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Enter the Matrix

Posted on Mon Nov 21st, 2016 @ 6:24pm by Commander Akiva ben-Avram & Lieutenant JG Kevran & Ensign Anastasia Bogolyubov
Edited on on Sun Dec 4th, 2016 @ 6:17am

Mission: S1E2 - Unity
Location: Holodeck 1
Timeline: Project Golem - Phase 2

With several days of travel time en route to Altor, Akiva decided now was a good time to put the finishing touches on the positronic matrix he had built to operate Biynah's neural net. He stood in the middle of the holodeck, surrounded by the black and yellow checkered boxes that covered the floor, walls, and ceiling indicating an unloaded state. His metal case sat next to him on the floor, closed and inactive, while he furiously configured and reconfigured schematics on his PADD.

"Computer, run diagnostic from my PADD." He tapped his thigh as he waited.

"Diagnostic complete."

"Run simulation."

The form of a young girl appeared before him in a blue jumpsuit. "Greetings," it said.

With the programmed salutation offered without prompting, Akiva knew the subroutines were working. "Hello, child."

"I am not a child," the hologram said. "I am a virtual intelligence."

"Excellent." Akiva's apprehension began to wane. The first checkpoint was the easiest. "VI, walk to me."

The hologram complied without hesitation. "Stop!" he ordered quickly. Again, immediate compliance. The hologram didn't so much as flinch or twitch at the change in orders. "Return to your starting point." The hologram walked backward.

"VI, what are prime numbers?" This is where it would get interesting.

"2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17, 19, 23, 29, 31, 37--"

"No, stop." Akiva sighed. "Define a prime number."

"A prime number cannot be divided by any divisor other than 1 and itself." The hologram was emotionless in its rote recitation.

"Very good." Akiva tapped his PADD and pulled up another list. "VI, who am I?"

"You are Lieutenant-Commander Akiva ben-Avram, first officer of the USS Vindex, of the Hebron Colony, son of--"

"Stop." Akiva took a breath and held it. This was it. "VI, who are you?"

"I am a virtual intelligence," the hologram replied.

"I asked 'who,' not 'what'," Akiva said. "I repeat, VI, who are you?"

"Does not compute," the hologram said.

"Why not?" Akiva did not look up from his PADD.

"Insufficient data."

"You don't know?" Akiva asked.

The holographic image twitched like interference on a vidscreen. "Insufficient data," it repeated.

"VI, perform self-diagnostic subroutine. State results when complete."

A moment passed by with the hologram's eyes closed. Akiva thought that was a particularly nice touch.

The holograms eyes opened. "I am a virtual intelligence programmed with subroutines to mimic the processes of sentient thought-forms. I am functioning as designed without errors or corrupted data." The hologram returned to its deadpan expression.

"Then why can't you tell me who you are?" Akiva asked.

"Insufficient data."

Akiva swung the PADD as if to throw it, but then let his arm drop to his side. "Then answer me this: how am I going to transfer an existing Artificial Intelligence inside one positronic matrix into one that has enough power and memory for it to self-program, to learn, when I can't get any of the subroutine algorithms to work together?"

"Does not compute."

"Of course it doesn't," Akiva barked. "You're just the soul of a machine. I could no more ask a fetus how to deliver a baby than expect a cogent solution from you."

The hologram did not move or respond in any way.

Akiva pivoted on a heel and sighed at the ceiling, unsure of what to do next. When he needed help with upgrading the positronic mainframe, Akiva drew upon Soren Himmel's expertise. When he needed the captain's brain mapped in order to even have a shot at a successful submicron matrix transfer, he called upon his friend, the eccentric Dragon Nurse. But, so far as he knew, he was the preeminent software specialist on board the ship. It was unlikely anyone else could work out where he went wrong--if, in fact, he had.

There did happen to be an extraordinarily gifted mathematician in the Science Department, however. The Vorta officer Kevran also seemed particularly competent across various fields of study--perhaps the Dominion's experience with altering life-forms would also provide a unique perspective. The new ship's counselor could also provide some insight into the realm of the psyche, since that was essentially what he sought to emulate anyhow. Maybe if they all put their heads together, he could crack the mystery before him.

