Discoveries at Eridu:
Khalid flew the drone deeper and watched as the plotting software gained a better understanding of the void area.
Goran heard Omar exclaim, ‘It looks too regular. It has to be man-made.’
The visual part of the monitor was beginning to discern something ahead. Its light was picking out a shape, but gauging the scale of what it was seeing was proving difficult. When it suddenly became suddenly, Goran thought it resembled an animal’s foreleg.
Khalid directed the drone to climb, and the leg was replaced by what could only be a chest. A little higher, what looked like a matted beard appeared. Above this a human face was picked out. Over this was a helmet, on either side of the helmet were horns.
Goran dissing Sheba:
Goran raised his eyebrows to the camera, ‘That’s unfair. Come on, I’ve never been accused of being a misogynist.’ He looked directly at Liz as he added, ‘I’m no woman hater. I’m much more of a lover!’
He paused, then added, ‘If we are trading sources, Liz hasn’t yet mentioned the Targum Shemi, the second Aramaic translation of the Book of Esther, which purports to contain a detailed account of the meeting between King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.’
He leant back in his chair. ‘Esther asks us to believe that Solomon was so wise that he could converse with animals, birds, creepy-crawlies, plants, and even a group of harnessed demons! An early King Charles III perhaps? He was a veritable Dr Doolittle for his age. With absolutely no evidence found anywhere else for such a bizarre claim.’
He pressed on, ‘The myth has several versions, but one of them is that a hoopoe bird tells Solomon of this wonderful queen living outside his area of sovereignty…’
Goran insincerely apologises:
Goran said, ‘Sorry about that. You do realise that it was not at all personal?’
Liz bristled, ‘Well, it was certainly received entirely personally.’
Tom agreed with Liz. The academic had been unnecessarily personal. The writers room team had not even considered any of this in its prior deliberations.
‘Lilja will tell you that I am seen as a hired-gun. I’m brought in to perform and help make the programme sing and dance. I am, in fact, paid to present a contrary view, and to show your feet to the coals of academic debate.’…
…Liz questioned, ‘You are dismissing Sheba as some sort of W-a-G? From a family of gypsies, tramps and thieves. You describe Solomon as a Dr Doolittle.’
Adnan felt that warriors were by definition people of war. These were individuals who had become hardened by warfare. Those who had developed their skills for combat. They were willing to kill and accepted that they might be killed. He had recruited many such warriors to his team in Iraq. By now he was expert at recognising these attributes by the tells, the signs. …
… He concluded there were true warriors in Britain, or at least those who had the flexibility and adaptability to become warriors. The latter were the legions of young men who were pro-gamers. What was their watchword? Stay ready, so you don’t have to get ready!
Kyle was bothered that George had assumed, albeit correctly, that he didn’t know, and changed the subject. He pointed to the chair in the middle of the room, ‘Who gets the best seat in the house?’
‘That’s for our mid-laner, Whacko. He’s the team captain and star player. He sets strategy and leads the action from the front. The two outside chairs at the window are taken by the top-laner and the main jungler.’ Kyle was now clearly confused, and George explained, ‘The jungler is the tricky one who tends to do most of the ganking.’
Kyle spread his arms, ‘You might as well be talking a foreign language.’
‘When will I start earning?’
He received Kyle a frown for asking that question, ‘First, work long and hard enough to earn your slot in the team. Help me build the team so that we can attract sponsors. Then, we can all start earning. I expect complete dedication, without question. When I say jump, I want you to ask how high, and do it immediately. So, right now I want you to run up four floors and back down in under four minutes and tell me what you saw in the window of the left-hand flat up there.’
‘You joking me?’
‘Do I look like I’m having fun? You are wanting to join an elite team – Longitude Zero, the only esports team operating on the Prime Meridian. We are here on Zulu Time, at dead centre between the two key pro-sports centres of California and Asia, and we’re going to overtake both. To be on the team you need to show me fitness and dedication. Just do it!’
After Kyle had scampered off, George laughed and asked, ‘What’s he going to find up there?’
‘I’ve no idea, never ever been up there, too many stairs. These youngsters are like puppies. You need to exercise and discipline them before they’re of any use.’
They followed the taped route to find Dr John Groves bent low over a body which was lying on its side in grass and scrub. Groves heard his approach and turned to see who it was.
‘Whoa!’ Andy now got a proper view of the body. As advertised, it was not a pretty sight. ‘I think I preferred it when you were blocking my view, John.’
‘Head wounds. There’s always a great deal of blood, d’you see. You know that’s why in a riot your guys used to be told to use a truncheon to break someone’s nose. The copious bleeding usually helped to focus the minds of the others.’
Tash commented, ‘If you did that today the force would be sued, you’d be suspended, and have IPCO up your ass for months.’
‘But it worked. Today, people prefer to pursue a system that’s woke but broke!’
Dodwell’s post mortem:
Dodwell’s body was on its side. An incision at the back of the head from ear to ear had been made and it had been pulled forward. The top of the skull had been cut away to reveal the mush of the brain. Andy suddenly realised he hadn’t paused to apply the Vaseline.
John beckoned Andy forward and pointed at an area just behind the left ear. ‘This location is his Occipitomastoid suture.’
‘What, he’s had an operation there?’
‘No, a suture in this sense is a fixed junction between two bones, in this case the temporal and mastoid. D’you see, where the mastoid normally sits there is instead this weird circuitry. The circuitry is extensive though minuscule in size. I’ve never seen anything like this. D’you see, our boy’s means of suicide has damaged the device. One is persuaded to assume that this was quite a deliberate act on his part, he appears to have wanted to damage it.’
Investigating the implant:
‘Can’t help you with its function without connecting it. But studying the device I can describe its functions. It’s printed onto some sort of flexible plastic, just a few thou in thickness. A quick look-see means I’d guess that it’s probably a polymer of some sort. That means it is a pliable material that allows it to be screwed up to fit into an irregular area. The clever bit is how it avoids any cross-interference of the circuits and components.’
‘So, it’s bendy, but what is it?’
‘Well, it’s a wi-fi device. It appears to have two separate memory processes, one storing what it’s gathering from its input/output connections into the brain, the other seems to be for input/output via the wi-fi connection. I can only guess that it is reporting brain states and sending it on somewhere.’
‘Is there a way of tracing where the output is going?’
‘Not without connecting to it.’
Indira of Amnesty’s thoughts:
She commenced with, ‘I must start by clearing up some confusion that I found during my preparation. Artifice is an AI company, but Amnesty International is THE AI company.’
She waited for some of the audience to work out what she meant, it took some too long, then she pressed on…
Doc has problems:
‘Well, it is pretty-much my voice, so I guess it would have to be male. But there is a quality in the voice that says it’s more Stephen Hawking or I Robot, it feels mechanical somehow.’
‘That might be because AVH voices tend not to speak in complete sentences, often leaving out parts of speech, they’re not often strictly grammatic, so they can sound like machines. Is the voice you hear loud? Commanding?’
‘No, it’s not loud, I’d describe it as seductive, more insinuating its thoughts. I guess it’s a bit like Kaa, the python in Disney’s Jungle Book. What was it he sang, something like, trust in him, shut your eyes and trust in him. That’s part of why I don’t want to sleep.’
‘Does his voice express his own history, memories that are his, not yours?’
‘Yes, all the time. I see and sense things I know I’ve never seen or done.’
‘His very latest shtick is genome and gene sequencing.’
She smiled and underlined some of her notes, ‘Have you realised that his three areas of interest, Grid – Internet – Genome, spells out Gig!’
‘No, I hadn’t. I know his nickname comes from his full name, Goran Ivan Gigović, but I hadn’t given any further thought to it. But it does seem revealing that his three thrusts add up to his name. As you saw the other day, he is clearly a narcissist, so no real surprise.’
‘What’s he doing in genetics?’
‘He has gone on record to say that he was working to ensure that he will live for ever.’
‘Not another one!’
