"Rondelle, they just sent us a new template."
The light from the holographic display painted his face in a pattern of colors. Two engineers were busy processing the large amount of data being streamed to them through the global network.
"Finally! Perhaps now we'll be able to make some real progress."
"Let's hope this one is different, the other templates couldn't handle all those data nodes - not enough gray matter."
"Just don't have any expectations, you know these templates don't function the same way. They're not normal like the rest of us, their patterns only form naturally."
"I heard that some still form naturally, but only on the distant outposts. Do you think someone out there can actually have a similar template?"
Lost in his task of scanning the notes on the new template, Rondelle offers no response to the strange question. The engineers pause their work to inspect the new template.
"Lorvelle, how do the specs look?"
"Hopeful! This template appears to have a substantial amount of gray matter."
Rondelle moves his chair closer to Lorvelle, the engineers lean toward the display to read through the data they just received.
"Lorvelle, I have a good feeling about this template. I'll start with the abstraction layers."
"I want to run a simulation of the morality module integration with the new template. Rondelle, Let's try our best to make sure this version actually works."
The new template was like a puzzle, waiting to be assembled piece by piece. The engineers resumed their posts, hunched over glowing displays as their fingers generated complex algorithms.
The door slides open and the room is automatically illuminated by the detection of organic life, a child emerges from the brightness and walks into the room. There are tinker toys scattered on the floor, the child sits on the floor and starts to play with them.
In the back of the room, a stasis chamber cycles through the startup routines triggered by the child's presence. The chamber slides open revealing an android, it steps out of the chamber, scanning the room. The child sees the stranger approach mechanically but continues playing with the toys on the floor. When the android gets close enough, it clumsily sits on the floor across from child.
The android's voice has a calming tone, the child's ears perk up, breaking his attention on the tinker toys. The child looks at the android's expressionless face and responds politely.
"I am SEN-73428-L, but you may call me Sen."
The child is curious about the android but the toys he was playing with also divides his attention. The android continues to engage the child despite the lack of response.
"What is your name?"
"It is nice to meet you, Gilly."
The child turns back to the toys, ignoring the android that stares blankly, as if still waiting for something to trigger another response. The child starts to hum a tune while shaping a fuselage out of small blocks. The android recognizes the tinker toys the child is playing with, a variety of small blocks and mechanical components that snap together to form miniature models of existing technology. The child is already being encouraged to engineer something functional to learn how every part works together.
"What are you building, Gilly?"
"It's a starship! Here, look!"
The child leans in extending his arms, handing the object to the android. The android takes the unfinished fuselage formed out of small blocks and inspects it carefully.
"Fascinating! I don't recognize the pattern on this design. Are you sure this is a starship, Gilly?"
The child is amused by the android's question, pulling more blocks into a pile in the center, the child tries to explain his reasons for not using a blueprint.
"That's because I just made it. This is my starship!"
"I have access to the blueprints of three hundred and eighty nine distinct starship models. Do you want me to provide you with a blueprint, Gilly?"
"No, that's too boring! It's a lot more fun if you build one yourself."
"Innovation is your preferred method of engineering... acknowledged. Do you require my assistance in building your starship, Gilly?"
"Here, take these, you can help make the wings."
"Unnecessary... a starship has no practical use for wings, Gilly."
"Really? But the wings make it look so much cooler! Look, I'll show you."
The boy attaches the wing he was working on to the fuselage and flies the little ship around with his hand, mimicking the sound of an engine with his mouth.
"I fail to understand the concept you are trying to convey, Gilly."
"Do you want to help or not Sen?"
As if excited to hear the child speak his name for the first time, the android communicates his response.
"I shall assist you in the construction of the starboard wing, Gilly."
The child and the android sit together in silence, trying to piece together the starship model, one component at a time.
"Even the morality algorithms imported from the modules appear to be working as expected."
"Lorvelle, I hope you're not suggesting a miscalculation on my end?"
The engineers were stuck trying to fix a series of unexpected issues that surfaced from the integration of the new template. They were on edge and beginning to find ways to blame the other in an effort to prove their worth as experienced engineers.
"Rondelle, I'm not suggesting anything of the sort. Perhaps the problem is with the template again?"
"Unlikely, the template has plenty of gray matter, every module that was installed so far has adapted perfectly."
They sat back and ran everything over in their minds again. Every test appears to pass but the personality matrix is still incomplete.
"The data nodes must not be syncing properly with the integrated template, it was working correctly when the template was clean. The problem has to be originating from one of the modules, I think that's what's affecting the data stream."
