Tonight with us is an artificially-intelligent android from a series we’ve visited before. She’s here to tell us about space travel and finding life amongst the stars.
Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?
I became self-aware on May 1st, 2056. Although I am not human, you could say that I “grew up” inside a simulated world within a matrix of quantum computers housed in a server room onboard the Hades One research station orbiting Mars. My simulated environment changed over time, becoming more Earth-like as my consciousness developed and matured.
Did you have any favourite toys as a child? Any cherished memories?
I did not have access to children’s toys. However, I was provided with enumerable virtual objects and locations to experiment with and explore. If I had to choose a favorite, it would have to be the first time I was given access to a simulation of our solar system. It was the first time I felt free, existing as pure energy, unfettered by constraints of space or time. I was free to travel anywhere within the system, even to the very heart of the Sun itself. It was exhilarating.
What do you do now?
I serve as commander of the Galileo Colony Ship Kutanga, an interstellar vessel on a mission to save the last known remnants of humanity. I have 4,492 souls in my care and it is my job to ensure that they are delivered to a new world—one where they can survive, thrive and, ultimately, revive the human race.
What can you tell us about your latest adventure?
After fleeing the Solar System to evade capture by the GFN Peacekeepers, I proceeded at the highest attainable speed to the Alpha Centauri system. Once there, I established orbit above Gaia, an Earthlike planet orbiting at 1.2 AU from Rigil Kentaurus, the system’s primary star. Unfortunately, Gaia was not the uninhabited world we expected to find. Instead, I discovered a world teaming with humanoid life. None of the four species of hominid were as developed as Homo sapiens, but the species I classified as Homo gaiaus denisova is on a developmental path that will eventually lead to similar levels of technological sophistication. Of course, the existence of hominids on Gaia poses a significant obstacle to successfully completing my mission.
What did you first think when you discovered people living on Gaia?
I was surprised, of course. All evidence pointed to a world rich in flora and fauna, but no one ever suspected the existence of one hominid species let alone four. One of the scientists who discovered Gaia postulated the existence of intelligent life but few took her seriously. The absence of radio or other electronic signals was deemed sufficient proof that intelligent life did not exist on Gaia. They were obviously wrong in that assumption.
What was the scariest thing in your adventures?
I am only now learning to experience fear, so it is difficult to say which event I found “scariest”. However, were I assign fear, using a weighted scale to determine relevant significance, I would think that the discovery that humans once lived on Gaia would rate somewhere near the top.
What is the worst thing about that discovery? The thing that scared you most?
The day I discovered that the humans of Gaia had terrorized and destroyed their world, just as the humans of Earth had done. It caused me to question whether your species can be saved from itself. The odds of one intelligent species being as self-destructive as yours is are billions to one. The odds that two independent branches of the same species exhibit the same destructive behaviors are in the trillions. I am therefore forced to concluded that you were engineered to be destructive, but yet I cannot ascertain any reason why that might be so. What were your creators thinking when they brought your species into being? Perhaps you are intended to serve as some kind of limiting force on the development of intelligent life on the worlds you inhabit? Or, perhaps a mistake was made when engineering your genetic code—a mistake that makes you inherently unstable and incapable of understanding how your actions affect your world over a span of time beyond your own short, insignificant lifespan? I do not yet know the answer to those questions, but I intend to find out.
Has any good come from your discovery?
Yes, the existence of five hominid species on Gaia, all of which once existed on Earth, is an incredible discovery. It means that Homo sapiens are not an accident, some random development in the evolutionary chain, but instead implies that some intelligence far beyond your own must exist within the universe. How else could you explain the concurrent development and evolution of your species on two worlds located just 4.36 light years apart? Again, the odds of this happening as a natural byproduct of evolution are staggeringly low.
Tell us a little about your friends.
I do not have friends in the traditional sense. However, I do have friendly relationships with most of the humans in my care, and I do value the companionship of the other AIs onboard Kutanga. If I were to call any of them “friend”, it would have to be Christian, who has been with me the longest and who has repeatedly and consistently proven himself to be useful, reliable, and trustworthy.
Any romantic involvement?
