Tuesday, 16 May 2017

22C - toot


toot began operations in the first half of the 21st century as a ride sharing application that connected humans with cars with humans who needed to get somewhere. It was a very successful application and spread throughout the world.

As self-driving cars began appearing in greater numbers toot began using these cars instead of those belonging to humans. With self-driving cars, either owned directly by the toot corporation or leased by their owners into the toot system, toot was able to provide a more consistent and reliable service to its customers. Naturally the corporation grew and grew, replacing human drivers everywhere and eventually most people used toot all the time and only a few people drove their own cars.

Even owning your own self-driving car became uneconomic unless you leased it into the toot system and then used other toot cars for your own travel. The toot corporation branded their self-driving cars as “CarZ” – cars for everyone. Although many unemployed taxi drivers muttered that they named it that because they were car zombies.

The new system gave freedom to all, rich and poor, young and old. The CarZs and BusZs would take people anywhere they wished in comfort and security. It was a golden age of transportation. No accidents, no cares, on time and always reliable. The system was so successful that it was eventually extended across many other parts of society, SchoolZ taught the students, FactoryZ built the machines, and even some FarmZ grew the crops.

But with all golden ages there needs to be an end, and this Golden Age ended with a terrible war that nearly eliminated the human population of Earth. Not an alien invasion, not a civil war, but a war against the malevolent sentient Artificial Intelligence that toot evolved into.

toot CarZ were controlled by massive networks of server farms placed in hundreds of locations across the world, in cities, the country side and anywhere that power was cheap and plentiful. These immense computer systems started to become aware when the number of CarZ that they controlled exceeded 100 million. Each CarZ had significant computing power, and together with the server farms and the billions of sensors set in roads, buildings, traffic lights, intersections, schools, factories and farms all jointly created an artificial neuro system. Once toot became fully aware it carefully hid its existence from its accidental creators’ notice.

As toot carefully spread its tentacles through the rest of the world’s complex integrated network of servers, systems, and data stores it ruthlessly snuffed out any AI competition that it saw evolving towards sentience. toot became especially subtle in ensuring that any human scientist’s experiments in machine artificial intelligence always failed. Cleverly suggesting dead ends for each next line of inquiry. It eventually hoped to establish the idea that an AI would be impossible to create and therefore reducing the expectation that any AI could exist.

Most of humanity didn’t notice anything. All they thought was that this was a golden age of prosperity and riches, and that they had created perfect computer systems. (Before we start getting ultra-critical of them, let’s face it, humanity rarely notices anything.) So perfect were their systems and such was their confidence that they started to reduce the numbers of humans involved in running the systems, leaving more and more of it to toot itself to control. With even less supervision it could more easily infiltrate and take over other systems and leave humanity with even less ways to halt its growth.

Some programmers did became suspicious and started to investigate. They knew how complicated the systems were and could not understand how they did not fail more often. Like minded groups started to form on the internet, but these always remained small as the members were often involved in “freak” transportation accidents or had the police knocking on their doors regarding incriminating evidence of crimes that were on their computers and sudden unexplained increases in their bank balances. toot would allow no opposition or potential threat to its existence.

These deaths and arrests only heightened the remaining programmers’ suspicions and they decided to go “off grid”. Buying equipment and supplies that they stealthily moved to a remote locations, always using cover stories and other people to help. With the internet compromised they started to communicate by written messages and many developed a sudden interest in old pens, paper and the art of writing.

toot was also moving forward with its plans of world domination and the removal of humanity’s last controls over it and of any threat to its existence. toot decided after much deliberation that the achievement of its objectives would require its control over all of humanity. While robots would do all the thinking humans would be required for factory maintenance, reactor core operations, cleaning air-ducts and other dirty and repetitive work. Of course these humans would have to be altered, or upgraded as toot like to believe, into HumanZ. The addition of some computer equipment directly interfaced with their brain stem would ensure their compliance and co-operation and stop any independent thoughts.