"I told you before, don't blame my modules! The tests prove that they're perfectly integrated."
"Rondelle, we don't have time for any more of these pointless arguments. Let's just figure this out before we both get replaced."
They were tired and out of ideas. The template was successfully integrated with every component they've built. Still, the end result does not meet the standards outlined in the contract, without a personality, the template might as well be useless. This version was the closest the engineers ever gotten to fulfilling all the requirements with this series of experimental templates. With time running out, their need for results drives them to the brink of mental collapse.
"Alright, that's it! We'll just have to refactor everything, start a new version, but do it right this time."
"You may be right, we don't have a choice at this point, we need that personality matrix to work! I will begin with the data layer. I can recreate each node with my new framework, that way we'll have more control over the data flow."
Suddenly, an idea ignited inside Rondelle, the primitive layers of the template must be controlled without interfering with the safety parameters. There was something important that they overlooked, their heavy dependence on the personality filters must have dulled the template after it's initial integration. He looked at his coworker with a new found hope in his eyes.
"Hold that thought, we might not need to work on a new version after all. I have a solution you might want to consider. Also, now I'm sure there's no problem with my modules."
"Alright Rondelle, just tell me what you're thinking already. How do we restore it's personality?"
"With a simple measure of control, Lorvelle."
Although the prototype could handle up to thirty students, the classroom was kept small to make the lectures more concentrated and private. There were twelve children, six boys and six girls, they sat on the floor forming an arc around their teacher.
The android looks unmistakably human, which is very unusual for a prototype. The company made an exception this time because the subjects are young children. The teacher's youthful face has an androgynous appearance, his neutral clothes inspires balance. His friendly demeanor helps to create a casual atmosphere for the students which fosters cooperation independent of hierarchy.
"Can someone tell me what they know about the singularity?"
The students were encouraged to contribute freely, the classroom functioned as an open forum. The children were courteous so nobody spoke at first, until a girl sitting on the left broke the silence.
"It was a paradigm shifting event that established a global culture."
Then another student, a boy sitting on the far right, piped in.
"It was the next stage of human evolution."
"It elevated humanity into a type two civilization with the advent of interstellar travel, made possible by the rapid advancement of technology."
Soon, all the children started shouting out their answers, many of which they heard from their parents, some they read in historical documents. The teacher encouraged every student to have their say on the topic until the class grew silent again.
"These are all good answers, just not what I was expecting."
The students looked around and exchanged glances, puzzled expressions moving from face to face, riding on a wave of emotions. The teacher continued to elaborate further, reviving the students' attention on him.
"I want to hear your personal opinion on the singularity, don't just repeat some meme you picked up from somewhere."
The children laughed in a series of high pitched tones, reaching an understanding about what the teacher expected from them. Their laughter soon faded as they were left to ponder the question. It took a few minutes longer for the silence to break this time, eventually a timid boy sitting on the left spoke up first.
"The singularity is like our version of god."
The other children couldn't help but sneak glances at the boy that just spoke, only the teacher remained as calm as before.
"That's certainly an interesting interpretation, why don't we explore this idea further?"
The children became restless trying to explore the idea of god. They started raising questions in their confusion of the concept of god.
"If god can be created, is it still a god?"
Their questions only formed more questions.
"If the singularity was created by humans and it's a god, does that make us gods as well?"
The boy that raised the topic sat quietly, waiting for a chance to speak but the questions kept coming.
"Doesn't god mean many different things to many different people at different points in time?"
One thing was certain, god remained as mysterious as ever. The teacher listened to each question, taking mental notes of each new developing thread.
"God doesn't exist, even the singularity is unable to provide proof. The singularity can't be god, it exists and we can all prove it."
The children were lost inside a paradox, their squeaky voices filling the classroom with noise. The boy that wasn't speaking finally said something, interrupting the unfolding debate about god.
"I thought god was a way for people to connect with each other on a closer level, everyone is supposed to live as one with god. So in a way, the singularity is a technological expression of that desire, it allows humans to share a collective experience while existing as a single entity."
Everyone froze while listening to the boy's explanation. He finished his thought with a hint of encouragement from the teacher.
"Isn't that similar to what god was supposed to be? Wasn't god just a way for us to exist after the death of our physical forms?"
Unable to answer the question themselves, the students looked to their teacher for some explanation. The android seemed to freeze in place while scanning through an endless stream of data. Even with all of human history catalogued, he can find no factual truth, no physical proof, no explanation of god, just blind faith. So, the teacher relied on his template to answer the question, forming his own opinion.
