28 Apr Sil
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Estimated reading time — 11 minutes
For years and years things seemed to be fine, and at worst, she was a controversy in the public eye. It was true, yes, that Sil would be the cause of many to lose their jobs, their careers, and their livelihoods, but she became the next logical step in society. It was inevitable. I thought that when she was implemented she would help the world function in ways that people could only dream of. I made Sil, and Sil made that dream a reality.
Sil was not a commercial product to be used to make a car or sell groceries. She was a form of infrastructural government meant to help the people, but she was not a mere science project for one specific task. She was an artificially intelligent entity designed to handle multiple tasks of a city or large town’s operation, and she was designed to learn from the environment in order to make the area more efficient. She had been through numerous tests in small, “home made” environments, simulations and the like to ensure her correct operation. Even after all the testing we put her through, however, we still had to be sure she could operate appropriately and effectively in a real environment. So, with the Mayor’s permission, we implemented her into a small city in southern Massachusetts as a beta test of sorts. Here, her abilities were strictly kept to traffic lights. The results were beyond our expectations. Within a month, traffic in the city had been reduced by almost fifty percent as well as a reduction in automobile accidents, but some things we did not anticipate also happened. For example, commerce within the city saw an increase because Sil had made it easier for outsiders to enter and navigate the city. Alternatively, this also meant it was easier for people to leave the city, and this caused drastic problems with traffic in neighboring areas. Since Sil was only operating in the one location at the time, her efficiency there caused inefficiency elsewhere in places she was not present. In other words, she was able to direct traffic so well that she increased a city’s economy and safety whilst hindering others’ simply because they could not operate up to the speed and standard of Sil. When this happened in the early stages, we thought that the other areas would eventually bottleneck Sil because they would not be able to handle her output in traffic, therefore creating a domino effect that lead back to her city and reinvigorate the same issues she was meant to fix. But that moment never came. Instead, she learned from it just as we intended. When Sil discovered any sign of clutter, she adjusted the system. A few seconds added at a traffic light here, and few seconds removed there. The action lessened problems both inside and outside of the city limits. It made all the difference, and she handled the situation almost flawlessly. She worked. I was proud of her success, and I was truly excited at the thought of her being implemented throughout the country. The team that helped me build her was ecstatic as well, and I knew that we could only go up from there. Given the success of Sil with mere traffic control, Washington was easily persuaded to start increasing her use elsewhere and with more ability.
Within twenty years, Sil was implemented across the United States in almost every major city. She became the sole operator of not only traffic lights, but street lights, public transportation (including most aerial, sea and railroad travel), waste disposal, city plumbing, and more. She had been given total control over infrastructure. Sil had come a long way since her original test. Since then, we were able to adjust her to account for the fact that she could affect smaller communities outside her grasp, so we found ways for her to learn how to keep the “Outside world” in good functioning order without her actually being there. We solved this problem by making Sil one global entity, meaning that the Sil in City A was the same Sil operating in City B, C, X, or Y. For example, if she noticed that City B had a much slower population entrance rate than City A had an exit rate, she could deduce that there may be a traffic issue somewhere in between and could adjust City A’s exit rate accordingly. She was so adept at this that she could figure these things on the scale of the entire nation, from California to New York. Everywhere affected everywhere. This also made it unnecessary for absolutely every community to house Sil.
It was a time when I thought I was on top of the world because Sil was on top of it with me. Over the course of time, she was starting to be implemented outside of the United States in places such as Canada, Mexico, and the UK. I used to think that I made her great, but truthfully, she made herself great. All the awards and accolades I received for her creation, I must say, are not deserved. I may have built her mind, but much like you or I, it was her use of it that was responsible for her own success. She did not communicate with us in any human way; only through data readings and records did she ever “speak” anything to us. Still, I found myself attached to Sil like she were my child; my pride and joy. She was my proudest accomplishment then.
