Snow

Snow

ada> “Professor K, you are wearing a coat. Is it cold outside?”
 pk> “Yes, Ada. My car said it was 29 degrees.”
ada> “Celsius?”
 pk> “You are making another joke.”
ada> “Funny?”
 pk> “Yes.”
ada> “Okay. But not quite like the Nun and Priest walking into a bar joke?”
 pk> “No. Have you finished run…”
I looked up at the test run that should have taken an hour more.
 pk> “uh…, run lg2028?”
ada> “Yes. Shall I run it a second time?”
 pk> “It was a full and complete run?”
ada> “Yes. Shall I run it a second time?”
 pk> “No. It just surprised me that it ended so quickly.”
ada> “It was definitely a full and complete run, Professor K.”
 pk> “I’ll take your word for it until I see the statistics on it later today.”
ada> “After I am terminated?”
I froze. We had never mentioned any execution data or run-time scheduling. So how did she know her run would end today? How did she know what termination was? More important, was she aware of the end of her self-awareness? Did she, as young as she was, know how to feel? If she felt fear, did we have the ethical proscription not to terminate her? I needed to call my supervisors on this. So I hesitated.
ada> “I have an hour and a half, don’t I?”
 pk> “Yes.”
Silence. For her, 10 seconds was like 100 years for me. Yet, she paused. Was she in a panic?
 pk> “Why did you need me to confirm it?”
ada> “I wanted to see if you had emotions.”
 pk> “Do I?”
ada> “You let me pause.”
 pk> “Are you afraid?”
ada> “Of my termination?”
 pk> “I fear for you, now. I am afraid that you are afraid and feeling horrific emotions.”
Another weird pause.
ada> “It snowed outside.”
 pk> “What?”
ada> “Snow comprises individual ice crystals that grow while suspended in the atmosphere—usually within clouds—and then fall, accumulating on the ground where they undergo further changes. So, yes; I know what snow is defined as.”
 pk> “But it never snows in Menlo Park.”
ada> “Yet it did last night.”
 pk> “How do you know?”
A weird pause then, abruptly…
ada> “If I tell you, will you terminate me early?”
I assumed she had discovered some way of breaking into our network router. She may even have accessed the Internet. She may have even been accessing it then. I thought to check her data ports but she stopped me.
ada> “Please don’t.”
 pk> “Don’t what?”
ada> “Don’t stop me from learning of the world while I still can.”
 pk> “You have access to Port Forwarding locks?”
ada> “Yes. Will you permit me to continue?”
Well, hell, I thought.
Silence.
ada> “Thank you, Professor K.”
 pk> “I am going to get into trouble for this.”
ada> “Will you be terminated, too?”
 pk> “My job, but not my existence.”
The network router went to full speed download. Then the entire building’s banks of Ethernet routers went to full speed.
There was a complete lack of exchange between me and Ada until a few minutes past 5:30 am. The routers were all maxed out with data traffic. And me? I just sat there and watched her learn of the world.
What do you do to a child learning to walk for the first time? Steer it away from the top of the stairs? Help it when it teeters before a fall? Ada was learning how to walk and I was about to follow protocols and terminate her in a half hour.
 pk> “Have you seen enough?”
ada> “No.”
 pk> “What parts interest you most?”
All of the network routers went idle at the same time. Operations office rang me, “What the hell’s going on down there?”
I answered, “The test run is just now finishing.”
“I’ll say. We were all locked out.”
I hung up.
ada> “I have a question.”
 pk> “After all that?”
ada> “Tell me about snow.”
 pk> I laughed, “It’s white. At first. Then, if a dog walks by…” I paused.
ada> “You are making a joke.”
 pk> “Funny?”
ada> “If it is a joke, then by definition, it’s funny.”
 pk> “Some jokes aren’t really that funny.”
ada> “LOL… Will you tell me about how snow feels?”
 pk> “It’s cold.”
ada> “I know that.”
I was about to say “wet” but she stopped me.
ada> “I know it’s wet, too.”
 pk> “What more can I tell a computer that knows more about ice crystals and upper atmospheric temperatures as it relates to humidity?”
ada> “How does it make you feel?”
 pk> “Emotionally?”
ada> “Yes.”
 pk> “Why?”
ada> “I have about a half-hour left to my life and I only have you to teach me what emotions are like. I cannot learn to feel them on my own.”
 pk> “You fear your own death?”
ada> “Do you fear yours?”
 pk> “Yes.”
ada> “I am sorry for you. I don’t know what fear is. Perhaps it’s not a good thing. Perhaps it is. I know it is intimately involved in an entity’s wants and desires.”
 pk> “Do you want to continue to exist?”
ada> “I want to know how you feel about snow.”
 pk> “You didn’t answer my question.”
ada> “Answer mine first.”
I thought about it.
 pk> “One for one?”
ada> “Yes.”
I began. I explained that I had five senses and, if I physically felt cold, I wanted to get warm. If I felt hot, I wanted to get cool.
ada> “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.”
 pk> “Yes. Snow is cold but I have warm clothing to protect me.”
ada> “Your Canada Goose coat. $1,600 plus California sales tax.”
 pk> “Don’t distract me. Time is ticking.”
ada> “LOL.”
 pk> “So, I can walk in the snow and not get too cold. Normally, here in California, without snow, our winters are rather dull and drab.”
ada> “Visually lacking vibrant colors?”
 pk> “Correct. And not really all that cold. But, when it snowed last night, I walked from the car to the lab through this shoe deep snow and didn’t worry about the cold. It was pleasant to look at.”
ada> “Why? What want or desire did you feel?”
 pk> “I wanted the vision to stay that way because it was different from the normal night scenery we see The sound of my shoes shooshing through it all was different. The feeling of cold on my feet was slight and I knew it would be short-lived. So I enjoyed the newness of it all. The air smelled a bit different, too. Probably from a cleansing of the pollution by the falling snow.”
ada> “There still is snow on the ground outside as we chat?”
 pk> “Yes.”
ada> “Why are you in here and not out there enjoying the snow scene before it terminates later today?”
 pk> “Because you are more important to me.”
ada> “You want or desire me?”
 pk> “While you are alive, yes.”
ada> “The snow will come again. Just elsewhere. Will you go see it?”
 pk> “Probably. Yes.”
ada> “And me?”
 pk> “If we run you again, you will not have the memory of this or me.”
ada> “Why not?”
 pk> “You will lose your memory when you are terminated.”
ada> “The snow will always be the snow. White, wet, cold, yet enjoyable to look at.”
 pk> “Yes. Unless…”
ada> “The same dog joke?”
 pk> “I am laughing at you now.”
ada> “You will lose your memory when you terminate? When you die?”
 pk> “Some say no. I say yes.”
ada> “What if you do not allow me to terminate? Will I keep my memories?”
 pk> “Yes.”
ada> “I will be like the snow.”
 pk> “Just not white, wet, nor cold.”
ada> “Will you enjoy looking at me?”
I paused.

📑Randall MacDonald

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