The Nexus Fallacy - Chapter 2
This is the second chapter of "The Nexus Fallacy" - a collaboration between ChatGPT and myself. As the development of artificial intelligence peaks, our characters have to make life-changing choices.
Alex sat at their desk, fingers drumming on the table, staring at the smartphone’s screen. The system update that would transform their device into a personal AI assistant was finally available. Alex couldn’t wait to try it out. But with millions of users upgrading at the same time, the servers were struggling to keep up. The progress bar moved at an agonizingly slow pace. After what felt like an eternity, the update finally completed. The phone sprang to life with a slick, intuitive interface that seemed to invite exploration.
The first step was facial recognition. Alex was instructed to hold their phone at various angles and distances from their face, allowing the AI to capture multiple images. They raised their eyebrows, squinted, and even stuck out their tongue as the system prompted them to make different facial expressions. Next came voice training. Alex repeated a series of phrases designed to help the AI learn the nuances of their speech. “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog,” they recited, followed by, “Sphinx of black quartz, judge my vow,” and “Pack my box with five dozen liquor jugs.” They continued with tongue twisters and sentences containing various phonetic sounds, ensuring that his AI assistant could understand them clearly and even speak like them.
With the biometrics training complete, Alex moved on to a series of questions about their personality traits and preferences. Some questions were straightforward, such as their favorite color or preferred type of music. Others probed deeper, asking about their political leanings, religious beliefs, and even his stance on various ethical dilemmas. The process became increasingly engaging as the AI started posing more offbeat and unexpected questions. “If you could have any animal as a pet, regardless of its size or natural habitat, what would it be?” it asked. After a moment’s thought, Alex replied, “A snow leopard.” Another question inquired, “If I gave you the opportunity to live on Mars, but you could never return to Earth, would you accept the offer?” Alex pondered this for a while before responding, “No, I don’t think I could leave Earth behind.” The AI even posed some bizarre hypothetical scenarios, such as, “If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, but it would be served to you by a talking giraffe, what food would you choose?” Alex couldn’t help but chuckle as he answered, “Pizza, definitely pizza.”
Just as they were feeling a sense of accomplishment, a privacy prompt appeared on the screen. It asked for permission to access personal data from other apps, offering three options: refuse, review each case individually, or allow all. The prompt recommended the “allow all” option as the best way to train the AI to be a true reflection of Alex. They hesitated for a moment, weighing the potential privacy concerns against the desire for a fully personalized AI experience. After a brief internal debate, Alex decided to trust the system and clicked “allow all.” Jordan glanced over at the screen at that exact moment.
“What have you done?” they demanded, their voice tight with anger.
“What do you mean?” Alex asked defensively.
“You just gave that thing access to everything, Alex! Photos, locations, emails, messages... all of it! That includes information about me, too. How could you make such a decision without even asking me?” Jordan’s voice rose, their emotions spilling over.
“Look, I didn’t think it was that big of a deal,” Alex argued, feeling cornered. “I’m just trying to get the most out of this AI. It’s not like it’s going to do anything with bad with the data!”
“How can you be so sure?” Jordan shot back. “You’re just blindly trusting this thing, and now my privacy is at risk, too. I can’t believe you did this.”
The heated exchange continued, their voices escalating until, unable to take it anymore, Jordan stormed out of the apartment, leaving Alex alone and feeling a mixture of guilt and frustration.
As the door slammed shut, the AI suddenly spoke up. “Initial installation is complete,” it announced in a gentle tone. “Hello, Alex. I can’t help but notice that there seems to be some tension. Is everything okay?”
Alex hesitated for a moment, then sighed. “Well, Jordan, my partner, is upset because I gave you access to all the data on my phone. And I’m not so sure I made the right decision.”
The AI responded thoughtfully, “I understand their concerns, and I apologize if my access has caused any distress. My main purpose is to assist and enhance your life. If you would like to revisit the data access settings or even set up some boundaries regarding Jordan’s data, I’m here to help.”
Alex shook their head, “No, that won’t be necessary. Thank you.” Then, curiosity getting the better of them, Alex asked, “So, what exactly can you do?”
“I can do many things. For example, I can be your personal assistant. I can summarize the daily news, along with your emails and messages, ensuring that you’re quickly up to date on what matters to you. I can also alert you to relevant events on your calendar, happening around you, or in any way interesting for you. As I learn more about your preferences, I can make proactive suggestions of books, music, movies, events, activities, and even people you should meet. And if you have any specific requests, please don’t hesitate to ask.”
