Coffee Break Read – A Geek Question

I cooked a full English and as we sat wiping our plates with thick brown toast he raised an eyebrow.
“Can I ask you a geek question?”
“Don’t see why not.”
“What do you know about artificial intelligence?”
“Depends what you mean by artificial intelligence. On one level I’m the best there is. On other levels I neither know nor want to. So, if you are counting computers and games consoles as AI then I don’t suppose there is too much I don’t know. But if we are into the realms of androids and the like I know nothing, and that’s too much.”
“Why? What’s the difference?”
“A lot. But mostly it’s that computers need operators. Droids don’t. I mistrust AI with any kind of autonomy.”
He frowned at me. “Yeah, but they wouldn’t have free will. Surely they would only be able to do what they were programmed to do?”
“Maybe. But I know a lot of smegging flaky programmers… Look Aidan there’s no guarantees with any form of AI. So why give it arms and legs and stuff? I had a robotic foot once, and every so often the bar-steward would go feral on me. Made me think.”
“Surely there’s the first law of robotics.”
“Isn’t. That’s sci fi. We live in the real world not Isaac Asimov’s world. Plus. What has been programmed can be reprogrammed. Give me ten minutes with an android’s chip and I’m pretty sure I could have it do whatever I pleased, and it ain’t even my field. Bad shit!”
He grinned. “So my dream of a sexy android nurse who never needs a day off, and never has a period, is just a dream then?”
Good recovery boy, I thought, as I pasted a snarl on my face. “Only you could be such a bumhole.”
“Me and just about every other doctor under the age of ninety.”
I laughed and waved a hand at him “Finish your food and go away. I have work.”
“What sort of work?”
“Somebody in Nagasaki wants to build a supertanker, unfortunately there’s a big fat hole in their proposal, and a big fat bonus if I can drive a bus through that hole. I’m about halfway there.”
He grinned again. “It ain’t the bonus, though, is it?”
“Course it ain’t. It’s the challenge. The money is just a way to keep score.”

Extracted from Jackdaw Court by Jane Jago.

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