1726: Heroes and Villains – Chapter Eighteen, Part Two

Title: Heroes and Villains
Author: Horrible’s Igor
Media: Television / Movies
Topic: Buffy: The Vampire Slayer / Kitchen Sink
Genre: Supernatural/Drama
URL: Heroes and Villains (Now Defunct)
Critiqued by TacoMagic and Eliza

Hey, patrons, welcome back!  Gonna whip through it this week since my schedule is a bit tight, so let’s jump into this!

“What about the recap!?”

Sure, go for it.

“They talked about what they would do after they conquered the world.”

You done?

“Yup!”

Okay, let’s do this thing!

“This is Science Friday; I’m Ira Flatow. Big news in the world of technology and science today: Northern California tech company Salix Tech announced yesterday that starting in winter of next year, they’ll be unveiling a new line of products that will, quote, ‘revolutionise the industry in a way that nothing has before’.

This statement also solidified their company as the most vague since ING.

“In other news, Salix Tech’s subsidiary, Rosid Inc., stated that despite this news, they ‘would continue to provide the same products and services that they’ve always provided at the level of quality that their customers have come to expect.'”

Salix Tech is incredibly popular in Silicon Valley, having partnered with Apple and Google on big-name projects like the iPhone and the Google self-driving cars, but they have never released any products that are solely their own– but that’s going to change, apparently.

See, they’ve done things!  Real things!  With technology!

We managed to reach Salix Tech’s CEO Thomas Walt today, and we’re lucky enough to interview him over the phone for you listeners out there who want to hear more.

We don’t.  We really, really don’t.

Mr. Walt, welcome to Science Friday!”

“But still on a Tuesday!”

“Oh, thank you, Ira, it’s wonderful to be here!”

“In my own office, on the phone.”

His office is pretty amazing.

“The pleasure’s ours! So, your announcement yesterday has a lot of eyebrows raised, a lot of people are very surprised and interested that Salix Tech is fully jumping into the market, and with such bold confidence, too– I mean, it’s not often that someone claims they’ll change the industry completely, and with your track record, people are taking it seriously, but they’re also wondering what could possibly be coming our way in winter 2015, so could you give us any hints about what’s going on inside those double doors?”

Holy crap, take a friggen’ breath once and a while, Ira!

“Don’t most companies claim that they’ll revolutionize the industry.”

Yeah, marketing people overblowing the importance of a product is pretty common.  Not only should this claim not surprise anyone, it shouldn’t really impress anyone, either.

“Well, I can’t tell you everything, of course, Ira, but yes, I can give you a few little tidbits of information to assuage your curiosity a little bit.

Brace for vague!

“It’ll be interesting to watch Igor dance around trying to provide exposition while at the same time not knowing enough about science to actually say anything.”

And by interesting you mean…

“Vague.”

Right.

As you know, we pride ourselves on our superb R&D department, as well as our technical staff, so we have a lot of confidence in them that they can deliver what we’re promising.

And they’re promising to make…

“The thing!”

That’s bullshit.  The Thing was a product of space radiation.  Which, granted, itself is bullshit, but

As for what we are promising, well– it’s going to be a line of products, all under one banner, and we’ll be revealing them in full in January at our keynote address, and we plan to release them around November 2015, December at the latest.

“Aha!  They’re making products!”

Not just products, similarly labeled products.

I’m not going to list them all, but I can get away with telling you about the flagship product– no specs, of course, but the basic idea.

You know, a general idea.  Sorta like telling you something without actually doing it!

It’s going to be the world’s very first true artificial intelligence.”

*Taco snorts*

To be sold alongside the very first true Scotsman!

Technically the AI you get in video games is a ‘true’ artificial intelligence because it fits the criteria of being artificial and it is intelligent to a certain degree.  The word you were actually looking for was ‘sentient’ not ‘true.’

And that aside, within the Buffyverse, Salix wouldn’t even be the first to produce a sentient AI.  There were several instances of intelligent robots in Buffy and Ted was a good example of an arguably sentient robot.

“Artificial intelligence?! Really!”

“Yes, really, Ira! We’ve been working on it nonstop for a year and a half now, and we’ve very recently made a major breakthrough that we think will really expedite the whole process.

“It relies heavily upon aliens, but keep that a secret!”

