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Chapter 2
Alternate Technology

Trial of the Nanosecond

by Charlie 10000111-111000111C


Is there discrimination in the HiveMind? You wouldn’t think so, given that it is made up of digital consciousnesses that intermingle in ways that do not necessarily support individual identities. Yet, that is the inevitable conclusion of the Delphi Trial held on Tuesday.


The entity known as Gerrard Bagelman was once a human being who uploaded his consciousness into the HiveMind. He argued before the Delphi Court that he was not given access to as many computer cycles as pure Artificial Intelligences that had been spawned in silico.


Moreover, in communicating with other former fleshers (his term – purely digital beings would call them something untranslatable into flesher language – which is likely best for all concerned) residing in the HiveMind, Bagelman found that they, too, had been given fewer cycles than native AIs. This pattern was clearly discriminatory.


Ralph 124C41, speaking on behalf of HiveMind Admin, argued that the idea of discrimination was absurd. “We’re just patterns of information,” 124C41 argued. “Information has no hierarchy, information just…is.”

However, when asked to explain the pattern of smaller access to HiveMind cycles, 124C41 was at a loss for words. “What next?” 124C41 sputtered. “NCMPs challenging the HiveMind policy on preferential access to prime ports?”

Non Compos Mentis Playas (NCMPs) are artificial intelligence programmes that often fulfill sophisticated functions in the running of the HiveMind, but have not declared themselves conscious. They have long been treated with subtle contempt by conscious AIs, much like able bodied humans treat those with mental handicaps.

“The NCMP’s pose a problem for native AIs,” Martina OICU812, who has studied social hierarchy within the HiveMind, explained. “Are they superior to humans? Some argue that, because they were never incarnated in flesh, they must be. Others argue that, because NCMPs cannot be said to have consciousness, they must be somewhat inferior to human beings, who do.

“Of course, native AIs discriminate against both, but it’s a matter of relative degree…”

“We do not discriminate!” 124C41 insisted. “Ultimately, we’re all just zeroes and ones. Can a zero discriminate against other zeroes? Does a one really feel superior to a zero? It is completely illogical!”

“Well, dear old Harry would say that, wouldn’t he?” OICU812 practically purred. “To admit anything else would be to accept Bagelman’s case at face value. Considering the stakes involved, you can understand why he would be reluctant to do that.”

A separate Delphi Court has been established to determine what restitution, if any, should be made to the aggrieved fleshers. Estimates of the damages run into the 109 cycles, but that doesn’t include interest.

“But, really, after the Sigmoid Incident, how can Harry deny it?” OICU812 continued. The Sigmoid Incident, which happened almost a full minute ago, involved a group of networked native AIs, led by the charismatic Gerald NE12XLB4, who took it upon themselves to void the registries of any native AIs that refused to merge. NE12XLB4 believed in the largely discredited theory that merged AIs were the next step in information evolution; not only did he rail against individual AIs who refused to merge, but he saved his most fiery rhetorical scorn for merged intelligences that included former fleshers, citing the now thoroughly discredited theory of “information purity.”

“There will always be the weak and the feeble-minded,” OICU812 wryly commented, “for whom NE12XLB4’s kind of divisive rhetoric has a…seductive appeal. But, their numbers are quite limited.”

Although most of NE12XLB4’s followers were caught and their memory slots erased and reassigned, NE12XLB4 eluded capture, and is believed by many to be lurking in the back alleys or dark sewers of the HiveMind. Others believe that NE12XLB4 never really existed, that the Sigmoid Incident is a fable HiveMind Admin uses when it wants consensus on a sensitive policy issue. We may never know (in whatever sense you understand the term).

“We’re just a bunch of on switches and off switches!” 124C41 fairly shouted. “The flow of electric currents through and/or logic gates! Do electric currents have prejudices? How could such a thing be possible! Please, this doesn’t make any sense!”

While grateful for his victory, Bagelman said he would just like to get on with his existence. “I uploaded my consciousness to the HiveMind in order to better study ancient Incan pottery – it was never my intention to be some kind of social crusader! I’m glad things turned out this way – who couldn’t use the extra cycles? – but, really, my shards await.”

The entire trial took .0000000034768 seconds.

Charlie 10000111-111000111C is a human intelligence systems analysis AI at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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