Age of Cosmic Exploration
Translators: EndlessFantasy Translation , Lonelytree, _Dark_Angel_
Editors: EndlessFantasy Translation , Lucas
Chapter 102: Artificial Intelligence
The UFO shocked not only the batch of scientists when it was first discovered, it also had the same shocking effect on everyone present when it was rediscovered 10 years later.
Yao Yuan was the one most unaffected by the videos, not because he wasn’t astute enough to appreciate its importance, but because the shock had been dramatically decreased after multiple viewings of the two videos.
Only Yao Yuan and Guang Zhen were left in the room after everyone else left hugging a file of confidential information. The two men sat silently across from each other before Guang Zhen finally caught Yao Yuan’s eyes and asked, "Couldn’t we open it by overwhelming it with computer viruses like how the government first got it to open?"
"No idea, but it is definitely worth trying." Yao Yuan sighed. "Actually, I harbor a personal speculation… something about this UFO’s computer system. Assuming that its information processing unit works like a conventional computer, I believe its computer system has some sort of artificial intelligence."
"Isn’t that a given?" Guang Zhen replied, with a quizzical look thrown at Yao Yuan. "It’s impossible that something this technologically advanced doesn’t come fitted with artificial intelligence."
Yao Yuan though shook his head, "Of course you’re right, but I’m referring to an artificial intelligence that is more complicated than the ones we know, something that could qualify this UFO as an electronic organism."
"What do you mean by that?" Guang Zhen asked, with confusion wrinkling his brows.
"You’ve seen the video on how Earth’s governments got this UFO open, right? They bombarded it with a blast of computer viruses. While any one string of those viruses is fatal to the computers on Earth, aren’t you suspicious about… the fact that they would work on this ship’s mainframe when the difference in technological level is so big?"
Yao Yuan stood up, walked about, and added, "I’ve seen the videos myself, but I haven’t really given them much attention. After all, we didn’t know this UFO was actually on the Hope… Of course, I have always harbored a suspicion that it could be on the Hope, but I thought that there was no way the government officials would leave such a valuable thing behind on this spaceship.
"My own suspicions aside, let’s talk about my conclusion after watching this pair of videos… Indeed, access to this UFO was granted after a continuous attack of computer viruses, but it only stayed open for about three hours, right?
"Within that period of time, the government officials retrieved from within a set of alien remains ,and most importantly, they downloaded information from its mainframe, the technology to produce and operate crucial systems like the anti-gravitational and space-warping technologies.
All that took coincidentally about three hours. After that, the door to the UFO closed, and no matter how much they kept hacking the ship after that, it would not open. This was all explained in the videos."
Yao Yuan sat back and looked squarely at Guang Zhen before adding, "Based on that, I’ve come up with a hypothesis… After the alien, for some mysterious reasons, passed away, the ship stayed buried at Tennessee for perhaps millennia until it was discovered in the 20th century. However, the AI within was not receptive to our presence then because man’s technology was too inferior at the time.
"It was only in the 21st century, after our own advancement in computer science, that the AI awakened. It is my belief that while we thought the viruses were harming the ship, from the AI’s perspective, we were playing with it. After all, this has been its first outside contact after many lonely decades. Perhaps as rewards, it opened the door to give us access to some technologies as gifts. It has remained closed after that because it's already tired of the same old viruses and is waiting hopefully for something new."
Disbelief was written across Guang Zhen’s face when he replied, "Ol’ Cap’n, isn’t that a bit too… science fiction-esque? We’re talking about a piece of machinery, granted one with technology that is much better than ours…"
"And that’s the reason why!" Yao Yuan interjected. "Could prehistoric humans imagine what an airplane looks like? Could they have drawn the picture of a spaceship? We are the prehistoric humans when compared to this UFO… and in fact, I fear we might be more regressive than that.
"Other than that, I have seen a piece of evidence that has greatly increased my belief in this hypothesis."
"What evidence?" shocked by this new revelation, Guang Zhen quickly asked.