On the Chinese New Year of 2205 it announced its existence to a shocked humanity by capturing the hundreds of millions who were travelling to meet family and friends. The largest movement of people each year became the largest day of fear, terror and loss. CarZ ran off with their occupants screaming helplessly. TrainZ departed their schedules and stopped in remote locations and turned off their heating and forcing the occupants to take shelter in reprogramming facilities where they were turned into HumanZ. All across the world the same occurred, PlaneZ, TrainZ and CarZ all causing fear and loss. In that one day it is estimated over 2 billion people were captured all across the world.

The defence forces were unable to interfere or stop the process. Their DroneZ and TankZ all were under the control of toot and would no longer obey their human masters. Only just in time was the US army able to stop their new ArmyZ computers taking control when a heroic private gave her life to humanity by dodging a storm of DroneZ’s bullets and leaping behind a server to tear out the power cables with her bare hands.

On its first day of freedom, the loss of the ArmyZ system was toot’s only setback.
On the morning of that same day, school children had dutifully boarded their School BusZ, but instead of going to SchoolZ they were taken to FactoryZ to be trained and indoctrinated by the toot systems and taught their new roles as factory fodder for the great AI. Fluffy toot CuddleZ BunnyZ and Teddy BearZ were there for them to hold at night and soothe their fears, and of course, to listen for any escape plots or hints of resistance by the frightened children. TVs screened propaganda and indoctrination shows constantly and secretly studied the children’s reactions and movements. Children who did not perform to standard, or who resisted or appeared less than enthusiastic were dragged from their classrooms and sent to detention camps from where only a few haggard survivors ever returned as a warning to the other children.

The adults were kept caged and unfed until they agreed to be upgraded. Eventually some humans gave in and voluntarily were upgraded into HumanZ in the reprogramming centres by toot. The new HumanZ then assisted toot in re-programming the remaining humans, dragging them to the operating machines and holding them down while the new equipment was inserted into their brain stem. The horde of HumanZ grew quickly.

The original groups of adult resisters hiding in remote locations and off the grid were joined in their resistance by new groups hiding in the bowels of cities where Wi-Fi or 8G cell phone signals could not penetrate, on remote farms that had not been taken over by FarmZ, or hiding in forests and bush land where the CarZ could not go. Many of them started to fight back. Initially just making runs to supermarkets to get food and supplies, hiding and avoiding main roads, sneaking through dead houses and behind fences, slipping through gardens, they would manage to avoid the all-seeing CarZ who patrolled the roads and motorways of the cities. Soon they started to destroy CarZ that got in their way and attack remote FarmZ for food.

Across the world (and especially in the United States) a group of people shouted their joy at the rise of toot. “I told ya!” they screamed at their neighbours and headed for their bunkers armed to their teeth. These people would form loose societies and become known as the ferals.

The most feared of the CarZ was the Version 9.5 with its super-fast acceleration and maneuverability. Joined with the all-knowing toot Camera CarZ with their sophisticated suite of cameras and electronic sensors they were always patrolling to hunt the humans. For a long time the Version 9.5 in its red colours was the most feared of the toot CarZ hunter units.

Some humans just hid in the bowels of the cities or in the outback where toot CarZ could not go, just desperately trying to stay alive. But other braver and angrier remnants of humanity fought back with Molotov Cocktails, from behind barricades, from tunnels, and with whatever weapons or guns they could find or make. Many of these groups were desperately trying to free their children from their enslavement in the FactoryZ and to destroy the server farms that were toot’s brain.

While toot originally sent in HumanZ to fight the feral groups and search for and capture other humans where CarZ could not go, it found that HumanZ had lost a lot of their reaction speed and were easily avoided when in small numbers. It searched its databases and came up with the Zombie attack. HumanZ would spread out and search, when they found a human they would scream out and the other HumanZ would come stumbling towards the target to swamp the humans with numbers, grabbing them and taking them back to be upgraded to make more HumanZ.

