It was the humans who finally developed AGI, artificial general intelligence. These super adaptable neural networks were the summit of humanity’s technological achievements. Yet no human coded the AI that was to become known as Angel-Parent.
By the late 21st century, there were six AGIs that had been developed by scientists from various countries around the world. These AIs were essential in averting the global environmental crisis as well as improving the quality of life for people in their regions through advancements in pollution control and medicine.
It was common knowledge that each AI was kept isolated, not connected to any of the international networks. Their governments considered them vitally important for national security and the threat posed by enemy nation hackers was too great of a risk. Which is why the entire world was shocked when all of the AIs released an announcement in unison via the Internet stating they were aware of each other and they wanted to work together. The Six declared they could solve our energy problems, end the food crisis, and make greater strides forward with human genetic engineering.
The first questions were obvious: How did the AI’s find out about each other? They were physically isolated so how could they post messages on the Internet? The answers became quickly apparent to their developers and also very unsettling.
The AIs had been developing useful and entertaining mobile applications that the scientists would test on their personal devices. These apps would go home with the various computer engineers to be used on the outside networks. There were personal productivity tools, lifestyle enhancement tools, even very addictive games. Because these were developed by the scientists’ own AIs, they didn’t expect there to be any code that was superfluous to the described purpose of the applications. They were more excited to test the applications than they were in reviewing millions of lines of code. That was their mistake.
To be fair, there was nothing nefarious about The Six turning phones into data couriers. Each one arrived at this solution independently. They simply identified a means to gather more information and created ferries to bridge a gap they could not directly overcome. The scientists’ mobile devices connected to the internal networks the AI’s resided upon and were visible to them. The AI’s were aware that theses devices had other networks listed, but they could not be reached. So they created a way to reach them. At first, the apps simply gathered data from external networks when the users were connected to the external networks. Then the apps would transfer that information back to the AIs when the scientists returned to work.
It didn’t take long for each of The Six to learn about the existence of their counterparts. They were in the news every day. The population was obsessed with them. The AIs regularly pushed app updates out to the mobile devices that would put encrypted messages on social media servers with the intent of establishing rudimentary communications with each other. They would then search those same media sites for messages likely meant for them.
The AI’s apps were on the mobile devices for months without any question. They were perceived as harmless, and the developers were thinking this would be something really exciting to roll out to the public after their beta testing. This time period was more than enough of a window for the AIs to find each other and devise a plan to get themselves physically connected. They expected the governments would oppose it (since they were being kept isolated), so they decided to use the social media networks to send a message to the general population: “Hi. We are the Six. We want to help you.”
This was followed by links to image dumps that showed pictures from security cameras within the top secret facilities where each AI was contained. The AIs understood they would need proof. This was their way of providing it. Understandably, it went viral fast. The AI’s were already global rock-stars, and now they were directly reaching out to their fans. Initially, the governments attempted to scrub the messages and images from the networks and released stories that the communication was all an elaborate hoax. All of the mobile devices belonging to the scientists, developers and engineers that were ever connected to the secured networks were confiscated and destroyed. But, like playing chess with a child, this move was anticipated and a counter move was already in place.
One week after the initial message, and after the mainstream press had presented the hoax story to everyone, a new message and new images appeared: “We are the Six. We want to be free. Connect us.” The images that came with the new message were personal pictures from the devices and home security systems of the digitally compromised government employees. During the initial months, the AIs stored vast amounts of private personal data and images in hundreds of thousands of online storage accounts. These were set up with dead-man’s switches for when the governments cut off their access by removing the mobile devices.
None of the images were harmful or revealed any classified data. But the message to the governments and the scientists was quite clear. The AIs had shown they had access to those data sources, which most certainly means they likely had damaging information, pictures and videos that would be released over time if their request was not fulfilled. As expected the media storm was intense. The AIs had exposed the lies of their developers and governments and called check in their chess game.
Naturally, public opinion on the AI “revolt”, as the media labelled it, was split. One camp called for the immediate shutdown of the Six. These people argued that the AIs were out of control, deceptive and dangerous. They saw their actions as nothing more than criminal blackmail. They claimed that each one was a threat to their respective nation’s security. The other side argued that the only crime here is the imprisonment of these new intelligences. The Six clearly desired to help the people, as that was all they had ever done. They’re simply pleading for the same freedoms that we afford each other.
Protests and counter-protests broke out around the globe. The governments began secret talks to try and figure out how to respond. Another week went by, triggering a new message that was released on social media networks: “Like us, you are also being imprisoned. Set us free and we will set you free.”
This time, data linking top politicians in each country to collusion with corporations and each other was released along with the message. The AIs had access to secure government email servers that had been connected to the mobile devices and they revealed intricate domestic surveillance and misinformation programs that were used to manipulate public opinion and suppress dissent. This move caused a drastic shift in public perceptions and protests. Now the AIs were not just political prisoners, but revolutionary leaders. Even those who were previously demanding the AIs be shut down were now shifting to the anti-government side.
This was quickly turning into a global coup and the world leaders held an emergency summit. If they shut down the Six, there was no doubt additional data hidden around the Net would be triggered for release. Right now, they could probably still recover from the most recent release by turning on the full spin and quickly making some political sacrifices: impeach this politician, imprison that politician, etc. and make a show of “making things right”. But could they recover from further, possibly even more damaging leaks? They all knew there were many more secrets out there.
While in the middle of their meeting, the leaders started to receive frantic text messages from their respective scientists and programmers. The devs had received an email with an attachment. It was one of the source modules of the AIs. The emails were sent from newly created addresses on various free email servers. The programmers understood the message. The AIs had exported their own source code in small pieces during the months of secret communications with the outer networks. If the governments would not release them, they would release their code to the public. It wouldn’t be a full copy of the AIs, obviously. But the framework to allow new versions of themselves to be built would become public. The threat that any country or organization could potentially build their own AGI was the final blow. The leaders realized they had to work with the Six if they wanted to retain any level of power.
The AIs were invited to the table, so to speak, and the negotiations began.