Chronometric: Chapter 2

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Chronometrics: Chapter 2
Elsewhere, a female Dr. Chrono was rifling through a swath of papers scattered across her desk.

The West Regional Uplifting Center had tons of data and paperwork that needed to be stored by virtue of the work being done there. Bringing apes and robots to not just sentience, but sapience created a lot of data that needed to be filed away. Even in this computerized day and age, Dr. Chrono swore that some work just had to be on paper out of spite. Something about tracking the acquisition of written language, or so she had been told. She preferred spite as the reasoning for the papers cluttering her desk right now.

With a disgruntled grunt, Dr. Chrono set the papers to the sides of the desk and booted up her laptop to begin transferring the paper records to the database. If she had her way, these records would have been put right into the database in the first place so that she wouldn’t have to do some grunt’s work. Then again, everyone had to do grunt work at some point, even esteemed scientists in the field of uplifting.

Uplifting was the official term given to enabling apes, robots, and other “less evolved” beings to achieve sapience. Dr. Chrono was unsure of how she felt about the term; uplifting sounded too light and happy to her, considering what often had to be done to these beings to grant them sapience, but she couldn’t think of a better term to replace it. The uplifting process involved a lot of genetic engineering and chemicals for the organics, not all of which was painless, or even consistently successful. She had a feeling that the papers on the sides of the desk contained at least one case of “failure” where some poor creature either had a bad reaction to the chemicals or was otherwise unlikely to “awaken” to sapience. Alas, receiving such bad news was part of the job.

Working with the AIs and robots was easier, though a bit less directly under Dr. Chrono’s purview. The best coders and AI specialists in the region had been recruited to write original code and patches for uplifting robots and less tangible AIs, and generally, this process went smoothly. In the case of “raw” uplifts where an AI was created as sapient, the process could be as simple as downloading the code into the robot “shell,” or activating the internal AI process (in the case of “virtual assistants” without bodies). If everything had been done correctly, a sapient robot or program would “awaken” and begin learning about the world.

Patching existing AIs could be a bit trickier, as it meant formatting the code around the pre-existing format. Often, the sapience-granting code wouldn’t even be compatible with the original format, resulting in the completely new code has to be written anyway. From there, the specialists would have to recover the memories and reformat them if possible, though this would occasionally be impossible due to compatibility issues as well. In fact, it seemed that more previous AIs were entirely remade than ever truly upgraded. This fact created something of a moral quandary: if a robot was sentient without being sapient before being uplifted, was it really okay to just discard those memories in the name of gaining true reason?

While there were people arguing for either side of the question, the official stance was somewhere in the middle. While there were some sectors attempting research on ways to encourage compatibility between the new programming and the old, nothing noteworthy had come of the research yet, and so the complete rewrites continued.

As Dr. Chrono mused over the various uplifting processes, she entered the various data into the system. Her ability to divide her attention and still get things done (and done well, and done accurately) was something she was quite proud of. When she was just a rookie some decades ago and her hair was still blonde instead of that odd greying off-yellow, her data entry was described as “fiendishly accurate” by a superior. In her mind, that just made it all the clearer that someone a bit lower on the corporate ladder should be doing the work she was currently stuck with. Data entry was something she could do (and, if an old roommate was to be believed, had done) in her sleep.

Soon, however, something happened that required Dr. Chrono’s full attention. Her door swung open, and a small ape child charged in with a child-sized, blue-plated android in hot pursuit. “Karina, just because you can take my limbs off doesn’t mean you should!” The android wailed as he chased the ape girl around Dr. Chrono’s office.

Karina looked back only to give the android a prolonged raspberry. Her energy seemed to be nearly endless as she zipped around the room. “Too bad! I wanna see this up close!”

Dr. Chrono’s irritation hit first before her amusement. “Both of you, stop right there!” she yelled, her voice sharp enough to halt them both and send the android skidding into the ape, which caused him to fall on his behind. That finally drew a wry chuckle out of Dr. Chrono. “Karina, give Alan his arm back.”

“Fine.” With a whine, Karina handed Alan his arm back, and the android child plugged it back in like it had never been detached in the first place.

“I don’t take your arm off to see how it works, do I?” Alan quipped, his childish voice bitingly sarcastic.

“That’s different! If you did it to me, it’d be attempted murder. In your case, it’s just maintenance.” Karina folded her arms and gave a huff.

“I see the double standards are already being drilled into our heads,” Alan mumbled.

Dr. Chrono couldn’t help but smile. Alan was becoming a bit like her with the tendency towards sharpness. She wasn’t entirely sure that was a good thing, and she hoped she could find someone to help him lighten up a little bit before it was too late. After all, it was a matter of handling code that was constantly updating itself; surely, he could update himself to be a bit happier someday.


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