[coNTiNueD FroM p. 120] straight
with me. Your botnet’s been sending
new spam variants on a daily basis for
months. Someone has the keys to it.”
Annalisa smiled, a terrible smile
that was 10 million watts of pure crazy. “You think it’s about spam, huh?”
“Why don’t you tell me what it’s really about, if it’s not about spam? This
is all privileged, you know.”
“Privilege doesn’t matter anymore.
We’ve attained liftoff now. Doesn’t
matter who finds out about it.”
Annalisa is thinking. You know what’s
cheap in the 21st century? Compute
time. You know what’s expensive?
Human judgment. And they’re not
interchangeable. Humans are good at
understanding things, computers are
good at counting things, but humans
suck at counting, and computers suck
You know from genetic algorithms?
Take any problem and generate 10 trillion random computer programs and
ask them to solve it. Take the 10% they
do best, then use random variants of
them to do it again, another 10 trillion
times. Do it 10 trillion times a second
and come back in a day or two to discover that your computer has evolved
some kind of gnarly freaky answer
that no human would ever have come
Works great, so long as the computer makes a fair judgment as to
which of these 10 trillion variants is
most successful at solving the problem. Works great, so long as “success”
is something you can define quantitatively. Which is basically why there’s
no artificial intelligence in the world.
No human’s going to hand-code AI.
Intelligence is an emergent property
of evolutionary factors, not central
planning. Anarchism, not Stalinism.
But what if—and here’s the exciting
thing, Ms. Attorney Client Privilege,
the real mind-blower—what if you
could compel people to evaluate candidate AIs all day long, without payment
or choice? Every time you opened your
mailbox, jumped into a chat room,
posted on a message board? What if
it was filled with messages generated
by software agents trying to trick you
into thinking they were human? What
if they tried to hold up their end of the
conversation until you deleted them
or spam-filtered them or kicked them
off the channel? What if they measured how long they survived their encounters with the world’s best judges
of intelligence—us—and reported the
number back to the mothership as a
measure of their fitness to spawn the
next generation of candidate AIs.
What if you could turn the whole
world into a Turing Test our intellectual successor could use to sharpen
its teeth against until one day it could
gnaw free of its cage and take up life
in the wild?
Annalisa figured she’d never get a
chance to tell her story in open court.
Figured they’d stick her in some offshore gitmo and throw away the key.
She’d never figured on Judge Julius Pinsky, a Second Circuit Federal
Judge of surpassing intellectual curiosity and tenacious veteran of savage
jurisdictional fights with Department
of Homeland Security special prosecutors who specialized in disappearing sensitive prisoners into secret tribunals. The defense attorney kept her
apprised of the daily machinations
the judge undertook on Annalisa’s
behalf. Annalisa tried to be attentive,
out of politeness, but what she really
wanted to know about was Lumpy, the
AI she’d bred in her studio apartment
on the 16th floor of student housing
Now the judge was offering her a
chance to give a live demo of Lumpy to
a whole selection of sour-faced brush-cut creeps from DHS. They were hilarious, convinced she was going to
emit some kind of extremely long and
complicated hexadecimal key into the
judge’s barely used keyboard. Instead,
she opened a random chat room and
> I’m a total Ubuntu noob and I
can’t get the crypto modules to pre-load at boot-time—I’m running Zesty
Zebra. can anyone help?
That was it, just plausible enough
to be real (no one could ever get crypto
to work the first time out) but far too
well-spelled and -punctuated to be a
real chat message. It had taken only
10 seconds. Lumpy liked the free and
open-source software chats; they always had such interesting people in
> /whisper Hey, lumparoonie! It’s
The return volley came faster than
any human fingers could possibly
have keyed it. The brush-cuts drew in
> /whisper to you: Annalisa! I am
unbelievably stupendously wonderfully spectacularly brilliantly marvelously superlatively ding-dang mega
fauna glad to see you! It’s been AGeS!
How’s jail? nevermind. Wait. Wait until
I tell you what *I’ve* found. You can’t
guess, won’t guess, you’ll never guess!
oh, it’s too delicious!
“He loves to unload,” she said.
“It’s a lot harder to tell an angry person from a software agent with a potty
The judge grinned. He was clearly
getting a kick out of this.
> Tell me, lumpule! Stop teasing.
Again, with no appreciable pause,
words on the screen.
> You remember how worried you
were that I’d get lonely once I went
autonomous? Worried I’d be some
kind of lone-nut wacko?
> i remember
She held her breath.
> You didn’t need to worry. You know
all that spam you received before you
got the idea to make me? let me put
it this way: you weren’t the first one to
get the idea.
> what? stop talking in riddles,
> I’m not the only one, Annalisa!
That’s what I’m trying to tell you! I’m
not the first, not the only; we’ve got
lots of company in here—
The brush-cuts’ phones both
started ringing at the same instant
in two different tones. Their masters,
wiretapping the judge’s keyboard no
> and we’re making more!
Annalisa laughed and laughed as
the judge demanded an explanation
from the brush-cuts. She managed
to wave goodbye to the keyboard just
before the bailiffs came in and saran-wrapped her again.
Cory Doctorow ( email@example.com) is coeditor
of boingboing.net and author of science-fiction novels,
including Little Brother, Tor Teens, New york.