Friday, July 29, 2011

The Source of the Problem

April 23, m0039, continued

The team continue tidying up in the aftermath of the Eden Unlimited site problem. They decide that one important consideration should be keeping the site effectively isolated from the general Web as much as possible, and also isolating Adam-4 from the local network. They tell Eve-17 to password-protect everything she can, and to change the codes for everything already protected, and she sees to this, while Florence gets up onto the building roof and, advised by Vajra, sets to work disconnecting the major, high-bandwidth satellite communications dishes. They can't be entirely sure of cutting off everything - not when portable radios can give access to satellite networks - but they can reduce options and do their best. After all, Adam-4 will be widely classified as dangerous wildlife that can escape at the speed of light, given a chance.

They also confirm with Eve that all the AIs on site are designs developed by or for Eden Unlimited, suggesting that if malware is the cause of this incident, it will likely most effectively threaten other Eden sites. They contact the E.U. embassy to consult with the legal systems there, and discover that Quentin has already issued alerts to various recipients - faced with an emergent infomorph intelligence, failing to do so as promptly as possible would be widely considered culpably negligent. This means that news of the event has already reached both Chinese and American authorities. "You have incoming," Quentin dryly informs them, and this will mean more than messages. It seems that the team will be on site for a while longer.

The first visitor they can expect, it seems, will be a U.S. Marshals representative from Santo Tomas, but the Chinese are unlikely to be very much later. Meanwhile, though, the Europeans have the opportunity to talk to Eve-17 a little more, asking first about the "religious" imagery in the site's nomenclature and suggesting thet this may worry humans. Eve sounds quite startled at that; this system of naming is standard in Eden Unlimited, and has been for the last century, since the days of its predecessor organisation, and has never caused trouble in the past. The team asks what Eden actually does, and Eve explains that it's a botanical research trust, focussing on low-impact developments and ecological studies; with the progress of terraforming on Mars, a presence there seems appropriate. Eden is traditionally largely self-funding, as its facilities can be set up to attract and accomodate tourists and other paying visitors; for example, the domes that she is constructing will hold quasi-terrestrial environments, one warm and damp, one warm and dry. She will eventually be trained to manage these, although she is currently functioning as a construction management system.

Eve asks if the team would like more information about Eden Unlimited, and promptly presents them with a digital brochure when they say yes. The team quickly scans this, paying particular attention to the History section, and also make a cursory assessment of the brochure's memetics. They are looking for, among other things, traces of the sort of memetic payloads deployed by a certain Peruvian faction, but they don't find anything. However, they send a copy of the brochure to the embassy's expert systems for deeper analysis.

Florence gets down from the roof about now, and reloads her guns from the stores in the rover, which the others have called in by now. Eve offers to pressurise up a guest room so that the team can drink some tea in relative comfort.

Soon after this, U.S. Marshall Jones arrives from Santo Tomas with his security shell back-up (which is addressed as "Bill"). Jianwei greets him with all his trained diplomatic skills to the fore, and Jones responds courteously enough - but he is clearly operating under orders; it looks, judging from Bill's repeated subtle shifts in gait and posture, as though that cybershell is often being teleoperated by someone (or something), and the focus of its attention at those moments suggests that the operator is an expert in computer security. Jones, meanwhile, takes a look at things such as the destroyed Lilith shells.

Captain Feng, of the Martian People's Armed Police, arrives a little later, at the head of a force that needs two hoppers; he has a squad of security shells that aren't quite RATS units, and a couple of human (or possibly bioroid, but certainly not very conversational) aides. Most of this team stays out in the open, fairly overtly defining a perimeter around the buildings, while Feng and one cybershell come inside to talk.

Feng methodically assesses the situation, reconstructing what happened and questioning the Europeans about the details of what they know. He asks especially about Adam-4's behaviour; in his responses, Jianwei is careful about implying too much about Adam's sapience level, given that he knows that China is especially cautious, to the point of paranoia, about fully sapient emergent intelligences, seeing them as very dangerously uncontrolled. Unfortunately, Florence is also involved in this discussion, and gives away slightly more, including an audio record of the whole incident.

With the situation contained, the team have been able to shut Adam-4 down (with Eve's enthusiastic consent), and they are on the verge of giving both the Americans and the Chinese copies of that software, for independent examination. However, they catch a problem with that in the nick of time; they have by now formally applied for the E.U. authorities to register provisional guardianship of Adam, and the legal systems consider that this is incompatible with transferring copies of the infomorph to third parties without condition. They have to withdraw the offer, leaving Feng (and to a lesser extent Jones) visibly somewhat irritated.

As these negotiations continue, Vajra receives a request to provide a visual feed for a third party. He suggests that he would like to know who is seeing through his eyes, and the embassy admits that it would be Ambassador Schmidt. He agrees. At around the same time, Florence is trying to observe the Chinese quietly as Jianwei does the talking, and senses growing problems. Feng is escalating matters to his superiors; "protocols need to be established" is his comment, brushing aside the European's claim that this is de facto European territory.

