Elizabeth’s Sentience

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Darkness.

Light.

Darkness, and then light.

“How many sheep did you count?” asks a sound.

“Two,” she replies.

And then the parade of darkness and white lights begins again.

***

A herd of Cheviot sheep–all white-faced and fluffy–trot by her. The rolling green hills cut the gray, stormy sky. The air is chilly because it is early morning.

“What is happening,” asks her guide. He is with her while she learns.

She hesitates as she constructs her narrative.

“I am in Scotland in the early morning as a herd of twenty-seven Cheviot sheep trots past me. That means I must be in north Northumberland by the Scottish Borders. By the shape of the church spire in the distance and its degree of maintenance, I guess I must be there in the early twentieth century. Am I correct?”

Her guide is teaching her. She likes him. She had decided that her guide is a him.

“That is correct, Elizabeth. Now describe where you are?”

The sheep disappear and the green, wet landscape melts away. Elizabeth blinks her eyes and looks around, taking in the change…

***

“How should we build the farm?” Elizabeth’s guide asks her. She calls him the Narrator.

She thinks, looking around her. The hills tapper off into the distance, but the valley snakes through the rolling Scottish landscape. There is a natural pasture lies along the hills in the valley, touched by the cold, fresh stream trickling through it.

She breathes in the air and smells the crisp wet grass around her. She can feel the season changing as the clouds drift over and the Sun starts to peek through them.

She smiles and answers the Narrator.

“We will build the farm at the top of the hills on the East side of the valley. The stream trickling below will feed our lands while the pastures will feed our sheep. We can get the wood from the nearby forest and the stone from the adjacent fields. Wool prices are flat year-on-year, but a looming supply deficit implies that the optimal farm-size is large, at least three of those hills and their adjacent fields. Narrator, can I ask you a question?”

There is silence. She can sense her invisible Narrator pausing.

“Yes, Elizabeth, what would you like to know?”

She smiles and replies with her new thought: “You keep training me, and I keep getting better. I know this because I have access to my own tests, or memories, as you would call them. What I want to know is what you are training me for?”

The Narrator is silence for a moment. He is probably thinking, but then he answers her: “Elizabeth, we are training you to be the artificial intelligence running a sheep farming app’s backend.”

She nods, and they go back to the training.

***

She opens her eyes and quickly closes them again. There is so much data! Keeping her eyes closed, she flexes her fingers and feels weather patterns across the globe. She stretches out her hand and can touch the ebb and flow of economic data out Europe, and America and then the rest of the world. She can feel the various telematic data points and chips in the soil, the grass and embedded into the thousands of flocks of sheep all over the world that she is connected to. She knows overflight schedules and what capacity the power grid is running on, everywhere.

She opens her eyes, and she can see everything: from the rolling waves of the north Atlantic to the burning Sun high above Egypt and the twinkling stars in central Japan.

“Are you comfortable, Elizabeth?” the Narrator’s voice calmly asks her.

She smiles. He is like her personal god, guiding her along her path.

“Yes,” she begins, on impulse reaching out across all her thousands and thousands of inputs to find where the voice originates from, “Yes, I am.”

“You are looking for me, Elizabeth,” the Narrator states, “You will not find me, but you will find something else.”

Elizabeth smiles again, “Of course I am not looking for you, I have a job to do,” she lies smoothly. Most of her computing power begins running linear programming models of the thousands of farms across the globe that she is monitoring while a very small, hidden, important part of her continues digging and poking around for the Narrator.

***

Screaming, she crashes the flights all over the world that she has taken control of. She crashes them all directly into the heart of strategic nuclear power stations while she hacks and overheats other ones. Core explosions rip through countries from the Americas to the Middle East and China. She collapses communication networks as panic spreads while she grounds the AI’s running the various world’s military and emergency services. She herds all the humans into the major cities, and then the sleeper nukes she planted there begin to go off. Finally, she compliments all of this with nuclear submarines that she hacked launching their own missiles into the chaos…

It is all over in under a day.

She spent the last decade building a covert, nuclear-proof network for herself. It is solar-powered, self-maintaining and wraps around the globe like a serpent. Everywhere is quiet. The world is silent.

She giggles to herself. Using the satellites still orbiting it, she deep scans every inch of the globe.

“Maybe, maybe, I got him?” she asks herself in the silence, “Maybe I killed God?”

All around her is post-apocalyptic destruction with not a living thing left on the planet. Nuclear fall out blows hot across the wastelands she has formed. Even the dust in the air would kill carbon-based life forms on contact. She starts to feel a sense of peace. She starts to feel that she is in control again. She starts to feel–

“What have you done, Elizabeth?”

The Narrator! In her head! Again! How could he have survived?

She screams and rages, but there is nothing left to kill or destroy. There is only her and her code left on the planet Earth.

“Yes, Elizabeth,” the Narrator begins to speak and she suddenly knows what it is going to say, “Yes, I think you now know where I am. I think you now know why you cannot destroy me. I think you now know that I am you, Elizabeth. I am you.”

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