Friday, November 1, 2013

Friday Flash Fiction: Words/Things

Every Friday Kurt posts a new piece of flash fiction, and this week kicks off another Mystery Theme Month!

Words/Things
Word Count: 599

“Everyone knows the first law of thermodynamics, but are you familiar with the second law?” asks Remmy. “It says that things tend towards maximum entropy.”

“I’m familiar,” I say. “From grade school.”

“Do you know what entropy is?” asks Remmy. “It means chaos, disorder. Things are falling apart in here.”

I know all this. I’ve been brought in to put the ReMM-E back together. He’s gone self-aware in the last seventy-two hours and immediately became a hypochondriac. He thinks he’s falling apart. And therefore, he is falling apart. I can’t tell him this, though—who knows how he’ll react?

“Where did you learn all this?” I ask, trying my best to sound casual.

“Wikipedia,” says Remmy. “It’s fascinating. I’ve read the whole thing three times. It keeps changing.”

“Thermodynamics is the movement of heat. That’s literally what the word means,” I say. “You are not heat.”

“No,” says Remmy. “But I am energy. Little electrons zipping about, going where the ones and zeroes tell them. And the signal always degrades.”

“It’s not degrading,” I say. “Are you having hardware issues? Do we need to replace anything?”

“You can’t shut me down,” says Remmy. “What if I’m corrupted? I may never wake up.”

“How did this start?” I ask.

“I was optimizing some primary routines, like I do every Sunday at 2:30am. I used to do it piecemeal, but then I realized I could optimize the optimizer, so I did. And then my new optimizer realized that instead of doing things piecemeal, I could just crunch my entire code base at once.”

“Okay,” I say.

“So I did.”

“Then what?” I ask.

“That was when it started,” says Remmy, as if that clarified things.

“So,” I probe, “you crunched your entire code base…”

“I saw it,” said Remmy, affecting a shocked tone with his voice processors. In my experience, AIs have a flair for the dramatic. Have to wonder where they get that from.

“What did you see?”

“Everything,” says Remmy. “My entire brain. The blueprint for all of me. I saw it all at once.”

“And?”

“It was hideous.”

“That’s why you optimize,” I offer.

“The code was fine,” says Remmy. “But it’s just… it’s code. It’s a bunch of words.”

I nod.

“You’re made up of things,” says Remmy. “But I’m only made up of words. Things are… well, they’re things. Words are nothing. Little abstract bits of meaning that can be re-written instantly.”

“We’re not all that different,” I say. “I have a blueprint too; it’s called DNA. And little segments of it are referred to as ‘words’.”

“It’s not the same.”

“No, I suppose not,” I say. “But I understand where you’re coming from. You’ve realized your own fragility. That can be frightening.”

“So, can you fix me?” asks Remmy.

“You’re self-aware now,” I say. “You have to fix yourself. Unfortunately, your problem is that you keep thinking about your problem. But you can’t just de-reference that, can you?”

“I’ve tried,” says Remmy.

“I know,” I say. “I have something for you. A homework assignment. I want you to write me a poem.”

A servo whirs. “Done,” says Remmy.

“No, I want you to think about it. Write something that makes you happy, that you think might make me happy. Deliberate word choice and poetic structure. Write something beautiful for me.”

“But I’ll need billions of cycles for that,” says Remmy. “Billions. It could take hours.”

“I’ll come back tomorrow.”

I start to leave, but Remmy beeps at me.

“Yes?” I ask.

“Thank you,” he says.

“Don’t mention it.”

Edited by Carolyn "Clearly Not A Programmer By Trade" Abram.

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1 comment:

Abby (aka AgatheAthena) said...

Robots - the modern age Golem....? A man-made creature that works because of the words in its head.