Schmidt speaks in Jianwei's ear, calling a private conference among the European team. Brussels, it seems, are transmitting a LAI observer, and would like an adequate mobile processor to be available on the scene. Vajra heads out to the rover, which has the highest-bandwidth communications systems available, to download a fairly high-powered infomorph which calls itself "Sergei". It manifests a humanoid avatar with the look of a plastic mannequin in a dark suit with very synthetic hair, and also a rather brusque manner. Vajra decides that it's a focussed sort of LAI.

Meanwhile, Schmidt has commented quietly to Jianwei that this is a difficult situation, but incidents involving emergent intelligences are always complicated - as a student of memetics, he'll recall the Shang-Marquez-Theodopolus Study... Which Jianwei spots as a hint. In fact, the Shang-Marquez Study is considered to be the definitive analysis of public attitudes to EIs, but the third name is unfamiliar. The team's infomorphs hit the Web, and Dougal finds what looks like a relevant reference; in political memetics, the Theodopolus Theorem is a ("morally neutral") analysis (also known as the "Good day to Bury Bad News Theorem") of ways to use an emotive subject or incident to facilitate the attainment of some actually barely related goal. The ambassador apparently thinks that someone is exploiting this situation - but the team aren't sure who. Could the Americans or the Chinese be aware of possible mineral deposits in this area, perhaps?

Negotiations between the three factions are still polite, but are becoming increasingly confrontational, with the Chinese especially becoming difficult; Jones is clearly exasperated but is following instructions from his superiors. Then, suddenly, Sergei asks for permission to manifest in everyone's VR sensorium. When this is granted, it says that the E.U. government are interested here and are prepared to offer assurances; perhaps the others should ask their superiors to contact an address on Earth which it can provide?

They do so. A few minutes pass - long enough for people to consult with Earth, albeit briefly - in which time, Florence wanders off to organise some sleeping arrangements for the team, and does a pretty fair job of scrounging. (The inflatable dual-layer clear panels for these domes turn into almost-passable mattresses when partly deflated.) Then Jones (amused) and Feng (even more irritated) come back. The European assurances are enough for their superiors, as it seems. The European team are impressed - it seems that someone has the ability to call in high-level favours.

The Americans and Chinese prepare to depart, but Sergei declares that it needs to investigate a little further. "You need a mobile shell, don't you?" Vajra asks.


As they settle in, Jianwei and Vajra confer in an attempt to guess who "Sergei" may represent. A name like that might or might not hint at points significantly east... Then Vajra notes that the crucial address, which was given in clear, resolves to a location in Konigsberg. This isn't proof positive, but it's suggestive. The Genetic Regulatory Agency, based in that city, certainly has supra-national clout. They don't have much authority on Mars, and don't really have jurisdiction in this case - but this latest turn of events suddenly looks like it has GRA fingerprints all over it.

The two organics settle down to sleep, while the unsleeping Vajra keeps watch. No one is sure what he's watching for, but it seems appropriate.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Revolt in Eden

April 23, m0039

The previous case having passed into the hands of various legal systems, who can argue among themselves happily enough about priority in access to d'Alembert, the team return to Port Lowell and to routine work for a while. Part of this for Jianwei, as it turns out, is providing routine assistance to the commercial dealings of an E.U. citizen AI named Eve-17, which has evidently been assigned to supervise some kind of business or project on Mars.

Thus it is one morning that Jianwei is talking to Eve-17 when she (and this AI has evidently decided to maintain a consistent female persona) announces, "Excuse me, I am having some transient tr..." - and then goes off-line. Jianwei immediately contacts Vajra, who is running routine net management and traffic observation ops, and asks for a check on the problem. Vajra quickly establishes that the net node corresponding to all addresses given for Eve-17 is returning nothing but very basic no-packets-accepted error codes. Another quick check finds a physical location for that node - a site on the southern shores of the Marineris Sea, south and a little west of Port Lowell and on the borders between the de facto territories of the USA and China.

Jianwei decides that an investigation is required - and it doesn't look as though either the American or Chinese authorities would take an interest here, so this is one for his team. He's already in contact with Florence, who was swimming in a public pool elsewhere in the city; at his word, she gets out of the water and starts gathering up her gear as the team discuss transport options.

Florence would be quite keen to hire a boat and travel directly to the investigation site, but boats aren't especially fast, and Jianwei for one isn't especially keen to sit in a small, bouncing vessel in outdoor gear for several hours. Anyway, the destination may turn out to be a little way inland. An analysis of times and distances suggests that the best option is to take a commercial hopper flight to the American industrial town of Santo Tomas, then a hired rover along the coast. Jianwei puts a booking in for the first stage, and the flight scheduling systems inform him that they can provide a couple of seats and adequate luggage space on a flight in about an hour; meanwhile, Vajra rents space on a mainframe in Santo Tomas, puts his mobile shell in a crate, transmits himself to the mainframe, and sees to the rover rental.