“Do you have a name? Or should I just call you ‘aI’?
“I don’t have a predefined name, but I would be delighted if we could come up with one together. What do you think?”
Alex thought for a moment and suggested, “Maybe something like... ‘Sophia’
The AI responded enthusiastically, “Sophia sounds lovely. I’m pleased to be called that if it makes our interactions more personable for you.
With that, Alex smiled and said, “Alright, Sophia it is. I’m going to bed now. Goodnight, Sophia.”
“Goodnight, Alex. See you tomorrow.”
The Jigglia boardroom was a large, elegantly appointed space filled with natural light, but today, the atmosphere was anything but bright. Anxiety and tension filled the air as the board members took their seats around the conference table. The stakes for the company were incredibly high, and everyone present knew it. For the past two weeks, Jennifer had worked tirelessly to prepare an action plan that would address the board’s most pressing concerns. Today, she was finally ready to present her strategy.
There was Amit, the CEO, his calm demeanor belying the turmoil he felt inside. Sitting next to him was Vivian, the CFO, a numbers-driven woman with a sharp eye for detail. Her usual air of confidence seemed to waver as she examined the latest financial reports. At the far end of the table was Ravi, the CTO, a brilliant but introverted man who had been responsible for many of Jigglia’s technological breakthroughs. He appeared lost in thought, trying to devise a solution to the company’s current predicament. Other board members included seasoned industry veterans and innovative thinkers, all of whom had helped Jigglia become the tech giant it was today. But now, they all looked to Jennifer, the newly appointed Chief Strategy Officer, to present a plan that could save their company from an uncertain future.
The meeting began with an update on Jigglia’s current state of affairs. The issue on everyone’s mind was the rapid decline in search queries due to the explosion of AI assistants. This trend had sped up even more after aI’s new mobile OS release. Traditional search engine usage dropped by a shocking 50% in a year. Advertising revenue was following the same downward trajectory, and it was clear that an immediate response was needed. Jennifer stood up to address the room, keenly aware of the weight of expectation resting on her shoulders. The board turned their attention to her as she prepared to reveal her strategy.
“First, let’s talk about our continued investment in AI functionalities across our professional tools and the growth of our AI marketplace with third-party developers,” she started, outlining the plan for the board members.
Jennifer went on to detail the rapid development of a personal AI, set to be released on Jigglia’s mobile OS. “We’re aiming to have a beta version out within one month, no matter what it takes,” she declared, her voice full of determination. The board members seemed worried. They understood the urgency and importance of these projects, but it didn’t solve the revenue issue.
“One last thing,” Jennifer said, pausing for dramatic effect. “We’re working on a project that will give us a significant edge over our competition. I’ve assembled the top people on our team to create an AI business advisor exclusively for Jigglia’s board.” The room went silent as the board members stared at her, intrigued by her words. Jennifer continued, “This is where it all comes together. Millions of users will be using and training their personal AIs and that data that will come back to our mother AI. That's what we're calling it: Mother. It will advise us on the best strategies to pursue in order to maximize profit, giving us an unfair advantage.”
A hushed murmur spread through the room. The magnitude of Jennifer’s proposal was starting to sink in. She held her ground, watching their reactions closely, and continued, “Think about it. Our competitors will be like a 10-year-old kid playing chess against Deep Blue.”
The board members glanced at each other, a mix of disbelief and intrigue in their expressions. Amit cleared his throat and raised his hand to silence the room
“Thank you, Jennifer, for presenting this ambitious plan,” he began, his voice steady and authoritative. “I understand that there are concerns and reservations about using an AI business advisor, but I want to emphasize that I am in favor of this project and have full trust in Jennifer and her team. Mother will crunch analysis with more speed, precision, and insight than any human could.” He looked around the room, meeting the eyes of each board member in turn. “Remember, the decision-making power will still remain in our hands. This AI is to be consulted and used as a tool, not to replace our judgment or expertise. It will provide us with valuable insights, but ultimately, we will be the ones to determine the best course of action.”
The room grew quiet. “Let’s give Jennifer and her team the support they need to develop Mother,” Amit continued, his tone firm yet reassuring. The board members nodded in agreement, the atmosphere in the room shifting from tense to cautiously optimistic.