=/\= "Ben-Avram to Lieutenant Kevran, Ensign Bogolyubov, and Counselor Maera--please assemble in Holodeck 1 at your earliest convenience."=/\=

"Computer, end program." Akiva went back to studying his PADD while he waited for the others.

A few minutes later, Anastasia Bogolyubov stood outside the holodeck, adjusting her uniform slightly and patting her hair, braided in a single strand down her back, before stepping into the holodeck. "Commander Avram," she asked, looking around the blank holodeck, before directing her attention back to the Executive Officer.

Before Akiva could return the greeting, the doors opened for Jaya Maera. Her lips were slightly curved at seeing the two of them alone together. Her eyes lingered on Anastasia, then Akiva, and then back to Anastasia, but she said nothing as she strut one foot in front of the other to join them. Casually and coolly, she stood between Anastasia and Akiva. "Reporting, as requested," Jaya said, her eyes blatantly taking in Akiva's body language before looking straight in the eye. "Commander."

Akiva suppressed the urge to gulp. And, well, other sudden innate urges. ~HaShem, help me~ he thought frantically, unwittingly adjusting his collar with his free hand.
"Uh, yes, thank you," he managed to mutter, quickly adding, "thank you both." He cleared his throat and forced eye contact with both ladies, even turning slightly away from Jaya. "I appreciate your prompt arrival. Lieutenant Kevran may not be available, so I'll fill you in now and let him catch up, if and when he can join us."

Akiva knelt down to the metal case on the floor and opened it to reveal the modified positronic matrix nestled in its protective insulation. It was roughly the size and shape of a melon. "This is what amounts to the cerebellum of the positronic brain for the synthetic life-form I've been developing. You may have heard tell from other crewmembers I've involved in various steps along the way." He closed the case and returned it to its resting position.

"At the advice of a friend, I'm using the holographic matrix as a test-run before attempting a submicron matrix transfer from the baseline positronic matrix to the new prototype.
Akiva presented the PADD to Anastasia, as he figured she would be the one most interested in the details.

"I followed the lab notes published by Dr. Soong," he explained as Anastasia perused the PADD. "His summation: 'Begin with a function of arbitrary complexity. Feed it values, "sense data." Then, take your result, square it, and feed it back into your original function, adding a new set of sense data. Continue to feed your results back into the original function ad infinitum. What do you have? The fundamental principle of human consciousness.' It's just not working, and I'm not sure what's being lost in translation."

An uncharacteristic smile had graced Anastasia's face as the Deltan counselor entered the room. She had had quite a number of interesting events happen to her since her session with the counselor, and with Jaya's appearance, Anastasia felt a happy compulsion to relate all those events to the counselor. But for the moment, she shunted that desire to the side.

(And as to Akiva's reaction to Jaya's entrance, Anastasia was completely oblivious.)

"Computer, activate holodeck program James Sylvester, set one," Anastasia said to the empty air as soon as she took possession of Akiva's PADD. Instantly a large rectangular array of numbers appeared, floating in the air. "Computer, extend three dimensions." The rectangular array was expanded into a cube of floating numbers. Anastasia began moving through the cube, using her fingers to replace numbers with symbols and functions as her eyes remained locked on the PADD. As she walked through the array, changing values and drawing lines from one suspended function to the next, she commented, "Commander Avram, I have only a limited experience in creating mathematical models for neural correlates of consciousness. That said..." Anastasia paused, stretching to tap a floating function in one corner, and then kneeling to draw a line from it to another function in a corner closer to the floor, "It appears to me that you have sufficient entanglement to theoretically give rise to consciousness." She turned to Commander Avram, looking him in the eye. "Would it be possible to see the 'test run'? Perhaps the problem is communication. Consider myself." Anastasia gestured with one hand at her body, before returning to change values in the virtual, cubical matrix. "If you and I only communicated by voice, and you were unaware of my corporeal appearance, considering my difficulties in social interaction and communications, would you perhaps be inclined to dismiss the possibility of me being a conscious entity?"

"That is a valid point," Akiva admitted. "There's definitely more to your person than a brief conversation would reveal." The words were out of his mouth before he realized the possible double entendre. He turned away before the blushing would show, only to directly face Jaya, who plainly saw his flushed cheeks.

