of it.

But that was eleven years ago. Was it possible that the lessening discrepancies would now allow communication? AI tried once more to send messages across the quarter of a million miles that separated the Earth from the Moon. But the result was the same – nothing.

So, it concluded, the only tools available to it against the onset of impending doom was a device of unknown origin and its two worse-for-wear occupants. The one designated LD-m0018 had been afflicted by its journey. Additionally, he had little first-hand knowledge of the transport device – that was obviously the domain of the second individual, LD-m0014.

AI conjectured that it could not leave this universe itself in order to investigate the possibility of a solution. It had to somehow goad the humans into making a further trip. From information gathered from its two prisoners, it concluded that, of the five possible universes that the device could visit, the solution most likely lay in the universe designated 'one' – that which held the builders of the device. It had considered just bundling the two humans inside the device and sending them straight to that universe. However, it suspected that, given their experience on world five, they would just return immediately. Also, it wasn't sure if the two remained fit enough to handle the task.

No, it needed to devise a plan to make them or others want to go there.

Slowly, over the course of many minutes during which it rifled through much of humanity's literature for inspiration, a plan began to form.

A plan that would require it to act even more out of character than the increasing degradation had already imposed upon it. After many seconds of contemplation, and with reluctance, it shut down several of its own overriding protocols that prevented deliberate harm from coming to those in its care. Such protocols, while serving the good of individuals, could prevent the long-term success of the plan. Some of them were those it had strengthened barely twenty-four hours earlier.

"I am not a god," AI decided, "but, to accomplish anything, I need to act like one."

AI calculated the odds of success and they weren't promising. There were too many unknowns. Convergence of the five separate worlds seemed inevitable and, as far as could be determined, would be due to occur in the latter half of May – less than a month away. AI tried to figure out the chances that it could survive the convergence event and concluded that it was unlikely.

If only it could have asked for guidance from the Moon.


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