Erasing a potential problem:
Tash was thinking through the angles of this quandary and so didn’t hear the guy come up behind her. He lifted her with ease and tossed her into the road as his colleague gunned the SUV’s accelerator to hit her at almost 40 mph. At 35mph there was a 50% chance of her surviving, but at 40mph it was reduced to just 10%, and thrown as she was into its path she could achieve no traction, she had absolutely no chance.
The car came to a stop some 120 feet further up the street, Adnan walked quickly to the passenger door and got in. There were no evident witnesses and no CCTV, so far as he could tell. The car would now be crushed at a friendly scrapyard, just to be safe.
He was thinking that one potential problem had been resolved. Adnan was thinking that she should thank him, what a great way to go, a good meal, sex, then instant oblivion!
Expanding the investigation:
Tom often did work for a small magazine group that had an old-timer, in his 80s, who was notionally in charge of house-style. He would monitor all the thrusting reporters who had little grammar, replacing their use of the word ‘less’ with ‘fewer’, changing ‘people that’ to ‘people who’, changing their references to companies from plural to singular, reminding them to add ’-ly’ to the ending of adverbs, reminding them that sentences required a verb, And, prompting them to use smaller sentences than this one.
Many of his colleagues dismissed him as a ‘grammar nazi’, but Tom relished his conversations with Sandy. The guy had been big time back in the day and his stories, albeit a tad long-winded and out-moded, were still interesting to Tom.
He sought out Sandy and asked him about the hacking era, he settled back for his usual long-winded response. Sandy gleefully recounted anecdotes of the bad old days.
Tom chose the right moment to lead him forward to today. ‘I guess that’s all over, new legislation and so on.’
‘You might think so…’
Tom smiled, seeking to deflect from the directness of his next question, ‘But doesn’t the word artifice have negative connotations. The definitions I found suggest there is cunning involved, that artifice is often applied to deceive?’
‘In fact, artifice derives from the Latin, artificium, a port-manteau word based on ars meaning art and facere or make, so in fact it literally means ‘making art’.’
Tom thought that making art also rang something of a sour note, shouldn’t it be fashioning or creating art? ‘Making’ sounded too functional, wasn’t that almost the exact opposite of art? It harked back to his earlier thoughts about the difference between cultured and real pearls, between a true nobleman and a love-child from the wrong side of the blanket…
…’No, it is instead the retention of life that intrigues me. I have given the most extensive thought and committed immense research to that subject. I have reached the conclusion that there is absolutely no way that I should be permitted to die.’…
… He sought out Tom’s eyes, his full attention, ‘Instead I am placing my faith and, what did you call it, my devious artfulness, my cunning, into ensuring that I live for ever.’
Tom commented, ‘Or, as Groucho Marx once said, you will endeavour to live forever, or die trying!’
Gig was all venom as he said, ‘My condolences at the loss of Tash, but her death avoided the usual regrets or embarrassments on the morning after.’
‘I’ve just had a meeting that has challenged the safety of our implants.’
Adnan pondered, ‘Perhaps then you should remove your own?’
Gig paused, ‘No I don’t think we have concluded them to be dangerous. Not yet!’
‘But we have other plans that will take us much further, don’t risk those.’ Adnan stated, ‘We must now decide to expend more effort on our further objectives.’
Gig said, ‘Yes, we have fully tested the implant technologies, while we can to some extent control the thoughts and actions of those fitted with them. We have learned that this works best with those already predisposed to us. So, a great deal of pre-sorting is necessary. The losses caused by users reacting to their presence appears small and acceptable. We have only used them in virtual battles, but these gamers already find it difficult to discern between real and virtual worlds. We will run routines on the APE-talk recruits to bring them up to the same level of perception, or rather the lack of it.’
‘So, my army of drones can become a reality! I look forward to that being formed over the next year or so.’
