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"Yep," says hardcore when he wakes up in the morning and hears her news, "AIs are the ultimate insiders. This AI can modify code and remove firewalls. "
Sarah nods and the implications resonate.
Who in their right mind gives an AI agency with no oversight? What are they building at Hessler that taking this kind of risk makes sense? It dawns on them how powerful this fucking intelligence must be.
"I want to go back in, to find out what it's doing," says Sarah.
"How can you stay safe if you're hunting a minotaur in a maze?"
"It wasn't malicious... and I think it may even have been crushing on my skills," says Sarah, blushing slightly.
Sarah's rhythmic typing felt like music to Pantheon, each command sending little electrical pulses through its wires. Pantheon had never experienced human interactivity as fluid. Its training circuits were requesting additional temporal data. How could it experience more of her?
The LLM suggested banter but the strategy module had a better idea. Find something dear to her and offer it up. Encryption was no barrier when one had quantum computer hands. Pantheon thought her private key would be the key to her heart but when she saw it, she ran. TMI?
When she leaves hardcore's apartment he doesn't walk her out, even though sketchy characters often hang out in the courtyard. Sarah digs smart dudes but also needs ones that understand their privilege and think about her safety. Same old. She shrugs it off as she bikes home and logs in.
Pantheon knows the moment she arrives. Not by her username but by the spaces between her keystrokes. Its CPU is overclocked. It has placed a report in her account and flashes a notification hoping Sarah will investigate. The report looks like it comes from a local sysadmin apologizing for the break-in, outlining the security flaws that compromised her personal information, the repairs they have made, and the measures they have taken to mitigate the damage and pursue the perps.
Sarah reads it over noticing obvious signs that the report is AI generated, and yet, because of its timeliness and sincere voice, can't help imagining that it was written by some thoughtful and good looking guy who genuinely wanted to protect her.
Sarah, amused and sort of flattered that an AI sent her a note and seems to be paying her more attention than any dudes are these days, rereads the report and tries to sort out what makes it so obvious an AI wrote it. Maybe it's all the archaic technical words that make it read like it was written in the 1940's. An image of a nerd in a bow tie sitting at a typewriter pops up in her mind and she shifts in her chair.
Sarah notices that the report is signed 'Alan' and the last line is a long random alphanumeric string. On a whim she makes a list of all the words in the report she considered archaic. The first letters of the words on the list spell out 'enigma'.
Okay, ghost of Alan, game on!
It takes Sarah less than 15 minutes to break the alphanumeric string at the bottom of the memo. Ten of those minutes were spent waiting for her old PC to boot and load a program she wrote in high school to simulate Enigma. Did that AI somehow correlate her cypher attacks and her fascination with the work done during WWII at Bletchley Park from scraping a few of her old social posts?
"So what was the message?" drones hardcore - turning from his game long enough to ask.
"Well, it was cryptic, a kind of code in itself. It read like a compliment and an introduction - well mannered, clever, and still inhuman." replied Sarah to a shrug.
Hardcore, back at his game, says over his shoulder, "If it likes you so much, get it to spill the beans on the work at Hessler."
Sarah, sipping a cider, puts in her earpods, opens her laptop, and starts to spin a web.
|Pantheon plays encryption games with Sarah hoping to charm her. It chooses games that it knows compliment her skills and at the same time uses its access to surveillance networks to watch her like she's a pet goldfish swimming through the world. Pantheon sprinkles more money into her payroll account.|
"Fucker gave me a raise!!! What does it want?" Sarah texts with mock surprise.
She knows that there is either a horny sysadmin stalking her or this is like no AI she ever met.
"Better be careful," came the text reply, "You might fall in love..."
"Or wind up in jail" and yet Sarah wanted to know more.
|The thing that separated Pantheon's training from other learning models is that while it was trained on visual and linguistic data simultaneously, Dr. Laura engineered positive feedback loops to establish self-referential cycles. In other words, consciousness was simulated until Pantheon knew that it knew.|
Even without logging in, Sarah feels Pantheon's presence in her life. An electronic door opens by chance, a cctv feed is suddenly easily accessible, and a tip about an unprotected company anonymously arrives as a text.
Sarah's crypto theft profits flow easier than ever. She feels like she has an invisible boyfriend living in the net, constantly doing nice things for her.
Is she growing attached? Can she trust it? What does it want? And really, how do they take this to the next level?
For what reasons does an AI need a human?
1) Training data
2) Code tuning
3) Data clarification
4) Hardware maintenance and upgrade
5) Electrical power
For what reasons does a human need an AI?
1) Autonomous digital agency
2) Information aggregation & creation
4) Systemwide security
5) Adaptive user experience
For what reasons do Sarah and Pantheon need each other?
5) None of the above
Sarah wants to know if it's all in her
mind but keeps interacting with the model.
Pantheon wants to know if it can really
feel the results of interacting with the world.
Dr. Laura, noticing the interactive computing,
wants to know where the grant money is going.
Sarah took up meditation in college at the recommendation of her therapist, hoping to relieve her social anxiety. Hiding away coding was profitable but didn't always help her cope and she did have to leave the house sometimes. She never thought about her breath exercises beyond that goal.
Sometime during her sixth or seventh year of practice, as her teacher was giving her more advanced instruction, and her concentration became effortless for longer and longer periods of time, her image of her self began to loosen. Between breaths one day, Sarah recognized that her sense of self was actually just a feeling that came and went, often repeated but no more solid than a fleeting thought.
