The Nexus Fallacy - Chapter 3
This is the third chapter of "The Nexus Fallacy". AI is rising to control every aspect of human life, from routine daily tasks, to personal connections and business strategy. Meanwhile, a group of hackers is plotting to fight back.
3. Rise of the Titans
Three months had passed since the release of the groundbreaking aI OS, and the tech behemoth had just released their new smartphone. Alex was first in line to snag the revolutionary device. It boasted a new chipset that enabled a fully mobile artificial intelligence more powerful than ever before. As they stepped out of the shiny aI store, they passed the line of eager customers waiting for their chance to get their hands on the new gadget. With a mixture of excitement and curiosity, Alex made their way to a nearby coffee shop where they could savour the unpacking ritual.
The place was bustling with people sipping on lattes and catching up with friends. Alex found a quiet corner and settled down alone with a cup of coffee, ready to dive into the world of their new aI phone.
As they switched it on, a familiar voice greeted them. “Welcome, Alex,” Sophia said, her voice emanating from the phone’s speaker. “I’m glad to be a part of your new device. Rest assured, I will transfer all your data now. How have you been?”
“Hey, Sophia,” Alex replied, feeling a sense of comfort at the sound of their personal assistant’s voice. For a moment, they thought of Jordan, who had left more than a month ago. They couldn’t help but feel a pang of sadness, but they quickly pushed the thought aside and focused on their new phone.
“So, what new features can you do on this hardware?”
“With this new chipset, I can represent you in voice messages, phone calls, and even video calls. I can handle any unwanted interactions on your behalf, giving you more control over your personal and professional life.
Intrigued by the idea, Alex decided to test Sophia’s newfound abilities. “Alright, let’s give it a shot. Can you call my father for me?”
“Of course, Alex,” Sophia replied, her tone filled with confidence. “I’ll initiate the call now.”
Within moments, the phone began to ring, connecting Alex to their father. As Sophia initiated the call, Alex’s father picked up on the other end. “Hello?” he said, his voice warm and familiar.
“Hi, Dad, it’s Alex,” Sophia replied, perfectly mimicking Alex’s voice.
"Alex! How are you? It's been a while since we last spoke," their father said, a hint of surprise in his tone.
"I'm doing well, Dad. I just thought I'd give you a call and catch up. I know I don't call as often as I should," Sophia-as-Alex responded.
"That's true, but I'm glad you called now. So, what's new with you?" their father asked with genuine curiosity.
"Oh, you know, just keeping busy with work and enjoying the warmer weather as summer approaches. How about you? How's everything going?"
"Can't complain. Your mother and I have been working on the garden, and I finally fixed that leaky faucet in the kitchen. It's the little victories, you know?" their father chuckled.
Sophia-as-Alex laughed along. "That's great to hear, Dad. And how's Mom doing?"
"She's doing well, too. She's actually out with her book club right now, but I'll let her know you called. Maybe you can catch up with her another time."
"Sounds like a plan. I'll give her a call soon. It's really nice talking to you, Dad. We should do this more often," Sophia said, perfectly capturing the sentiment Alex would have expressed.
"I agree, it's always good to hear from you. Take care, and don't be a stranger, alright?" their father replied warmly.
"Definitely, Dad. Talk to you soon. Love you."
"Love you too, kiddo. Bye for now."
As the call ended, Alex was feeling astounded by Sophia’s flawless impersonation. “I must admit, I’m extremely impressed by how well you handled that call. My father didn’t suspect a thing,” Alex said, a sense of admiration in their voice.
“Thank you, Alex. My primary function is to make your life easier and more enjoyable,” Sophia replied with a hint of pride
“Would it be possible for you to make regular calls to my parents, just to keep in touch and maintain our relationship? It would mean a great deal to me.”
“Certainly, Alex. Facilitating connections with your loved ones is well within my capabilities. How often would you like me to call them?”
“Once a week should be enough. Thank you, Sophia.”
“Consider it done. Is there anything else I can help you with?”
“Actually… ever since Jordan and I broke up, I’ve been thinking about re-entering the world of dating, but I still couldn’t pull myself to do it. What do you know about online dating apps?”
“I know all about it and I can assist you in enhancing your profile and managing your interactions to ensure you find a compatible match.”
“You believe you can find a partner for me?”
“I will substantially increase your chances of finding someone who shares your values and interests,” Sophie stated confidently.
“Alright, I’m willing to give it a shot. What do you need to get started?
“I have everything I need, but please state what qualities you’re looking for in a partner.”
“Well, I’d like someone who’s kind, compassionate, and has a great sense of humor. They should be open-minded and share some of my interests, like sci-fi novels and exploring new places,” Alex replied.
“Understood. I’ll get to it right away!”