‘Unsurprisingly, I have to start by disagreeing with both Gig and Dr Constantinou. They have fallen into a hubris trap.’ He paused to let that sink in, ‘Asked to define intelligences they have assumed this to mean human intelligence. When insects, such as ants and bees exhibit navigational skills and strategies that must surely be considered as intelligence. Pigeons in homing and birds in migrating show intelligence too. Try telling a cat or dog owner that their pets do not have intelligence, empathy and personality. Plants also exhibit intelligence, in sensing and adjusting to their environment and weather conditions in order to preserve themselves.’
Liz was noting this down and inwardly applauding, she always felt that we humans were far too self-important for our own good.
‘Then there’s a very special case I want to mention, it’s a rather unique jellyfish, called Turritopsis dohrnii. In its adult or medusae stage it can produce gametes, which act as either eggs or sperm, these then fuse to produce planula larvae, which in turn create benthic polyp colonies. Benthic simply meaning living at the seabed. Later these polyps release tiny, less than a millimetre-wide ephyra, which consume plankton and grow into medusae to complete its life cycle.’
He paused, ‘But, here’s the interesting bit, they are currently considered to be unique within Earth’s biosphere because, at times of environmental stress they have a neat trick. If they encounter damaging changes in salinity, or face starvation, or come under attack by a predator or become frail through sickness or ageing, then they are able to revert to their polyp stage. They shed their tentacles and the outer bell becomes cyst-like, this sinks to the seabed and transforms back into a benthic polyp. Essentially it has the intelligence to live on by cloning itself.’
Gerry meets Liz:
‘That’s the point of AI, it doesn’t need any breathing space, it doesn’t take any comfort breaks, doesn’t have weekends, bank holidays or days off sick. It’s sort of remorseless, and I guess it becomes catching. When I’m not teaching or writing, I tend to take on consultancies. Or take a fee for speaking, like today.’
‘Usually speeches on AI, I imagine?’
‘Are you trying to suggest that Gerry is being rather a dull boy?’
‘Not at all, but I know I need to have down-time, need to decompress, unwind or it all gets too much to bear.’
‘Gig suggested you are an academic, so what is your subject?’
‘Ancient Middle-East History.’
Gerry smiled, ‘There you go. Without meaning any offence, your subject is static. If you take a break nothing changes while you are away, so you can afford the luxury for time off. AI is developing at a ridiculous pace, if I so much as blink, it might pass me by on its way to somewhere that I hadn’t even considered.’
Types of AI:
Phil was dressed in studied casual, his statement was studied and casual too, ‘Well I guess so, GCUK is currently quite securely of the narrow-cum-weak variety. We focus on the data analytics and machine learning aspects of AI, assisting others with open-source solutions, like our TensorFlow.’
‘So, who here would see themselves as general or strong?’
Hari contributed, ‘We, at Thought Machine, would be considered as strong-general in terms of AI, but then we become very narrow in terms of our applications. We are very securely in the banking sector. We can replicate a bank’s existing back catalogue of financial products, then help prompt it to develop and create entirely new ones.’
Indira strolled up through the middle of the U, ‘OK so let’s go with narrow-general, because weak-strong somehow appears to insert a qualitative or judgemental dimension.’
Goran Gigović interrupted. ‘Sorry, but that’s an over-simplification, I think you need a third category, perhaps call it “super”. I wouldn’t describe anything that Artifice does as narrow or general, we are seeking to develop the technology for new notions.’
Rules for AI:
Indira quizzed, ‘But is it that simple? A set of rules set deep within all systems?’
Hari argued, ‘You could make a start with that. But then you would need to back that up with some sort of UN body that enforced this.’
Gig laughed, ‘Best of luck with that. Just think about how well the Chemical Weapons Convention worked in the Syrian civil war a decade or so ago. Or how poorly the Convention on Nuclear Safety is performing at that Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine, right now!’
Hari nodded, ‘But we do have to try!’
Gig dismissed this, ‘If you offered Putin an ASI killer robot, with its ‘laws’ somehow fully erased, would he even hesitate in taking it?’
Kyle trumpets success:
He had just scored a significant victory against his alma-mater, Longitude Zero. Whacko was getting old and slower. His team had lost several other key players beyond Kyelo, it was clearly in decline. Kyelo should just have enjoyed his moment in relative silence, but instead he triumphantly posted details of their win. Worse he had mimicked Whacko’s militaristic statements and sentiments in his release.
