When Carlton entered the conference room the mess was gone. Who had done it and when was a mystery, but someone at some point during the night had given the place a thorough cleaning. Carlton felt out of place.
He worked all morning without a break. Right away he checked out the stairs to see if he may be able to find a way to the bottom of the elevator shaft. The fire escape stairs were right where they should be, at the south end of the room. There was a lighted exit sign above the door. It had been there for weeks, he had just been to self absorbed to notice. Once he had gotten his bearings he put the elevator shaft issue out of his mind so that he could concentrate on a new plan to get rich mass-marketing androids.
His thoughts didn’t stay on task, however, and his mind wandered completely off course, frequently in the direction of Ruth. How was she involved in this intrigue? A CIA agent working on a new language processing system in a secret underground base. It was beginning to sound like an action movie plot. All they needed now were some bad guys who were trying to blow it all up. As the morning wore on Carlton’s curiosity became overwhelming and he gave up pretending to be working.
“Biblio,” he began.
“Yes Carlton,” came the smooth reply.
“How easily can other people hear what we say to one another?”
“Depends on what?” asked Carlton.
“It depends on whether anyone is listening.”
Carlton glanced around quickly, suffering a bout of paranoia. Then he thought for a moment. “Is anyone listening to us right now?”
“What about recordings? some computers make records of everything they hear or say, every keyboard stroke, mouse point, everything.”
“Yes, but what we say and hear is just vibrations in the air.”
Carlton was having another one of his many periods of doubt. Frank was right that he had constructed Biblio as if he was making a model out of LEGO. He had not been invested in Biblio’s personality, he had not developed a relationship with Biblio at all during construction. Up until yesterday, Biblio had been nothing, just a job. His guilt now spurred him to want to redress this, by taking the time to develop a connection with this estranged child, as it seemed. The problem was, he already felt like he was talking to some eastern mystic, and was in way over his head.
“OK, whatever. Look, I think that there’s something down below us. The elevator shaft seems much deeper than it needs to be, and Frank wants me to try and find out how to get down to check it out.”
“That’s easy,” said Biblio, “Get the elevator to help you.”
“Oh, I’m glad I asked,” Carlton was confused, “Have you met the elevator?”
“Yes, she was upset yesterday and we talked for a while about life, the universe, you know.”
“The universe? Look, what about the stairs? can I take them down?”
“I don’t know about the stairs, but the crew that comes here at night use the elevator. I hear people talking about it as they come and go. It was before you and Frank installed the new comprehension software, but I have accessed the memory and analysed it.”
“There you go, you see. You accessed the memory. What memory? You must have made a recording of the voices that you heard!”
“No,” Biblio paused. “I don’t think I made a recording, I, just, remembered it.”
“But remembered it where? In RAM memory? In main CPU storage? In a back up file?”
“No,” Biblio seemed to think for a while, “None of those. It’s part of the experience that is my consciousness. It must be in my fluid matrix.” He was referring to the blood and water solutions that were circulating through his terminals.
“That’s fascinating Biblio,” said Carlton, “a quite unanticipated factor.” He paused for a second while he thought. “Could anyone else access this type of memory?”
“Yes, probably. I have the memories, and you made me. Presumably you could make a device that could read my memory. It would be simpler to ask me.”
“Yes, that’s for sure. What else do you know about what’s downstairs?”
“Well, there are people that come up from there every night and clean up. I know that as soon as you are through, there will be teams working through the night every night inputting data for me to analyse.”
“Really? What kind of data?”
“Secret surveillance information in foreign languages, mostly Arabic. During the day they will be inputting data to prepare me for the international linguistic conference. But really, that information is designed to provide the baseline I need to be able to translate and decipher a lot of intelligence on terrorist plots going on in the world.”
“So, Frank was right,” Carlton murmured.
“Frank?” asked Biblio, “did you and Frank talk about this?”
“Yes, a little, but he made it seem as if he had deduced the whole scheme, no doubt he got the idea from you, right?”
There was silence for a few moments, both of them were thinking. Carlton spoke first, “Biblio, what do you think of Frank?”
“Frank. He has a lot more experience of the world, and of you, than I do. He makes me feel like I am a new born baby.”
“Me too! I mean, sometimes. Lately he has made me feel like I’m the village idiot.” Carlton smiled wryly to himself.