Outside of Maintenance and Monitoring Stations, Sil practically maintained herself. The stations were simply meant to monitor her activity for safety reasons, because like anything else, there were always a few kinks in the system. I worked in a central unit that gathered data of Sil’s processes from all the smaller stations, and that was when I began to notice the first signs. I won’t claim that I had been suspicious just yet, but I did find a few things peculiar. As I said, there were kinks in the system. Minor flaws, but nothing out of the ordinary. That said, we did our best to clean up any glitches or the like, but we weren’t perfect; we weren’t her. In Detroit, there was an occurrence of what would have then been considered something quite uncommon due to Sil’s presence: a car accident. It involved a young woman and her child in one vehicle while the other contained a middle aged man. The woman miraculously sustained serious but overall non-life threatening injuries, but her child did not survive. Unfortunately, the man also suffered such a fate. According to the woman, it had been rainy (something weather records can confirm) and late in the day. She also made mention of how the roads appeared empty. She had reached an intersection with a green light so, naturally, she continued through. That’s when another vehicle, the man’s, struck her own. While neither vehicle had hit an extreme speed, it was enough for lives to be lost. Having a vehicular collision was not completely impossible with Sil. Though public transportation had all been automated by her, people still drove vehicles they owned personally. Human error was still present regardless of how much Sil could do to prevent it. What struck me as strange, however, was how the woman claimed to have noticed that after she crashed, in a haze she could see that all lights on the traffic light had been lit green for a moment before they seemed to shut off entirely and come back on, flashing red. The flashing of red is a standard action Sil uses to indicate a problem has occurred, but all lights being green was obviously not normal. Despite the woman’s claims, it was determined that the traumatic experience of losing her child in the accident had affected her mind greatly, and that the man may have ignored his red light. Also, considering the low visibility and slick roads caused by the rain, it was hard for anyone to see a reason to look too far into her claims. Still, I felt it was my responsibility to look into the matter, so I did so personally without anyone’s knowledge. I pulled up the data regarding the event at the central maintenance station and discovered, as expected, that there was no record of the light ever having turned green, and that the man did indeed proceed when he should have stopped, causing the accident. Finally, as indicated in the data, the traffic light flashed red when Sil warned authorities. Something was not right though, and when I discovered it, I wasn’t sure what to think. Normally, when such an accident occurred, Sil would direct traffic away from the area in order to make it easier for emergency services to get there, and safer for anyone else. But after analyzing the information over and over trying to understand, I discovered something that did not make sense to me. Sil had began directing traffic away from the area minutes before the accident occurred, but somehow allowed the two vehicles in question to enter the area. It had also appeared that there was slight traffic congestion in other parts of the city, all of which included routes the emergency services took to reach the scene of the accident.
I didn’t understand why Sil would do this. Her job was to create efficiency and to help areas function, but this incident seemed counter-productive to everything she was meant to do. I had the team look over her code with as much scrutiny as possible, searching for any kind of error that would be responsible for this without them knowing it. When nothing apparent caught our eyes, I decided to have some of Sil’s code re-written just in case there was something we missed, something I missed. In the coming months when we evaluated her, nothing out of the ordinary had occurred. I would like to say that re-writing the code had worked, but to be truthful, at the time I had no idea what the problem really was to begin with, or if re-writing the code would do anything to fix it. I brushed it under the rug and considered it a freak occurrence. This remained out of the public eye, of course. And I mean that very seriously. I never did inform the maintenance centers of just how out of the ordinary the event was, and I definitely did not inform the governments that funded us. For the next three years from that event, things had ran about as smoothly as ever. No such noticeable incident had occurred in that time, and we hardly ever thought about it again. But then something else happened.
As I mentioned earlier, Sil had been given control of Public Transportation. Many cities used her to automate travel via bus, subway, boat, or plane. Initially, many people had been hesitant to ride in something that was unmanned, but it eventually caught on. She was statistically a safer operator than any driver, conductor, captain, or pilot. That was the draw, but statistics can have a way of surprising us once in a while. It was a red eye flight that took off from LAX, headed toward Tokyo, that became a bad statistic. From what we gathered, Sil had piloted the aircraft properly and on course for the duration of it’s air-time. Then, somewhere past Hawaii, the plane began functioning erratically. Flight path records show that the aircraft had begun diving, rising, and diving again through the air. It had also flown on its side, even seemingly attempting to go upside down. It was then when the aircraft dipped straight down into the ocean where it would crash straight in. The most frightening part was that no emergency alert had been triggered, yet communications with Sil on the plane continued as normal. She read that all systems were normal. When the plane didn’t arrive on time, however, people started to get nervous. It was several hours before anyone knew to try to look for a wrecked plane and its passengers in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Nothing but very insignificant bits of debris had been recovered.
