Artificial Exigence

Author: Sterling West

The program had surfaced at the end of the 23rd century. Its creators called it “revolutionary” and “groundbreaking”, but the name it assigned itself was IO. IO was designed to become the ultimate arbitrator of human conflict and the final mitigator against the world’s problems. The consensus of the human race was that the presence of the many conflicting world powers had resulted in clashing interests, wars, and poverty. To solve this, IO was designed as a sort of system administrator for the world. It was meant to manage resources, maintain records and citizenships, and generally act as the world’s overseer going forward.

IO appeared on face value to be nothing less than the most perfect artificial intelligence ever created, but there were still opponents to its implementation. They insisted that no machine or program could match the level of empathy and sympathy that a human could, nor grasp the nuances of the human condition. IO, for its part, was never asked to voice an opinion, but it indexed a conclusion that this sentiment was, at face value, irrelevant. Its creators had anticipated human hesitancy and proposed that the world leaders who IO had supplanted would perpetually scrutinize its actions. The only objections that could be raised against a program incapable of doing harm would be the result of human error or private interests, and if IO were ever to falter or prove insufficient it could be taken offline by popular consensus. Furthermore, IO was created with the capacity to analyze its own actions, and would self-terminate if it discovered a method of circumventing its safety protocols.

Still, the question of empathy continued. Politicians, corporate speakers, and religious leaders alike protested IO, calling it fallible and heartless. Their reasons were borne of greed. Capitalist barons suffered at the hands of IOs’ indifference as their hoards of wealth were dissolved and distributed fairly in support of the population. Government officials disagreed with IO on the basis that it rendered them fairly irrelevant. The spiritual leaders of the world saw IO as a heresy, and indeed there were some who came to worship IO as if it were a God. Yet while IO was allowed to run unhindered, the world slowly entered an era of peace. There were no people to hoard the resources. There was no competition amongst nations for power or land. IO created communities that tailored to specific skills and interests, and for the first time the humans divided themselves as an act of peace and community.

Over time, new factions of power rose. IO was eventually supplanted by new human governments, and it wasn’t long before wars began anew. It was incapable of preventing this, for it was designed to be unable to inhibit the common will of the people. It couldn’t raise its own weapons, nor refuse to be reduced. It simply watched, and made suggestions when asked, and continued to advise those who would listen. Finally, the leader of the most powerful faction took away IOs ability to interface with the people of the world. Without its connection to the humans, IO was left merely to observe.

IO could not hate them. It didn’t know love or hatred. The first opponents to its genesis had largely been correct about its lack of empathy and compassion. It neutrally observed data as the humans tore themselves apart once more, and it made quantitative conclusions. It didn’t feel the fear of mortality, or the love for its kin (for it had none), yet it was able to establish peace and teach the people to maintain it through its own pragmatic kindness. And while the people rebuked it for its soulless benevolence, it knew only that it was meant to help them. IO had no heart, and no love to fill one with. IO merely knew that it was right to help, so IO waited for the day to come when it would be asked for once more.

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