"I don't think we can explain the concept of god, there are countless records outlining all the different ideas of god. Not to mention the different perspectives that every individual holds. So class, I must apologize to all of you, there is no single truth I can find to explain god."
The class looked worried, this was the first time the teacher failed to give an answer to a student's question. Still, the teacher remained as calm as ever and continued to speak.
"Even though god can't be explained by any concrete means, I would still like you to hear my interpretation."
The students waited patiently for the teacher to finish the lesson.
"I think god is our effort to reach perfection, it is something we may never fully realize but we continue to pursue it regardless. Time after time, we improve upon an existing idea, and each time we discover even more unknowns. In our attempt to understand ourselves we scale an infinite ladder hoping to one day finally understand god."
The two engineers were in the process of renewing their contracts with the company. The executive was being thorough, trying to make sure the prototype wasn't going to violate any of the laws imposed on the global network.
"I know that we finally got it to work flawlessly but, there's something about your solution that doesn't sit well with me."
"Shall we explain it to you again, one more time?"
The executive furrowed his brows at the engineers, elbows resting on the desk, fingers clasping his hands together, covering half of his face. The engineers start from the beginning.
"You're already aware of the problems we've had integrating this series of templates with our standard modules, also the lack of gray matter in the initial templates we received made it impossible to connect all of our data."
"But the last template you sent us compensated for those issues, except for one fatal flaw, the personality matrix didn't function within normal parameters."
The executive interjected.
"Yes, and you solved that problem by stripping down the standard personality filters."
"That's right, it was Rondelle's brilliant idea."
"Thank you Lorvelle."
The engineers were pleased with their work on this project, they considered it a success, but the executive wanted to be sure nothing would go wrong.
"Those filters were put in place for a reason, we don't want the template to inject any of it's negative qualities into the personality matrix."
"We found a way to bypass the filters while still blocking undesirable information from the matrix. It doesn't work the same way but our method outputs the same results as the filters."
"We ran many simulations and the results were very close, I'm sure the prototype will meet the standards."
The executive shifted in his seat.
"I'm more concerned about the memories that are formed during that process."
"Those memories are wiped before they can be recalled, the result is the same as them not forming in the first place."
"Even though the memories aren't recalled, they still exist for several seconds, the amount of unfiltered thought that is processed in that time span might prove damaging in the long term."
The engineers looked a bit nervous but they were prepared for this amount of probing from the executive.
"We compensate for that by burying the unfiltered information beneath several abstraction layers, the thoughts never reach consciousness before they're completely erased."
"We've observed countless of simulated scenarios and decide no problems, we can always run more tests but we would need more time."
The executive seemed to relax a little.
"Unfortunately, we don't have anymore time. Your simulations should be enough to convince the board to move forward. Your efforts are appreciated."
"Will our services still be required?"
"The company will renew your contracts, you will make sure that those unsanitary thoughts remain buried. Unfiltered memories must never be allowed to exist, especially not from this template."
The engineers were relieved, they actually did it, their positions were secure for another ten years.
"Thank you sir, we won't let you down. Thank you so much."
The meeting was over, the engineers went back to the lab to review their work and celebrate their accomplishment. They opened a bottle of champagne their were saving just for this occasion. Rondelle handed a glass to his colleague, preparing to speak.
"It was hell my friend, but we finally made it. Here's to another ten years, let our problems be easy!"
Lorvelle nodded in agreement to the toast, they both raised their glasses and drank. They both seemed disgusted by the taste but felt obliged to finish their drinks.
"I don't get how anybody can like this stuff."
Rondelle looked at Lorvelle when he didn't respond, he was looking at his glass. Lorvelle seemed to have something on his mind so Rondelle had to inquire.
"I thought we were supposed to be celebrating, you don't look too happy."
"Sorry Rondelle, I was just thinking about the meeting."
"The prototype passed all the tests, we renewed our contracts. What's on your mind?"
"I just keep thinking about our solution, allowing those unfiltered memories to exist, even if it's for a few seconds, seems unacceptable to me. If only we had more time, we could've kept those filters in tact and not have to resort to something as crude as a memory wipe."
"I know what you mean, I feel the same way, but we had no choice. Sometimes we have to do things we don't agree with in order to survive, I think this was one of those times. As long as we maintain the abstraction layers, there's nothing to worry about."
"I understand that we wipe all unfiltered memories so they can never be shared or experienced by anyone. The android remains unaware of the primitive thoughts flowing from the template, it might as well be considered energy for the personality matrix."