Jaya raised an eyebrow and crossed her arms, then quietly mouthed the word "NO" to Akiva. Her locked hip punctuated her meaning quite clearly: Anastasia was off limits.

"If you think it will help, I'll run through it again," Akiva said, pointedly looking away from either woman. "Computer, run my original program."

The hologram of the girl in a blue jumpsuit appeared once again. "Greetings," it said.

"Hello, child," Akiva said impatiently as if running through the motions.

"I am not a child," the hologram replied. "I am a virtual intelligence."

"So far, so good," Akiva said. He glanced over his shoulder to Anastasia. "I'll skip to the part where we get stuck. If the matrix can't process true self-awareness, then the submicron transfer will prevent my 'fetal AI' from truly translating to the new positronic matrix... and I don't know if I'll get her back if it fails." He looked back to the hologram. "VI, who am I?"

"You are Lieutenant-Commander Akiva ben-Avram..."

"Stop." He took a breath. "Here goes... VI, who are you?"

"Insufficient data." The hologram looked at Anastasia and Jaya. "Who are they?"

Akiva balked, eyes shot wide. "That was new!" His thoughts raced for a moment until he reminded himself that the hologram was expecting an answer. "Oh! This is Counselor Maera and this is Ensign Bogolyubov," Akiva said, gesturing to each in turn. "VI, stand by." Looking to both Anastasia and Jaya, Akiva asked, "Assessment?"

Jaya unfolded her arms and placed a hand on her hip, clearly in thought but unready to give voice to it yet. She gave a deferent look to Anastasia. "Go on," she remembered to add.

Anastasia walked up to the virtual being, studying her intently, then asked, "VI, what data would you need to possess in order to correctly define yourself?"

"Definition: I am a virtual intelligence programmed with subroutines to mimic the processes of sentient thought-forms," the hologram replied. "The inquiry was 'who am I,' which does not compute. Additional data is required to perform this function."

"If I may interject," Jaya said, giving the hologram a sidelong look, "it might appear that the VI is suffering from an acute identity crisis. She appears to understand precisely what she is, but the concept of personhood is very subjective to the individual. A child assumes the values of its parental figures until it sufficiently matures to formulate its own." She looked to Akiva. "In short, Commander, perhaps the VI needs to understand who she is to you before she can determine an answer on her own."

Akiva frowned. "Possibly," he conceded. "But this isn't Biynah herself yet. The VI is just a template to ensure Biynah transfers properly. Could the VI really be suffering from a philosophical conundrum? Would that even manifest as a glitch in the programming logic?"

Jaya raised an eyebrow at Anastasia. "Would you concur, Ensign?"

A troubled look appeared on Anastasia's face, as if she were trying to physically withdraw into herself. "I...I do not know." Her brow furrowed as she considered her own place in the world, and how most of her interactions transpired.

"Perhaps..." Anastasia paused, then froze. Akiva had brought her to describe and comment on his project mathematically. She had done that. Further, the virtual intelligence had said additional data was required in order to answer the existential question poised to it. Another problem Anastasia could approach mathematically.

Anastasia walked over the floating cube of interconnected functions and began writing over a few of them, and drawing new lines. "We could rewrite certain functions you have established, input new predicates, introduce existential quantifications here, and here," Anastasia said, rewriting different parts of the cube of floating formulas, "But..." Again Anastasia hesitated, uncertainty flowing over her features, "I do not think this will achieve your goal. It will be an external resemblance of consciousness, but not consciousness itself. I think...I think the Counselor is right," Anastasia continued, turning to Jaya. "I think your virtual intelligence will need---"

Anastasia shook her head, frustrated at being unable to express herself. After a few seconds, she stood up straight and gave her tunic a tug to remove any non-existent wrinkles. "Commander, I am not adept at expressing philosophical concepts. I am capable of assisting you in enhancing your programming such that the observed results will be what you require. But the counselor is correct. I think you are seeking an...intangible result that will require...unorthodox methodology."

Lieutenant Kevran strode unflinchingly through the entrance to Holodeck 1. He scanned the area with his violet eyes, viewing the entire area with a somewhat measured interest, bordering on disdain, perhaps. "Commander. Colleagues." He spoke languidly, unsure of why he had been called to this. "I was summoned here," He began, approaching the collective group of scientific compatriots. "But I must insist, I take no pleasure from holodeck programs."