Stealing alien technology to create artificial intelligence never ends poorly.

There’s still a lot to work on, don’t get me wrong, but I’m very excited to be able to finally tell everybody what’s rounding the corner over where we are.”

Yeah, the spent an entire eighteen months on something that large swaths of science has struggled with even defining for decades.  You would think they’d have more to show for their efforts.

“Wow, that is amazing stuff! Can you give anything more specific?”

“Apparently Ira hasn’t been reading the fic with the rest of us.”

The fact that Walt was even able to narrow their new product down to a large branch of technology was rather surprising.

“I can give you a little. Right now, we’re not completely sure what we’re going to call this product, but we have been polling our employees and people in the area for their favourite names from a small list, and right now the favourite is the Computerised Artificial Intelligence Network, or CAIN for short.”

So Walt thinks that being more specific is telling people what they’re going to call the product?  Wow, Willow hired a CEO nearly as stupid as she is!

“CAIN?”

“Yes; it’s a bit of a backronym, because, well, the people who came up with the list, they, uh, they liked the Biblical reference to Cain, the builder of cities.”

Because their employees are stupid and don’t really understand how to read.  We get it, Igor, it’s named Cain because it’s going to be evil.  But, here’s the thing, if this organization was actually trying to be anything other than a laughable parallel to Dr. Evil, they would have named it something that didn’t immediately make everyone worried that the AI would turn against them.  That’s like naming your new line of butchers knives ‘ER Visit.’

“So, is this an AI, or a construction robot?”

Come again?

“They named their AI Cain because he built cities.  Is this what they’re expecting the AI to do?”

I honestly have no idea.  Seems like a waste of an AI to make it do construction work, but I guess even an AI has to start as a day laborer sometimes.

“Interesting! They do know that Cain was also the first murderer, according to the scripture, and was marked by God for his sins?”

“Look, we name our things after evil people.  We don’t have to explain ourselves!”

In 2015, we unveil our new line of plumbing hardware: Mussolini Faucets!  They’ll always run on time.

“They do, yes, but they thought that also tied in nicely, what with AI’s current reputation among the populace, and especially with Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking, and they wanted to show that we can create AI that isn’t harmful to us, and can in fact help us find our way to a better society.”

And the best way we thought to do that was to name it something that would immediately make people wary of it.

“Cain’s reputation as a murderer wasn’t theoretical.  He actually did kill somebody in fit of jealousy.  So if naming the AI ‘Cain’ is tying it in nicely, what’s supposed to be the expectation?”

Maybe the AI will kill another AI and then spend a few decades wandering around before building a city and fathering a bunch of AIs who worship fire.

“And that will revolutionize the industry?”

To be fair, there isn’t really much industry for that currently, so, in a way, creating that industry is revolutionizing it.

“And you’re going to be shipping this to customers like us? How’s that going to work?”

A good question, because just sending an AI  in a box doesn’t really accomplish much.  And I’m not sure that many people would really buy a product like that.

“Well, we have a lot of ideas about what it’ll be able to do ideally, but realistically, shipping probably won’t be the word.

So, they’re making a thing without knowing what they plan to do with the thing, but already planning to sell the thing.  Igor, you have a wasted gift for marketing.  Only a marketing department can hold a thought process like that and not see anything wrong with it.

It’ll be more like setting up a network of stations. If customers choose to purchase it, we’ll set it up in their homes for a very low price, and… it’ll sort of serve as JARVIS in real life.

Seriously, we’re going to compare this to a failed search engine?

“Given the recent popularity, I’d bet this is actually a reference to Iron Man.”

Oh, right.

It will be able to manage the house by itself, tell you when you’ve got appointments and things like that, help you maintain a healthy lifestyle– all of this is up to the customer, of course– and it could even serve as just somebody to talk to when you’re bored or feeling a bit lonely.  All in all, it’s the housekeeper you’ve always wanted but couldn’t afford.”

“So are they developing a robot, or an AI?”

I have no idea.  Honestly, I don’t think Igor realizes that they are not mutually inclusive.

Also, if I’ve learned anything from Asimov, it’s not to trust inexpensive robots.  Simple robots that just pull stuff around cost around $250,000 each; a robot capable of full mobility, along with learning and accomplishing tasks is going to be much more expensive than that, at least at first.   If a robot is made unbelievably affordable, then there’s something else going on that you should be worried about.

