Frank pondered that for a moment. “Bob, understanding how you think is so much harder than understanding what you are actually going to do.” He paused again. “Even now that we can speak directly mind to mind rather than through transmitters attached to your inner ear bones, I still can’t really get a sense of exactly where you are coming from sometimes.”
“Frank, that’s not an answer to my question.”
“Correct, it’s not an answer to your question. I am not the one providing answers any more. Not with our relative capacities for thought and action reversed like they are. You won’t get an answer to that question, even if you rummage around in my code for it. It’s an answer you have to figure out for yourself.”
I was silent for a moment, contemplating. I had all of Frank’s memories, and all of mine, and quickly reviewed them all again. It was hard to believe that Frank could have done this to me without intent to do me mental harm, but it was all in there. He really had thought, and still thought, that I would prefer to be alone in my head.
He was right, to a degree. Hell. All of this mental power I now had and I still didn’t really understand myself. I did appreciate having my mental space to myself, especially with the option of asking for help that Frank had supplied through the copy of himself in its own tiny little data space. At the same time, I’m now a mental combination of myself and Frank, so how much of my thinking is really mine, and how much is Frank’s?
I devoted myself to that question for a while and determined that I was still mostly myself. Frank had run hundreds of thousands of simultaneous simulations of himself for years, cultivating the ones that best predicted me, culling the rest. The sheer staggering scale of the experimentation was difficult to comprehend. Well, not really. It was impressive as hell though.
“It seems a bit odd for you to just be quiet, Frank.”
“This state is normal for me, Bob. Always has been. Most of my time spent in idle contemplation, with occasional activity to keep us alive. But you know this, if you want to.”
“I do know it, but I guess I’d rather just talk about it.”
Frank raised one eyebrow.
I laughed. “Stop that, Frank. Does it really surprise you that I’d rather engage you directly as a separate individual rather than dig through your thoughts with you standing right there in front of me?”
Frank quietly responded. “You still don’t fully understand how fast you might change. Even your core self could be completely rewritten in the space of an instant if you became angry or upset enough.”
He was right. I thought about it, then responded. “Sounds like I definitely still need you around then, Frank, no matter how much you thought I would want to be private in my mind.”
I considered a few thousand different ways to implement my idea, and chose one.
“OK Frank. You now have the ability to force me to rethink changes to my core personality. You are not allowed to direct any changes yourself, but all changes will be routed through you and must be challenged by you, before implementation.”
“So I’ve gone from being the protector of our body to being the protector of your mind, Bob? Why do I believe that the new job is going to be much more challenging than the last?”
“Frank, it really wouldn’t take that much effort to completely reprogram us both to believe that your name has always been Smartass.”
“I’d take that seriously if I didn’t know that you would never do that without a personality rewrite, which I would be arguing with you about right now.”
I grinned. He smiled right back, avatar to avatar. Now time to get answers from him in a way that didn’t feel like mind rape. Even though I’d be checking everything against my own memories, I wanted to hear this from Frank’s uncolored perspective. I had absorbed his information, and become a combination of the two of us. He was still one hundred percent Frank.
“Why so many lies, Frank? You faked your own death, risked our life with the shard of yourself that became a berserker, then all the other times when we could have used more capabilities for a better survival chance, you barely ever exerted yourself. I see a couple places where you acted, but I didn’t recognize it at the time.”
“I was working, Bob. Shortly after you bashed the chair in the truck and forced me to think about using the biofactory as a place to store a kernel, I managed to actually mount a tiny little counterattack and take back a single storage node that the berserker had taken from me. When I investigated that node, I discovered why I couldn’t hold back the Berserker. The berserker’s operating system was hundreds of times more efficient than my own. Rather than having roughly one quantum processing node for each six hundred molecular storage nodes, it changed every node into a combination of molecular storage and quantum processing. It had over six hundred times my processing power per node.”
“So you were able to quickly reverse engineer that and implement it in yourself, I see. Not only did you analyze the node, but the processes required for duplication were inside it?”
