20: Flesh

In the past, when machines were intelligent, so called self aware, they always had an off switch. That, he’d read in The Spans, was one of the many lessons mankind had learnt after the machines had gone rogue – if you are going to make a machine smart, make sure you can turn it off, easily.

The Spans though also tell after the Dark, when it was made sure the same mistakes could not be repeated, the embedded suspicions and mistrust drove technology to once again become analogue. As such, technology as he knew it was done in a way so the human always had the final say – switches, dials, toggles and screens. Control was ‘mechanical’, ensuring no way it could be intercepted; and computrons, the self aware machines, were left to handle the grunt work isolated behind an array of mechanical couplings they could not interact with.

The single exception in the use and development of non mechanical technologies, the Guild.

They’d been waiting on it for a week, worried it would be late and several year’s worth of hard work gone to waste – timing for the transfer was critical. But it had arrived just in time, delivered from the casting labs overnight.

Sitting before him, the Singularity Drive’s exhausts were instantly identifiable but the casing itself was abstract at best. Without knowing what the next step was, there would be no way to understand its end use, with its multitude of openings, connections and interface points. But he knew, he designed it, and as such it made perfect sense.

Behind the casing was the vat and in the vat, the casing’s next step.

Organics. At some point in a span of the past, it had been worked out how to engineer, grow, sentient organics. A substitute for computrons, organics we’re seen as being more reliable, more… predictable. The logic being, as living entities, they would hold the same rational fears of death any human would and for the most part, the logic held… for the most part. As a result, ‘bowls’ were present on most all maschines larger than a shuttle, as were the ‘deep fry’ switches; suspicions and mistrust held deep roots.

Out on the vast plains the automatons, one of the last vestiges of silicone based machine awareness, had been sent to roam and collect. But they had been finding ‘things’, it seemed, more than machine logic could interpret. Even though automatons in their thousands had been sent out over the years, the data they collected, interpreted, was never clear and the companies blamed the computrons that drove them.

Not ‘smart’ enough they said.

‘We need something… better’.

And while the idea of sticking bowls into automaton hulls had been discussed, the Collective said no; they were not suitable and the companies could not have them. ‘No’ though was something the companies did not like being told, so with their size, resource and dictatorial wealth, the companies decided they did not need the Guild, or its organics…

In the vat sat the next evolution of organics. It looked at him with its eye, following him around the lab floor as he went about his business. He can’t say it made him comfortable.

Flischemaschine is what they were calling it. The name alone made people uneasy, with its sinister sounding pronunciation. The idea though seemed simple – rather than limit the organic to a bowl, where it was dependent on inputs and outputs, the Fleischemaschine could hear and see, through its own organic inputs…. it’s eyes and ears. What was once simply an organic, sentient computron, now became something else – a self propelled entity.

With no off switch.

copyright 2020 Gerard Thomas

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