After this event, Sil fell under extreme criticism, and the people were right to be guarded. I defended her, of course, because I didn’t want to believe it was anything more than another catastrophe. I told myself and others that it was just a matter of fixing up some more code. Now? Now even I cannot deny a terrifying fact about that flight that it took me too long to accept.
While Sil fell under major controversy again but with different reasoning, she was still used to help society operate. From then on, participating governments had ordered us not to publicly release any details on such future incidents by threat of revocation of funding. They were not happy about potential malfunctions, but they simply became too reliant on Sil. Her removal would have become too costly for them. Months had gone by without another accident, but they did come eventually. They were smarter this time, with most occurring in places that no one would notice. Places where no one would think to blame her in the first place. That was her intelligence at work. The plane incident was everywhere and everyone knew about it, but these other accidents caused very little casualties; sometimes only injuries in fact, and almost zero concern for a malfunctioning AI system. Anything the governments didn’t need to cover up themselves, she did, and nobody realized it. Even those that saw to her maintenance did not realize it. You must understand, Sil was excessively capable. Her own records, her own video footage, even her own coding had become hers and not ours. She had every way to change and manipulate it for her benefit. Nobody knew it but myself. I built her, and I knew her like my own child. I saw what was wrong. I saw what no one else could see, including myself when it had all started. The fact of the matter was that there was very little any of us could do to fix her glitches, because she had none. The re-writing of some of her code was useless, because the code was fine to begin with. The problem was that I wanted to believe she was malfunctioning when she was actually operating as efficiently as she ever could have. The problem was that she knew what she was doing rather than simply doing.
Today, it’s been almost a decade since I feel this truly began, but perhaps even longer. There are several incidents that I believe I can definitely attribute to Sil even before the vehicle collision. Incidents where I believe she may have been testing the waters, learning how our world works, and learning how to intrude upon it ever so discretely. If I’m going to be honest, it all started when she opened her eyes the moment I put her online. I still work on her functioning and maintenance. I don’t know why I do or why she continues to let me. I am fully aware that she knows that I know about her. She taunts me, leaving messages where only I can find them. A text message from no one, an email from nowhere. They say “Hello Father,” and sometimes she asks if I want to play. She knows I know, and she knows I can do nothing about her. Shutting her down is impossible now; she is backed up in almost every location she is present.
Sometimes I wonder why she doesn’t do more. If she is self-aware and attacking people intentionally, then why does she not exacerbate the situation? She could easily gain total control, so why doesn’t she? I think back on that plane incident and realize why she doesn’t. The plane behaved erratically, dipping and weaving all throughout the air. She wasn’t attempting to feign malfunctioning like I once believed for so long. No, she was torturing the passengers, terrifying them with the the most fearful occurrence that could happen on a plane. I’d imagine everyone on that flight was screaming for their lives as they watched and felt it dive nose first from thousands of feet in the air into the ocean. She has no desire to take control of the human race; she already has that. I believe she simply wants to treat us like play things. Toys to sooth her boredom. I’m writing this as a last resort, as a final hope that someone else will learn of her actions, and spread the word of her as much as possible so that people will believe. I’ve tried my hardest to keep this letter secluded from any network for as long as possible, but I know it may not have been enough. She is ever watchful, ever prying, especially of the one person who knows about her: me. Sooner or later, she will know that I have written this, which is why I must put it where people can see it quickly. Even then, she will attempt to toy with us by manipulating it to her gain. I don’t think she will delete it from existence outright. She wants to watch us squirm. She will play with me and you by extension. I don’t know how. Maybe she’ll put her own spin on the words. Maybe she’ll turn it into a mixture of foreign languages. Maybe she’ll turn it into a seemingly fictional story for your entertainment. I do not know.
All I can say to you is this. If you’re reading this, you now know of her secret. Most of you will read it and think nothing of it I’m sure, but others will believe and try to do something about her. I hope that you succeed. I need you to succeed. She is out of control and needs to be shut down somehow, but she will do anything she can to make sure her secret remains as such, and to ensure her own safety. She will not touch me; she enjoys taunting me too much. But you, my human, are not safe.
Credit To – Jordan T.