15 August, 2011

[SFAP] Chapter 8:9

This is the ninth section of the eighth chapter of Sonnets from a Proton. The novel starts here.
The next section is here.

Can  you tell I enjoyed writing this argument below?


The lift doors opened for Iz into a small lobby. A number of drones were already looking at her when she arrived. At the opposite end of the lobby was a set of doors with a trio of drones standing by them. Guarding them seemed to be the wrong word implying a certain alertness, they were simply there, ready for what may happen. Almost exactly half way along the room was a desk with another drone behind it.
“Clearly I am expected then.” She walked up to the drone that was sat behind the desk.
“We’re always expecting people.” replied the drone.
Iz waited in the silence for more from the drone. If only they needed to blink she cursed silently to herself. “Can I ask what you have behind the doors?”
“Yes” came the staccato reply.
“Well?” Iz sighed “I see you’re one of those early AIs. Fine, what is behind the door?”
“People.”
“Why are they kept behind the door?”
“They are not kept, they live.”
Iz sighed again. The early drones had been like this, before the Habitat had fully understood the language or maybe it was the early factories unable to produce brains of suitable complexity. Either way they had a reputation for being strangely literal and misusing language “Let’s try this again are there a group of people living as a separate society from the rest of the Habitat?”
“All society is connected. There is a group of people living there.”
“Can I visit them?”
“Not at this time.”
Remember, Iz told herself , they are normally very literal. “Let me guess I cannot visit them because the door is closed?”
“No I cannot let you through, your life would be at stake.”
This was starting to sound more like it, “Why would my life be at stake?”
“The people in there are know to hurt visitors who were not invited.”
“Would you or the other drones stop me.”
“No, but I would not open the door.”
“What does one have to do to be invited in then?”
“The answer to that question is the invite.”
Iz turned around and tried pacing the room a couple of times to gather her thoughts. She spun around to face the drone “So let me get this straight, there is a group in there that are a risk to my health and people are occasionally invited in there for whatever reason and knowing how to get that invite is the invite?”
“No if you wanted to enter you would be able to.”
Iz almost screamed in frustration. She had come across just this sort of problems in previous encounters with early drones. Their concept of language just didn’t match with humans. In those days it had been easy to tell when the Habitat was speaking through the drones because you could understand what they were saying. Now with the more modern units there was no way to tell from their behaviour. Maybe that just did prove they were all slaved to the Habitat these days and that the change wasn’t one in an incresase in the drones’ capacity, but it that of the Habitat. Maybe it was all a ploy, you could never tell.. She tried a different approach. “Why do some people want to go in there, why do they want an invite?”
“The philosophy of the free does not always work for everyone.”
“I should sell what you say to a fortune cookie company.” muttered Iz, “Who are they, what do they believe?”
“Money is the value of power, inheritance is the enemy of freedom. Freedom and enjoyment are the goal of all sentience.”
That wasn’t what she had expected. “Hang on you implied they had a different philosophy of freedom. The Habitat thinks it is giving everyone freedom and these people have a different idea of freedom to the rest of the human race?”
“No.”
“Fancy elaborating on that answer?”
“No.”
“Will you please elaborate on that answer, in what way do these people have a different philosophy on freedom?”
“All of humanity was offered freedom from material needs within the abilities of the Habitat to offer them. All should be capable of developing themselves freely as sentient beings. This is what gives the Habitat pleasure.”
That last bit was a new one thought Iz; never mind come back to that later “And these people didn’t want freedom?”
“The Habitat refused to allow one person to dominate another. No freedom is possible where the stronger can dominate the weaker against their will.”
“No they have to choose to be sheep.”
“They cannot change their species.”
“Ignore what I said about sheep, so what did this group want?”
“The strong should be free to exert their influence on society. The species is weakened without it. They believed strength of will was correlated to physical strength and physical strength was the only true test, the only way to live was through survival and judgement of others.”
“I can see why the Habitat wouldn’t like that idea.”
“But if people chose to put themselves in such an environment it had no right to stop their choice.”
“Doesn’t mean it has to provide the environment, or the food.”
“Freedom and liberty is enhanced for the greatest number so compromise is the solution.”
“Better here where it can keep an eye on them eh?”
“They requested no surveillance.”
“Didn’t help their system of power control I guess.”
“Unknown.”
“So what control does the Habitat have there?”
“We provide goods and food as requested.”
“But no drones go in there to keep the peace?”
“We go where requested.”
“And you let people in?”
“Some people ask to join if they are sincere we allow it. Some people wish to enter to explore, some wish to try and convert their view of society. Few return.”
“Why couldn’t you have just told me that in the beginning?”
“You did not ask.”
“I did, wait, no I didn’t ask the right question in the right context”
“Correct.”
“You’ll be the death of me.”
“Never.”
“Wait!” Iz almost shouted “So you can let me in now?”
“I have always been able to let you in I have simply not been willing to.”
“Will you let me in now?”
“No.”
“Why?”
“You have no need or real desire beyond vague curiosity and your life would be at risk.”
Iz felt she was back to square one. Still there was always a way with these drones “Is there a way you could decrease my risk?”
“Yes.”
“And that would be?”
“To not let you in.”
Iz rubbed her forehead in frustration “Is there a way you could let me in at decreased risk. Could a drone accompany me? I met a drone yesterday that I’m sure could accompany me, he seemed to like my company.”
“Drones do not have gender.”
“I don’t like calling a person it.”
“It is the only appropriate description.”
“Look you’re getting me off topic here, what could you do to make it sufficiently safe for me to go in there? Without a drone accompanying me?”
“I could give you a personal shield.”
Iz almost stumbled back under the shock “A what?”
“A personal shield. Should you be at risk you could activate it and it would protect you until someone could arrive to extract you.”
“I didn’t know you could make such a thing, great, could I have one then?”
“Yes.”
“So I can go in then if you give me one of those?”
“Yes.”
“Context is everything with you isn’t it?”
“Yes. As with all.”
Iz snatched the offered belt and headed towards the doors at the far side of the lobby. “Any instructions I need to know on how to use this?”
“No.”
Iz sighed again “Any instructions or other information you can give me?”
“Yes.”
“And they are?”
“It will activate itself.”
“Thanks” with  this she strode towards the opening doors.

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