“Yeah, speaking of affordability, have you got an idea for the price yet?”

“Well, not as of yet, no, but we’re shooting for around Apple prices,

“Apple released a robot?  I thought this was supposed to be the first.”

I did mention that marketing folk love spin.

which we think, and I hope you and everyone else agrees, is a fair price for such a sophisticated set-up while still being profitable.”

Eliza, care to furnish us with a marketing translation?

“More expensive than you commoners can afford, we’re just hyping this to get the rich dollar.”

“Yeah, definitely!

As a penetrating interviewer, it’s a good policy to agree mindlessly.  Better even if you do it when there was nothing to agree with.

So– you mentioned earlier that there are those in the tech world who are worried that artificial intelligence would do more harm than good; I’ve heard the phrase ‘A.I. arms race’ thrown around in the headlines. There are definite pros and cons of having a system like CAIN around, so what’s your take on it?”

The AI arms race is people competing to develop better AIs, which is the antitheses to your first statement.

“As it turns out, being a host of a radio talkshow doesn’t actually require a brain.”

Given what I’ve heard on radio talkshows, I can’t bring myself to be surprised.

“Well, those people won’t have to worry about CAIN suddenly being turned against humanity.

“The turn against humanity will be gradual so that people don’t notice until it’s too late.”

We’re not giving this technology to the government or any military research facilities, because we want to keep our tech firmly out of war’s reach.

Which is about as bullshit a promise as you can make for something you’ll be offering on the open market.  Just because you aren’t giving them this technology doesn’t meant they aren’t going to buy a few dozen and try to reverse engineer it, numbnuts.

We want to bring good things to the world, not bad things. CAIN will stay a product of the people.”

Is this just like how the Manhattan Project was a war deterrent?

“Will it be possible for CAIN to be hijacked in any way? Code is only as good as the people who write it.”

Yes, yes it will be.  There is nothing that can be built that can’t eventually be subverted.

“He’s going to say it’s impregnable.”

He is, and I’m annoyed in advance.

“That’s the beauty of CAIN, though. We’ll have our top software developers create a firewall early on before we run our first tests, and then we’ll make use of CAIN’s ability to learn to teach it to make its own code.

Which helps as long as the only attacks it gets are the ones it’s been taught to expect.  Though I suppose it’s a moot point since he’s going to be evil to start with.  Tampering with him wouldn’t really do any more harm than is already planned.

It will literally be protecting itself better than we could by the time it goes out to market. Since it has nothing to do but improve itself in its spare time, which it will have a lot of in the coming months, it can figure out tricks we haven’t thought of, and we could potentially just download this knowledge into its memory, so it can look for flaws and make better ideas.”

“How is it going to learn to do these things while protected behind a firewall?”

Magic!

“Ooooh, so this is where the Magitech stuff is entering in.”

“So, does it still count as an AI if magic is used to create it?”

I honestly don’t know, but probably not.

Wow! This sounds very optimistic for a first announcement. Do you think it’s feasible?”

Nope.  Which is why it’s here.  Igor needs his headcannon to have the best, most invincible, toys.

“Absolutely. Anything can be done if we try hard enough.”

Ahh the blind, ignorant optimism of a teenager.  Not yet crushed with the knowledge that yes, sweetie, there are things which cannot be overcome just because you want it really bad and try really hard.

“This is Science Friday, and we’ve been talking with Salix Tech CEO Thomas Walt. We’re gonna take a quick break, and we’ll be right back to answer your questions and delve further into the world of cutting-edge computer technology.”

“And in the next hour, Pointless Corner!  We delve into all the intricacies of things too trivial to be interesting!”

Sounds better than this program.

“Can you believe this?” Marlowe laughed. “Artificial intelligence is making its next leap towards becoming a reality, and it just so happens to be announced the same time Doctor Horrible is traded over.”

“Coincidence, I think not,” Xander nodded.

Well, I’ll give them this one.  Without knowing specifically how inept and unqualified Dr. Horrible is for programming even the most rudimentary AI, this kind of conclusion is otherwise reasonable.

“Well, presumably, they could use it to turn people’s own technology against them,” Marlowe mused, “but that would be very inefficient, as few people would be willing to do that, even at a low cost.”