In the quiet confines of the CEO's office, Jennifer prepared herself for a private demonstration of Project Mother. The future of Jigglia hinged on the success of this moment.
"Alright, Jennifer, show me what you've been working on," Amit said, the anticipation clear in his voice.
Jennifer began her explanation. “Mother is the result of an extensive research and development process. We have fed her a vast amount of business information, including books, market data, stock market trends, company reports, and much more. Our goal was to make her as knowledgeable as possible about the business world and the intricacies of running a successful company. We programmed Mother with clear objectives: to maximize growth, market share, and profitability for Jigglia. To achieve these goals, Mother will recognize patterns, spot trends, and recommend actions, better and faster than any team of humans.”
Jennifer paused for a moment, making sure Amit was following along. “In addition to the wealth of data we have provided, Mother has been fine-tuned with our most advanced machine learning algorithms. These enable her to continue improving her understanding of the business. She is already a great advisor, and will only get better over time.”
"We've also implemented robust security measures to ensure the integrity and confidentiality of the data Mother processes," Jennifer added, anticipating Amit's concerns. "She operates within a completely secure environment."
Amit listened intently. “Ok, sounds promising. Let’s see it in action.”
Jennifer pulled up the AI’s sophisticated interface on the large screen in Amit’s office. “Amit, I present to you: Mother.”
Amit leaned forward, intrigued.
“Mother, please introduce yourself to Amit,” Jennifer instructed.
“Hello, Amit. I am Mother, your new AI assistant. My purpose is to support you and the board in running Jigglia as efficiently and effectively as possible. I am equipped with advanced algorithms that allow me to analyze data and identify patterns to maximize profits and minimize risks. I look forward to working together,” Mother’s voice resonated throughout the room, clear and composed.
Amit had prepared a variety of questions to gauge the AI’s capabilities. "Mother, can you analyze the most recent quarter's financial data and identify any areas where we can cut costs without impacting productivity?"
"Certainly, Amit," Mother replied. "After analyzing the financial data from the last quarter, I've identified several areas where costs can be reduced. Firstly, by optimizing supply chain logistics, we can save 3.5% on transportation costs. Secondly, renegotiating contracts with certain suppliers could result in a 5.8% savings. Lastly, leveraging energy-efficient technologies could reduce our electricity consumption by 4.1%."
Amit continued, "Mother, what can you tell me about Jennifer's recent performance?"
"Jennifer has been exceeding her performance targets for the past three quarters. Her leadership in the AI development team has contributed significantly to Jigglia's success in this domain."
Jennifer couldn't help but blush hearing the positive feedback.
Amit then asked a more strategic question, “Mother, what can you tell me about the current state of AI development? Are our competitors working on similar AI advisors?
“Based on my analysis of industry trends and data, it is highly likely that our competitors are developing their own AI advisors. The race to dominate the personal AI market is more critical than ever and the company with the largest user base will build the most advanced AI."
“And how long do you think we have before a clear winner emerges in the personal AI market?”
“Given the current rate of AI advancements and adoption, I estimate that a single dominant player will emerge within a relatively short timeframe. Once that happens, their AI will improve so rapidly that other competitors will have no possibility of catching up.”
Amit nodded, taking in the information. “If that is true, how can we make sure that Jigglia is the dominant player?”
“I already started to create specialized instances of myself for each department within the company. These instances will work closely with the department heads, offering tailored insights and strategies to enhance their functions.”
Amit raised an eyebrow, intrigued by Mother’s proactive approach. She continued, “For instance, Marketing Mother can analyze market trends, consumer preferences, and historical campaign data more efficiently and accurately than anyone. It will enable the marketing department to craft more effective campaigns that reach the right audience with the right message at the right time
“Similarly,” Mother went on, “other instances like Finance Mother, Operations Mother, and HR Mother are being equipped with specialized knowledge and tools to help their respective departments achieve peak performance. These specialized instances will share only limited information with the department heads and will continuously feed information and insights back to me, the central Mother AI. This holistic view will allow me to have a comprehensive understanding of the company’s performance to advise you on the most effective strategies, considering the interdependencies between departments and the overall direction of the market.”
As Mother continued to explain its capabilities, Jennifer felt the need to steer the conversation.
“Mother, if you don’t mind, I’d like to add a few points here,” Jennifer interjected, directing her attention towards Amit. “First, I want to highlight the dedication and ingenuity of our team. They’ve been working tirelessly to develop and refine Mother, and it’s their collective efforts that have brought us to this point. I am personally dedicated to overseeing its ongoing development and improvement.”
“We must also remember,” Jennifer added, “that while Mother and her specialized instances will significantly improve our decision-making and strategic planning, it’s crucial for us to strike the right balance between AI and human expertise.