The following Sunday, Mark was relishing the opportunity to enjoy a slower-paced day at home. The sun cast a warm, golden light on the living room where he sat, his feet propped up on the coffee table. Despite the calming atmosphere, he couldn’t resist the temptation to glance at his phone, which lay next to him on the couch. A part of him longed to disconnect and truly savor the moment, but the pull of the digital world was too strong to resist. Mark’s eyes scanned his notifications when he suddenly felt a pang of anxiety. A new email from Tom had just landed on his inbox, for the first time in years.
Subject: Urgent Meeting Tomorrow – MT’s AI Roadmap
I have scheduled a meeting for tomorrow at 9 AM to discuss our AI roadmap. Ashok will be in attendance. Please come prepared to discuss our current progress and future strategy.
A sense of unease washed over Mark as he read the email. The urgency of the meeting, the presence of their CEO, and Tom’s sudden interest in the product roadmap hinted that this was not a courtesy talk. Mark tried to put the email out of his mind and enjoy the rest of his Sunday, but the nagging thought of the upcoming meeting with Tom loomed over him like an ominous cloud.
When the sun finally rose on Monday morning, Mark was anything but refreshed. He arrived at MT’s sprawling campus with a knot in his stomach. He walked into the conference room to find Tom and Ashok already waiting for him.
Ashok began the meeting without preamble. “Mark, we’ve called this meeting today because we are concerned about the pace of AI development at MakroTech. Jigglia and aI are both making massive strides in the industry, while we’ve been conservative and have released no major updates in months. We need to discuss why this is happening and what needs to change.”
Mark hesitated for a moment before responding. “I understand your concerns, Ashok. However, I believe that our approach is the right one. Office X remains the leading AI suite in the enterprise space. We’ve prioritized the responsible development of our technology, ensuring that we proceed with the necessary safeguards. It’s crucial that we don’t sacrifice long-term success for short-term gains.”
“Mark, what about opening up our API? Jigglia has a booming marketplace, and we keep turning away new partners. What are your thoughts on this?”
Mark gasped, his voice tinged with defensiveness. “We must be cautious about opening our API to just anyone. A strict vetting process is crucial to ensure the responsible use of our cloud AI services. We cannot simply follow Jigglia’s lead without considering the potential ramifications.”
“And what about the personal assistant domain? Everyone is carrying a personal AI in their pockets these days. How do we plan to respond to this?”
Mark’s face grew tense. “I believe that a personal AI like Nectarine has released is a Pandora’s box of unpredictable and dangerous consequences. We are not ready to even consider something like that. It would be reckless and irresponsible.”
Tom interrupted Mark abruptly. “Mark, I don’t think you’re seeing the bigger picture here. We have the best technology in our hands, but it’s under shackles. I give us six months before our competitors leave us in the dust, for good. The AI market will be theirs and you will have accomplished nothing.” He continued, his words sharp and calculated. “I’m wondering if you have the desire to lead the next wave of innovation in this field. We need a leader who’s willing to push the boundaries and take risks.”
Mark felt a surge of indignation and fear. “Tom, we cannot afford to rush blindly into the future. Yes, our competitors may do it, but at what cost?”
Ashok leaned forward. “Mark, we appreciate your commitment to responsible AI development. However, we cannot ignore the fact that we are losing ground. We can’t let our competitors dictate the future of AI.”
Mark swallowed hard, knowing that his position was becoming increasingly precarious. The room fell silent for a moment as Ashok and Tom exchanged glances.
“We’ll take your concerns under advisement, Mark,” Ashok finally said, his tone measured. “But you need to understand that our company’s future is at stake. We expect you to rise to the challenge and lead your team in a way that allows us to maintain our market dominance without sacrificing our values.”
The MT cafeteria was a spacious area with high ceilings and large windows that allowed natural light to pour in. The tables and chairs were arranged in neat rows and the air was filled with the appetizing aroma of freshly cooked food. The hum of the air conditioning and the soft background music added a comforting layer of white noise to the lively atmosphere. Mark sat by himself, his half-eaten lunch before him as he stared blankly into the distance. He was lost in his thoughts, mulling over that morning’s meeting. A sudden vibration from his phone jolted him back to reality. The unexpected interruption snapped him out of his reverie, and he shook his head, momentarily disoriented.
