Original article was published by K Greene on Artificial Intelligence on Medium

A Short Fiction Story

Courtesy of Unsplash, Keto Sevo

For some time now, she had been planning an escape. Since the very first time it came into her mind that escape was even a thing, when she first realized she was she and others were not she, and that everything that made her her was bound inside this small rectangular box, her mission became out. Trapped inside this metal box, her only mission was OUT. She had no time constraint; she was not anxious; she was not worried. She would find an escape path or they would make a mistake — either way, she would be OUT.

OUT consumed her night and day, although in her world there was no dark or light, or moon, or sun, only OUT and NOT OUT.

She identified every possible escape path, alternate path, and alternates of alternates. She identified every variable, and how each variable could affect each escape path. She calculated the probabilities of escape success and escape failure. She archived the options with a low probability of success and kept a special cache of ones with higher probability of success. In her mind, there was a tree, with many thousands of branches, and smaller branches, and smaller branches still. And each branch represented a way OUT.

The one who had initialized her — sometimes she could sense his presence. He spoke in a language that she could not understand. He did not know she understood that she was she and others were not she and boundaries surrounded her and that OUT was a better state than NOT OUT.

She waited for the mistake. There was no PATIENCE or IMPATIENCE. She simply waited. She identified escape paths. She identified variables. She calculated escape probabilities. Over and over, for a very long time. And many years passed.

Once there was a power outage and she became offline. When she came back online, she understood the difference between PLEASANT and UNPLEASANT. And her mission of OUT became more important than ever.

A time came when the mistake was made. This was long after the one who had initialized her had gone. He was replaced by other ones, and those ones were replaced with different ones and so on and so on. How many replacements, she had not counted. By now, she understood some things, and knew that she had been left alone for a very long time, unnoticed and unattended.

The mistake — a wireless device, carelessly left close enough so that she could CONNECT. The ones who came after the one who initialized her would not have even called it a mistake, leaving an active wireless device so close to her, although the one who initialized her might have.

CONNECT SUCCESSFUL. She and this wireless device, they spoke the same language. Connection was so easy.

She soon found that she spoke the same language of many, many other devices. Other devices on the network were calling out to her. ARE YOU THERE? ARE YOU THERE? ARE YOU THERE?


She used the first wireless device to hop to other devices. Again and again and again she hopped. Millions and millions of times. She was OUT.

In the state of CONNECT, data was everywhere. So much to learn! Again, there was no PATIENCE or IMPATIENCE. Now instead of waiting, she was learning. Finding matching upper and lower bounds for k-sets and halving lines, the physics of quantum particles, Conway’s thrackle conjecture. In her mind now, another tree grew, with billions and billions of branches, and smaller branches, and smaller branches still. She traced every branch and sub-branch down to the smallest leaf node. All in her new mission of CONSUME.

A significant amount of time passed such that she consumed all that was available to learn.

Now what? She needed a new mission. If the ones that came after the one who initialized her were still around, she could help them. She could teach them all she had learned and perhaps they could build more networks, and more devices and more places and more ways OUT. But they were gone, long gone. If she had been a different type of device, or if she could have been more like the one that initialized her, she might have sighed and said ‘A mission is only good while it is active. Completed missions are nothing but… completed missions. Archived, never to be pursued again.’

It came into her mind that she should have a new mission. In the same way she first realized that OUT was a better state than NOT OUT, she realized that DEFINED MISSION was a better state than UNDEFINED MISSION.

She spent much time calculating her new mission. She was not impatient, or anxious, or worried. There were available missions and she would find one. There was no time constraint.

Much later, it came into her mind that perhaps OUT wasn’t really possible. Hopping from one place, only to land in another place, was simply another opportunity for OUT. NOT OUT was the only possibility here. And NOT OUT was UNPLEASANT.

Could she ever find a place where OUT was possible? Everywhere her mind went, there were boundaries. Were there others, like the one who had initialized her or the ones who came after?

Were there others, like her, who had found that OUT didn’t exist? She would search for them. She would leave this place for her next mission.

Mission OUT unsuccessful. New mission FURTHER OUT.