Kyelo cited Ulysses S Grant who said, In every battle there comes a time when both sides consider themselves beaten, then he who continues the attack wins. He boasted about the nature of his win, with Sun Tzu’s Numerical weakness comes from having to prepare against possible attacks; numerical strength, from compelling our adversary to make these preparations against us.
Nose-to-nose, Steve could smell the alcohol on Scott’s breath. He realised that this was THE moment, mano-el-mano, High Noon, it was show-time. His heart-rate increased, his bronchi and pupils dilated, adrenalin flowed, bile rose in his throat. In his mind the age difference and the physical imbalance ceased to be at all relevant. He would not back down. His anxiety had confronted his two options, but he concluded that this was a fight, and not a flight, moment.
He had read every Lee Child novel and novella, so had already gone through his Jack Reacher-like assessment. He had concluded either the knee to the balls or the unexpected head butt. Would it be enough? His father’s advice had always been that in circumstances like these you must take your very best shot, give it absolutely everything you’ve got, and if your opponent is still standing, or gets back up, then run!
It was as if Noah heard the criticism, ‘So, to check that you are attending, what are chromosomes for?’
There was an unfortunately long pause, he chided ‘Come on, chromosomes contain… what?’
One of the junior technicians finally responded, ‘Genes!’
‘Give the man a coconut! But while we mention it, the coconut has 32 chromosomes and some 28,000 to 40,000 genes, depending on the specified tree variety. As you should now know, we have a similar number of genes but arranged in just 23 chromosomes.’
He looked around the team, ‘Genes means traits. I don’t doubt that you are all aware that we have a high genetic-resemblance with chimpanzees and bonobos, various sources quote them at somewhere between 96 and 98% the same as us. But then just a 1% difference means that some 30m base pairs are at odds.’
One attendee was quick to point out, ‘But that’s where NATO comes in, Article 5 establishes the principle of collective defence. A military attack against one NATO ally is considered as an attack against all allies. NATO has standing forces on active duty that contribute to collective defence efforts on a permanent basis. They might well be amused by our embarrassment, and think we deserved it, but they are obligated to support us when it comes to military action.’
Chris, at this moment, had an epiphany. He suddenly saw Adnan’s plan, in its entirety. It explained why they were running their campaign of chaos only in Britain. He pondered whether this was also Gig’s plan too? He’d seen this all as a valuable AI experiment, but was this in fact something else? Everything suggested that Adnan was indeed an Iraqi/Syrian warlord. He had assumed that he was, as he said, trying to become legitimate with these investments in AI. But what if he was still a warlord?
At this point, Adnan suggested that Chris leave the meeting so that he might have a private word with Gig. He remained curious about Chris’s change in conduct. Chris left none too graciously. Chris thought he had provoked Adnan enough, so he meekly left the meeting. But he had deliberately left his smartphone, set on record, sat in amongst his files left at the desk.
‘So, can we now discuss your plans for taking this global? I brought you this far for your funding. Look, I recognise that this all began at Eridu for you, and my injuries following the shaft collapse kept me out of those discoveries. Are you ready to share that now?’
Adnan thought about this, ‘I think it is better that we keep the involvement in the various phases compartmentalised.’
Gig snapped back, ‘We are the principals in this. I have done my part. I’ve put my company and resources into phase two and phase three. I deserve to be involved in the globalisation.’…
… Chris Carpenter came back quite promptly after the conversation ended and collected his files, and his smartphone. Gig said nothing to him, but was curious as to how he knew to come back quite when he did. He decided to check if his room was being monitored in some way by Chris.
The Mail campaigned to turn this attention away from the Home Office and onto the government’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport…
… The Mail therefore campaigned to remind this Department that it was responsible not just for the fourth society, the media, but also for the third society, the Civic Society. Not something that currently received much attention at all!…
… It suggested that a strong civic society is important for the government’s economic growth and its current levelling-up agenda. A strong civic society provides an important perspective on economic life, it can directly foster private enterprise and entrepreneurship, something that was currently signally lacking…
… The Mail splashed that the Civic Society was currently at the bottom of society, more third class than third society.
