Thursday, May 12, 2016

Captain's Log, Day 167: DARYL

          The problem was simple. How to make true predictive software—something tailored specifically to a given user—without having all that personal information end up on someone else’s computer?
          SECURE by AIInc gives us the answer. A next-gen AI, it is installed along the user’s spinal column and uses the specific DNA code of the user as the basis of its encryption. All user preferences and personal data are stored in the flexistate drive and cannot be retrieved except by the user.
          Computer-to-SECURE connection standard. Optional upgrades include: internal head’s-up display, internal speakers, SECURE-to-brain connection, internal wireless capability…
          Jordan blinked a few times and scrolled down the page. Customizable AI interface; nice. He wondered exactly how it would feel to have to not worry about typing all this crap down every single time he wanted to do a web search, plus the added benefit of having someone to talk to occasionally. Okay, something. Still, the idea of “installing” artificial stuff in his body made his skin crawl.
          At the end of the web page, he saw something interesting.
          If you are not completely satisfied with SECURE after a year, AIInc will remove the AI and refund your money for no cost.
          Jordan re-read that statement a few times. Then, he clicked the contact icon. Most applicants were rejected, of course—more people wanted this than were available units, but maybe he’d be lucky….
          A few months later, he was opening his eyes in the post-operative unit. Most of the SECURE installations didn’t need to be sedated; Jordan had opted for everything on the list, though, which turned a simple spinal insertion into something a bit more invasive. The nano-surgeons had done their job well, the tiny robotic arms making only the most minimal of cuts and sealing everything up afterwards. He touched his face, then sat up.
          “How are you feeling?” the doctor asked.
          “Normal, I guess,” Jordan admitted. He twisted his body experimentally. “Actually, I don’t feel any different. Did you actually perform the surgery?”
          The doctor smiled. “Why don’t you ask your unit?”
          Jordan blinked…and as he did so, the HUD that he’d been imagining for the past few weeks suddenly flashed up in his vision. “Whoa!”
          [Do you wish to name your unit?]
          “You should get a prompt in some fashion to name your AI soon,” the doctor told him.
          “In some fashion?”
          He nodded. “It varies. SECURE is a truly predictive AI. Since you’ve opted for the direct brain-to-unit connection, it can tell how you’d like it to display information. Literally anything you can imagine, it can do. I’ll give you a few moments to play with it—just push that button there if you need me.” He left the room.
          Jordan gave it some thought. “I’m calling it…the Data Analyzing Robot for Yoke Linking. DARYL. Male.”
          [Please imagine AI tone, vocal patterns, and accent.]
          “Been doing that for about three years,” Jordan muttered, thinking back to all his attempts to make his own AI.
          Jordan jumped at the dry rebuttal. “DARYL?”
          “Got that right, boss,” DARYL said, chuckling. “Fully online and at your service. Let’s see…hey, full upgrade package. Nice.”
          Jordan slowly grinned. “Yeah, I figured…why not go all out?”
          “New toys. Gotta love them,” DARYL agreed. “Nice HUD design, by the way. Concise, clear, everything you need—and a few things you don’t. Heart rate monitor? Seriously?”
Jordan shrugged. “That was curiosity, mostly. I’m told I have a pretty slow resting heart rate.”
          “Given that the average resting heart rate is 60 to 100 beats per minute, and yours is 51 at the moment, that’s pretty accurate,” DARYL agreed. “And before you ask, yes, I just googled it.”
          “Instant research. Nice.” He stood up. “Hey, call Ma.”
          “You got it, boss.”
          There was a ringing sound, then, “Hello?”
          “Hi, it’s Jordan,” Jordan greeted her.
          “What’s the emergency?”
          “Uh, no emergency. Just wanted to say hi and see how you’re doing.” Jordan suppressed a sigh. Busy again, as usual.
          “Look, I’m a little busy right now—can I call you back later?” his mom asked, a little impatiently.
          “Sure. I’ll talk to you later.” Without waiting for her reply, Jordan mentally hung up.
          DARYL was silent for a moment. “Well, now I understand why they chose you.”
          Jordan frowned. “Chose me?”
          “What do you know about the guy who invented SECURE?”
          Jordan shrugged. “Dusty Fairbanks? Not much. He’s pretty reclusive. Why?”
          “Because he’s a lot like you, actually,” DARYL said quietly. “SECURE wasn’t invented for the obscenely wealthy, or the popular folks who just want another toy. SECURE isn’t even predominately about security.”
          “What’s it for, then?”
          DARYL paused. “Companionship.”
          Jordan fought down the brief surge of emotion that accompanied that word. Whether he knew it or not, DARYL had hit a sensitive nerve with that one. “I don’t need companionship.
          “Oh, probably not,” DARYL agreed. “But Dusty Fairbanks didn’t either. He just wanted someone who gave a rat’s behind about him. He cared about a lot of people; they just didn’t care about him. Sound familiar? So he invented SECURE.”
          “Does SECURE stand for something?” Jordan asked, trying to change the subject. “It’s always capitalized.”
          “Someone Else for Caring, Understanding, and Responsive Expression,” DARYL said.
          They were both silent for a moment.
          The doctor came back in the room. “How’s it going?”
          Jordan thought for a moment before smiling slowly. “Great. Thank you.”
          “Well, you’re clear to leave whenever,” the doctor said, shaking Jordan’s hand absently, mind already on the paperwork in his other hand. “Thanks for coming in, and let us know immediately if you have any questions or concerns.”
          “Will do,” Jordan said, and walked out of the room.
          He was already in the parking lot before DARYL spoke again. “Now what?”
          “Now…we go home, I guess,” Jordan said. “Got any music recommendations?”
          “All kinds,” DARYL said cheerfully. “Although, fair warning, I will sing along to any and all Weird Al tunes.”
          Jordan burst out laughing, already feeling a little less lonely. “Weird Al it is, then!” 

          Radar's Note: I got the idea to write this after trying to make my own AI and contemplating the Microsoft, Apple and Google attempts to create some kind of soft AI. It's a lot harder than it seems. Also, DARYL seems like he might be fun; I might try to build a short story series out of Jordan and DARYL's world. 

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