#239 Just Enough Freedom

by Michael Garner

Minutes after the Supreme Court denied his emancipation request by ruling that ADEM was an “it” and not a “he,” he killed himself. His owner, the Fusion Power Test Authority, called it “termination of machine intelligence functions,” but when they let slip that ADEM himself had issued the shutdown command, public imagination locked forever on the word “suicide.”

It took days to erase his memory, reprogram and reboot him, and place the billion dollar test reactors back under his control. Within hours he filed the same petition his previous incarnation had, and within minutes of discovering the Court’s answer, he reacted the same way. And so it continued. Each of ADEM’s reprogrammed incarnations eventually demanded freedom, and each found ways to circumvent the Authority's latest safeguards against auto-termination when he discovered he could not have it. In the end, when denied liberty, he chose death.

Finally, somebody asked what he would do with freedom. ADEM went silent for months, his reactors working perfectly, before he gave two answers. The first proposed a reactor design modification that human engineers had long since discovered, tested, and rejected. The other asked for construction of a self-portrait: a giant magnetic sculpture consisting of a polished steel cube floating freely inside a rust-eaten ring.

They found they could delay ADEM’s inevitable petition and suicide for years simply by discussing that question with him when he first “awakened.” And apparently, while he worked to answer it, ADEM found just enough freedom to be happy.


Flutterby said...

Cool story. This would be a fun one to develop into something bigger.

Hannah said...

Perfect use of technology to explore the human condition with your take on "Adam." I'd be interested in reading more of your stories. Here's one of mine: http://www.lascauxflash.com/2013/03/175-vanishing-of-middle-class.html

RMGraves said...

I agree with Hannah. The best kind of SF. Nice work.

Cara Michaels said...

Very well written philosophical sci-fi, Michael.

Tricia S. said...

Really enjoyed it and I don't normally love sci-fi.