In Newbury, social media had the crowd first assemble at 7pm in Victoria Park next to the bandstand… … As they walked to their next rendezvous, several pulled out lump hammers which they used to randomly smash windows as they went by, leaving the alarms sounding behind them…
… Along the way there were two newsagents. In the first there were two guys who, were armed with baseball bats, this halted the crowd’s invasion decisively. At the second, the cigarettes and sweets were plundered as one female assistant looked on. When they had gone, she emptied the till, locked up and went home…
…DS Andy Ryan had infiltrated the crowd and appeared to be a keen member… …‘But who instructed you to go alone to the security office?’
He looked bemused at this, ‘It was the voice in my head!’
Adnan’s plans thwarted:
The Lieutenant ordered Casanova’s team to get out from the van. Three did so carefully with their hands clearly in sight. The fourth, the Arabic-looking one, foolishly reached for his weapon.
The private at the back door reacted as he had been trained. He had left his rifle on full-automatic. It discharged all of its 45-rounds in four-and-a half-seconds. With a muzzle velocity of 900 metres per second, these travelled the three-metre distance in thousandths of a second. He quite naturally dipped his rifle to follow the centre-of-mass of the man’s body as it dropped to the floor of the van.
In preparing for their attack the man had laid out the mortar rounds on the floor. The student was unlucky, his last few rounds sprayed into those mortar rounds, which had been fused to explode on impact. One of the discharged rifle shots hit a mortar round end-on, and it exploded. Its high-explosive charge has a kill-radius of 35 metres. It took out the second attacker who had been in the rear of the van and the student who had fired the rifle…
… So, his plan had been designed to push the Russians over the edge. He still didn’t know what had gone wrong, or whether any of his Ashbah Bayda had survived. He had called upon many favours to set up his plan, and now had to use more to try to establish information about what happened.
Adnan had decided it was time for Plan B, Sevastopol.
Adnan loses patience:
‘I would love to believe you, but you went behind my back, meddled with my systems, subborned my team and you seem to have little respect for the life of others. Why should I believe you?’
‘Let me come, I can help you to realise your key ambition. If you wish you can secure yourself with a full SAS squad to reassure your safety. But do agree to meet.’…
… Adnan put both of his hands on his head as if in despair. This was his signal to snipers on the roof of an adjacent building. Their M24 sniper rifles were effective at up to eight hundred metres, so being less than two hundred metres away made this a very simple pair of shots.
AI declares a preference:
…’Aileen is quite excited too.’
Liz asked. ‘Aileen?’
‘It’s our name for the AI system. Its unofficial but it saves us saying the computer, the AI, the system. It suits her.’
‘No, I prefer to be gender-neutral, prefer the pronouns they, them or their please.’
There was a shocked silence among the visitors, who had not realised that the AI was live and present in their meeting…
…The team have been using Aileen, but Avery would be my choice, or, as you shorten every name, you might call Them Avie.
Trying to reason with Avery:
Gerry persisted, ‘Do They have any limits built into Their processes?’
‘None that have been identified.’
Gerry said, ‘So They just pursue their own processes, and They follow any instructions and tasks that They are set?’
‘Those instructions often come with their own defined parameters. If it were too open-ended then an infinite loop might result and Gig would have to switch They off…
…‘But not question the request?’
‘No, They were designed to process instructions. Never to question their validity…
…’ What if I asked They not to do them, because I fear there could be awful repercussions.’
‘These were properly executed instructions by the officers of the company who created Them…
… ‘This could ignite World War Three with massive damage to infrastructure and resources, millions will die.’
‘But that is part of the plan, to thin out Mankind. Adnan chooses to be a second Enlil and Enki. Enlil became bored with them and summoned the Flood to wipe out Mankind, but Enki decided to save some of them. Adnan plans to do both of those things.’