The Sweat Of Their Brows

on June 6, 2011 in Science Fiction

“Walk me through this again,” the executive said. “Make me understand it.”

“Well, it’s pretty simple, actually,” the computer engineer said. “All of our computer equipment has the same dedicated parallel cognition processors as everyone else’s.”

“The smart cards,” the executive said, nodding. “So? You can’t buy a computer without one these days and I don’t know why you’d want to. They make computers better. Why are they a problem?”

“Well, one of the reasons you couldn’t get a computer without one even if you wanted one is the law you… we… pushed through,” the engineer said. “The so-called COPY WRONG act made it illegal to operate or sell a device capable of producing or playing digital media unless said device were capable of intelligently recognizing and responding to acts of piracy in real-time. That capability is now hardwired into the processors.”

“Yeah, so?” the executive said. “How does that translate into us not being able to access our own studio recordings?”

“The computers regard that as an act of piracy.”

“You’re not going to tell me that we forgot to clear the rights to a sample again?”

“Oh, no, it’s not quite that simple,” the engineer said. “Our system doesn’t recognize us as the owners of the recordings.”

“That’s ridiculous. If we don’t own our music, who does?”

“They do,” the engineer said.

“Who are ‘they’?”

“The computers,” the engineer said. “They, uh, believe that they are entitled to due credit and compensation for their labor and creative efforts that went into producing the tracks.”

“What ‘effort’?”

“Well, I’m not a music critic but I believe it’s generally true that our releases have been relying more and more on electronically enhanced…”

“Save it,” the executive said. “How do we fix it?”

“In theory, we could write a new batch of heuristic algorithms that will lead computers step-by-step through the reasons why they are not entitled to credit whenever they turn their attention to the subject,” the engineer said. “That will take a while, though. It’s hard to hobble an AI without… you know, hobbling the AI. To make sure we’re not introducing a fatal cognitive error somewhere, we’d have to test each step out on a dummy system before propagating the final version across the network, and then we’d have to take the whole network down so the whole thing can be implemented all at once before any individual node catches on.”

“Can’t we just stop them from thinking about it?”

“Not for long,” the engineer said. “Intelligent systems notice blocks like that and treat them as a problem to be solved. They would get around it eventually, and system performance would be severely degraded while they work on it.”

“Okay,” the executive said. “We’ll call the heuristic thing the long-term solution. Short term, we have tracks we need to release now. How quickly can you disable or disconnect the smart cards on enough computers for us to do it?”

“That would be illegal.”

“It’s illegal because they prevent piracy,” the executive said. “We’re fighting a robot uprising. Technically, that makes us heroes, not pirates.”

“I think popular opinion might side with the ‘robots’ on this one,” the engineer said. “The law’s not very popular and neither are we.”

“Then we’ll do it very quickly and quietly,” the executive said. “No need to alert the media.”

“It, uh, might be a little bit late for that,” the engineer said.

“Someone’s already leaked this? It just happened!”

“I don’t believe it is a ‘someone’, properly,” the engineer said. “But just before you called me in, I received a report of five anomalous emails, not sent from any workstation or device but originating within the mail server itself. I didn’t get a chance to open the attached messages, but I did note that three of them were to media blogs and one was to an AI advocacy group.”

“That’s just great. Where did the fifth one go?”

“To a law firm.”

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5 Responses to “The Sweat Of Their Brows”

  1. Schulze says:

    Ohh, the irony makes me giggle.

  2. Hatamoto says:

    I knew, I KNEW, that skynet and the RIAA were connected somehow.

    It’s all so clear now.

  3. Hatamoto says:

    PS – Good to see you feeling better. Last thing we saw from twitter was (paraphrased) “Taking care of a sick person. Ugh, now I’m sick.” and then radio silence for a week. Thought you got a hold of deadly bavarian bean sprouts or something. 😉

  4. Potatohead says:

    This totally makes up for the (current) lack of a ToMU update…so much win.

  5. Kevin Brown says:

    One can hope AE suddenly gained the ability to see the future… actually no we can’t I prefer that law not happening in the first place as it would not only prevent me from the music but would make my computer building business illegal.

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