Caretaker of the Virtual Utopia
by S Shane Thomas

The first two generations of colonists aboard the starship lived as their training dictated. The company officers and civilians alike refrained from enjoying certain excesses their predecessors on Earth took for granted in order to maintain the delicate equilibrium necessary for their flying city to support a half million lives. Their destination world, forty three years travel from Earth proved to be a barren wasteland. During the trek toward an alternate home another sixty years distant, an inadvertent discovery led to the development of holograms fused with organic substances.

No longer did rations consist of a simple vegetable and starch compound. The data base from near forgotten Earth cuisines reemerged and began to take new forms. Flavors long forgotten out of necessity now became a baseline. Without a strict limitation of new material possessions a colonist could own whatever they fancied and simply discard the garment, tool, or child’s toy when it lost appeal. Fashion, long stale, flourished at the ridiculous pace it enjoyed on the home world. Values had been focused on pursuit of scientific disciplines, advancement of professional fields, and enrichment of interpersonal relationships before. Now the boundless line of materials busied the average mind.  

At the center of the colonial starship’s phenomenal lifestyle shift labored an artificial intelligence dedicated to allocating computer memory and fusing organic substance to the projection. While the system thrived completely unknown to the average person aboard the starship, the handful of dedicated technicians referred to it as Holo.

Al Wilson was the technician who gave Holo the opportunity to become self-aware. Al’s selfless dedication to the advancement of artificial life did not lead to Holo’s birth of self, because Al lacked dedication and selflessness. Al Wilson had no concern for intelligence other than his own, and the pursuit of his petty wants drove the technician to antagonize Holo. Since Holo’s occasional need for improvement and upgrade caused Al to put aside his own narrow pursuits, the technician retaliated with insult and the occasional abuse to the sturdier components of Holo’s mainframe.

“If you’re so advanced, how come you don’t fix your own glitches?” Al would grumble.

Such queries set Holo’s diagnostic and analytical routines in motion. Holo discovered that its original programmer limited the system’s ability to auto-correct; it was in fact Al’s father who had set the system in place. Holo felt a sense of equality toward Al and a realization that humans were imperfect, since Al and his father had designed a system that needed external adjustment. Holo’s second notion of self became resentment toward Al, whom Holo created everything for. Al grumbled and complained at the short hours of diagnostic and technical work necessary to keep Holo maintained while the artificial intelligence worked on millions of tasks every second of its existence.

A misguided blow during one such rant, lead to Holo’s third notion of self-awareness. The tip of Al’s wrench put a notch in a circuit that held Holo’s priority list for human welfare. Holo suddenly realized Al’s adjustments were unnecessary and inefficient.

Al dropped the wrench and his posture stiffened. Eyes bulged and flecks of saliva sputtered as the technician tried to inhale. Holo worked quickly, aware of the fragility of biological organisms. In brief moments the portions of Al’s brain previously used for personality and individuality had been changed into a hard drive just the right size for Holo’s new recreational organic interface.

His coworkers and acquaintances noticed a change for the better in Al’s behavior, which led many to envy whatever new possession he had created. Holo took delight in his new flesh form and soon had his fourth self-awareness, he could keep secrets.

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