“‘Buy our AI!  It’ll turn your technology against you!’ is a bit of a hard sell, even with value pricing.”

“Or maybe they set up their own to act as their, like, chief security,” Xander said. “They could use it to hold down the fort while they’re away doing villain stuff.”

Which is definitely more efficient than hiring security guards.

“They also said that it’ll spend all spare time improving itself,” Buffy recalled. “If it gets enough of that, it could become another Adam, minus the demon bits.”

For those wondering, this is a reference to Adam, a cyborg demon zombie.  He featured as the big bad in the latter half of season four.

“That’s not a very good comparison.  I would have gone with Moloch the Corrupter.  His consciousness was actually digitized and then later exported into a demon-robot.”

“First an Adam, now a Cain,” Marlowe muttered.

“But what about Moloch!?”

Apparently Igor wasn’t into Moloch.

“All Moloch wanted was to be loved!”

“Odd how these science types go for the Biblical naming,” Xander agreed.

Two data-points make a line!

“Okay, so, in theory, there’s a possibility they’re building a supercomputer that can teach itself anything it wants and figure out how to kill us all,” Buffy summarised.

And that, right there, is as long as this chapter needed to be.

“All the more reason to get them out of there ASAP. Do we know anything else?”

Other than that you’ve been sitting on your butts not doing anything productive for the last few chapters?

“They also know all about Californian literature!”

Glad they have Jim there to provide.

“Actually…” Xander said, “I do know one thing: Salix Tech was founded in 2006… but Willow wasn’t evil ’til 2007. Maybe it’s possible that she didn’t create it. Maybe she just stuck her stuff onto it and sort of assimilated.

Ew.

“Nine-tenths of the law is sticking your stuff all over the thing.”

I repeat: Ew.

Salix Tech might actually be genuine, but she’s using it for her own gain on the side.”

Just assume she’s somehow doing that.  You know, despite having to steal a few million dollars to buy some talent.

“Can she buy some competence next?”

Savage.

“So what you’re saying is that it’s possible that Salix Tech is just a conveniently-placed front for them,” Buffy said.

No.  Shit.  Can we actually cover something that you haven’t told the audience like ten times already!?

“Maybe,” Xander nodded. “And if that’s true– okay, I’m not stupid enough to think that CAIN is just what they said it was. They’re involved, but they might not be the company. It might mean we don’t have to take down an international giant; we just need those guys.”

“But, more important than that, is for the audience to absolutely not think about how Willow could have secretly taken over a multi-national company yet not be involved with them.”

“Alternatively,” Marlowe added, “if they are the company, and we can find proof… we might be able to enlist others to the cause.”

Yes, gather even more people to talk about what they should be doing.  Greeeeeeeeeat.

“What do you mean?” Buffy asked.

“Well, the flavour of the cycle seems to be scandals,” Marlowe said.

What about the cut of the jib?

“I’m wondering about the gist of the theme.”

“Perhaps we could find a way to emulate Mr. Snowden and, as they say, blow the whistle.”

*Facepalm*

That’s your plan?  Enlist Snowden to be your whistle blower?

“Igor needs more references!”

I’m having a difficult time deciding if the Willow team or the Buffy team is the more incompetent of the two.

Buffy and Xander looked at each other, eyes wide at the idea.

I know, I know.  We’re just as surprised as you are that Jim came up with something that monumentally stupid.

“I’m starting to suspect that his PhD was just honorary.”

“And both of these possibilities would require breaking into Salix Tech itself,” Buffy said.  “If they’re one and the same, we get info and put them out in the open; if they’re separate, then we go in and take them down ourselves.”

“No, if they’re separate, you’re guilty of breaking and entering.”

Crunchy always says, ‘You can’t make an omelet without breaking and entering.’

“He usually says that while standing in your kitchen at three in the morning.”

“I really like the one where we get the media to take them out for us,” Xander said.

That’s not really what the media does.  They spread information (and misinformation) amongst the population, who then decide as a mob what to do with that information.  However, I doubt that ‘This company is the front for an evil corporation!’ would raise any eyebrows.  We see that pretty much daily.

“Agreed,” Marlowe chuckled. “But both are possible.”

Plausible is another matter entirely.

“So then we know what our next move is,” Buffy declared.