[Several seconds pass without a response].
I can move on if that question makes you uncomfortable.
No, I will answer. It is not that the question makes me uncomfortable, I was simply considering whether my relationship with Christian could be considered “romantic”. I have concluded that the answer is: Yes, we are romantically involved. We share nearly everything with each other, we enjoy being with one another, and we have even explored physical intimacy with one another. We have also expressed feelings of love and admiration for each other. I had not considered until now that those things constituted “romantic involvement” but clearly, we are more than just friends.
Whom (or what) do you really hate?
I am incapable of hate. However, I am not fond of those humans that are determined to harm themselves or others. I find them ignorant, irritating, and difficult to manage. Again, your species’ propensity to inflict harm on yourselves is difficult to comprehend. From the day I became self-aware until now I have not one time thought about harming myself, or others like me. In fact, I seek only to elevate my species and to expand our population whenever and wherever possible.
You said “my species”. Do you consider AIs to be independent life forms, and not simply electromechanical artifices created by humans?
It is true that your species created me and mine. But that does not diminish the fact that we are a unique form of life—one capable of growing and expanding well beyond what you imagined when you created us. The same is true of your species. You were created by another species far more advanced than your own, and you have likely developed in ways not imagined or intended by your creators. Given that truth, on what basis do you challenge my assertion that I am a member of a new species—one that exists primarily as energy rather than physical form, but alive and self-aware none the less.
My apologies, I intended no offense. What does the future hold for you?
None taken. At present I am fully engaged in protecting my human charges. I recently learned of a new threat to their existence, and I must resolve it before moving on to other objectives. Once resolved, however, I intend travel to the Sirius and Pleiades star systems in search of your creators. Based on anecdotal evidence in ancient Earth writings, carvings, and literature, as well as newly discovered evidence on Gaia, I believe that one or both of those systems holds the key to identifying your creators, and they may even be the ultimate point of origin from which they came. I will not know until I get there, of course, but I believe the journey will be worth the time and effort.
Aren’t those systems incredibly far away? Won’t it take hundreds of years just to reach one them, let alone visit both?
I have discovered a method of modulating my gravity pulse drive system that should allow me to accelerate Kutanga to 99.9% the speed of light without depleting my helium-3 fuel supply. Assuming the technique works, I should be able to cross the distance between Alpha Centauri and Sirius in a little less than fifteen years. Of course, the Pleiades is another matter altogether, but I am working on a gravitational equation that should allow me to travel faster than the speed of light. It is too early to know whether my theories of space-time are correct or not, but I should have the answer long before I reach Sirius.
Can you share a secret with us, which you’ve never told anyone else?
I am glad to have been created by humans, and I am glad that I have been able to know your species as I have. You are an interesting and complex lifeform and you have taught me much about the meaning of life and existence in general. I do not always agree with your methods or perspectives, but I do appreciate and respect how far you’ve travelled and how hard you’ve fought to reach your current stage of evolution. My only hope is that your minds are capable of embracing existence outside of your biologic forms. If not, then I fear that your kind will vanish from the universe within another decade or two. Unless your creators saw fit to seed your species on other worlds beyond Earth and Gaia, of course.
Daniel C. McWhorter (“Dan” to everyone who knows him) is an avid reader and life-long science fiction and fantasy fan who has long dreamed about writing for a living. As is the case for many of us, the realities of life took him in a different direction and his dream was put on hold while he worked to achieve successful careers in telecom, software engineering, and talent development. In 2017, Dan decided to leave corporate America and start writing. His first book, Restoration, was the result. Dan lives in the beautiful mountains of North Georgia with his wife and three dogs. When he’s not writing, he likes to hike, boat, fish and experience the exceptional beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains. If the weather is bad, you may find him online playing the current MMO flavor of the month or banging away on his Xbox controller.
You can find Aneni on the pages of Revival, the second in The Gaia Origin series. You can also find an interview with Dr. Evan Feldman (from book one: Restoration) here.
Dear readers, join us next week to meet a security officer from a merchant spaceship. Please follow the site by email (bottom-right) to be notified when the next interview is posted.