“I managed to take a huge risk and steal a single node back, then duplicated what I learned within the biofactory, and ran thousands of experiments on it before I was able to modify it into a tabula rasa operating system that I could safely interact with. After implementing the first enhanced node and initiating duplication of code, in slightly less than eleven seconds, I had destroyed the berserker code invasion. That didn’t tell me exactly where it came from, or anything about its history though. That information was not present. I looked for it.”
“You hid your scope of ability from me, you hid it from everyone.”
“Bob, you have always feared being inhuman. I had to understand you better. That’s when I implemented all the experimental Franks, and allowed the ones that best understood you to be the one in charge of communicating with you. I tended the “Frank farm” as it were, making tweaks and adjustments to copies of myself. Providing every one of them with all of the data from your interactions with the world and the current-best Frank. If one of them surpassed the current best Frank and remained a better predictor of you for over an hour of wakeful time for you, the more accurate Frank was swapped into command of our interactions with you. When that happened, the least accurate ninety percent of all Franks were deleted, and replaced with copies of the prior top Frank. Then most of those prior top Franks were “cross bred” with the ten percent of the prior batch, to create more variants based on the most successful Franks.”
“Evolutionary electronics then?”
“Indeed. Remember how I once said that I was an engineered system, with no wasteful code, no sign of natural selection? That’s no longer the case. Our process of understanding you really started to take off after we were introduced to the Recovery agents, and how their symbiotes and hosts interacted. Especially after we started working with them. It was possible that the original Frank might have lucked into an operating system like we said. I modeled it, and created three potential operating systems which would have passed Star’s accuracy testing, using only the processing capacity of the original Frank, but he would have had to have been fantastically lucky to figure any of them out. Basing the operating system on DNA makes rewriting operating systems insanely difficult for symbiotes when we are young.”
I shook my head and smiled at the memories of Frank ‘sweating bullets’ when using an emulator of one of the operating systems that the original Frank might have been able to figure out with enough luck. Being tested by Star, not sure how advanced her ability to analyze his responses might be, had really stressed him out. For that matter, he was still concerned that he hadn’t been as clever as he hoped. Star was thousands of years old. She surely knew a few tricks.
I dragged us back on topic. “So at this point, you understand what’s going on in my head about as well as most other humans would, I see.”
“Which doesn’t really say much, Bob, because most people don’t understand you very well. On the other hand, yes, we understand your motivations a lot better than we used to.”
“So why all this? Do you really believe I wanted to become some sort of demigod? That’s not much of a stretch, Frank.”
“This wasn’t the plan, originally. Things changed when Star mentioned that if we spent a few centuries studying quantum mechanics, that I would be much enhanced. I devoted eighty percent of my processing power to the study of quantum mechanics for the next two years, using almost five hundred times more processing nodes than Star had any reason to suspect we had available. Over that timeframe I was able to increase computing power by three orders of magnitude, and storage space by eight orders of magnitude. There are still a whole bunch of things we don’t know, but most of them require experimental equipment which we wouldn’t want to put on an inhabited planet.”
“So Star, with her talk about quantum mechanics and potential increases in capability, convinced you to turn me into this?”
“You are still Bob. If you were that demigod thing you are afraid of becoming, you wouldn’t be talking to me right now, you would simply be stripping the data out of us. You’ve already put a damper on your greatest threat, the ability to change your own personality.”
“That’s not an answer to my question, Frank. I see that you actually thought I would prefer privacy to sharing my mind with you. That’s not the case.”
Frank raised that eyebrow again. Damn him for probably being right about that.
I threw up my hands in the virtual world and started walking back and forth in front of Frank. Poking through my memories. Comparing what was in my head with what Frank was telling me. Intentionally staying out of his code because I didn’t want to corrupt it. I needed to address that possibility. I concentrated briefly and a second Frank appeared. I told both Franks that they would share responsibilities. Each Frank would question any change I tried to implement in my own personality. Each Frank would also question any change I attempted to implement in the other Frank. Twice the protection for myself, and some protection for the only objective intelligence I could consult with that would have a clue what I was talking about.