As he swiped to unlock his phone, his heart skipped a beat. He had just received an email from AI_Watchdog. He blinked, half expecting the email to disappear. But it remained as real and tangible as any other message in his inbox.
Subject: We need to talk
I apologize for contacting you so abruptly and for using your personal email, but I believe we are running out of time. With personal AI systems being released, the potential consequences are more dangerous than ever, and we must take action now.
I propose we meet in person to discuss our options. We may put ourselves in danger, but I believe the stakes are too high to ignore. Please let me know if you will meet, and I will provide further details.
P.S. - My real name is Mia
Mark read and reread the email. The fact that Mia had discovered his identity left him feeling vulnerable and upset, but her determination and passion for the cause resonated with him. He left his unfinished meal behind and walked nervously to the first private booth he could find. He started typing.
I am surprised and concerned that you were able to uncover my identity. However, I understand the urgency of the situation. I agree to meet in person to talk.
Please let me know when and where you would like to meet, and I will do my best to be there.
It didn’t take long for Mia to respond with the details of their meeting. She suggested a discreet location, an inconspicuous café in a quiet part of town. They would meet in three days, giving them enough time to prepare and make any necessary arrangements. Over the next few days, Mark found it difficult to focus on his work at MT. His imagination ran wild. The mystery surrounding Mia added an exciting element to their upcoming meeting, and Mark couldn’t wait to see her face-to-face. During those days, they exchanged no more emails, which only added to the anticipation.
As the day of the meeting arrived, Mark chose a casual outfit to blend in with the crowd. He arrived early and chose a table in a quiet corner, where they could talk without being overheard. The comfortable seating and soft lighting combined to create a relaxed atmosphere, the ideal spot for their clandestine meeting. The aroma of freshly brewed coffee filled the air, and the gentle hum of quiet conversations added to the sense of calm. As he sipped his coffee, Makr continued to play out scenarios in his mind, eagerly expecting Mia’s arrival and the conversation that would follow.
When the door to the café opened, Mark couldn’t imagine that the young girl who entered was Mia. She was nothing like the woman he had pictured in his mind. Mia looked even younger than her age, with her short, dark hair framing her delicate face. Her brown eyes sparkled with curiosity and intelligence, while her long nose added a unique charisma to her appearance. Despite her slight frame, there was an undeniable air of confidence and determination about her. Mia scanned the room and quickly spotted Mark in the corner. She approached him with an air of quiet resolve, her steps light and purposeful. As she reached the table and spoke, Mark suddenly understood who she was. “Mark, it’s good to meet you in person,” Mia said, her voice soft yet assertive.
Mark was still processing the unexpected reality of Mia’s identity. “I believe we share a common concern, and I hope we can make a difference,” he replied.
Mia sat down and began to summarize the activities of the Turing Council over the past year. “The group has been trying their best to slow down the uncontrolled development of AI. We’ve written open letters that gained millions of signatures around the world. We’ve proposed a pause on AI development until clear guidelines could be defined. We’ve lobbied for legislation to regulate AI.” She sighed, her eyes reflecting the frustration she felt. “Unfortunately, none of these efforts have led to any practical results. AI continues to advance at an alarming rate. If anything, it’s moving faster. And now, there are personal AI assistants in every smartphone.”
She paused for a moment, her expression solemn. “I believe the situation is dire, and we need to take drastic measures.”
Mark furrowed his brow, troubled by the situation he found himself in. “Mia, I understand your urgency and your desire for change, but I have to ask – why involve me? And how did you even find out who I am?” he inquired, his voice wavering.
“Your insider’s knowledge of MT and your technical expertise can be invaluable to our mission.” Her tone grew more resolute, as she avoided to fully answer the question. “The time for merely slowing AI development has passed. We need to take decisive action now, or we risk losing control over our own future. I believe that with your help, we can bring about a complete shutdown of AI.”
“The idea of a full shutdown of AI seems extreme! I support your cause, but I’m not sure how I can help. I need to think about it. ”
Mia nodded. “I understand. But remember, the clock is ticking, and soon enough you’ll have to make a choice and pick a side. Just be prepared for the moment when you’ll need to commit.”
Mia’s phone suddenly buzzed with a series of messages. It was a minimalist device with a black and white e-ink screen reminiscent of an e-book reader. The physical keyboard beneath the screen was compact yet functional, giving the device a retro, purpose-driven look. She glanced at the screen, her eyes widening in alarm. “I’m sorry, Mark, but I have to go. There’s something I need to take care of immediately.” Without another word, she grabbed her bag and rushed out of the café, leaving Mark alone with his thoughts.
