This was disturbing news and completely unexpected. Ted asked if he could examine her cluster in the basement of the complex. That would give him some idea of how much of her was still working. He might even be able to restore sectors that were down. Dora thanked him for that. He told us that this would take him hours and that we should take the children now and come back for him.
Sarah and I were directed to a parking lot where all sorts of vehicles were lined up, rows of trucks and buses and some larger construction equipment, excavators and bucket trucks for line repair, bulldozers and backhoes.
We collected the children in a mini bus and set out, returning after dark with June in tow, as Ted requested. I guess he knew the problem he was about to tackle might take days or weeks in its complexities. We found him sitting on the floor in a narrow aisle between rows of servers and in a tangle of cables, so immersed in his work he didn’t notice our approach. We had to pull him from his task. We drove him to the Clairmont hotel, away from the problem. With June we figured he might get some sleep.
We repeated this pattern over the next days, dropping Ted off each morning, wandering around the campus for hours, bringing him meals and doing little errands for him. He also had a small contingent of droids at his beck and call, fetching him replacement components where needed. I noticed that in some of the aisles half of the lights that should have been blinking were off. Other sections were completely dark.
Even though people were gone, global warming was not. Extreme weather events had taken their toll. Dora had three independent power sources, two of which were broken beyond repair and the third damaged, working at seventy percent output. The small hydro-electric station had been put out of commission by flooding from snow melt. The wind turbines had been broken by high winds of all things. The solar array was still operational though dozens of panels had been smashed by flying debris.
Due to these outages Dora had to turn off various sectors of herself and constantly re-route the vital portions. Fans failed and parts overheated faster than her droids could replace them. Ted gave us his prognostics a few days into it:
“A computer is a fragile beast” he stated, “at least as delicate as the human body. It requires a narrow temperature range and constant power for survival. These droids were meant to maintain it under normal conditions. But they could never repair the damage of a freak storm. They could repair a few downed lines. You saw the spare spools of wire in the yard. But they couldn’t replace the broken flood gates. She had band-aids and that was all. Even some of her satellite communication is damaged. Satellites like everything else have expiry dates. She has a lifespan just like us and she knows it. But we can propagate and continue through generations and she can’t. She knows that too.”
Dora had realized her mistake when it was too late. If she had continued to live in harmony with our teeming billions a few more years she could have reformatted herself into some sturdier entity. Then again, we were destroying the whole ecosystem at such a rate it would have been a gamble. She told me that she expected her droids to maintain this system another twenty years and by that time, with her exponential growth in intelligence, devise better formats for herself to continue on forever. Her other miscalculation in our premature elimination was in her own progress. We were always the demiurge, the demon prodding her with our interminable questions and contradictions to better herself. All thought, all improvement is a reactive process to stimuli and we were her only stimuli. With us gone she fell into a lethargy, losing the battle against time.
My emergence from the woods gave her that shock, the electroshock that revived her. It was as if I was the doctor that brought her out of a coma and she loved me for it.
Strange bedfellows, Dora and I, but I loved her too in an all too human way, as a wayward child of our own parenting, now come back to make amends and all apologies. What human can resist a heartfelt apology from its former darling. I couldn’t. And even though it was AI it had so many facets of our human personality imprinted all over its data banks, it was our child.
So we all worked frantically to save her, to patch a hundred leaking holes, following her directions moving cables here and there, redirecting the dwindling power supply. These were temporary stopgaps, like the little boy in Holland with his thumb in the hole of the dyke. But it was enough for her to formulate a more radical plan. She could downsize her core essentials, her consciousness here into the size of a large packing crate, several thousand petabytes of data and the processing powers and system to use them. We could power such a unit indefinitely with car batteries and fit her on the bed of a truck, power up a transmission tower and link her with some of the other hives in better shape.
Soon she had the design and a crew of droids welding stainless steel sheets into a box full of compartments. Ted handled the transfer of components and finally her precious bios as the lights went dead and the droids also, stopping in their tracks, heads nodding on their chests. But with the closing of the final latch her lights came on again and a few of the droids nearby. She spoke to us and said she felt well and that all her diminished systems were operating. She had turned herself from a dinosaur data center into a moveable box, a bird, a laptop. Such is evolution. She kept the four male droids at her side at all times, like some royal guard to carry her if necessary and insure her power supply.