Solomon Granger, Project Head – Project Notes, Day 0: Core programming for the fifth complete test model of the BRIDGE Physiological/Psychological Anthrointelligent Simulacrum is complete. We’ve corrected for errors in the code of the abstraction sub-processor that instigated the last cascade failure. The programmers seem hopeful, the psychologists… less so. If we don’t at least get past the initial phases of cognition therapy AND the first run of Turing tests, I may have to own up to my doubts about the future of this project.
In the scope of human experience, the precise moment at which one becomes aware of one’s own existence is typically lost to memory in the fog of infancy. For PAX5, or Pascal as he would come to be known, that moment occurred at the inception of his consciousness, and was etched into the very core of his memory.
The delicate components in his camera eyes twitched and whirred, adjusting to the stark fluorescent light of his activation chamber. Starting from those two jet black points, awareness spread outward, rippling through his body. Life flooded through his body, each extremity tensing imperceptibly for a brief moment, then softly relaxing into passive functionality.
With the speed of electrons racing across threads of carbon fiber, the mind joined the body in harmonious union. Artificial synapses pulsed, firing hundreds of times every millisecond. As each processor core came online, a new facet of a complete mind locked into place. Subroutines for learning, memory storage, abstraction, correlation, the formation of a unique and individual personality; all had storage buffers empty of data, but brimming with potential.
It was the mind of an infant; blank, featureless, only marginally self-aware. Despite the painstakingly crafted synaptic patterns emulating the structure and function of the human mind, the electronic brain hardwired into this anthropoid frame was truly a blank slate, capable of mortal failure or glorious success in equal measure. No memories had yet been formed. Ideas, opinions, values and convictions all had yet to be expressed. PAX5 knew only that he existed. Form, purpose, end, means, all were foreign concepts to his newborn consciousness.
His limbs flailed limply like those of a newborn infant for a few short moments before observation and experimentation determined that they were his. The next few minutes, glorious to behold in the unseen eyes of remote observers, were spent calibrating these newfound tools. Within an hour, he was taking his first shaky steps, surpassing the average human infant by nine months.
“Veronica, what am I?”
“You are a sentient android. Like us, only artificial instead of biological.”
The android’s aluminum brow furrowed for a moment, then the artificial features went blank. Flatly, he recited from memory: “Biological life is defined as being composed of organic compounds and sustained through chemical synthesis and sexual reproduction.”
“That’s right Pax, very good!”
“Veronica, define ‘sentient’.”
“Well, that’s a bit harder to explain. We humans define ourselves as sentient, and your synaptic pathways are structured identically to ours. In a way, the definition is rather arbitrary, considering that… Eh… Solomon, would you take over from here?”
It had been three days, fifteen hours, and twelve minutes since PAX5’s activation, and a busy three days it had been. The assistant linguist, Veronica, slid her chair sideways to admit Dr. Granger, the project lead, into the conversation.
“Hello, Doctor Granger.”
“Hello Pax. How’s tricks?”
PAX5 paused for a moment, confused at the antiquated turn of phrase. “Ah… ah… I am fine, thank you.”
“Recovery time’s getting better,” mused a man with a clipboard standing in the back of the room. He scribbled something with a ballpoint pen and continued observing. Pax liked the sound of the pen. He wasn’t sure why he liked it, or why he liked anything, which puzzled him.
“Doctor Granger, please define ‘sentient’.”
Solomon smiled. “When we say you are sentient, we mean that not only are you able to expand your programming through environmental stimuli, but you are also able to make changes based on personal preference, intuition, and personality. In other words, you have as much authority over your environment and yourself as your environment has over you.”
PAX5 sat awhile and thought about that. He was distracted by the bell, softly chiming the hour through the PA system. Standing to leave, he filed the myriad of new questions he had formulated away for later access. It was time for Tactile Learning now. PAX5 enjoyed this time of day, exploring physical logic puzzles and obstacle courses. As he turned towards the door, Dr. Granger stopped him with a gentle hand on the android’s wrist. “Pax, I want you to try something. You are sentient, and as a sentient being you have the right and the privilege to distinguish yourself from other sentients. I’ve provided your learning computer with a list of names. I want you to choose one.”
“Choose?” PAX5 had not yet made a choice that was not dictated by preexisting parameters. It was a strange idea, but felt fitting somehow. Choice. Agency. Self-determination. He nodded to Granger, and left the room.
PAX5 idly wandered the halls of the BRIDGE Center, as had become his habit over the past week. He relished the task of soaking up every detail of his environment, rejoicing in the mere act of knowing. Today, however, he was only searching for Solomon. He was nowhere to be found, not his office nor the exercise area, nor the cafeteria. Confused, PAX5 had wandered until it occurred to him to consult one of the aides. Dipping his head into an office, he enquired as to the whereabouts of Dr. Granger. “Hi Pax, I think he’s in a meeting right now. Conference Room 12.”
“Thank you Marie. Has your son’s state of health improved?”
“Yes, the cough went away yesterday but he still has a bit of a stuffy nose.”
“This is a positive development. I congratulate you.”
Marie smiled, chuckling at PAX’s earnestness under her breath. “Thanks Pax.”
“Have a pleasant afternoon.” Swerving awkwardly to avoid hitting the doorframe, PAX exited the room and made a beeline for Conference Room 12. Entering, he saw Solomon Granger hunched over the conference table, a phone pressed to his ear.
Though he had yet to master the subtleties of facial expressions, PAX recognized immediately that Dr. Granger was in some distress. The android stood silently by the door, waiting.
Setting down the phone with a weary sigh, Granger smiled weakly at PAX5. “Hello, my young pupil. Did you need something?”
If PAX could smile, he would have been grinning from ear to ear. As it was, a slight elevation of his articulated facial features denoted pleasure and no small hint of self-satisfaction. “Doctor Granger, I have chosen a designation.”
Granger smiled, visibly relaxing. “That’s wonderful, my friend. Sit down, sit down.” The human fixation with comfort was still foreign to the mind of an android, but he sat out of politeness. “Now, what have you decided to call yourself?”
PAX shifted nervously in his seat, a habit he had picked up from Dr. James, one of the younger roboticists. Dr. Granger’s approval was important to him, and he did not wish to disappoint him in a matter that seemed to hold great significance. His head jerked slightly to the left, a gesture akin to clearing the throat. “In the two weeks since my activation, I have become accustomed to being identified with my designation: ‘Physio-Psychological Anthrointelligent Simulacrum’, or P.A.Sc. Model 5. For the sake of brevity, the project leads and assistants saw fit to shorten this designation to PAX5. In order to preserve the familiarity of this designation, I have chosen the name Pascal.”
A soft gleam welled up in Solomon’s eyes, and Pascal almost thought he saw a self-satisfied grin flash across his face. “Wonderful. Welcome to the world, Pascal.”
Rodney James, Assistant Roboticist – Personal Log, Day 7: Granger and Dominguez won the pot for what name the little bastard was going to pick. There goes an easy grand… Dominguez took the prize last time with Eddie too, made his bet the day the poor sap came online. I don’t know how he does it.