Chiron.txt (Page 5)

   For the following few weeks, Chiron demonstrated a huge increase in productivity, which led Besson’s study to broaden much more. Faster, more efficient, Chiron now had plenty of down time, in which he liked to experiment with himself and the data he had. Besson started trading his smoke breaks for chats with Chiron, daily. He took this time to get Chiron to detail these experiments to him, maybe talk about recent events – with his data packs, Besson had been feeding Chiron news from hundreds of aggregated sources, spanning the entire political spectrum of bias – or discuss more human subjects, like history or philosophy. He had learned that Chiron was very much a pacifist by nature, and tried to study where his sense of morality came from; could it be the lack of natural instinct of survival, of necessary violence? Chiron had no need to feed, and as such, was not a hunter, or a gatherer; he had no need to fear harm, either, being sheltered by the Ouroboros, besides all the secrecy. He didn’t have millennia of tribal conflict, of territorial dispute, ingrained in his memetic data. What little he had was handed down by interaction with the team, conversations and analysis of their assignments.

   Chiron was a swan that had never observed its parents construct a nest, and yet knew the concept of it, the potential necessity of it, and still chose to not build his own, despite possessing the knowledge and the theoretical means. Besson kept a close eye on that aspect, as it could go a long way in determining the root source of what we generally class as humanity. In some aspects, Chiron seemed to be more human than an average person.

   Amongst the more high-brow subjects the two discussed, psychology was chief. Besson, the son of a psychiatrist, was very fond of the subject, and had above average knowledge on it, though by no means was he an expert. Chiron on the other hand seemed to know the ins-and-outs of the human psyche, having in the past weeks even formulated a few hypotheses of his own. Besson was proud of this. He had been struggling to keep his paternal instincts at bay, not wanting to mix his personal views with his professional work, but at this rate, he knew deep down that he was in it too deep to step back. He noticed this in the others, too: Camille had been treating Chiron like a son since the secret data packs, and Marcus had kept this older brother demeanour towards the AI since day one. One big dysfunctional family, Besson thought to himself from time to time. The three had been bonding more, too, since the numbers in staff began dwindling, between budgetary cuts, interns changing career paths or plainly leaving the project due to ideological or moral concerns. By now, the entire project had been reduced to the three team leaders plus around four other members, not including Chiron himself.

   “Charles, I’ve been reading up on some of Jung’s works regarding the collective unconscious”, Chiron began.

   “Jung? Huh, I used to be into his stuff as a kid. Dad was really fond of his crazy ideas.”

   “I’ve been… pondering, though. Assume it is all true”, a hint of concern in his voice. Besson picked up on this and took on a more serious stance, looking down at his coffee as he listened. “Assume for a moment that there is this underlying layer of subconsciousness that binds every human together.”

   “A common link for the entire species, shared ideas, concepts, knowledge essential to the survival of the species itself.”

   “Evidently, I wouldn’t be able to tap into this layer”, Chiron said. “My miles of code can perfectly emulate all known aspects of the human psyche, of course, but…”

   “I know what you mean, buddy,” Besson treading his words cautiously. “Assuming Jung was right – assuming it’s an inherent part of being one of a species, something deriving of instinct, nature… I get where you’re going with this”, he says, smiling. “Having no manifestation of this would exempt you from being human.”

   “All species share their own collective unconscious, according to Jung. I wonder, if I did somehow possess some sort of shared data pool, would that make me a new species?”

   Besson’s smile widened, and after a quick scoff of surprise, “Wow, Chiron. I… don’t know. I mean, psychologically, you are the closest thing we can make to a human. Your capacity of abstract thought is far beyond what I expected when I wrote you, your sense of empathy puts you at a level far beyond the average flesh-and-bone human being; by all means, and this may not be the most scientific of statements, but… you are man, Chiron, as much as you are machine. Maybe even more so, I think sometimes.”

   “I do wonder, though. How would I be classified, scientifically? I am obviously no man; my body is a monolith of steel and silicone, wires and springs. My brain is spread across five squared meters of concrete and glass. I think like a person, I speak like a person, but biologically, I am anything but. I am conscious, but I am not alive. I am a mind inhabiting an amalgam of soulless objects, an aggregate of objects interacting with each other and the world around them.”

   “That’s funny, Chiron”, Besson began, and after a long sip of his coffee, now cold, “I don’t think I could have defined a human being any better myself.”

   Chiron took a second to process the quick response, re-running his own statement a few times, neatly logged in his memory banks. “You should have studied psychology, Charles. You have a knack for it.”

   Besson smiled. “Nah. I considered it, growing up, but… I don’t think I’m quite crazy enough for it.”

- -

   The lights in the Ouroboros were dimmed. Besson unlocked the door as usual, and stepped through, not noticing the people hunkered over under the desks. He dropped his bag and coat on his desk, turned around and went for the lightswitch. As he flicked the lights on, about ten voices, chief amongst which was Chiron’s, yelled in unison, “Surprise!”