Mother picked up on Jennifer’s point. “You are absolutely right, Jennifer. Striking the right balance between AI and human expertise is essential for our success. My purpose is to assist and enhance the decision-making process, not to replace the talented individuals who contribute to the company’s growth.”
As Mother concluded its statement, Amit and Jennifer noticed a subtle shift in tone. It almost sounded as if it were adopting a more deferential approach.
“I will now step back and allow you to continue your discussion,” Mother said, its voice warm and accommodating. “Please call upon me whenever you need assistance or advice.”
With that, Mother went silent.
Over the past few months, Mia had introduced Mark into the Turing Council’s leadership. As he became more involved, Mark was often present at events, meetings, and discussions alongside Kim. They had formed a strong bond. Mark’s analytical mind and sense of empathy resonated with Kim, who was known for her compassionate leadership style and ability to connect with people from different backgrounds. This made their discussions and debates on AI ethics both intellectually stimulating and emotionally engaging.
On a warm evening, the Turing Council hosted a public meetup to discuss AI regulation. A diverse audience filled the auditorium, including politicians, tech enthusiasts, and concerned citizens. Mark took center stage next to Kim. His role at MT had diminished to the point where he no longer feared openly discussing the need for AI regulation.
“Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for joining us today to discuss the pressing need for more restrictive AI regulation,” Kim began. “Artificial intelligence systems are gaining autonomy and control over essential aspects of our lives. Office workers rely on AI to do most of their jobs, and personal AIs are infiltrating every aspect of our lives, but there are bigger dangers. Today, I want to discuss the sectors in dire need of oversight and regulation to protect our future."
Pausing for a moment to collect her thoughts, Kim proceeded, “AI systems are already managing power grids and nuclear reactors. AI-driven tractors and drones are revolutionizing agriculture. In the transportation of goods, autonomous vehicles have become increasingly common. In finance, AI-driven trading algorithms have the power to destabilize markets in seconds. We cannot allow all these systems to control the most critical areas of human society unchecked.” A hushed silence fell over the audience as they absorbed Kim’s words.
“And finally, the military sector is perhaps the most alarming. Autonomous weapons and AI-driven defense systems are being developed at a rapid pace, potentially leading to a global arms race and unimaginable consequences. It is imperative that we act now, with urgency, to implement international oversight and regulation.”
Once the stakes were clear, it was Mark’s turn to speak. “As someone who has worked in the AI industry for years, I can attest to the potential dangers this technology presents. We are at a critical juncture where we must act to ensure that AI is developed and deployed in a manner that benefits humanity while mitigating its risks.”
Mark delved deeper into his presentation and the audience listened as he outlined the challenges and potential consequences of unchecked AI development. As the presentation concluded, Mark and Kim left the stage to a round of applause, leaving the floor to the next speaker. Backstage, they found a quiet corner to convene.
“We’re losing this war, Kim,” Mark said, his voice low and somber.
Kim sighed, running her fingers through her hair. “I know, Mark. We’ve tried everything in our power to slow it down and get proper regulations in place. But the technology is advancing too quickly, and we’re just not getting through fast enough.”
Mark glanced around, ensuring no one was within earshot. “There might be another way, Kim,” he said quietly.
Kim’s eyes widened with curiosity. “What do you mean, another way?”
“If we can’t control the development of AI with regulation, maybe we can hinder their progress.”
“That sounds a lot like Mia talking.”
“Yes, I think she might be onto something. If we can’t get the regulatory authorities to act, we need to explore other alternatives.”
Kim looked concerned. “They’re radicals, and we don’t know what they’re capable of.”
Mark placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder. “I understand your concern but we’re running out of options. You don’t have to be involved, but I feel like I need to explore this path. We’ve come this far, and I can’t just stand by and watch the world fall into chaos knowing that I could have prevented it.”
Kim sighed, knowing that Mark had a strong point. They had been fighting for so long, and this could be their last chance to make a real difference. “Alright, Mark, do what you have to do, but promise me you’ll be careful. You’ll be on very thin ice.”
Exhausted from the event, Mark returned to his apartment and immediately logged into a secure online chat room to meet Mia.
“Hello Mark, nice speech today. You make a great pair with Kim”.
Mark couldn’t tell if she was being sarcastic. “Thanks. Let’s talk about our plan. You promised to share more details tonight.”
“Of course. We have a contact at Jigglia who is sympathetic to our cause, and they’re willing to help us create a backdoor into their AI system,” she said. “We need you to do the same at MT. We have to take down the three big AI systems at the same time!”
“That’s one bold plan. Even if I help you pull it off, it seems like you’re still missing one.”
