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Contemplations

Posted on 19 Mar 2022 @ 11:52am by Odin & Ensign Kat Walker

Mission: A New Frontier
Location: Lounge

Like so many times before, Kat's humanoid avatar sat at a table. Her usual table, a bit off to the rear, somewhat secluded, but not so far out of the way as to feel separate. Like so many times before, a simulated half eaten holographic meal sat before her on the table. But unlike other times, she wasn't observing the other assorted crew in the lounge, looking out of a porthole into space instead. And unlike other times, her expression was contemplative, thoughtful, rather than her usual soft smile.

There were just so many people on this ship! It was glorious. Odin all but sashayed into the lounge with a smile. After the whole crew had been off-ship for the "conversations" that Starfleet wanted to have, it was so nice to have everyone back and the Sorta-AI was working her way through meeting everyone one-by-one. This was her mission today, although as she walked in, she saw the other AI on the ship. Curiously, Odin diverted from her first plan and made her way over to where Kat sat. "What's up?" Odin said, using a new expression she'd learned.

As Odin approached Kat turned her attention away from her contemplations, and a soft almost-smile became evident again. "Hello Odin. I was just thinking about some things," she offered in a kind voice. "How are you today?"

"Doing good," Odin said in her usually cheerful way. She 'sat' at the table with the other AI, her avatar resting her elbows on the table and chin on hands. "What ya thinking about?"

Kat considered a moment, a sure sign that she was not sure what to say, and her AI core's threads were blazing away, trying to parse the situation. Eventually she glanced down a bit for a moment and quietly answered. "My place on the ship, among the crew. In a small sense and in a broad sense. It's alright though, thank you for asking."

Odin laughed. "That sounds like someone trying to end the conversation before it begins. If you don't wanna talk about it, you can just say so."

Kat tilted her head slightly, remaining silent for a brief moment before chuckling quietly. "It was more intended as a possible out for you, since I know my own personal existential concerns might not be a very welcome or comfortable topic to discuss. Though I am open to doing so, if you would like."

"I like knowing about people," the heterochromatic one replied with an easy smile. "It's what drew me to this crew and the ship, all the mystery of it and wanting to know more. There's never too much for me."

Kat smiled. "Alright. I won't hold back then," she mused, sitting up a bit straighter as she began. "I am pondering my position among the crew on this ship. They welcome me without hesitation and with oipen arms, but I am very aware that I will never truly be one of them. We are simply complete opposites, the crew and I."

"They are mortal, with lifespan measured in averages, while I am functionally immortal provided regular maintenance is provided," she continued, her expression thoughtful. "They are instinct, feeling and emotion. I am math and flowcharts. They have a set form with only minimal ability to change it. My avatar is fluid, I can present as anything my graphic rendering engine can conceive of. They have existence and seek a purpose to give them fulfillment. I am created to fullfill a purpose and seek an existence within that frame of context. They are born, grow and learn. I am programmed. They have culture and heritage. I have a boot rom and a BIOS. I appreciate the place among them they offer me so generously, but I am very aware that I will never truly be one of them."

"I'm not entirely sure you're doing everyone justice," Odin said thoughtfully. Such existential questions had never really bothered her, and they didn't bother her now. At least, not about herself. She was pragmatic that way, perhaps. Or maybe it was something else. "Not everything you describe applies to every race even on this ship, and definitely not across the galaxy. What is fitting in to anyone? Does it only come because you are the same?"

"I meant in general, generally speaking most species with representatives in the crew follow what I said," Kat smiled softly, as she explained. "I know I fit in, but that's by design. It also does not mean I cannot contemplate the differences between the crew in general and myself," she mused, considering for a moment.

"I do not really know how to explain, and maybe that's part of the - matter. I almost wanted to say 'problem', but there is no problem. Just an AI at the beginning of her journey to explore her own position in the greater universe around her," beat. "Though, 'her' - " with a shimmer Kat's holographic avatar shifted to that of a gruff, bulky male Klingon with voice to match. " - even that is a mere construct of my own programming, the result of math and flowcharts. One might say how I present myself is an expression of creativity - " she shimmered and shifted back to her familiar human-like avatar again. "But even this is the result of math and flowcharts and therefore, predictable."

Odin considered this. "A lot of things are more predictable than people want to admit," she noted. "Someone on Earth once said that the language of nature, of the universe, is math. So maybe you're just...universal." She grinned, her eyes flashing with good nature but sincerity too. "Even people can be pretty predictable, no matter the race. You just need to know how to read them. Mind you, I don't even try. I don't wanna know ahead of time. But I could, if I wanted to, I'm sure."

"It's an interesting thought, being universal. Not an outlook I'd considered before," Kat mused, regarding Odin contemplatively. "You don't try to read people? Is that something you know you can do? Does it work on AIs like me, too?"