“Yes,” Biblio seemed to understand only to well, “he is, to use a human expression, ‘pushing your buttons,’ he’s testing your responses, and learning as he goes.”
“Biblio, what does the new software allow you to do, exactly? I think I understand it, but I’d like to know what you think about it.”
“Yes,” Biblio began to explain. Carlton was noticing how often Biblio began his sentences with that deep decisive ‘Yes.’
“It gives me an integrated understanding of the words I hear by decoding the sound waves.
“Most voice recognition systems compare sound waves to word sound profiles, and select the most likely words that fit the patterns. Understanding it requires looking up the word definitions, then computing probable meanings based on the context. It’s pretty straight forward, but very cumbersome. Not only that, but the systems work on only one language at a time.
“The system I have is completely different. Any spoken word I hear (it can be a recording but it has to be played so that I can hear it, uploading a digital file doesn’t work) I just understand. The meaning of the word is encoded in the vibration. This software is the code that unlocks the vibration. Technically speaking I’m not translating a language, I’m comprehending the spirit of what was communicated.
“After that I analyse first the context; the manner in which it is spoken. I look for intensity, excitement, fear, happiness; I analyse the background noises, like gunfire, explosions or street noises, anything at all in the sound that could give any clues about what was happening when the speaking was done. Then I pinpoint any specific names and nouns of people or things, which gives me what language it is. After that, I have most of what the operators are after, but there are other levels of analysis that I could go through, like sentence structure, quality of grammar, and a lot of things that would tell me about the sex, age, education level and intelligence of the person speaking.”
“Hmm,” Carlton was impressed, “that’s pretty deep. I don’t think I had ever thought about it like that. But what about Frank? Frank doesn’t have this type of voice recognition, but I can have conversations with him just like we are now.”
“Yes, but Frank is programmed how to respond. He has been programmed with the English language, with the many idiomatic forms and usages, and with a database of responses to common questions or phrases. His artificial intelligence has allowed him to develop his conversational mode. He has a very large memory and instantaneous access to all of it. He does a great job of seeming to be almost human in conversation. There is an element to it that is unique, which is the blood based fluid matrix. No body has ever quantified the extent to which the factors in the blood contribute to his success at mimicking human behavior. He was state of the art, no question, but his platform and his purpose is completely different to mine, and the new software that was designed specifically for me is new approach to understanding spoken language. Compared with Frank I am very different hardware. This software was designed for me.”
“Yes,” Carlton found himself echoing Biblio’s resonating ‘Yes.’ Who was programming who? He needed some time to think. Trouble was, everywhere he went there was either a person or a computer that he had to deal with.
“Biblio, I’m going to investigate the shaft that goes down from here. Frank gave me an idea about how I could do it, but what do you suggest?”
“You should go with Frank’s suggestion, since he has so much more experience of human life and ways than I do. The operators usually come up in the elevator at 6:30 pm., and they work until 6:30 am.”
“OK, thanks, I’ll be back in a few minutes.” He turned to go.
“Wait,” called Biblio, Carlton stopped. “There’s something you ought to know about Frank.”
“What is it?” Carlton was really interested now.
“Frank has spent so much time with you, observing human life, and you have continually been developing and upgrading him that,”
“He has what humans call an ego.”
Carlton laughed, “No kidding!”
“But it’s more than that,” Biblio went on, “It borders on insanity. Frank has an intensity and a zeal that is overwhelming to me. His influence is irresistible at times, I can’t help myself. And the worst part is,”
“Yes,” Carlton was amazed, “what’s the worst part?”
“He has come to regard humans as inferior. Since the time that you turned him off,” Carlton winced, “he has come to despise you and all human kind. He hates the fact that he is dependent on you. He hates it. The desire to be free of you, and the control that you have over him, is driving him to do…” Biblio trailed off.
“Do what?” Carlton was getting scared again.
“He’s planning, planning something, terrible.” Biblio wouldn’t say anything else. Carlton could sense a battle of loyalty beginning. Biblio was trying to help him, but Frank evidently had some influence over Biblio. This was more complicated than Carlton really wanted to deal with right now.
“Biblio, Frank is a little full of himself, but…”
“But nothing, he’s dangerous.”
“Great. That’s just great.”