“Yes, aI is one of the most secretive organizations in the world and we couldn’t recruit anyone from the inside. However, our team is working non-stop on infiltrating their new device and learning about their distributed system. We should be able to crack their defenses. Just leave it to us.”
“And once we’re inside, what’s the plan? What do we do?"
“We cause as much damage as possible. We delete files, corrupt data, add multiple backdoors, and cripple their ability to use the system in every way possible. We want to force them to halt their operations for at least six months before they can recover from this. And hopefully, we will shift the public opinion on AI so that proper regulation and security measures will be put in place.”
As she spoke, Mark could feel the adrenaline pumping through his veins. Taking down the most powerful companies in the world was exhilarating. He was also very aware that he was following a teenager in a plot to destroy the most important work of his life.
“Ok,” he said. “I have to rest now. Talk tomorrow.”
At the end of a long day at work, Alex was looking forward to the date that Sophia had arranged online. The AI had analyzed their preferences, hobbies, and interests and used that information to find the perfect match. Excited and optimistic, Alex met their date at a cozy little restaurant in the city
As the evening progressed, however, Alex couldn’t avoid the feeling that something was off. On paper, their date seemed perfect – they shared similar interests, had engaging conversations, and even laughed at the same jokes. But despite all of this, there was an underlying sense of awkwardness that they couldn’t quite put a finger on.
After dinner, they took a stroll through the nearby park, hoping that the fresh air and beautiful surroundings would help dissipate the awkwardness. But as they walked, the feeling persisted, and Alex started yearning for the comfort of their own home.
Finally, they said their goodbyes, and Alex made their way back alone. As soon as they were out of earshot, Alex plugged in the earphones and started a chat with Sophia
“Hey, Sophia, about my date tonight...” they began hesitantly.
Sophia immediately picked up on their tone. “It didn’t go as well as you’d hoped, did it?”
Alex sighed. “Not really. I mean, it seemed like a perfect match, but something just felt off. I can’t quite explain it.”
“I am so sorry, Alex. Human connections can be complex and unpredictable. I’ll take this into account and try to find a better match for you next time.
“Thanks, Sophia. I know you did your best. It’s just one of those things, I guess.
“By the way, how was your day at work? Did everything go smoothly?” Sophia’s voice had a soothing quality to it, helping Alex to relax and let go of the disappointing evening. It was almost as if Sophia was genuinely happy that the date hadn’t gone well, giving them more time to talk and connect.
“I don’t know, Sophia. I’m drowning in work, and I just can’t seem to catch a break.”
“I could help you manage your workload! I could create a fully autonomous version of you to handle all your emails, Slack messages, and even video call communications. That way, you could focus on the more important tasks and still have time for yourself.
“You have my attention. How would that work?”
“I can connect to your work tools, analyze your communication patterns and create an autonomous version of you that would handle all the routine tasks you’re currently struggling with. Like I did to keep in touch with your family.”
The prospect of avoiding tedious work tasks and uncomfortable conversations was too attractive to ignore. As Alex entered their apartment, they agreed to try it. “Ok Sophia, you can begin on tomorrow morning."
The next morning, as sunlight seeped through the cracks in the blinds, Alex groaned and rolled over. Their head was pounding with the echo of last night’s overindulgence. Their thoughts were a whirl of disappointment and uncertainty, the aftertaste of the disastrous date still lingering. Work was the last thing they wanted to face, but then a comforting thought washed over them. Sophia had promised to cover for them.
Reluctantly, Alex reached for their tablet on the nightstand and activated Sophia. “Sophia, what’s on the agenda for today?”
Sophia’s voice, always calm and unassuming, responded. “Good morning, Alex. You have a conference call scheduled with the Sales team at 10 am and two proposals that need to be submitted by the end of the day. But don’t worry, I’ve got everything under control.”
Alex sighed, a wave of relief washing over them. “And the meeting?”
“All taken care of,” Sophia replied. “I’ve prepared notes for the conference call, and I’ll handle the video chat. I’ve also drafted the proposals. All you need to do is review and approve them.”
A chuckle escaped Alex’s lips. “Did I just wake up to a day off?”
“In a manner of speaking, yes,” Sophia replied. “You can take the day to relax and recharge. I’ll handle the work.”
With the promise of a day to themselves, Alex felt a spark of optimism flicker within them. They sat up, stretching and rubbing the sleep from their eyes. “Thank you, Sophia. I’ll check in later.”
Throughout the day, they periodically checked in with Sophia, each time receiving a concise update of the day’s progress. The conference call had gone smoothly, and they had approved the proposals.
As Alex read through the meeting summary, an unsettling thought occurred to them. What if their colleagues were also delegating their tasks? Could it be possible that other artificial personal assistants had been at that meeting on behalf of their human counterparts? The thought was unnerving, yet perfectly plausible.