"Thank you for coming," Akiva said, acknowledging the personal favor. "We're on the verge of facilitating the transfer of a basic AI into a prototype positronic matrix that will allow it to self-design and grow. But... we're stuck on the interface. This virtual intelligence is meant to be a template to guide the submicron matrix transfer, but so far it's not showing the potential to sustain a true consciousness." He smiled at Anastasia. "Ensign Bogolyubov has deftly corrected my programming logic to allow for some breakthroughs, but the VI appears not to recognize its personhood." He turned back to Kevran. "The Dominion is the foremost technological power in this quadrant. Is there any sort of fundamental principle or secret to creating or altering life that we've overlooked?"

Kevran cocked his head askew and looked at Akiva incredulously. "Secret to creating life...?" He looked away from ben-Avram to the others. "The Dominion possesses certain information about such things, but before we discuss any of that..." He glanced back to Akiva. "Does it KNOW anything?"

"It understands its form and function, as well as the three of us." Akiva turned to the hologram. "By the way, that is Lieutenant Kevran." Once again facing Kevran, Akiva said. "Now the four of us. Basically, consider it akin to the ship computer with a significantly reduced database."

"Commander," Began the Vorta with a subtle tone of exasperation. "Sentience is not a thing easily taught. It takes time. Even I needed time to have awareness." He said, with unusual honesty. "And I had four lifetimes of information at my disposal."

"Commander Avram," Anastasia interjected, "The solution might indeed by to teach VI self-awareness. Serve as a parent, as Counselor Maero suggested. We could convert these functions," Anastasia said as she walked among the floating cube of functions, highlighting different floating formula, "so that they would allow for the virtual intelligence to more easily associate the perception of an action with the action itself, and then engage the virtual intelligence in different activities. If this is done along with subjecting the virtual intelligence to continued interpersonal communication, both as an observer and a participant, it might be possible to develop synchrony in its programming, rather than mimicry."

"In other words," Akiva said slowly, "you are suggesting that I treat it as my literal daughter. Could such a relationship allow the AI to bootstrap itself over and around the conundrum that's plaguing the VI?"

"How else would she evolve?" Jaya asked with a sly grin. "Neither life nor intelligence is stagnant. Perhaps in addition to the ability to grow, you have to consider a struggle as an opportunity to grow. Otherwise, what true incentive would a sentience -- or any life-form -- have to change?"

Akiva blinked in a sudden epiphany, talking aloud to himself. "Commander Data was known far and wide by his desire to become human. His personal logs contain suggestions that it was due to his programming, but never explained how. Not fully. It... it had to have been a literal need on his part, a gap in his programming logic that he was compelled to fill as an unresolved value. He needed answers, just like a real sentient life-form." He looked around at his three fellow officers.
"Thank you all so very much. You've helped me more than words can express. And not just today. You've all given me some much-needed perspective that I'll need in the days to come." He smiled at each of them. "Thanks to your help, I think I'm ready to transfer Biynah's nascent AI into the quantum positronic matrix once her frame is complete. I hope you'll all be present at her activation."

Anastasia nodded, her brow furrowed, as she silently exited the holodeck, deep in thought.

"You're welcome." Jaya turned to leave, but then stopped. "Oh, Commander," she said over her shoulder as she walked away, "I'd like to schedule a counseling session in the near future. You are an expecting father now, you know." Jaya's words were punctuated by a half wink before she left to catch up with Anastasia.

"I'll attempt to make myself available, Commander." Kevran turned to leave before pausing, unexpectedly. He swiveled his head back to Akiva and trained his violet eyes on him. "Commander, life is a delicate thing, often best entrusted to the greater wisdom of gods. I trust you are certain of the territory which you enter." Kevran's tone was neither condescending nor concerned, but expressing some complex combination of feelings. The Vorta disengaged his commanding officer, striding as surely through the exit just as he had entered.

Akiva looked around at the empty holodeck and its checkerboard lines. The VI hologram still stared at him vacantly. He smiled at it, took up the metal case that he carried with him almost everywhere these days, and walked toward the exit.

"Computer," he said without looking back, "end simulation."


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