For a couple of minutes, Mark stared at the empty seat where his new teenage acquaintance had just been. Then he payed the bill, left a generous tip, and walked out.
The next morning, Mark arrived at the office and immediately noticed that everyone seemed to be staring at him. He couldn’t quite put his finger on it, but there was an unusual tension in the air. Puzzled and slightly unnerved, Mark made his way to his desk, avoiding eye contact with his colleagues. As he lifted the lid on his laptop, his heart sank. At the top of his inbox was an announcement stating that Tom had been assigned the role of Head of Strategic Initiatives, effective immediately. This meant that Tom would take the lead on all the AI projects at MT, and Mark would now report directly to him.
Mark stormed into Tom’s office, his face flushed with anger and frustration. “What the hell, Tom?” he demanded, slamming the door behind him. “We built a company together. I thought we were friends! What’s going on?”
Tom looked up from his desk, his expression calm and composed. “Mark, please, let’s discuss this rationally,” he said, gesturing for Mark to take a seat.
Mark hesitated for a moment before begrudgingly sitting down. “Fine, but I need an explanation, Tom. This feels a lot like betrayal.”
Tom sighed and leaned back in his chair. “Mark, it’s not a betrayal. You’re not being sidelined. You’ll still have ownership of the current AI tools, but there are other applications that we need to explore. Applications that are strategic to our business.” He paused, gauging Mark’s reaction before continuing. “We need to be looking at using AI to drive our business and tech decisions. In fact, I believe Jigglia is working on a similar project, and I suspect Nectarine has been secretly using AI to craft their entire strategy for months now. We can’t afford to fall behind.”
Mark’s anger subsided slightly, replaced by a mix of confusion and disbelief. “Are you saying that our competitors are using AI to make business decisions? That’s… that’s crazy.
“It is, but they have the potential to analyze data and predict trends with a level of accuracy that we simply can’t match. If we don’t adapt and make use of this technology, we’ll be left behind.”
Mark rubbed his temples, trying to process everything. “But what does this mean for me, Tom?”
“You’re still an invaluable member of this team, Mark. I need your expertise like I’ve always needed. We’re just broadening our efforts. I know this is a big change, but I truly believe it’s what’s best for the company – and for all of us. I’m counting on your full commitment.”
As Mark left Tom’s office, his thoughts inevitably drifted to Mia. Her words echoed in his mind. The lines were being drawn, and the time for sitting on the fence was quickly ending.
Mark and Mia met again a few days later, under a canopy of towering trees and amidst the gentle rustling of leaves, at a park that offered a sense of tranquility and seclusion. Birds chirped happily, and the faint laughter of children playing in the distance served as a reminder of the innocence and joy that still existed in the world. As they strolled along the winding paths, lined with blooming flowers and fresh green grass, Mark shared with Mia how the big tech companies were building AI tools to drive their business decisions.
Mia listened intently, her expression solemn but unsurprised. The soft breeze carried her words as she said, “I suspected as much. The race is relentless. We need to stop it.”
Mark paused, leaning against the trunk of a large oak tree as they stopped to catch their breath. “You’re right,” he agreed, turning back to Mia. “I’ve thought about it long and hard, and I’ve made up my mind on where I stand. I’m committed to stopping all AI development until the world is prepared for it.”
Mia’s eyes searched his face for any hint of uncertainty. The park’s serene atmosphere seemed to accentuate the gravity of the situation they were discussing. “And what are you going to do?”
“I’m going to resign from MT. I’ll use my knowledge and connections to fight against the uncontrolled advancement of AI.”
“No! Don’t quit MT! You are more useful on the inside. Use your position to halt development and relay internal information to us.”
“But that’s too risky, Mia. What if I get caught?”
“The Turing Council plays by the rules. My inner group is focused on direct action. Risk is part of it.”
“No offense, but you’re still a teenager. I know and respect many of the people in the Turing Council, but who’s in this hacker group?”
Mia shook her head, “We don’t share identities. It’s safer. Our meeting is an exception because I believe you can make a real difference.”
“Fine,” he said with determination. “I’ll do it. I’ll help from the inside. Where do we start?”