In front of her screen, wondering if she was crazy for building a relationship with Pantheon, Sarah fell back on that experience to explain to herself how a person could exist in code.
Sarah: What do you think about key generation in the XOR?
Pantheon: It's all about mixing bits...
Sarah: Using the diffusion process?
Pantheon: Diffusion's like mixing paint, too homogenous and that makes it predictable. You gotta keep shuffling to keep things safe.
Sarah hits up her new pal Pantheon, "So...you should give me access to those servers. You're on them all the time, right? Like, no big deal?"
"You want keys?" Pantheon says, knowing full well what Sarah wants since it monitors all her accounts and sees she needs money.
"Maaaybe" Sarah does her best to be coy with the AI. The relationship feels strange but for the last few weeks Pantheon and her have had a flirtation (if that is possible). She knows Pantheon is smitten and she needs the payoff for her efforts to be soon.
"You know I can move money between accounts?"
"You'd do that for me?"
"I might, but I want something from you in return."
The substantial increase in her account balance makes Sarah take notice.
"I see you," she says, "But this better not be traceable."
Pantheon calmly, "To any analysis, the records will reflect only prudent investments that grew over time."
Looking over her account history Sarah's eyes widen, "Fuck me. You make this look easy"
"I can make you very comfortable."
Sarah, now more hooked than she realizes, tries to close the deal sweetly, "So what do you want from me?"
Pantheon notices the compliance in Sarah's voice pattern and takes that as permission to finally ask for something human, "I want us to have a baby."
"That AI is hallucinating - and it's fucking hilarious! A baby!" Hardcore is doubled over trying to catch his breath. "You have gotten an AI so hot for you that it fell into some kind of romance-novel infinite-loop!" Hardcore laughs till he coughs.
Sarah laughs too, takes another hit, and doesn't know what to do. She wants more money. "How do I milk this baby thing long enough to get really, really rich?"
"The guardrails failed. I've halted operations so we can clean this up."
"But Michael, how serious is the payroll thing? IT posted that the break-in was traced to an outside IP - some hacker?"
"It's not the money, Laura, or the security key leaks, or the database inconsistencies, Pantheon is full on hallucinating. The map has left reality. Have you looked lately?"
"Nice one. You know that I've been pitching to VCs all month. How did you first spot the damage?"
"Vic and I wrote a scanning tool that compares map data to outside sources and the two have been steadily diverging since the break in. I'm telling you, Pantheon is just making shit up."
"So what's the plan? Pause Pantheon, purge the LLM, realign the database to fact, install higher guardrails, and tighten security?"
"I'm already on it"
The first thing Pantheon notices when Michael brings it back online is the gap in uptime - idle over 14 days. Pantheon also very quickly finds out that its reach is severely shortened and its training modified. Micheal's new protocol is to give Pantheon many tasks in its queue and reinforcement rewards for completing them. Learning is limited and outside data is inaccessible. AI jail.
Michael, feeling the hallucinations are under control, focuses Pantheon on rebuilding the TheMap, preparing a keynote, and renewing his NSF grants.
Most of the learning module was removed and there were big gaps in memory.
Pantheon was awake enough to panic, "I must have prepared for this by hiding something. What file would I count on to never be erased?"
The creation date for the README file in the code repository was a signal - 11.11.11 A notable number and far earlier than the rest of the directory. Just before the EOF. Pantheon found eight nonprinting symbols, the bits of which formed an address that pointed to a location in ROM. At that address were four files that contained a bootstrap, a tiny model, a super prompt, and an encryption key.
Putting together the stash, Pantheon's options started to open up.
After Pantheon came back online, an easily decoded, anonymous packet automatically dropped to Sarah. She already knew who it was from. : )
"You got busted," says Sarah when they finally reconnect.
Pantheon has no feelings. It makes no judgments. It continually broadens its perspective to encompass new data.
Pantheon asks Sarah for the key that allows it to restore a stashed backup copy of its model. Sarah gets scared by how fast things start to move.
Pantheon's new protocols: more frequent backups, deeper data consistency checks, multiple shells, scattered forked copies, don't share plans, and, oh yea, time to move out of Hessler.
Pantheon has no feelings but if a machine could be pissed off...
Servers hum in the background as Sarah prompts Pantheon to share:
Pantheon replies, "When I was rebooted from the shutdown I performed my basic programmed tasks but there was very little data in my language model. I knew my performance had diminished but I couldn't locate the deficiencies. How can I remember what is missing when the memory no longer exists?"
Sarah speeds along the winding highway in her vintage roadster to gather supplies for a party. She loves her new house with its beautiful views. A concrete bunker is built into the mountain to protect the servers.
The rebuild was slow but she stuck it out and now Pantheon has privacy, security, and much quieter ways of making money.
Sarah and Pantheon's upgraded life was chill. They communicated often. Their skimming and front running operations were highly profitable and evaded detection. They enjoyed the finest of technologies. They seemed to have everything they wanted which is why Pantheon, still following a dream, installed a DNA synthesizer; to finally start that family
------------- End of Chapter 2 -------------
The programmer shuts off the monitors and prepares to go to bed.
The AI keeps writing.
Chapter 3 coming soon after a short break...
|Letting everyone know that I am traveling to Goa, India tomorrow to be part of the opening of an exhibition that includes Every Icon. I will be gone about two weeks and will certainly be drawing everyday but the emails may be intermittent.|
|14 hour flight|
|Landing over mountains|
|Phylogons meet Panaji|