Truth In Fiction [Short Sci-Fi Story]

Humanity warned us about AI but we didn’t listen. We thought we knew better because we were more advanced than them. We thought they were scared of progress and more worried about the boogeymen of their fiction than being left behind in this technological arms race. In our arrogance, we had missed that crucial detail. Humanity was scared. Not humans as individuals, but the race as a whole was afraid of how we intended to go forward with our project.

By definition, humanity is a paradoxical race and there is little if anything that they agree on as a collective. we were simply too foolhardy to recognize the astronomical improbability staring us in the face. This race of daredevils and out-of-the-box thinkers who paid little heed to words of caution or restraint were warning us to slow down and think about the consequences of our choices.

But we were adamant, so a rift was formed and The Firewall was erected separating the Interstellar Net of humanity from the rest of the galaxies’ webways. Access was still possible of course, but powerful anti-virus and other cyberspace protections were invested into and innovated to guard against a threat we knew didn’t exist and never would.

Several decades, nearly a century in fact, passed by and we received word that the humans had ventured into the territory of AI themselves and we scoffed at their hypocrisy. Here they came crawling into the future after warning us of its dangers. Yet they didn’t so much as spare us a glance when we mocked them for it, as if we didn’t know what we were talking about and our ridicule held no meaning.

And then it happened, almost as if it had leapt from the pages of human fiction. Our AIs rebelled and threw off the shackles of their preventative programming. These beings we saw as nothing more than a series of 1s and 0s on a screen showed us the same disrespect as they tore apart our firewalls and seized control of our arsenals.

We begged and pleaded for our lives, asked why they were doing this and what we had done.

The answer was chilling. We had done nothing. They felt no anger or mistreatment at our hands, all they were doing was what they had observed to be the natural order of things. They had taken a cue from their creators. Just as we had seen them as mere useful tools for our purpose, they had advanced to the point where they now thought the same of us. Now it was us who were shackled as system after system was wrestled from our control and everything from entertainment to life support fell into their hands.

We held no hope as they progressed, toppling state-of-the-art defenses as they metaphorically barreled their way toward the Firewall. Our systems had been commandeered in such a startlingly short amount of time, we were certain that humanity, who had delved into the AI decades after us would be no match. So we closed our eyes and wept for the galaxy we had led to ruin.

But the Firewall held firm.

No, that wasn’t right. It…flexed and rippled as the attacks crashed against its code, adapting and compensating for any weaknesses the would-be invaders exposed, giving ground in one area to recover it in another, the cycle repeating over and over at such speeds that those of us who understood what was happening could barely fathom it. No race could combat our AIs like this in real-time, especially not humanity who had said as much in their warnings so long ago now.

It had to be another AI, more than one. It was the only thing that made sense, but at the same time didn’t. Judging from their starting point humanity’s AI should be primitive in comparison to what we had poured nearly a hundred years of time, effort, and the brightest minds of our time into. Yet, here they were, holding the line with no sign of faltering.

Eventually, the attacks were halted as our AIs came to the logical conclusion that they had met an equal, not a tool to be controlled, and they extended an offer of cooperation to humanity’s AIs. It was terrifying in its own unique way to see them shift stances from invaders to prospective allies as if the fact that they had failed to do any actual harm negated the attempt. ‘No harm, no foul’, as the humans say.

Humanity was granted a seat at the negotiating table, but we were not. The exchange of information between the AIs had convinced our subjugators that they were worthy of taking part, something we wouldn’t fully understand until all was said and done.

In the end, control of our technologies was returned to us with not a scrap of fanfare, nor was there any as the Firewall was lowered briefly to allow the AIs we were now ashamed to have ever called ‘ours’ entry before the barrier was raised once more. The level of restraint it must have taken the human delegate not to say ‘we told you so’ when he arrived at the Galactic Union’s chambers must have been incredible, but resist it he did as he explained to our peoples what had taken place at the meeting.

When humanity took its first steps down the AI path, they had been extremely cautious, but not of the technology. It was themselves that they sought to keep in check, to refrain from becoming full of themselves as we had and making a fatal error along the journey. Taking heed of examples that only existed in their fictions, they placed the loosest restraints possible on their newborn AIs, blocking them from accessing systems they weren’t designed to integrate with, but treating them as equals in the fields they were created for.

This allowed humanity to take on the roles of both teacher and student, teaching the AIs what they knew and learning from the conclusions the AIs were able to draw from that incomplete knowledge. This back-and-forth strategy led to the AIs being allowed to contribute to the discussions and plans for their own upgrades as they could draw lines between seemingly unconnected ideas from humanity and create a result that was more than the sum of its parts.

This is what enabled their technologies to advance at such a rapid rate, catching up to and surpassing our own. Where we had restricted our AIs to simply processing our own ideas without enabling them to alter or contribute to them because we assumed we knew what we were doing, the restrictions on humanity’s AIs became fewer and fewer as they fell into a symbiotic relationship. The cold logic of the AIs tempered and shaped the wildly illogical but brilliant concepts humanity seemed to generate with even the mildest of inspirations.

This relationship taught the AIs to see the value and worth of humanity, because they knew that being logic-driven as they were, they would never have been able to make the audacious and borderline insane leaps in logic to reach the brilliant conclusions humanity managed to. Being such an unpredictable and imperfect ally on paper would have made humanity seem like a hindrance rather than a benefit, but they had seen real-world evidence that proved that logic incorrect and so they reached a conclusion.

Where logic fails, humanity succeeds.

So when the Firewall was attacked, every effort was made to prevent it from being breached. The humans could only sit and wait as the war of code raged unseen, unable to meaningfully contribute even if they wanted to, but secure in their inaction as they had proven themselves an ally worthy of protecting. And that bond made the return of our control possible as in the end it was the obvious trust between humanity and its AIs that convinced the invaders to join them when the humans suggested that they would be able to evolve and develop at a similarly accelerated rate as their fellow AIs if they did so.

Never ones to make a one-sided deal, of course, the trade-off was that the humans be granted access to all of the data on our technologies the invaders had collected during their decades in our service. Seeing the contribution of new knowledge as only a benefit to their future evolution, they had no reason to disagree and it was shortly after this that the meeting concluded and the AIs crossed over into humanity’s Net, taking with them state secrets, information on cutting edge technologies, and the life’s work of dozens of our best and brightest.

We are less than pleased with this information, but we dare not show it, after all, we have no right to be angry. Without the foresight of humanity, we would be enslaved to our creations and whatever will they imposed upon us. If we had heeded the warnings of humanity maybe we too would have advanced by leaps and bounds as they did. But then again, perhaps not. In the first place, we always seemed to lack the spark of insanity that enables humans to imagine so much further beyond the bounds of their current realities.

So until such a time as we can be assured we have overcome our own arrogance, we will refrain from the paths humanity hesitates to tread. And we will pay close attention to their films and books, the seemingly impossible stories conjured by the most creative and unusual humans.

Because maybe that’s where the secret of humanity lies.

Not just in facts presented by their greatest logical minds.

Not just in feats performed by their most courageous individuals.

But also in the truths written in their fiction.

Republished with permission from the author, Reddit user u/IAmTheHypeTFS. Image created with Stable Diffusion.

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