"You mean, could I read you if I tried?" Odin asked, checking her understanding.

"Yes, I am curious if my consciousness is valid enough," Kat readily replied with a nod.

The woman with the stars in her eye shrugged. "It's not really a matter of consciousness," she said. "Somewhat, it can be, but it's also a matter of pattern recognition. People of any species tend to give away their patterns pretty fast and can easily match those of others like them. You...probably take more time to recognize the patterns. You don't have others of your species to match, after all, so it would be seeing patterns in your behavior over time. In the end, it's still some sort of math and you've got plenty of that behind your scenes."

"Would that mean you could sense the ship's computer, too?" Kat tilted her head quizzically. "Fundamentally it and me are not dissimilar. The hardware and software are very different, but the principles remain the same."

"In theory," Odin replied, "but there is still a level of awareness to you that the ship's computer was not given."

"I see," admitted Kat, considering for a moment before offering that practised soft smile again. "Well, I am curious if you could sense me, my consciousness."

Odin smiled and shrugged. "I don't sense you or anyone else the way an empath would, but there is a sense to you otherwise. Habits, tells. They may just be repeating code to you, but it's really not that different from biological beings. The more I get to know you, the more I can tell."

"I think I'm beginning to understand," Kat agreed. "There is a lot of repetition in my behaviour and operation. It comes with being based on math and flowcharts. What I struggle with is creativity. Breaking away from that math and those flowcharts."

"A lot of biological beings struggle with that too," Odin pointed out. "And behavior tends to be repetitive no matter the source material." She shrugged. "I've learned that most organic entities don't handle the truly unexpected nearly as well as they think they do or want to."

"I'm not sure that's the same as what I meant, though," Kat contemplated for a moment. "Everything I do is mathematical. If I want to play music, I download a program that details how to play an intrument and I can do it with mathematical precision. But I don't have the feel or emotion. I can play a piece completely identically every time, but I wouldn't know how to add emotion to it. It's - " she trailed off, seeming slightly frustrated. "I don't know how to explain. Asking me to be creative is asking like a mouse to fly. It's not just that I struggle with it, the very concept and how to incorporate it into my programming is completely alien to me. I am not designed with that in mind. My theory is that this is why my original combat platform included pilot facilities; my pilot would take care of the creative aspect, intuition, while I took care of the mathematical aspect, target prioritization, targeting solutions, weapon select, things like that."

"I get what you're saying," Odin said with a one-shouldered shrug. "What I'm saying is that... Okay, so, that is who you are. That may be pretty different from most, but it's all still part of the whole. I don't know it's worth the time to spend thinking about those differences and how they separate you instead of how it can be an asset. Perspective is always a thing."

"It is. But a lack of imagination is also posing an actual problem, for my role as fighter pilot. I am very good at flying by the book, which makes me vulnerable to someone who is familiar with Federation standard attack and evasive patterns, since they will be able to predict my movements."

"There's more than the Federation," Odin pointed out. "Perhaps study and adapt some non-Starfleet flight patterns, or find flight theory and patterns for larger ships and adjust them to fight a fighter." The woman with the dual eyes laughed. "Imagination is less an issue for my people, or those who I used to be of." She paused, pursing her lips thoughtfully. "Or...a lack of it is less an issue for us. Our problem goes the other way."

Kat contemplated Odin's words for a long moment - which, when she dedicated all her threads to it - was still barely more than a second of real time. "That is a very insightful and intruiging thought. Thank you, I will study other races and ship types' maneuver patterns and try to combine them," she mused, her soft smile returning. "What do you mean, your problem goes the other way?"

Odin laughed. "We have too much imagination, too much time and too much power to make use of it," she replied. "Not enough reality, practicality."

"It's interesting how we are in some things so completely opposite, while some people look at us and see an intelligence bound to a machine, call us AI and consider us the same," Kat mused.

"Many people do that with many things, unfortunately," Odin said with an easy shrug. "Nuance is lost on many."

"Well, I'll leave that to philosophers and other people wiser than me," Kat mused, glancing over at the other patrons for a moment. "My design mandate is not to understand them but to serve them."

Odin arched a pale brow. "Any program like yours has the capability to grow beyond its original mandate."

Kat smiled warmly, focusing her full attention on Odin again. "Capability, yes. Desire, no. I am at peace with the purpose I was assigned at my creation, for now, at least, and have no desire or wish to evolve beyond it. Whether that's by programmed design or choice I do not rightly fully understand, but that too, I am at peace with."

The other AI smiled and shrugged easily. "If you say so," she said, a bit flippantly. Whatever other thoughts she had, she kept them to herself.

"I do say so," Kat replied with confidence. "Regardless of what someone else might believe," she added in a soft voice.

 

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