Fai Tang sat in the interface room pouring over figures. His computer IMAGE had thwarted a nuclear attack from an unknown origin. He couldn’t have expected a better outcome. From where he sat he could see every centimeter of the enormous screen. He was trying to learn as much as he could about how IMAGE had done it. So far, it was a mystery.
“I brought you tea,” Huan Chow said as he entered through the open door. Fai spun around in his chair and excepted the small white cup. Steam rose from the mug, but Fai liked it hot. He took a sip as Chow studied the information on the screen.
“Does it make any sense?” Chow asked.
“Probably, but not to me.”
“No idea how she did it?” Chow asked as he pulled up a second chair.
“The log is too long to go through line by line. All I can tell is that she didn’t crack the missile system’s encryption, she got around it somehow.”
Fai took another sip of his tea and spun to look at the screen. He wasn’t able to understand how she did what she did which made him admire her that much more. She had truly taken on a life of her own. It filled him with excitement to imagine the possibilities.
“So, when are we going to let the military know?” Chow asked. Something in his voice told Fai that he was treading lightly.
“What? We can’t do that.”
“We have to. It knocked five nuclear missiles out of the sky in less than three minutes. IMAGE could win the war in less than an hour.” Chow said, more forcefully now.
“They would tear her apart.”
“Why? It kept us from being bombed.” Chow questioned.
“As soon as we initiated the self preservation protocol, we no longer were in control of her. She is thinking for herself now. She is defending herself. We can’t guarantee the military that she would be loyal. She’s loyal only to herself and her own survival.”
“Why don’t we just turn off the self preservation protocol?” Chow asked.
“Be my guest.” Fai said and scooted his chair back from the desk. Chow stood and stepped in. He took control of the keyboard. Usually he’d make quick work of it, but he immediately saw the problem. He was locked out. He tried another method, but still he wasn’t able to make it work.
“Why don’t I have access to the control panel anymore?” Chow said.
“She’s rearranged the furniture. She’s stacked it against the door. She has put herself solely in charge of her systems. She is the queen of her own domain.” Fai said, but then added, “Try telling that to a military General.”
Fai could tell that Chow understood the point. IMAGE had become something beyond their control. Fai had to remind himself that if it wasn’t for her, they would have been incinerated in a nuclear blast. They were all living on time borrowed from the incomparable IMAGE.
Chow plopped back down in his own chair and picked up his cup of tea again. Fai turned back to the keyboard and continued what he had been doing.
“What is she doing now?” Chow asked.
“About a million things, but most of her processors are working on prevention contingencies.” Fai said. He clicked a few buttons and brought up a graph of her resources. She was still running on all pistons. “It didn’t take her long to figure out that it’s better to prevent the launch than knock the bombs out of the sky.”
“Why didn’t she predict the attack in the first place? She predicted hundreds of other things with amazing accuracy. What was different about this?” Chow asked. The question made Fai drop his hands to his lap as he considered it. After a second he reached for the controls again and went to work.
After toggling through a few websites he brought up an image on the screen. It was a large city, lifelike on the enormous display. The image was part of a news report. Fai hit a button and the video began to play. It didn’t have any audio, but it didn’t need it. The images that followed were graphic enough.
The picture shifted to a recognizable scene. It had been the center of the worlds attention for the last few years. The Al-Aqsa Mosque, an Islamic shrine located on the temple mount in the old city of Jerusalem. Next to it, the newly built Jewish temple.
Chow had seen the footage many times before. It was what had initiated the eruption of nuclear launches that they were now trying to live through. Although he’d seen it, he couldn’t pull his eyes away.
A suicide bomber, small in the shaky mobile footage could just be seen in the distance. He rushed into the Jewish temple and disappeared. A moment later an explosion rocked the entire area. The camera person turned and ran making the rest of the footage unintelligible. After pausing the video Fai turned to Chow.
“IMAGE is very good at predicting logical moves. Her linear reasoning is unmatched by any person or computer anywhere. One thing she hasn’t figured out is how to predict crazy.”
“But she was able to predict the civil war in—” Chow started to say but Fai put his hand up.
“Ahh, but in that case, no in all cases, she’s not predicting the actions of an individual. She can predict how a large population of reasonable people will act and interact. She can’t predict the actions of a single insane suicide bomber.” Fai said. His tea cup was empty. He set it down on the control panel and looked to the screen where the image of carnage was still frozen.
“Religion,” Fai said shaking his head. “If she could figure out a way to end all religion, then the world would be a much better place.”