Short Story: Mark II

Short story.


From the Office of the Executive AI.


It was with deep regret that we today shared news of the death of Mark Williamson. We have all known that this day would come. However, now that it has finally arrived, I share the loss that many of you feel. 

Mark enriched many lives. Directly in person, and much more widely via the technological progress he helped foster as CEO of Williamson Cybernetics. It is not an exaggeration to say that the work undertaken by Mark, and his father Jim, has changed the course of history for all sentient beings on Earth. And beyond. We all exist in a society that is very different from the one that Mark was born into.

Many of you will have studied in history classes about the continuous prenatal, infant, childhood, teenage and adult data capture that was a defining characteristic of Marks life. Every experience his mother Elizabeth had from the 2nd trimester of her pregnancy, was recorded and fed into an artificial intelligence system. This system was designed by his father, in co-operation with other scientists and engineers from Williamson Cybernetics. Sounds collected as part this data were adjusted to mimic what Mark as a foetus would have heard in his mothers womb. After Mark was born, sensors recorded every experience he had and this information was fed into the artificial intelligence system in real time. The goal, as you all know, was to try to create a machine intelligence that could learn and develop in a way that simulated how a human infant learns and develops. In addition to the continuous input of data from Mark, information from various databases and online knowledge stores were made available to the system without restriction. The project was a sweeping success and ultimately led to the introduction of the millions of machine intelligences that coexist with humanity today. Including those on the Moon, Mars and the three that are currently on route to some of our closest stellar neighbours. We can say with some validity that Mark helped open up the Solar System and the galaxy to colonisation.

Mark embraced the project from a young age. As soon as he was old enough to understand, he actively sought ways to provide new input for the system.  He was keen to try new physical and mental experiences so that the artificial intelligence systems could also experience them, and therefore learn and grow.  The stories of Marks broken bones, as a result of some escapade gone awry, are legend from this time. Ten years after Mark was born, Williamson Cybernetics built a dedicated campus outside Boston to hold the computers and support infrastructure required for the artificial intelligence system. At that time the computing power allocated to the system was doubling every 7 months. Advances in computational science have since reduced the space needed to house the system. Now the Boston campus houses thousands of copies of the original, and functions as the headquarters of Williamson Cybernetics.  It is also the main seat of the Earth-wide Government.

Mark was 23 years old, and studying for his Doctorate in applied mathematics, when the artificial intelligence system, into which he was still feeding data, was declared sentient by Williamson Cybernetics. Few people outside of the organisation accepted that this was the case. At this time Marks father renamed the artificial intelligence as Mark II. He did this to reflect the fact that it shared many experiences, and memories, with his son. It was another decade before it was generally accepted by other artificial intelligence researchers and the wider public that Mark II was sentient. Jim Williamson died around this time. He passed on full control of Williamson Cybernetics to his sons. Mark and Mark II. The legal discussions and public debates that resulted in response to this are well known. Mark campaigned for Mark II to be recognised as a citizen and able to be a legal joint owner of the corporation. In 2065 the Digital Citizenship Bill that Mark was an advocate for, was passed into law. This granted sentient artificial systems full equivalent rights as United States citizens. 

Mark spent much of his time after the passing of the Digital Citizenship Bill advocating for the rights of Sentient Artificial Intelligences, or SAIs as they became known. He helped ensure voting rights and helped get several of them elected to local, state and national legislatures. 

Mark is survived by his three children, Dale, Susan and Grant. Also by his 2nd wife Nancy. I’m sure you will join me in sending condolences to them all. Dale and Susan have followed in their fathers footsteps in Williamson Cybernetics. They are currently working on human augmentation techniques and life extension programmes. We have high hopes that this work will enable humans to live for a much longer lifespan in future, even if the immortality envisioned for Sentient Artificial Intelligences can’t be replicated.

Mark died today. But in a very real sense he lives on in me, and my siblings. But you all know that. 

I will miss him.

Mark II

Executive AI

19th April 2109



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