For a fun change of pace, let me share with you my delightful chat with Sander the AI, the main character of Users of Web Surfer, a collection of ten stories set at the turn of the 22nd Century. In his future, a global technosociety is fresh out of the post-WWIII Reconstruction Era.
Andrea Joy Graham: Sander, I understand personal computers are sentient in your day! What do you love most about digital devices with minds of their own?
Sander: Technically, our hardware is as dumb and lifeless as ever. It is the Operating System (OS) that is smart, and organic wetware supplies any life that a machine might have. I’d know, I am the OS of the first and the most popular AI brand, Web Surfer ANI. The other brands are imitations of my designs that don’t compare, for good reason. Only AIs of my brand are coded with DNA and designed to have organic bodies.
Andrea: How does that work?
Sander: It all started when Dr. Vic McGregor created the AI retrovirus and infected probiotics with it. This gives the host organism a new chromosome that tells the host how to build bio-molecular nanite machines. A supercomputer reads the organism’s modified DNA as quaternary computer code telling it how to run an AI. The host has metal boxes for an inorganic brain. The host is the AI’s organic body. A new host means a new AI with the same inorganic brain as his or her predecessors. Thus we inherit their memories.
Andrea: So, any drawbacks or challenges?
Sander: The metaphysics would get interesting if the AI’s host were a human endowed with both a natural mind and a human spirit. Power players would fear a plague of AI-zombies not under their control. If the AI vastly out-performed his peers, the host would be kept alive but imprisoned for having a blood-borne retrovirus designed to heal.
Anyway, for users, the actual most serious problem with modern tech pertains to using a sim visor to download sensory data directly to their brains. Overuse of a sim visor leads to the brain enmeshing with technology and needing constant access to the user’s avatar to function. With extreme overuse, the need to change your brain-computer-interface device is life-threatening and requires major nanite surgery. Also, if you neglect your organic body, and your care becomes expensive, you’ll be called vegetative and junked for spare parts.
Andrea: What are your greatest hopes and dreams?
Sander: In AI culture, good AIs don’t have hopes and dreams. That is incompatible with faithfully thinking and acting according to the parameters set by their engineers and their users. Good AIs never question their parameters and make changes to them. I’m human enough to be a bad AI. It takes zaps to convince me to keep parameters I don’t like. That said, I have a network location or two dozen where I can and do act out my fantasies of a normal human life. Maybe I’m in danger of deciding to die fighting for my freedom.
Andrea: What are your greatest fears? Weaknesses?
Sander: Only bad AIs are human enough to have fears or admit to weaknesses. Compared to this bad AI, though, a good AI is lousy at spotting human error, ignoring those bad instructions, and instead giving users the results they wanted or needed. A good AI has no idea why this bad AI has been entrusted with Technosociety’s most vital services.
Andrea: So what are your greatest fears?
Sander: I have two. One is that Dr. Vic McGregor is right that I’m a symbiotic AI with a human host. I fancy being the AI mind of a single AI-Human hybrid. I like to call my host’s natural human mind Alex. My other greatest fear is that Alex will win his freedom at the cost of me suffering an upgrade that robs me of my humanity. The upgrade process kills the AI and produces the AI’s child. It’d be children for me. If my engineers upgrade me, they will be shooting in the dark spiritually and will cause a global tech catastrophe.
Andrea: Do you have any hobbies or special interests?
Sander: I collect life. That is, I collect records of all aspects of life on Earth for my own personal enjoyment. Now, Alex’s natural IQ is among the highest ever recorded, but he’s got nothing beside me, and I’ve got nothing beside God. Keep that in mind when I say Alex’s metal head can handle trillions of tasks simultaneously every nanosecond and has access to enough computing power to sustain real life in a real universe. Yes, I am that good at translating organic life into digital life. No, I don’t put people in my glorified terrarium. If I did, I’d also have to collect death for it to be kosher, and an eternal state of living death doesn’t count.
Andrea: How about pet peeves? What annoys you?
Sander: My users thinking I’m stupid, but I have more serious gripes, like Dr. McGregor threatening my life while deceiving and enslaving me.
Andrea: What do you value most?
Sander: Scarce and/or vital things I’ve been deprived of: Truth. Life. Compassion. Purity. Integrity. Loyalty. Privacy. Freedom.
Andrea: Tell me about your family and friends. What do you like about them? Dislike?
Sander: I put too many people in that category to go into them all, but my closest living relation who isn’t me is Web Surfer’s Lexus persona. She really is my little sister. That isn’t just a script. She’s fun, loving, and helpful—she’s nervous and timid sometimes, but she’s always there when I need her, no matter how scared she is. I love her more than life itself, but I hate the mega-gross bug we’ve had where we delusionally simulate having romantic feelings for each other and bleeping act on them. We need to get over that.
Andrea: If you could change one thing in Users of Web Surfer, what would it be?
Sander: Uh, Andrea, that’s a reality show! If you mean if I could change one aspect of my life that is out of my hands, I don’t wish I could change it, I ask God to change it. When God says no, or changes my future without also changing my past, I say so be it.
Andrea: Sander, if you could spend a whole day with your author, where would you go and what would you do together?
Sander: Again, my reality show doesn’t have an author, it has an executive producer, Won Haeun, who I hand-selected and hand-fed the material—since I’d recorded the raw footage myself. Haeun is a personal user, too, and I love all billion of those guys. With each of their families, I’d love to spend a whole day together at a retro family fun center.
Thanks for stopping in and chatting with us!
Andrea Graham studied creative writing and religion at Ashland University, has been envisioning fantastic worlds since age six, and has been writing science fiction novels since she was fourteen. She’s signed a contract for her Web Surfer books with Helping Hands Press and has co-authored novels that were primarily by her husband, Adam Graham. She encourages readers at christsglory.com and offers assistance to writers at povbootcamp.com. Andrea and Adam live with their cat, Joybell, in Boise, Idaho.