Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: ARTIFICIAL (08/11/16)
- TITLE: An Intelligent Mistake
By Dennis Gallemore
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"I can't! I've tried everything! Imperium has us completely locked out; it won't accept any commands. We've cut the lines, but Imperium is still getting power; and it's using the satellite uplinks to transmit data. Don't ask me how."
Picking up a red phone, Joel punched in a number. "This is Dr. Owens; I need to speak to the President." Listening, he shook his head. "No; I can't wait; I need to speak to the President right now!" Turning to his friend, he waved at the consoles behind them. "Jack, gather up the team and herd them into the briefing room. Have them cook up any and all ideas to stop Imperium. After that, continue monitoring the system while I'm talking to the President."
Jumping from his chair, Jack turned to face the twelve scientists nervously watching from their consoles. "Let's go; everyone into the conference room."
Watching his research team shuffle into the adjacent room, Joel waited, his heart racing.
"This is President O'Malley."
"Mr. President; I regret to inform you that we have lost control of Imperium."
"Lost control? What do you mean? You were supposed to be running a test of the artificially intelligent system. How could you lose control of a test? You ran scenarios with Imperium for the last year without any problems; why is this time any different?"
"We don't know, Sir. The scenario was for Imperium to monitor the world's major stock exchanges: NYSE, NASDAQ, London, Tokyo, Euronext, and several others. We also gave it access to the foreign exchange markets. We wanted to see how the A.I. system would handle the controlled chaos of the world financial markets. We instructed Imperium to predict the prices of stocks, bonds, and currencies for the coming week. Imperium analyzed the data and presented its predictions within three minutes."
"So what's the problem?"
"The problem, Mr. President, is that Imperium is somehow accessing more than just price data. It's accessing the exchanges' secure files as well as the public ones."
"All of them, and that's not all, Mr. President. Imperium is also accessing the secure files of other organizations as well: banks, manufacturers, governments, hospitals, transportation systems, and utilities." Swallowing hard, he added, "Maybe even military installations."
"You're telling me that the artificial intelligence that you and your team designed to aid the U.S. government in making economic and political decisions is a glorified hacker?"
"I wouldn't phrase it exactly that way, Mr. President, but yes."
"Dr. Owens; I order you to shut it down; turn Imperium off."
"We've tried, Mr. President. Imperium is no longer responding to our commands."
"Cut the power!"
"We tried that, too. Imperium somehow bypassed the cutoff; it's accessing power from some other system right now. We have no idea how. Mr. President; if my team and I can't figure out how to shut the system off, we will have to use the failsafe virus to destroy Imperium. It will completely destroy the A.I. I need your approval for that."
"Only as a last resort. Imperium cost this country twenty-four billion dollars!"
"Understood, Mr. President." Hanging up the phone, Joel raced to the conference room. Glancing at the seated team members, he began. "Okay; let's have it, people. Tell me a way to shut off Imperium that we haven't tried."
A chorus of excited voices replying, Joel shook his head. "One at a time." He jabbed a finger at one of the scientists. "Jessica; talk to me!"
She shook her head. "Joel, there's nothing left to try. We need to end this; now, before it's too late. Use the failsafe virus to wipe the A.I out while we still can."
Seeing heads nodding in agreement around the table, Joel sighed. "Very well; let's..."
The door opening, Jack stepped into the room. His face ashen, he sank into a chair. "Imperium has downloaded copies of itself into computers all over the world."
Stricken, Joel looked up. "Then activating the failsafe virus isn't going to help us. Is it still copying itself?"
Jack shook his head. "No; it stopped."
Closing his eyes, Joel asked, "How many computers did Imperium download itself into?"
"666," Jack whispered.
One by one, the lights went out, plunging the room into darkness.
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