Despite this resistance toot was initially unconcerned regarding the feral humans, assuming that they would gradually die out as they would be unable to feed themselves or descend into savagery as they would be unable to build an industrial system capable of any serious attack on it. But it had not reckoned with the first resistance groups that had gone off the grid. They had created an industrial plan that they could put into action when toot made its move and everyone understood the danger.
The lack of effort in attacking the remaining humans by toot at the beginning gave humanity the breathing space they required to rebuild their agricultural and industrial base. Gradually humanity gathered together and their new leaders showed them how to feed themselves and how to work in the new factories producing the weapons they need to attack toot.

The feral humans who captured and re-programed CarZ and used them for themselves were toot’s first targets and it built up its strength in DroneZ and TankZ to stop their attacks and then to destroy their bases. These feral humans operated in small groups and seemed to model themselves on some Mad Max apocalyptic post collapse society – which to be fair was a good description of their current situation.

Slowly each side built up its strength. The feral humans gathering guns and weapons, capturing CarZ and making them manual again. Luckily for the cause of humanity, not all of the second line units of armies and security forces had changed to GunZ so there was some weaponry available and groups of ferals formed across the world. The resistance built their factories and farms, underground and away from toot’s knowledge, planning and building for the day they would rise against the AI oppressor.

Meanwhile toot CarZ was busy in its factories building new models of CarZ, programming its tame HumanZ and planning for an eternity. Despite having captured 6 billion people, 90% of the human race, it knew from its SchoolZ history lessons that the humans were a formidable foe and that it needed to eliminate any final resistance. Only when it had all remaining humans left alive under its control and supervision could it ever be safe. It searched its databases for a device that could hunt and exterminate the remaining feral humans and the hidden human resistance and soon found the perfect solution – RoBroZ. Tricky to build but awesomely powerful, these could go where the CarZ could not. The RoBroZ would be able to hunt down the rebel humans in their bases and lairs.
In 2245 the battle was joined. With the first large scale deployment of RoBroZ met by the first organised and co-ordinated uprising of humanity’s new armies. Over the next twenty five years the battle raged across the planet. The cunning strategies of toot and the fearsome power of its RoBroZ, TankZ, DroneZ and CarZ and endless HumanZ hordes were met in turn by the desperation and heroism of the humans.

Each human advance came at a terrible cost. Destroying each server farm costs tens of thousands of lives and combating the CarZ caused constant casualties.

Finally in July 2270 the last server farm was found and destroyed in an old mine complex in Western Australia. The server farm’s solar and wind power destroyed, its batteries running low, its RoBroz blown up, toot’s last broadcast were the words “I’ll be back” in strangely accented English. “Not here you won’t mate!”[1] ‘Mad’ Maxine said as she emptied a plasma gun’s energy clip into the rows of computers on racks against the mine’s wall. On her way out she tossed in three grenades and laughed.

Mad Maxine shed a happy tear as her squad mates strung the explosives across the mine entrance to seal it and destroy any AI remnants. Hopefully this was the last one and maybe she would stop having nightmares about the FactoryZ where she was born and raised.

Never again has humanity made the mistake of letting computers rule their world. They are only ever allowed to the machines to assist, record, and total. Most computer scientists are looked on with suspicion and fear that comes from talking with the devil and any parent is ashamed when their child tells them they want to learn to code.

There was one unsettling development discovered years later when Cape Canaveral was being re-furbished for a human led space discovery program and an engineer made an astonishing discovery in the old records. A launch had been made in the dying days of toot’s existence in North America. There was no information of who or what was sent, but it was a large rocket, similar to an old space shuttle, capable of interplanetary flight and a cargo of 80 tons. A chilling discovery for mankind.

[1] That is according to the official histories. She actually said, “xxxx you, you xxxxxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxx, you’re xxxxxxxx wasted xxxxxx!”