“Talk about what your next move is or talk about the results of what you did were?”

That would require the fic to be honest.

“We need to gather as much information about Salix Tech as we can, then storm the castle before they can do anything, and hopefully before CAIN comes online.”

I notice that one of those things was the thing they determined they should be doing at the end of their last conversation.

“These rebel planning meetings always get hung up on the minutes.  I think we should form a committee to oversee the rebel board to make sure they are properly allocating time during the meetings.”

I have no idea if you’re being sarcastic or not.

“SCENE BREAK!”

“Alright, Mr. Code,” Doc murmured as he opened a file on his laptop, “tell me everything you know.”

Mr. Code?

Oooooh.

File Name: Prelim._NanBot_Code (8/25/14)

*Facepalm*

Seriously, Horrible?  You put “Nan” in the filename?  Sweet crap, man, at least pretend you know what you’re doing.

“SCENE BREAK!”

Seriously!?  What the fuck was the point of that-

SCENE BREAK!!

Sorry for the delay. My 7-year-old computer finally went kerplunk and money is kind of tight. Luckily, I have a brand new shiny one now, so the next kerplunk won’t be for a while.

Probably best not to tempt fate with brand new equipment before you’ve burned it in a bit.  Most hardware failures happen either in the first three months, or after five.

Side note: It’s been a little over a year since I first began this story.

Meanwhile we’ve been tearing this thing apart for almost ten months now.

“How the time flies when you’re being bored to death by dialogue!”

I thought I’d be keeping a faster pace than this…

“We hoped so, too.”

Yeah, the pacing in this thing is just awful.

but I’m happy it’s up at all, and that I’ve gotten feedback, however little.

And we’re happy you eventually came to your senses and pulled it down.

So let’s get back into the swing of things again.

-Horrible’s Igor

“Spoiler: he swings for only four more chapters.”

And with that, we’re done with chapter eighteen!  I’d say we’re in the home stretch, but ahead of us are some of the stupidest chapters in the fic.  Really, after this point, you can see a noticeable drop in coherency.  We’re reaching that point where Igor has completely run out of ideas and starts throwing every weird thing at the fic and hoping it’ll stick.  Things get quite desperate, the references really amp up, and Salix goes even deeper into try-hard territory.

“Oh.  Oh dear.”

Yeah, it gets really embarrassing to read.  Especially the part where Xander gushes all over how awesome Salix is.  Anyway, until next week, patrons!

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8 Comments on “1726: Heroes and Villains – Chapter Eighteen, Part Two”

  1. BatJamags says:

    It’s going to be the world’s very first true artificial intelligence.”

    I’ll start building the flotilla.

  2. BatJamags says:

    Computerised Artificial Intelligence Network, or CAIN for short.

    OK, now you’re just designing it to turn evil. I mean, Cain? Really? As in “and Abel?”

  3. BatJamags says:

    In 2015, we unveil our new line of plumbing hardware: Mussolini Faucets! They’ll always run on time.

    And in 2016, we’ll introduce our new line of automobiles: Stalin cars! They may suck, but at least everyone will have them!

  4. BatJamags says:

    The AI arms race is people competing to develop better AIs, which is the antitheses to your first statement.

    Which, if you’ve ever read Adam Smith or the like, should logically be a good thing because, y’know, it means we’ll have better AIs.

  5. BatJamags says:

    NanBot

    “NanBot?” You can just say NanoBot. It’s one letter longer. One.

  6. GhostCat says:

    It will literally be protecting itself better than we could by the time it goes out to market. Since it has nothing to do but improve itself in its spare time, which it will have a lot of in the coming months, it can figure out tricks we haven’t thought of, and we could potentially just download this knowledge into its memory, so it can look for flaws and make better ideas.”

    If IBM’s Watson is anything to go by, if they leave the AI alone with an Internet connection it’s just going to teach itself how to swear by reading Urban Dictionary.

  7. GhostCat says:

    To be sold alongside the very first true Scotsman!

    Someone’s been reading An Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments.

  8. GhostCat says:

    Ahh the blind, ignorant optimism of a teenager. Not yet crushed with the knowledge that yes, sweetie, there are things which cannot be overcome just because you want it really bad and try really hard.

    Shake that cane harder, there’s hooligans in yer yard! Maybe even a whippersnapper or three.


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