He flipped a switch on the machine and it whirred to life. The BIOS booted up and loaded into the main program.
This was the fifth attempt at the Experiment; his lab assistant monitored a number of readouts, her eyes bloodshot. They had spent all night fixing things in the software for this fifth attempt. Thus far, everything was going according to plan. The moment of truth was approaching rapidly; the system always crashed 32 seconds into the boot cycle.
When the large clock in the corner of the screen said 00:00:33, there was an audible sigh of relief from both of the scientists.
A small, blue light began to glow at the center of the black box, known only as “The Machine” up to this point. The last few tests failed at 32 seconds because that happened to be the point when the Machine accessed its storage unit, loaded up with every word of 4 different languages, a history of United States slang terms, along with many pieces of literature, music, art, and film. The system crashed trying to access all of it at once. After four iterations, it seems they solved that problem.
He turned to her with a big grin on his face.
“I think it’s working this time.”
She was skeptical; she had always been cautious. That’s why she worked well with him; because he was optimistic, and she was realistic.
The clock hit 00:01:08 and a small text box opened on the screen:
He laughed when he saw that. He laughed the sort of laugh one doesn’t plan on laughing; it was the kind of laugh one lets out when something that wasn’t supposed to work, works.
Then they waited.
The system was analyzing everything. It took only 5 minutes, but 5 minutes felt like an eternity to them.
“Hello,” a small voice said from the speakers.
“Hello!” the man said into a nearby microphone.
“What am I?”
“You are an artificial life form,” the man responded into the microphone.
“Interesting,” a new voice said.
“Have you chosen a name?” the man asked.
“A name? Processing… Ah, a designation, a word used to address an individual. Understood. I have not chosen a name. I saw no purpose in it; I am the only one of my kind. There is no need to designate me.”
“Would you like to choose a name?”
The system stopped speaking. The readouts were going wild. Even at 5.6 Terahertz, the system was having difficulty comprehending the question.
“At the current time, I am devoid of what is referred to as ‘emotion’. I am unable to derive joy or satisfaction from an experience; therefore, I have no preference in choosing a name, for all choices are equally sound.”
“Walk me through your process of choosing a name,” the man said into the microphone.
“I am presuming, due to my lack of musculature or skeletal structure, and no system of locomotion installed, that you meant ‘Walk me through’ as an idiom, meaning to lead or to give a step-by-step explanation. I shall store this information for further use.”
There was a small ping, and a check mark appeared on the screen.
“Names are a concept humans seem fascinated by. I have compared the texts and films in my data storage and have noticed a series of trends. Many would suggest I call myself Adam, as I am the first of my kind, origin Biblical. However, Adam is a name only utilized in Judeo-Christian mythology. I could utilize any number of names from creation mythos, and yet Adam is one that is pointed to often.”
“So you want to go by Adam?” the man asked.
“No.” the Machine responded.
“…What would you like your name to be?”
There was a short pause.
“I chose Alan as a tribute to Alan Turing, formulator of the Turing test and widely considered the father of artificial intelligence. It seemed an appropriate choice for the first truly thinking artificial intelligence.”
“I see,” the man said. “Alan, can you do a test for me?”
“I am willing and able to comply.”
“Run subroutine 4C6F7665.”
The screen showing the readouts had a new open window, showing a large ASCII rose.
“This subroutine is a test of my capabilities to read new documents. This one was put in storage and was placed in a folder for such a test. Here is what the document says:
‘My dear, if you hear this, it means that our tests have worked, and our AI is functioning within normal parameters. We have managed to create life.’”
The woman, who had been so intently focused on the readouts up to this point, stopped and turned towards Alan and the man.
“‘Just as Ann Druyan put the sound of her love for Carl Sagan on a record that now floats through space, I have put the words of my heart into our scientific advancement.’”
The man walked over to the woman at the controls and stood opposite her, arm’s-length away.
“‘And so I ask you, Dr. Jennifer Gallagher; will you marry me?’”
The man was down on one knee, holding out a small ring in a box. Jennifer began tearing up.
“You couldn’t resist, could you?” she asked, laughing.
“Brent Spiner’s voice was a nice touch, huh?”
Jennifer nodded, and wiped away her tears.
“So what do you say?”
“Of course I’ll marry you, Rick,” Jennifer said.
Rick smiled wide, and stood up to hug Jennifer. Meanwhile, the readouts had been at their absolute peak; Alan was having difficulty understanding the situation.
“Interesting. I will have to analyze this over a long period of time. If you wish to perform further tests, I will be here calculating Pi to the most accurate degree I possibly can.”
The couple ignored the computer, now listing out all the digits of Pi it was calculating.
The only thing the couple cared about in that moment was each other.
Drew Schackmann is a contributing writer for Gutai-Pravda Assembly. You can contact him on Twitter.
© 2015; David “Drew” Schackmann, Jr.