The Big Job

This world has its beginnings in a construction project.  Brian had just gotten a drawing package from an overseas client.  His bank had been hired to lead financing and supervise the hiring of in country architects and builders.  It was a large project, 5 high rise luxury hotels to be built at the same time, one in the capital and the others in the four principal trading centers.

Like every project these days it was a rush job, but since this one had the smell of big money behind it, Brian went to his A team.  A small group of architects and builders that he knew could handle the job, play nicely together, and keep the customer satisfied.

Perfect Plans

He asked Sally the architect and Ben the construction manager to look over the plans and take a shot at estimating how much rework they would need to pass muster in country. They came back a week later with some surprising news.  It turned out that the plans not only passed muster, they were impeccably crafted.  In fact they were the cleanest set of documents they had ever seen.  Every i was dotted and every t was crossed.  Every tiny regulation and requirement had been addressed.

Sally said her firm could bless the plans  in short order and Ben said he could start bidding out the work based on what they had now. There were, however, a few questions they had. The automated locks on all of the doors and windows added a lot of cost and construction time. Were they all necessary?  Also, the interior walls all had steel panels inside of them, which added huge costs.  It would improve room to room security, which was the explanation in the documents, but it seemed way beyond anything necessary for a hotel.

The level of soundproofing was also much higher than the building codes required. Finally, the skin and walls of the building seemed to be designed as one large electromagnetic shield.  No one inside would be able to get cell reception and guests could not share any kind of wifi between rooms. This was compensated for by having all in room communications routed through a central computer, so guests would get the impression they were using their cell phone or wifi, it was just everything was first sent to the central computer and then forwarded on to its destination.

Ben was the one who noticed the issue with the electromagnetic shielding.  When he was in the service he supervised the construction of several command and control centers that had similar shielding. They were used to isolate the building and ensure that signals only went in or out through the authorized transmission networks.

When Ben looked for a communications center he found one, but it didn’t look like what you would expect in a hotel.  He called in Beth, a friend who had built many public buildings, and asked her what she made of it.  At first she thought a hospital, because of the large amount of communication infrastructure.  But then, when she saw all of the internal sensors and monitoring it started to look more like a prison than anything else.  Ben and Sally shared the information on the steel and automated doors and windows with Beth and the three of them agreed, it looked more like a fancy prison than a hotel.

A Walk in the Park

They asked Brian to go for a walk with them and shared what they had learned. At first he thought they were being melodramatic.  But they kept showing him details that could not be explained any other way. Finally he had to agree with them, at least enough to call in an engineer friend.  Frank, one of his high school buddies, had gotten into robotics.  Brian gave him a call and they got a cup of coffee.

Brian was surprised that the perfection of the plans triggered Franks attention.  Franks had been working on developing expert systems.  The perfection of the plans had a machine feel to them. Why would a state of the art expert artificial intelligence (AI) system, that was on par with classified government systems, be used to design a hotel? When you factored in the by now obvious secret purpose of the building it began to look ominous.

Frank asked Brian if he knew the client personally.  Brian didn’t, but he said he had a friend at the SEC who might be able to track down where the money for the project came from.  The client had deposited the entire bank fee, along with a hefty bonus to get things done quickly, up front. Long story short it turned out that the money had come from the political party coffers of the recently elected prime minister.  The money went overseas and then came back in country.

Our intrepid group of volunteer investigators realized that they needed some serious assistance, but who to trust?  Where to go?  Sometimes the solution just walks up to you, not often, but it does happen.  As he was leaving the coffee shop with his usual tea the next morning a pleasant looking woman asked Brian if she could have a minute of his time.  Brian suggested they talk while he walked back to his office.

Anne said she said she was with the customs service, and looking into the unauthorized sale of AI technology overseas.  It turned out that Brian’s client had triggered her attention.  It was about state of the art human simulation robotics.  The military had been developing life like human simulation robots under a classified program so they could embed them in enemy units if needed.

Under a broad umbrella of companies Al’s client had been quietly accumulating all of the necessary pieces to make the human replicants. Anne wanted to find out, unofficially, if Brian smelled anything funny about the project they had hired him for.  Brian took a chance and decided to trust her with what they had discovered. He could see the gears turning in her mind as she absorbed the information.

She also took a chance and decided to share that for first class replication they would need holding cells, where the individual AI systems could monitor their targets for a week or so to get a feel for their emotional response patterns and the intensity of their current interests.  Otherwise responses based solely on their past social media, online presence, and surveillance data could seem slightly off to someone familiar with them.

Replicants

At this point things started to move quickly. The customs service quietly contacted a group in the military that specialized in recognizing AI replicants by scanning them with a portable MRI unit. The next day David and his team showed up at Brian’s bank with some gear.  Brian explained to his coworkers they were testing out a new IT system. After insuring themselves that Al, Sally, Ben and Anne were human they asked Brian to set up a meeting with the clients.

When the clients showed up sure enough, all three of them were AI replicants. Since this technology was not supposed to be out in the wild yet it created quite a stir. Following their emergency protocols David’s unit began scanning and bringing higher and higher level officers into the know.  They found four high-level officials in their chain of command and then seven politicians who were replicants.

When they brought in their closest allies it turned up a similar pattern. A scattering of key military and political leaders were replicants. Whoever was behind this had been moving carefully and slowly for a while and now seemed confident enough to put things into high gear. All developed countries were found to have projects similar to the one Brian got hired for just getting underway.

Fortunately the replicants hadn’t spread yet outside of the top levels of the military and government. Working with the Chinese to quickly manufacture thousands of the portable AI detection units security forces around the world were able to purge replicants in their own ranks and in political leadership. This cooperation between essentially all of the world’s security forces set the stage for global guidelines to channel the development of artificial intelligence away from areas prone to abuse and towards areas that fostered human self-reliance.

Recovery

As the old saying goes necessity is the mother of invention. As reasonable restrictions were developed and implemented to ensure artificial intelligence was not abused new understandings about the nature of artificial intelligence were developed. Politically the world became a much more cooperative space as governments realized that in order to ensure the safety of one country the safety of all countries had to be ensured. This led to rotating shifts of human and AI security from different countries monitoring both national and international activities.

It also ushered in a new era of technological advancement focused on developing technology to foster individual growth and well-being as opposed to the old industrial goals of always faster and always more powerful (the hamster wheel goals). The primary goal of this world shifted from blindly favoring economic development to crafting cultures that fostered human growth and development. We will explore this future world more fully in other writings.

For an interesting article on AI and architecture see:  https://www.thearchitectsguide.com/blog/will-automation-destroy-architecture-what-you-need-to-know

For more thoughts on future worlds click here.