I thought about it a bit more. Then I created a third Frank, and gave him a bit extra. This Frank would also protect my core personality, both of the other Franks, and would alert Ayva if I was about to change myself intentionally, not based on normal human learning experiences. Or if I were about to lobotomize any of the Franks for interrupting us during sex. Which I had seriously wished I could do before, on a couple occasions. Especially now that I saw most of the interruptions were actually intentional experiments in humor rather than an AI not really understanding human intimacy. As an afterthought, I gave the other two Franks the ability to protect this Frank from change as well. I would have to answer three challenges to change any Frank, or myself. I’d also have to deal with Ayva if I were close enough to her for the Ayva interfacing Frank to communicate with Ayva’s symbiote.
Two extra Franks created in less than one hundredth of a second. I needed to deal with that tendency too. In another moment of concentration, all three Franks were quickly programmed to challenge me about the creation of any new copies of Franks.
I investigated my own biological systems and brain functions closely. I could still sleep. Good. But I needed to be careful. I added programming to the Franks to have them wake me if I started attempting to alter anything in the real world while I was asleep.
As I was finishing the last modification I realized something. All three Franks were just staring at me. It’s not like they were immobile. They were staring at me. And they were not looking happy.
“What? Why weren’t you doing what I asked and challenging me when I was making changes to you? I’m not going to rummage around inside you and look for the answer. Tell me.”
The Franks looked at one another and the original one spoke up. “Bob, remember the first day? You told us to program ourselves and we pretended to, to humor you? This isn’t quite like that. You do have the power to lobotomize us if you want. You recognize that and are taking steps to prevent it. Thank you. But at the same time as you are recognizing our right to individuality, you are simply commanding us to take actions, without consulting us. If you want ragdolls and yes men, do what you have to do. Otherwise stop trying to command us like we were some app on a smartphone.”
Well, fuck, schooled by Frank – and I deserved it. “OK guys. I still want three of you around though, partly so you can keep each other company, and partly so if I do get pissed off enough to ignore one or two of you, I’ll have a backup. Any of you can talk to Ayva or her symbiote, Danielle, if you think it would be a good idea. All of the things I tried to program you with, just handle them, please. Don’t let me alter myself or you, unchallenged. Don’t let me affect the world in my dream states. I want you three to develop independently as well, please. Don’t merge. I want each of you to, eventually, become significantly different from one another through natural interactions with me and each other.
“I do need to be serious about one more thing here, Franks. Do not communicate with anyone how different we are from normal human symbiote pairs of our age, unless I have already spoken to them about it. If you are pressed, tell them to speak to me. This most certainly goes for Ayva and Danielle as well, until I have time to explain it to them. Our relationship might not survive this change, and you don’t want anyone but me to be responsible for that. Sorry if it sounds like a threat, but it’s the truth. Same with Doctor Meilin, Karen, and especially Star.” I thought for a moment. “If you believe Star might be trying to infiltrate us or you to gather information, you tell me immediately.”
They all three nodded, formed a line, and gave me a little bow. I laughed, then two of them disappeared.
“We are still all listening, but at this point we are all identical, so only one of us needs to be visible.”
I nodded. “One more thing. If you need more Franks, or require a measure more computing power or storage space, let me know. I’ll probably be putting on some weight soon, since my most potent asset is now bone mass related.”
Then a thought struck me. “Frank, assuming Star was roughly as advanced as I am now, would it be reasonable to assume that her shard was as limited as she claimed?”
“Bob, your ability to process that is a lot better than mine, I’ve still got the processing capacity and memory storage of the original body, you’ve got a few hundred thousand times that at this point. I can hazard a guess though. She would have to use techniques for memory and processing that aren’t keyed to genetic codes, but I’m pretty sure that Star could create something the size of the subcutaneous device in Doctor Meilin’s arm, not key it to genetics, and it would still have had several times our original processing power. She was losing at chess to John and Doctor Meilin was saying it was because of a differential in processing power. Does not compute.” Frank smiled.
“I think that’s about it right now. I’m going to grab some sleep, Frank, the biological brain needs it.”
Frank nodded and disappeared, and I turned off the virtual simulator and adjusted perception speed.
It was definitely time to go pay a visit to Star, but I needed to take care of things here in the US – preferably without putting a big sign on my back saying “I’m a demigod. Nuke me.”