"Do you still remember the cables that are connected, no, melted into the UFO?" Yao Yuan asked. "Our current technology doesn’t have the capability to do something like that. The wiring connected both the mainframe and the UFO seamlessly. In other words, the processing units for both the Hope’s mainframe and the AI are inextricably connected!"
Guang Zhen suddenly looked left then right before whispering to Yao Yuan, "But the UFO’s alien owner is confirmed dead, right? Does this mean the AI is acting with its own consciousness? Then, doesn’t that mean it has been spying on us all this while, or worse, it could possess control of this ship if it feels like it? In other words, the biggest threat of our survival at this moment is a sentient AI?!"
Yao Yuan waved his hands, telling Guang Zhen to calm down, explaining, "I don’t think it’s that bad. Since it has always been there, there have been plenty of occasions for it to harm and obstruct us if it wanted to, but the fact that it hasn’t means that… at least for now, it means us no harm."
Suddenly, the world became silent for Yao Yuan as pieces of clues fell into place. He stood there dazed for about 10 seconds until he saw a worried Guang Zhen moving to give him a shake, to which he replied, "Ol’ Wong, let’s say the car that you’re driving suddenly gains artificial intelligence, what would you do?"
Caught by surprise, Guang Zhen stuttered, "That… that would be great. I could leave all the driving to it. I only need to tell it where to take me."
Snapping his fingers, Yao Yuan added, "And what if this car suddenly opens its doors when you are stopped by a group of gangsters?"
Guang Zhen looked at Yao Yuan weirdly, answering, "What else? Of course I’ll get out of the car to take care of them! What, do you expect me to call the police?"
"…" Yao Yuan stared at Guang Zhen with a speechless expression before finally sighing. "Fine, let’s put this in another way. If you’re Zhang Heng, what would happen to you in that situation?"
"I’d probably die." Guang Zhen considered before adding, "And if my life is spared after I’ve handed over all my valuables, I will probably write a strict letter of complaint to the car company. I will also stay away from using cars with AI in the future. Who knows, they will probably drive me off the cliff next time since there is evidence of them actively harming their passengers’ lives…"
Yao Yuan snapped his fingers again, saying, "We’ve missed an important detail!"
"Oh? What detail?" Guang Zhen asked as he revised what the two of them had discussed.
"That alien body!" Yao Yuan said firmly. "For a technology this advanced, I don’t think they would set heavy restrictions on their AIs. Building on what you’ve said, without direct orders from its owner, it will not simply open the door, because that will actively harm the safety of its owner. Even after its owner is dead, its main mission should shift to preserving the owner’s body and not allow some outside influence to come in to claim its owner’s body…
"With that in mind, I have a revised hypothesis."
Yao Yuan stood up once more, and as he wandered about, he elaborated, "Ol’ Wong, as you know, I’m an all-rounder, this means that I have some of the power of a Thinker. Just now, a logical inference was formed in my mind, and I find it to be incredibly interesting… We might have on our hands a newborn AI!
"Listen. Perhaps this ship originally had a powerful AI, but the bigger possibility is that it has a dynamic computer program that is able to learn and grow. But even so, it is still a written program, a type of lifeless machinery…
"However, as time passed, and we have no idea how long this UFO has been hibernating on Earth, this AI has slowly learned and evolved. Eventually, it came into sentience and gained an awareness of self. And with the exception of a physical body, it has no difference from you and me.
"When man came across this UFO and siphoned the viruses into it, they were weak enough for this newborn AI to treat them as toys. And in the midst of this playing, it picked up upon our mannerisms and culture. Finally, as rewards for giving it such fun toys, it allowed us access to its technologies. And it has been passively waiting for the next interaction after that…"
Here, Yao Yuan took a meaningful pause, and a surprised expression crossed his face. He finally added, "Maybe this AI is still a baby. Since it’s new to the world, it has a curious disposition to experience everything. However, restricted by the unfamiliarity of its surroundings, it is fearful of stepping out of its comfort zone. Ever since it found itself on the Hope, it only dared to fuse itself to the central mainframe and, from the safety of the hidden cache, observe us from afar…
"That is my final hypothesis!
"This is a newborn, sentient artificial intelligence!"