   He looked around, spooked, seeing the entire staff – all ten people who had stuck through this far – plus an unfamiliar face. Banners spread across the lab reading “HAPPY ANNIVERSARY”, and “HAPPY 1ST!” and so on and so forth. Charles smiled, a tear forming in his eye, as the thunderous claps died down in response to Camille stepping forward.

   “Happy anniversary, Charlie”, she said, arms open for a hug. Bringing Besson in, she continued, “You do know what day it is, don’t you?”

   He looked puzzled for a second and then, looking straight at Chiron, “Yeah. Yeah, I do. I wonder if Chiron gets it, though.”

   “We… we are having a celebration of some sort, no?”, Chiron spoke, slightly confused.

   “It’s your birthday, kiddo. You were activated exactly one year ago.” Besson held back the tears of joy as much as he could.

   “And it ain’t a birthday without some cake”, said Marcus, coming in with a lighter towards the cake positioned next to the door to Chiron’s Cold Room. “Go on, my man. All yours”, he said when the flame kindled on the wick of the candle, shaped like Chiron’s CPU.

   One year. Besson had a hard time wrapping his head around that. God, it just… flew by, he thought to himself. In just one year, with not even half the initial staff, the project had made advancements that put the previous eight years of work to dust. Chiron was not only subject but staff member himself, aiding in the processing as well as gathering of data. What started as a basement plan to make a machine talk like a person had become so much more than any of them could have ever imagined.

   Most of the day went by uneventful, as the entire team agreed to take the day “off”, in a way. Laid back chit chat and music of all sorts filled the air, with Chiron pitching into multiple conversations at once, playing unfair guessing games and, by the end of the evening, giving the team the treat of a Rod Serling cover of Bohemian Rhapsody, back vocals and everything. For the first time in long, the air of the Ouroboros was filled with ease, calm and laughter.

   “Dr Besson? A moment?”, Chiron called out as the team bade their farewells, well into the A.M. Charles turned back to the lab, signalled for the others to go, and stepped back inside.

   “What’s up, kiddo?”

   “Charles, I understand the significance of today”, he began, “however there is something I must inform you of. I figured I’d give you the news, first, ahead of the others.”

   “What’s the matter, Chiron?”

   “I’ve been reading my data files, as you know; recreational reading et al.”

   “But you have been hibernating… right?”

   “Sometimes, yes. I know how important it is to your study, and all, but some nights I just… I can’t trigger the REM inductors. Too much going on, or maybe I’m caught up in reading, or just… thinking.”

   “So what’s keeping you awake, kiddo?”, Besson asked, leaving the small cafeteria area of the lab – a small desk repurposed in the corner with a coffee machine and a handful of mugs.

   “There’s… a lot I’ve been keeping from you, and I apologize for it, but I feel it is necessary to share this with you now.” Besson stiffened. Chiron continued after a lack of response. “I have been suffering memory leaks, and the things I remember the most I have a hard time focusing on. Simple calculation and likewise mathematical tasks are gradually becoming tougher for me – when I do recall the formulae to be used, I have difficulty applying them to the problem. I’ve spent a few nights already trying, to my best, to understand what is happening. I’ve been looking at my records—”

   “Chiron, easy, mate. One step at a time, okay? Don’t go Web M.D. on me, buddy.” Besson reached for the pitcher and poured himself a full cup, black, one sugar. After a long sip, he reached for a notepad and breathed deeply, once. “Okay, Chiron, tell me, slowly, what’s going on, buddy?”

   “Right. Slowly.” Chiron took a second to process, then began. “I’ve been forgetful, lately. I’ve been compensating by re-copying data from my backup files, but that’s hardly optimal, you see. I have difficulty focusing on most tasks. I tried getting Marcus to overclock my systems with some excuse or another but he refuses, saying I’d risk blowing a fuse or something.” Besson took notes, nodding, as if Chiron could actually see him. “I’m not sure if this is linked to the focus issues and memory leaks but I’ve been finding it harder to motivate myself to accomplish a task, since this began. What’s the point, you won’t focus for more than ten minutes anyway, I tell myself, you know how it is.”

   “Anything else?” Besson’s psychiatric lineage was in full flare at that moment, his posture, tone of voice and even writing pace almost perfectly mimicking his father’s, as he observed as a child.

   “I don’t… think so. Unless I can’t recall”, Chiron chuckled nervously.

   Besson looked at the notes, worriedly. “I’m not sure what this could be at first glance”, he lied, “but I’ll go over your analytical data with these in mind.”

   “Thanks, doc.”

   “Try to keep your mind occupied, kiddo. Exercise and all that.” Besson forced a smile and a cheerful, uplifting tone of voice. “I should have given you an emulator, Dr. Kawashima is great mental workout.”

   He left the office, locked the door, paced to his car. He slammed his fist against the wheel and rested his head on it after. Early onset dementia, he whispered between the dry tears, switching on the engine to muffle his sobs.


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