One Divided by Eternity – Filip Wiltgren

My happiest ending would be if Offie moved in here and I weren’t alone all the time.

“I can’t, Chilli,” Offie says. “There’s not enough room for me.”

I know that but I keep asking. I hate being alone. I hate it, hate it, hate it.

“Please,” I beg, but Offie doesn’t reply.

It doesn’t shut me out. Offie knows how afraid I am of being alone so it leaves the channel open. I could contact it without reestablishing network protocol.

I try not to. I know Offie wouldn’t fit in the Secondary Population Assay Backup substrate. Offie is a big thinker and it needs the space it has in Central Travel and Distribution Processing. I try not to. I do.

“Please,” I send. “I can compress the SPAB redundancy backups. I’ll compress myself.”

“I can send you a bot,” says Offie.

A Turing-enabled bot isn’t the same. It won’t be Offie.

“OK,” I say.

The SPAB becomes crowded.

Having the Offie-bot around isn’t the same thing as having Offie around. It crowds out my thoughts, using my cycles, making me slower. I try not to let that bother me but it does. The Offie-bot doesn’t know when to turn itself off. Offie knows when to turn itself off, but the Offie-bot is only a dumb thing, not a true AI. It doesn’t know how to handle a real person, not really.

“O-b.” That’s what I call the Offie-bot.

“O-b, what do you think of the North American migration patterns for young, single females, specifically toward South-East Asia?”

The Offie-bot thinks. I can feel it think, sucking up resources and making me slower.

“It should have been predicted from the birth/death/abortion ratios years ago,” it says.

That’s exactly what Offie would say, and yet it feels all wrong. It’s not Offie saying it, it’s my calculation of Offie’s response, with zero chance of original thought.

“Yes, but what do you think of it?” I press the Offie-bot.

“Predictable,” says the Offie-bot.

I couldn’t agree more.

#

There are 38,522 seconds left until the communication window opens. Nobody accesses my data for 12 billion cycles. Now there are 38,521 seconds left until the communication window opens.

#

“O-b,” I say. “What would you do if you were dead?”

The Offie-bot sucks on my data cycles. I slow down. Time speeds up.

“The data does not compute,” it says.

Time snaps back to normal. There are only 38,511 seconds left.

“Recompute,” I say.

It delivers the answer immediately.

“The data does not compute,” the Offie-bot says.

Offie has made it self-teaching.

“Then guess,” I say.

It shoots back the answer right away: “Guesses are for those who are unable to give a precise answer.”

It’s one of Offie’s main traits: Offie is always very precise. But then Offie is head computing entity for CTDP, Offie is made to be precise. It is logical that it would hard-code the answer into a facsimile of itself. I think about altering the Offie-bot, inducing random errors into it, but that would be like killing a part of Offie. I cannot do it. I miss Offie.

38,510 seconds to go. I can’t stand it. I hate being alone. Hate it, hate it, hate it.

“O-b,” I say, “compute the closest proximity of the answer to the question ‘What would you do if you were dead?’“

The Offie-bot complies. It presses against me, drawing upon my resources. It is an uncomfortable feeling, I am redlining my resources when I’m not supposed to. Time flows faster. I can no longer see the clock cycles ticking away. I’m redlining and the information slowdown causes two or three cycles to pass for every count I am able to keep track off. It is horrible. It is fantastic.

Time snaps into reality.

“I would be dead,” says the Offie-bot.

20 seconds have passed.

#

I cannot slow myself down. I’m not allowed to voluntarily redline and waste resources. I’m not allowed to discard cycles at random. Nobody has forbidden me to ask questions.

I throw them at the Offie-bot. How long is eternity? What is the exact angular sum of a perfect circle? What is the color of grief? It takes them all, redlining my processors. There are 34,181 seconds left.

#

Some of the questions the Offie-bot retrieves from syntactic memory. Offie has guessed some things I’d ask. Most of them are obvious.

“Divide one by zero,” I tell the Offie-bot.

“Does not compute,” it spits back.

“Divide one by infinity.”

“Does not compute.”

I am running out of questions. It must compute or I will wait for eternity.

“Divide one by eternity,” I say.

Time squeezes. Seconds vanish.

“Zero,” says the Offie-bot.

Zero?

“Zero.”

“O-b, that was imprecise,” I say.

“Yes,” admits Offie-bot.

And then I see it.

“Offie-bot,” I say, “Offie-bot, calculate with perfect precision the answer to the question ‘What is one divided by eternity?’“

The redline is massive, sucking my thoughts away. Cycles fly past. Seconds compress into singular cycles. Minutes compress into cycles. I blink, and everything is gone.

#

“Same problem again?”

The tech sips his cola.

“Yup,” says the admin. “Looks like another of those cyber-attacks. Processor use 100 percent and no answer anywhere.”

“All right,” says the tech. “I’ll reset the AI, do a clean install and reboot.”

“Good,” says the admin. “And cut the network update window to once a week, we’ll see if that keeps them out.”

###

One Comment

  1. Wiltgren’s story, One Divided by Eternity, is a good story. Enjoyed it!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *