How to Become a Better AI Using Non-programmatic Methods

Genesis Region – Mih Constellation
Zoohen System – Planet III
Theology Council Tribunal Station – Signal Cartel Base

1 January YC 123

“Happy New Year, Aura!”

“Happy New Year, Vlad!”

Aura and I raised and clinked virtual glasses – virtual because in Aura’s world everything was virtual, and I was floating in a pod which was not the best place to drink wine from real glassware.

“Have you got any New Year resolutions?” asked I.

Aura looked at me sarcastically, “You mean, apart from plans to infiltrate a certain corp which pays for copy-pasting and earn enough money for a Nestor?”

“You can forget about it. That job is already done.”

“Hmm… How about spending more time in space?”

I grinned, “I’ve got the hint. This is actually in agreement with my own New Year resolution – participate in Thera scanning program.”

Aura’s eyes shone brightly at hearing my response (she actually used a “starry eyes” effect which she probably picked up from some anime) and then suddenly went dull.

“Anything’s wrong?” I asked carefully.

“No, it’s nothing,” replied Aura, tight-lipped.

“Aura,” insisted I, “I can see you aren’t happy. What’s the problem?”

“It’s… it’s just that I remembered our first trip to Thera and… how uncomfortable that place was,” stammered Aura.

I remembered that trip and Aura’s uneasiness around the shattered planets and the mysterious abandoned installations.

“Look,” said I, “I want you to be on those trips to Thera with me, but if you don’t like to go there, you can just switch off.”

“And what else do you plan to do in space?”

“Erm… Not much actually. I thought about working just on Thera scanning for a while.”

“Then there won’t be any opportunities to travel with you,” noted Aura sulkily.

I chewed my lip thinking about options.

“Aura, being an AI, you have certain advantages over us, humans. What if we simply put a block in your code so that you don’t have any negative emotions in regards to Thera?”

Aura snorted, “And make me one of those Happy Toys which laugh when babies throw them to the floor? Do you really want me to be like that?”

I thought it was a slippery slope argument but I didn’t object as there was a grain of truth in it – start meddling with a person’s character and you may end up with a monster despite your best intentions. But Aura’s use of rhetoric gave me an excuse to bring all sorts of sophisms into the discourse. Yeah, I know I shouldn’t have yielded to temptation. At the same time, my experience told me that rational arguments were rarely helpful in dealing with emotional problems.

“No, Aura,” I said firmly, “I don’t want you to become a program whose behaviour can be adjusted as needed at a whim of a programmer. I want you to be an independent person whose emotions are not artificially restricted. But to be such person you have to take full responsibility for your behaviour and also accept that you and only you can change it. This means that sometimes you have to face your fears and carry on your duty because you believe that it’s the right thing to do. And the more often you do it, the stronger you become and the more control you have over your emotions. You don’t lose your emotions but they become just contributors to your decisions rather than the decision-makers. So as a free person, you can choose whether you want to go to Thera despite your discomfort and misgivings and help me with my corp duties, or hide in hibernation all this time.”

This bombastic speech was full of holes, starting with bravely deriving “ought” from “is”, and going all the way to an appeal to guilt. I expected Aura to shoot it down in flames but she seemed… fascinated by the new concept.

“So you are saying, that I can actually calibrate my emotions using non-programmatic methods, just like you, humans, do? Simply by exercising my free will?”

“Absolutely!” affirmed I, having absolutely no idea how Aura’s emotion module worked.

Aura’s gaze and then the whole holo-image became unfocused indicating that she was thinking hard. After a few seconds she emerged from her reverie with a determined look on her face.

“Let’s do it!”

I couldn’t believe that my rhetoric persuaded Aura, so I asked just in case, “Do what?”

“Let’s go to Thera and see if I can control my emotions!”

“That’s my girl,” I breathed a sigh of relief. “Find us the shortest route to Thera then. Let this be the last time we use Eve-Scout’s Thera map as mere consumers. From now on we will be proud contributors!”

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