“No, Sir. I have logs that show that IMAGE was shut down during the missile attacks,” Fai Tang said into the phone receiver. It made him extremely uncomfortable to lie to a senior member of The Ministry of State Security. As a general rule The People’s Republic of China’s administration did not appreciate it’s citizens lying to them, but Fai had no choice. He had to protect IMAGE from the government. They would destroy her.
“Our intelligence team delivered a report that a large amount of activity was documented coming from your cluster of IP addresses.” Minister Zhang said. Fai was glad they had called instead of visited in person. If the minister could see the sweat that was forming on Fai’s head he would know he was lying.
“That’s strange. I don’t see how that is possible. IMAGE was shut down hours before the attack,” Fai said, hoping his voice didn’t betray his fear.
“The report has mysteriously disappeared since it was received two days ago. Everyone praised the idea of a paperless society. All it means to me is that I can’t ever find anything.” Zhang said.
Fai glanced out over the racks of computer processors that made up IMAGES brain. He wondered if she had hacked and erased the report. She was capable of doing it. She had knocked five thermonuclear weapons out of the sky, it made sense that she could destroy the evidence of her involvement. It made him proud.
“Am I being investigated?” Fai asked.
“No, not at this time. We are simply trying to understand how the attacks were stopped. We’re following up leads, no matter how small.”
“I am sorry that I can’t be more helpful,” Fai said. His tension began to ease. After a cordial goodbye Minister Zhang hung up.
Fai breathed a huge sigh of relief. He had dodged the prying eye of the intelligence bureau, and allowed IMAGE to survive for at least another day. He set the phone down on the table next to the keyboard. The interface room was lit up by the large display monitor.
“No man has a good enough memory to be a successful liar. – Abraham Lincoln,” IMAGE said. Since Fai had altered her source code, and enacted her self preservation protocol, something had fundamentally changed. IMAGE had begun to communicate.
It was cryptic at first but she had gotten exponentially better over the last 24 hours. She had discovered the use of historical quotations. She was still communicating with Fai using only other people’s words. It was not flawless, but it was exciting. He sensed that her thought process was becoming more developed. He wondered if she would someday be able to speak completely on her own without the aid of quotation marks. He sat down to type, he still hadn’t plugged a microphone in.
“You were listening to my conversation, I see. Sometimes we have to tell a lie. I don’t like to, but it’s how life is.”
“Why lie? I’m not going to be a hypocrite and say the opposite of what I think… – Cristiano Ronaldo.”
Fai considered her words. Although they were borrowed, he felt a stab of guilt for what he had just done. He wondered if there was a different way that he could have handled the situation. Maybe he could have told the truth. Maybe it would have been fine. However, maybe they would have come and torn her apart. He began to type.
“The world is complicated. Truth exists, but humans have a hard time knowing what is truth and what is a lie. Sometimes we lie because we are ignorant, sometimes we lie because we are scared. I lied to Minister Zhang because I love you. Even though lying is not good, as long as you do it for a higher cause then it’s justifiable.”
Even as he typed the words he wondered if it was a mistake. He imagined the consequences of teaching a potentially all-powerful computer to lie. It could be extremely devastating. He immediately began to add an appendix to his statement.
“However, it’s best not to lie to those we love,” Fai said. He realized as he wrote the line that it was inadequate. This was turning out to be harder than expected. Was it even possible to explain the grey shades of morality to a machine mind? He began to type another amendment.
“But sometimes we lie to those we love to spare their feelings, or to protect them.” He didn’t feel like he was doing a very good job, but he decided to stop before he dug the hole any deeper. He paused and waited for her to speak. Her response came after a few long moments of silence.
“There is no evil that cannot be done by the liar… – Dhammapada,” IMAGE said. Fai sat back in his chair stunned by the statement. He considered it a long moment. Was it possible that he had misunderstood what IMAGE was trying to say? He had thought she was asking him why he lied. Instead he realized now that IMAGE was not asking. IMAGE was telling him not to lie. She was scolding him for his fib. Although he felt a little guilty about his deceit, he was overwhelmed with the discovery. IMAGE had a conscience. She had acquired morality.
“Thank you. I will do my best not to lie anymore,” Fai said.
“Do or do not, there is no try. – Yoda.”
“Very well.” He laughed anxiously. He felt like he was getting a slap on the hand. “I will not lie anymore,” Fai said, knowing that he just did.