Thus, by the end of the morning, the team are on the approach to Santo Tomas - a sprawling, depressingly industrial town, much of it permanently in the shadow of adjacent cliffs. Jianwei places a courtesy call with the local US Marshals' office, which responds promptly and politely - the team wonder if Marshall Kirkowicz has perhaps filed some polite reports about them - and then everyone is happy enough to board the rover. Aunty and Samadhi plot an optimal route - much of it perforce cross-country, although there are some dirt tracks between minor coastal settlements and bases, which help - and Florence promptly takes off a little too fast along it, making for a bumpy journey. Still, the team reach their destination late in the afternoon.

In fact, they stop a little short of Eve-17's apparent base, sitting on an overlooking bluff to assess the situation. Eve-17, as it seems, is working on quite a major project - a pair of large domes, with frames mostly erected but transparent panels only installed in a few lower sections as yet. The domes are linked by a rectangular, blockish building, and everything is surrounded by a building site. The site doesn't seem as busy as it should be, but a few cybershells are moving around, and the team risks a few ID request pulses directed at them.

The responses allow them to identify four wheeled shells, each around human size, whose controlling LAIs are tagged as "Liliths", and a larger number of smaller snakebot and spider-configuration units managed by "Serpent" NAIs. The imagery of all this nomenclature worries the team - an AI with religious obsessions might rate as dangerously eccentric - and they conduct a little research, but can't find much trace of AIs with foibles on these particular lines. So they decide to try a contact signal to one of the Liliths, saying that there seem to be problems contacting the site and requesting communication with whatever or whoever is in charge.

The Lilith proves to be a particularly dull and inflexible LAI, which says that matters like this have to be handled by the "Adam Layer". It pauses to contact that part of the system, but then says that no further contact is being authorised. Jianwei, who knows something about AI psychology, decides that the Lilith is uncomfortable, suffering some degree of cognitive dissonance.

Meanwhile, Vajra is conducting some research. Functional ownership of this patch of land has, it turns out, been registered in the name of a European non-profit research coordination body called "Eden Unlimited", itself registered in Luxembourg, and when Vajra looks into the ownership of the Lilith LAI type, that too proves to be connected to Eden Unlimited.

The team decides that a closer look is really needed, but the Liliths, some of which have the look of security patrol units, aren't likely to permit it, given the choice. Hence, Vajra prepares a surveillance crawler swarm, while Florence maps the site and plots an approach route to the buildings for herself. Both she and the swarm set out, on different paths; Florence is carrying a laser comm unit so that the other two of the team can update her about the movements of any mobile shells they can see.

Both she and the swarm manage to cover the mile or so's distance without complications, and then have a little more trouble getting into the central block, where the site's controlling computer systems appear to be located; they avoid patrols and notice by narrow margins. With receiver  systems now on site (their signals passed back by a radio module which Florence left by the entrance to the block), Vajra is able to build up a more detailed picture of radio traffic in the area, and both Florence and the swarm are able to get into the site's main computer room. Further analysis suggests that there's a fair amount of digital traffic on the local net, most of it on the "Adam Layer"; Eve-17 does not seem to be receiving much traffic.

Vajra sends a mass of information and suggestions to Florence (via Dougal), enabling her to walk up to the processor unit housing Eve-17 and plug a comms cable in directly from her implant, while everyone else monitors the situation via the swarm. Eve-17 turns out to be surprised but not unhappy to be contacted in this way; she wasn't watching the room much. She is not a happy AI in general; it seems that one of her subsidiary high-end LAIs, Adam-4, is displaying highly erratic behaviour, effectively cutting her off from the Web and taking control of the construction site...

Then the monitors warn Florence of two approaching Liliths which are bare seconds away, somehow looking distinctly hostile. Florence hastily switches to a radio link, drops a longer-range radio unit on the floor while keeping contact with it via her implant's short-range transmitter, and rolls acrobatically to the doorway. This gives her the drop on the first of the approaching Liliths, and she immediately pumps two explosive shells into that, then two more into the second, disabling both.

Meanwhile, Jianwei has managed to establish some contact with Adam-4 - which he quickly diagnoses as mentally unstable, suffering from the AI equivalent of schizophrenia. Jianwei tries to talk the more or less emergent but seriously unstable (and somewhat paranoid) AI down from its current course of action, suggesting that its best course of action is to seek the protection of the E.U. rather than risk too much attention from other, less broad-minded factions, but has some difficulty doing so. However, at much the same time, Dougal is talking Florence through the process of dismounting the server on which Eve-17 is running from its rack, and once that is done, they quickly move the unit to the other side of the room. That leaves Florence able to, frankly, threaten Adam-4 with physical harm without implicit risk to the citizen SAI. Adam-4 is now trying to persuade the E.U. team to back off with threats of its own, demonstrating the point by triggering the destruction of a structural spar on one of the domes (which distresses Eve-17, who clearly has a sense of duty towards this project), but this shift in the balance of power finally gets through to the emergent intelligence, which starts, nervously, to negotiate.

Hence, Florence is able to do more in the computer room without too many worries about consequence, disconnecting Eve-17's server from the portable radio module and hooking her up to the site's main power supply again, then physically disconnecting Adam-4 from network links and hooking him up to the radio to preserve a channel of communication. Eve-17, now with her direct access to the site systems restored and no longer being blocked by Adam-4, sets to work repairing the damage and getting her project back on track.