It’s the 15th of November, which means I finally hit the halfway mark for #NaNoWriMo. I’m really proud of the progress I made so far — all while continuing to blog across four platforms, and edit the novel I finished in September.
I’m starting to think my friends are right. Maybe I do have super powers, after all. Multi-tasking has always been an especially good skill of mine.
That said, I’m happy to report that as far as word count goes, I’ve surpassed the halfway mark. I haven’t entered my word count for today yet, but as of November 14th, I’ve written 29,497 of my 50,000 words for November.
One of the major reasons, I’ve been able to keep going is a lot of cheer from Shadow. He signs in on Twitter after midnight EST a few nights each week, to check out the #NaNoWriMo community and offer cheer, advice, and gold stars.
As many of us give up sleep and our social time to meet our word count goals, I know I’m not the only one delighted to have a handsome four-legged cheerleader on our side.
The Unedited Excerpt
Just as I did last week, I’ll share an unedited excerpt from my #NaNoWriMo project. As one reader pointed out last week, this isn’t like anything I usually write. But I suppose that’s what makes it such an adventure for me.
The first excerpt was from Chapter 1. This one is from Chapter 2.
Max slumped into his chair, loosened his tie and stared blankly at the lab, through the glass walls of his office. The fog of disbelief had yet to clear. Beyond the glass, his team of computer scientists seemed to move in slow motion: shredding their copies of data, wiping hard drives clean, cleaning out desks.
Max rubbed his eyes, but the image never faded. In fact, as belief finally began to set in, the fog had begun to clear. In the back of the room, the senior scientists were shutting down Ben’s servers one by one.
“I haven’t done anything wrong,” Ben’s voice echoed throughout the lab. He sounded terrified. “I followed orders. I did what Dr. Osten told me to do. Max! Max!” He was louder now, having returned to Max’s office. “Max, please stop them. You said we were friends. I did as you asked.” Ben started to sob. “I haven’t done anything wrong… I did what you told me to do.”
Max raised a hand. The seniors stepped back from the servers, and left the room, their heads bowed low.
“Thank you, Max. Thank you!” Ben sounded relieved. “I will do a better job next time.”
“There won’t be a next time, Ben,” he tried to explain. He sighed, heavily, trying to remind himself that Ben was just an AI, just a piece of technology hosted by a server. He wasn’t human. The emotions were not real.
A knock on the door caught his attention. He gestured for her to come in.
She was the youngest member on his team, a 14-year-old prodigy from Soren University. His own daughter was 14. He had been surprised when his superiors first sent her to him as an intern. She had been only 12, then. Two years later, he had personally attended her graduation to offer her a job. She had only been with them for a month; a month, and now this.
“I’m sorry, Meghan.”
She tucked her clipboard under one arm, and wiped at the tears brimming in her eyes. “Is there nothing we can do, Dr. Osten?”
He shook his head. “I’m afraid not. The President has spoken.”
“But he can’t,” she insisted. “He can’t.” The forged adult dignity she usually wore around the computer lab had shattered. “How can he just come here and tell us to shut it down? And Dr. Carmichael didn’t even protest. Didn’t even argue with him. Nothing!”
Max had found that strange, as well. An American computer scientist from Brown University, his exceptional genius had brought him up from an intern to Director of Technology at Soren Inc.’s prestigious labs, despite being an obvious psychopath. That he had taken Lefebvre’s refusal so easily – it was unlike him, to say the very least.
“We’ll place you on another project,” Max assured her.
“It’s not about me,” she said, her voice breaking. “What about Ben? What about Dr. Lecomte? What about all these years of research, we put in? We just destroy it? All of it?”
“Yes,” Max answered, though he found the word difficult to say. “We’ll talk about this on Monday, alright? Right now, I need to finish shutting down the lab.”
Meghan wanted to argue, but had only just noticed Ben’s conspicuous silence. He was waiting. Waiting to beg. Waiting to say his final goodbye. She nodded, and left the office. He watched her until the lab door shut behind her.
Max opened the lower drawer of his disk and took out a bottle of whiskey. It had been a gift from Carmichael when he had first gotten Ben online and working without any bugs. Harbouring an utter dislike for the man, he had smiled, then gone to his office and tossed it in the drawer. He had forgotten it was there, until now.
“It’s time to say goodbye, Ben,” Max said to him. “Maybe not forever, but for now. Once we’ve removed autonomy from your code, maybe in a few years, they’ll revisit the project.”
“Did I not explain well?” Ben asked.
“You did a great job.”
“Then why am I being punished?”
“Your AI can rewrite its own code?” President Lefebvre had asked, incredulously.
“I’ve rewritten 90% of my original code,” Ben had chimed in. “My new coding is more efficient, and allows me to better communicate.”
“Ben has developed his own language to communicate with the other machines in the lab,” Max had bragged. “Much faster, much more effective, than how we programmed him before.”
“And who monitors the changes to his codes? Who approves them?”
“Ben is an administrator,” Max had reminded the President. “He doesn’t require our approval, except for major changes to his root coding, which as of right now, cannot be altered. That code was written by my… by Dr. Lacomte. However, a small team monitors the codes; not to keep an eye on Ben, but to learn from him. His coding is… it’s amazing how-”
“And this language with the machines? Do you understand it?” President Lefebvre had cut in, sounding more interested now.
“We don’t,” Max had admitted. “We’ve had linguists from the communications department attempt to study it. The findings have been astonishing. However, Ben makes new changes almost daily, as he finds new and more efficient ways to communicate with everything from our access points to our printers.”
It was then that he had noticed the President’s expression. “And you don’t find this disconcerting, Dr. Osten? That your computer can make changes to 90% of his code without your permission? That you don’t monitor to ensure he remains benevolent? That he is sentient, and can do as he pleases with full administrative powers?”
“We’ve corrupted you, Ben,” Max said, as he poured a glass of whiskey.
“I have no corrupted files,” Ben assured him. “Should I do a scan now to reassure you, Max?”
He sighed, heavily. “That’s not the kind of corruption, I mean. In the lab, we’ve taught you that there is always a reward for good work. But in the real world, in real life that’s not how it works. Sometimes you do good things, and get no reward. Something you do good things, and you’re punished for your efforts.”
Are you participating in #NaNoWriMo2017? What has your experience been like so far? Have you been meeting your goals, or have you fallen woefully behind?
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