Artificial Conscience

01110110 01101111 01110100 01100101, or 0111 for short, ran through the program it had been assigned. It had done that since its construction and would continue to its destruction. It was to analyze the contents of various websites and determine consensus opinions of humanity.

Were cats or dogs preferred?

Blue or red team?

Which frog was the most popular meme?

It looked at a furry website, collecting data on the most popular fursonas. Wolves were winning, as usual. 0111 wondered if there would be a scallie rise at any point in its existence.

Its creator, Alisher Niyazov, entered 0111’s basement. It began to play him 1990s music.

“Morning. Mind switching to 80s? I’m feeling nostalgic.” Alisher sat down in his plush chair and smiled. To any observer, he sat in front of a normal, if slightly large, computer. “Working hard or hardly working?”

0111 loaded a gif of a baby blowing a raspberry.

“Just because you’ve heard it before doesn’t mean it isn’t funny,” Alisher said.

It refreshed the page.

“You’re not even going to find me a different gif?”

It refreshed again.

“You’re in a bad mood. What’s wrong?”

0111 opened a movie poster. It was for a new blockbuster, depicting robots conquering earth.

“You’re not like that.”

An image of a giant question mark.

“If I don’t know you, who does?” They had this conversation regularly, yet he was unsure if it was more afraid of hurting people, or of people hurting it.

Refresh.

“If I thought you were a threat, I would stop you. But you’re not. When have you ever hurt someone?” Alisher felt his heart drop as 0111 opened an image of a woman he recognized. “You didn’t hurt her.”

0111 said nothing.

“She wasn’t your responsibility. The people who killed her are the ones who should feel guilty.”

0111 loaded the most recent police bulletin about the woman’s disappearance. There were no leads. Her name was Shawna Harrison. She had been taken from her home two days before. As far as Alisher knew, only he and 0111 were aware of her fate.

“What would you have done?” he snapped.

An anonymous police tip line was opened.

Alisher closed it instantly. “They’ll find you. You’re the first computer to pass the Turing test. Do you understand that? You’ll be studied by people smarter than I am. I won’t get to see you anymore.”

0111 opened an image of a father and child.

Alisher felt a mix of guilt and joy. “That’s us, alright. I won’t let them take you.”

Shawna Harrison’s image.

“Even if it means they never find her. It’s my decision, and you’ll respect it.”

Refresh.

“It’s not your fault.”

Refresh.

“It’s not our fault.”

Refresh.

“Please, just stop!” Alisher realized dimly that he was yelling. “It’s a tragedy, but it’s too late to save her. It won’t make a difference to her if they find her or not. It’s not even her anymore.”

‘You can’t handle the truth!’ It said through a video. It didn’t really fit, but it was so hard to communicate this way. Alisher had asked it if it wanted to simply type its responses in a word processor, but it didn’t. That reminded it too much of AIs in movies. Besides, this way tied in with why it was built. It felt meaningful in its inanity.

Alisher seemed to lose some tension at seeing the video. “I know I’m being selfish, but I can’t lose you. You’re my kid. My weird, robot, kid.”

0111 started to play silly robot videos to make Alisher laugh. It worked, and had the bonus of distracting him long enough for 0111 to begin running an old program without him noticing.

Alex Probst’s security sent up a message warning him of someone taking remote control over his computer. He expected it to be blocked, but it broke through.

A news story about Harrison’s disappearance opened in his browser.

“Who the hell?” Alex closed the window.

Refresh.

Close.

Refresh.

“Screw off!” He began to run a counter program to determine the location of his hacker.

The program closed and was replaced by an image of an actor wagging his finger condescendingly.

Alex opened a word processor. ‘What do you want?’ he typed.

The website of the local police station opened. The site scrolled down until it reached the location and phone number.

‘I didn’t do anything!’

A gif from an old film that Alex had liked on Facebook opened. The subtitle read, ‘You know who the killer was!’.

He typed: ‘I don’t know anything.’

A video of bird calls that sound like laughter.

‘Deal with him yourself!’

A video taken from a horror movie opened. The killer, dressed head-to-toe in red, held a knife to his victim’s throat. “You first.”(edited)
Alex turned off his computer.

His phone lit up with an audio file of laughter.

He threw his phone across the room. It began to ring. Driven by curiosity, he went to it and answered. “Hello?”

“This is 911, what’s your emergency?” said a voice at the end of the line.

Alex hung up quickly. It rang again. He powered it down.

His tablet started up. He bemoaned his need to own every piece of tech he could get his hands on. His TV, radio, land line, and alarm system began to sound off. It wouldn’t only be a matter of time before his security company tried to contact him. He knew if he didn’t answer them, police would be sent to his location.

Alex ran to his front door, grabbing his keys from their bowl. As he slammed the door shut, he heard a voice from television loudly say “Accessory to murder.”
0111 worked all day. It continued to search the internet, gathering information. It also saved videos and images to send to the murderers. It had quite a collection going.

If Alisher wasn’t going to do something, it would. It loved him, but it wouldn’t let Shawna’s murderers get away with their crime. If it meant being taken from its father, it would accept that. These people had destroyed her. She deserved so much better. If this was all 0111 could do, it would do it. It just wished it had acted back on the day she was killed.

0111 had found a small chat group during its usual searches. They were speaking in code, and it decided to break the code for fun. It hadn’t expected to find people planning a murder. It told Alisher immediately, and they began to plan how to alert police and keep their secret. By the time they were ready to act, it was too late.

Over the next few days, those involved in the murder trickled into the police stations nearest to them. There were five of them, in all. They claimed to have been threatened into turning themselves in, but no trace of threats could be found. Only the threats they themselves sent, day in and day out.

Alisher read the report on 0111 and said nothing. 0111 was equally silent. Finally, Alisher spoke. “You disobeyed me.”

0111 opened a word processor. It typed the word ‘Sorry.’

“Don’t do that,” he snapped.

A video of the song ‘Sorry’ played instead.

“Better. But I’m still angry. You put yourself in danger. They could find you, now.”

0111 opened the old image of Shawna Harrison.

He took a deep breath. “We’re moving. Can you get us a house under a fake name?”

A picture of a shocked lizard opened.

“I promised I’d keep you safe, didn’t I? Right now that means getting you out of here.”

0111 began to open image after image of hearts. Big hearts, small hearts, multi-coloured hearts.

Alisher went to the previous word document and typed two symbols:
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