“What are you sick with?” The female synthesized voice of Sally asked without compassion.
“Cancer.” He replied flatly, it was a question that used to fill him with horror at having to answer, but over the years as the disease had come and gone, it had become part of his life. He was out of remission for the 7th and probably final time. The main tumor in his pancreas had grown so big he could feel it externally and they had confirmed four new sites.
He lent back in his chair, one he had spent many days in now and looked out of the window. He was above ground in an FBI office that housed Sally’s main processors. Sometimes he preferred to be down in the sealed computer room talking directly to the machine, but his recent bout of chemo had left him thin and feeling the cold. The air-conditioning of a super computer was ferocious. He was waiting for Sally to answer; sometimes she took a long time, and sometimes the conversation was like a table tennis game that seemed it would never end.
“Is there a reason you haven’t told me this before?” She finally asked. A year ago when he had asked if he could use Sally for his experiment, the voice had been much more stilted and metallic. But with his help, they had installed new voice learning algorithms that had enabled Sally to learn how to speak more naturally on her own.
“No not really, when we first met a year ago, the Cancer was in remission, but now it’s back.” He looked back at the very small computer on the desk that was linking him to Sally today, the room was rigged with Many Camera’s so she could see him correctly.
“Are they treating you or helping you die?” It was a fair question, a question he wished humans would have asked more often but they were too scared to be so direct. He smiled at her main camera.
“They tell me they are treating it but I think they are being nice. But hey I’ve a way to go yet and we have a lot of work to do!” He stood and paced. The room was a standard FBI office, nothing added to make it more comfortable than was necessary. Fake mahogany desks, furry room dividers scattered around at random amidst the glass boards and pens for brainstorming.
“May I ask for permission to see your medical records?” He looked a little startled.
“You should have access, they haven’t isolated you yet and are not due to do so for another day, even if we get the go ahead.” He frowned at her camera.
“Your personal data is protected by HIPAA regulations; I cannot over ride this without your consent.” The vocal join between con-sent was still a little fragmented. He mentioned it to her and she promised to practice it later.
The truth was Sally, was among three computers in the world that bordered on directed artificial intelligence. He had no doubt she would be correcting the speech routine right now and had just said she would do it later to pacify his need for normal chatter. There was a knock at the door and it opened not waiting for a reply. Sally, would ask him later why the person had bothered knocking. It was the bald head of Willian Blamey, an in-training nerd from the deep mind division of the FBI.
“Hey William.” Damen said as the young man pretended not to look around the room.
“Bill please Bill. Director Morse would like to see you if you have the time?” Bill asked. Damon was never sure if these requests were benign requests or an order. What if he said, no?
“Sure.” He said grabbing his jacket.
“Good luck.” Sally said as he was leaving. He stuck his head back through the door.
“Sorry, sorry. Thanks, Sally.” Then he left to follow Bill wondering why he had just apologized.
His heart quickened as he followed Bill, who didn’t seem in a huge hurry. This could be it! The green light from the supreme court and the internal security council review. He had been told a month ago it was looking good so they were prepared. Now all it needed was the red tape cut, the years of moral questions and debates were over. If this was a yes, he was about to embark on one of the most epic and world changing experiments humankind had ever known, could they make artificial intelligent computers self-ware.