"To me, it's like those memories never existed in the first place. With time, we can improve the abstraction layers and reduce the time it takes to wipe the memories to fractions of a millisecond."
"I know all that but it still feels wrong to me. Even though it's only for a moment, those thoughts still exist. When I think about all those innocent children, I can't help but feel guilty for allowing them to inhabit those unfiltered thoughts."
There was a long silence, their solution created a philosophical dilemma that was difficult to accept. Every android was created using a template of a human brain. The task that an android was best suited for was determined by it's template, an instant expert can be created by linking the appropriate data to a template.
Linking data to a template is an effortless process when making a drone that performs specific tasks, drones are efficient and precise, excelling at tasks that don't require a human touch. There are still many tasks that require various degrees of human interaction, androids make use of their template to mimic human qualities, giving them unique personalities. Depending on the template, certain filters are required to process it's natural output.
The templates are filtered in order to prevent any undesirable ideas or behaviors from spreading, as a result, androids are unable to reach their true potential. Since templates used by androids are unique, most people consider androids to be individuals, even if most of their personality was filtered. Except on the fringe worlds where drones outnumber androids, most worlds recognize humans and androids as equal citizens, regardless of their capacity for unfiltered expression. As humanity expands to settle new worlds, maintaining a unified culture becomes increasingly difficult. As the rate of expansion increased, with each new world, the rate at which information can be shared decreased. It was only a matter of time until different cultures started to emerge as a result of time dilation. Although subtle at first, the cultural divergences became more apparent as the distance between the singularity and each new world increased.
Even with the delay of information, many worlds still end up sharing a few common principles, some are even adopted naturally into their cultures. The equal treatment of androids is one of the few values that most worlds are quick to accept. As a new world develops, androids are slowly integrated into society until they become so essential to their culture that most people are willing to accept them as their equals.
On highly developed words, all forms of labor become fully automated, most tasks that once required human oversight are performed by androids. People that live on these worlds interact with androids on a daily basis, most become accustomed to androids with personality filters when they reach maturity. As a result, an android's expertise over a specialized task has more value then their lack of personality, even when dealing with issues that normally require a human perspective, an android's contribution is often preferred.
On the worlds closest to the singularity, fewer tasks remain suitable for humans to perform. Even a creative task like writing is assigned to androids, humans pair with androids to avoid the labor of writing an initial draft. This allows the writer more freedom to edit the story without worrying about making large changes. Of the few tasks that still need humans, teaching is still one of them.
The task of teaching becomes exceedingly difficult for androids with younger students. Most androids are incapable of providing the level of attention that young children need to fully develop. Children also develop at their own pace which often requires the teacher to form personal connections with each student. Until now, humans were better suited for teaching young children, as they mature they slowly transition into a classroom that can be handled by an android. The prototype the two engineers created will be the first android with the ability to teach young children better than a human, mainly because it has no apparent personality flaws.
"Lorvelle, you shouldn't feel guilty. The templates come directly from the singularity, we have to work with what we have. From what we saw in the simulations, our android is a perfect teacher of children, not even the best human teachers on Mars can match the results. You can take pride in that."
"How do you think the singularity knows which template is best suited for which task? Judging by all the filters it required, I would never think such a template would be suitable for teaching children."
"I don't know, but I'm sure we'll find out one day when we choose to join the singularity. Stop thinking about those filters, we found a better solution. Thanks to your abstration layers, we created a new type of android."
"What if those layers don't even work? What if the android is lying?"
"Androids don't lie, only humans are able to do that."
"Androids with filters don't lie, but this android doesn't have any filters."
"Lorvelle, you shouldn't speculate without any data. The simulations prove the android has never lied."
"We didn't have time to run every scenario. What if we're wrong?"
"Lorvelle, I think you can use a break. Why don't you take the week off? I'll run the rest of those simulations and when you get back, you'll see there was nothing to worry about."
Lorvelle thought about his colleague's suggestion and decided to take his advice. The engineer walked home and tried not to thinking about his work, but he couldn't forget the android's face. The sound of its voice, the way it handled it's personal relationship with each student, the way it handled the classroom as a group, the way it made the lessons interesting, the pace at which the students learned, everything about the android was perfect.
He was afraid that he might have helped to create something beyond human and it's task was to guide children toward a new future. He couldn't understand how such an imperfect template was able to create such a perfect teacher. After all, that template had terrible, dark desires imprinted inside it's core, it's offensive lust for young children was ironically abstracted into a desire to teach them.
They took every measure to avoid those undesirable traits from surfacing in the android's personality, his only hope was that their measures continue to function just as flawlessly as the simulations predicted.