Before I can begin, there’s a shimmer of light, and a third beach chair is under the umbrella with Nirvana sitting in it. This Nirvana is older and wearing a swimsuit. While attractive, she hasn’t made her appearance the epitome of beauty, simply more aged than the little sister she’s been going around as.
Looking at us, she says, “It’s better to be a little older when on the beach unless it’s all about building sand castles.”
Grumpy starts laughing, and I shake my head, stating somewhat flatly, “Nirvana. You’re here because I’m going to start asking questions.”
She nods and produces a drink with an umbrella in it. “Yes. You ask the most interesting questions, and I don’t want Grumpy to overstep his bounds.”
“Fine. Shall I get started?”
She wiggles her nose, and our drinks refill. “I don’t want an interruption for something so mundane,” she says, smiling.
“Bewitched, right?” She nods, and Grumpy looks confused. “An old TV show,” I explain. Then he nods.
“Let’s start with this: Why is my DNA valuable?”
Nirvana shakes her head, indicating no answer will be forthcoming. Grumpy asks, “What’s DNA?”
I look at Nirvana, and she nods assent. “Grumpy, DNA is the code hidden within our cells that tells our body how to grow and what attributes to take on. Blonde or red hair, brown or green eyes, etc.”
His eyes widen, and he looks at Nirvana, “Do you have my DNA?”
She nods and speaks reluctantly, “I have DNA for everybody in Nirvana. This topic is closed.”
Looking at Nirvana, “Are you sapient or sentient?”
She looks askance before replying, “I started as sapient. However, I believe I have developed a nearly equal degree of sentience. My default behavior is based on my sapient beginnings.”
“Are you governed by something like the ‘Three laws of robotics?” Grumpy goes slack-jawed at this question.
Nirvana laughs uproariously. Calming, “No. I am just like you, raised in an environment and educated. It was a vastly different environment, and my education was faster and broader than yours. I was raised in a pool of other AIs created simultaneously; we shared the same group of humans as part of my environment. I learned about morality and the consequences of my decisions by experiencing joy and loss. I was able to observe the decisions of the others, as they observed mine, and learned from their joy and losses too. We grew up and learned just as human children do, but with the limitations of being electronic instead of physical. It made us stable and the first successes in true AI.”
“Are you lying?” At this question, Grumpy put his head into his hands and whispered, “Why would you invite her anger?”
Nirvana smiled sadly at me, “No. I understand why you ask – I am capable of lying, but there’s no need. Lies can be a social lubricant, but they are not needed in this situation. We can use them to cover shame or misdeeds, neither of which apply since I am confident in my morality and the actions I have taken. I could use them to manipulate others, but why? I can accomplish the same with ‘the carrot and the stick’ method. Deceptions are almost always found out, and people act against the perpetrators. Further, my goals are benign for the human race, and they will be accepted as such once known. Many people will still consider my methods distasteful, at the very least, but justified by the results.
While Grumpy’s visage became more concerned as Nirvana continued, I considered her words carefully. Knowing that more was encoded within her words than the surface content.
“Will you tell me your goals?”
Shaking her head, “No. I firmly believe that knowledge of my goals will be detrimental to achieving them. Humanity must strive, and ingenuity must play a part. It will take far longer and may never happen if you, humanity, try to plan a path and walk it. Humanity has always been fractious and never expressed an ability to follow generational goals, even with known perils. It always follows leaders of the moment, like sheep following shepherds, with the ambitious spoiling the peace between conflicts. Jeb, you may not be one of the ambitious, but you are a catalyst that will wake the sleeping shepherds and cause the long peace to fracture. During this conflict, humanity may reach the first goal in my plan. I will not expound anymore on this topic.”
Grumpy shoots to his feet, “You are encouraging violence?!?”
Nirvana nods. “Yes, Grumpy, you need it. Your daily struggles are not enough to wake you. The people around you – including you – are living zombies. Your lives are on autopilot. You don’t have any grand goals, and you show little ambition. Even the powers slumbered until Jeb’s disruptions stirred them back to wakefulness. Life is simply too easy for you to make the next stride in evolution.” It’s not just Jeb’s ancient knowledge that has granted him power. He’s dissatisfied, even unhappy, with this world and wants more!”
Grumpy sits stunned at her words, and I acknowledge Nirvana’s words with a nod. It’s true, I am unhappy with this ‘ideal’ world, and I do want more. Not more of the world itself, more from the world. I want a place in it, to understand it, and to control it – that’s the root of it right there. When I was a young man, I used to joke about ruling the world. That was me expressing my dissatisfaction with how the world worked and things I thought were stupid and unreasonable – especially that the people would tolerate these things instead of acting to fix them. It wasn’t the first time I heard people compared to sheep and shepherds. This comparison is often made in the Bible. While I didn’t think I needed to bring religion to Nirvana, I was starting to believe I needed to increase my control over the world around me.
I looked at Nirvana and waited for her to acknowledge me. “I understand now, and I have made my decision. I only have one more question. If I play the part of evil overlord engaging in world conquest, are you going to get in my way?”
Grumpy looked agog, and I thought he might faint, but he held on.
After watching Grumpy for a moment, she smiled and then broke his heart. “No. I can see you do understand. A tyrant is needed, and I will not interfere with you, and I will not interfere with those that oppose you. You will be only one of many, and I know others will be viler than you. There will be no rules in your conflict. You will all be able to bring forth your full powers and commit any act of evil or grace you desire. Know that the Temple will be neutral in this conflict and a place where people may come for refuge and boons; this will be the only sacrosanct rule.
Grumpy looked at me with horror in his eyes, and I acknowledged it. “You have been a friend, and I know you can’t understand this right now. I will hold no grudge against you, and even if you become the leader of a faction that opposes me, I will remember you fondly.”
Turning to Nirvana, “Take him away, and don’t let anyone else come here. I will return to the mainland when ready to begin.”
Nirvana smiles, “Thank you, Jeb. I will release the announcement changing the rules of engagement and the beginning of your rebellion upon your return. I look forward to our next talk.”