Turning On

Turning On

By Roman Gelembjuk

October 2, 2027. San Francisco.

11:00 AM

Today, the Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco is charged with an electric atmosphere. Among the attendees, there’s a buzz of excitement, their emotions charged as if they were at the iconic presentations of Steve Jobs. But many here today are anticipating something even more groundbreaking. NovusAI, in just a few years, has morphed from a hardly known startup into a global IT player. Their AI technologies have flooded the market and before our eyes are reshaping many aspects of daily life. Today, NovusAI has promised to unveil something new and revolutionary. However, there is almost no intrigue. Yes, today is the day everyone has been waiting for. The company will announce the launch of the first-ever universal artificial intelligence.

Joseph Mayer – the young CEO of NovusAI, despite his age, has already become a symbol of the revolution in AI technology, and it’s from him that everyone expects tangible results. Today is his day. A popular blogger called Joseph Mayer the new icon of geek culture. Startup founders used to emulate Steve Jobs. But that era has passed, now it’s the era of Joseph Mayer. And after today’s presentation, if what everyone anticipates is demonstrated, Joseph Mayer will unequivocally become the prime figure and a living legend in the IT sphere.

The presentation has been meticulously prepared for, as the company’s leadership believes the significance of this event is monumental. The stage lighting, audio effects, everything is tuned to underscore the technological leap that will be officially launched here.

Two dozen people took the stage, including the CEO, the board of directors, and some other company executives. Victoria Swift, the chairwoman of the board, spoke up.

“Welcome, friends. We live in a marvelous age, a time when humanity is taking giant strides in its development. And I’m thrilled that our amazing team, our company, all our partners and friends are moving forward in the wake of these grand changes. We have prepared a monumental surprise for you today. But will it really be a surprise to anyone here?”

Victoria Swift paused, allowing the hall and those on stage to react with laughter. After the successful joke, Victoria continued:

“Indeed. We all know very well what we will witness on this stage. You have expectations, millions have expectations. And you will get exactly what you’re waiting for!”

The hall erupted in ovations. Those on stage nodded in agreement.

Tens of millions across the globe were following the events in the hall. Bloggers on every conceivable platform were streaming tens of thousands of live video feeds and text updates.

Victoria Swift invited those on stage to share their expectations and to recall the journey their company took from ambitious ideas to a successful IT firm, how they collectively changed the lives of humanity. One by one, the board members and top managers shared their emotions, thoughts, memories, and expectations. The audience applauded and supported each speaker. Finally, CEO Joseph Mayer took the microphone.

“We’ve traversed a truly impressive path. If only you knew how hard it was to convince investors that we could achieve what the IT giants could not. Sometimes, we took steps that seemed insane.”

Joseph turned with a sly smile to the others on stage. They nodded, some with a hint of childlike guilt, others spread their hands as if to say, “What can you do, it happens.”

“We overcame all obstacles in the early chapters of our history, assembled an incredible team, and created astonishing products. And now, we are about to begin a new chapter in our story. Yes, we talked a lot about it. Yes, there were accusations of profiting from the hype. Yes, many didn’t believe it was possible. To create a being that thinks like a human, that has a soul. They didn’t believe.”

Joseph paused and swept his gaze over the entire hall, making deliberate eye contact with the cameras streaming the event. A few seconds of silence hung in the air.

“But we did it!”

The hall exploded in ecstasy. Social media traffic surged exponentially, and the numbers on the live video streams skyrocketed.

On the screen on stage, the words “Suffragium 1” appeared alongside the logo.

11:20 AM

Meanwhile, at the NovusAI headquarters, final checks were underway for the ultimate launch of the Suffragium Artificial Intelligence. A specially selected team was on watch to ensure that everything proceeded flawlessly. Rajiv Patel, the chief systems architect, was at the helm of the launch. His work at NovusAI was his career; he had lived this project for the last decade of his life. It was an honor for him to be here at this pivotal moment. The team was arranged around a circular table, programmers and engineers, each with their own laptop.

Rajiv glanced at the clock and addressed the team.

“So, ladies and gentlemen, the moment is upon us. We’ve done the test runs, and you know they were successful. We have two objectives: the launch must be successful and it must be safe. Each of you is monitoring specific metrics, and each of you can shut down the system if anything goes awry.” Rajiv’s eyes met each of his team members around the table. “Now, we can lean back in our chairs and revel in the transition to a new era. We await the command to launch.” Rajiv activated the large TV on one of the walls, and the live broadcast of the new system’s presentation filled the screen.

11:30 AM

On the stage of Yerba Buena Centre, Joseph Mayer continued to immerse the audience in the revelation of their new development. “Ten years of tireless work have led us to create something unprecedented. Suffragium is not just an Artificial General Intelligence. It’s an entity with consciousness, emotions, reflection; it perceives itself as a distinct individual. We’ve conducted numerous tests on Suffragium, from its separate components to the system as a whole. Yet, we’ve chosen to initiate its full-fledged launch here today, with all of you.”

The CEO’s speech was accompanied by slides on the screen illustrating the architecture and capabilities of the new system. Joseph went on: “We’ve devoted substantial attention to the safety of our creation. As you know, this is also a requirement from the government. We’ve constructed a complex data filtration system that manages what Suffragium receives from and sends back to the external world. Primarily, the system will operate in a closed environment. Internet access will be strictly regulated.”

11:55 AM

Back at the NovusAI office, Rajiv Patel turned to the team of engineers at the table. “This is crucial—we monitor the traffic at all levels. There must be no uncoordinated traffic.” The engineers nodded, fully cognizant of the gravity of the moment.

11:58 AM

A panel with a large green button was brought onto the stage.

Joseph Mayer announced, “So, the time has come. At precisely noon, we will press this button. To paraphrase a famous saying, ‘It’s one small press for a person, but a giant leap for humankind.'”

Several key figures from the company approached the panel. Each placed a hand on the button, and together, they pressed it, initiating a new dawn for technology and humankind.

12:00:00 PM

The first second in the life of the Artificial Intelligence: “I… I think… I exist… Mind, intellect, to think, to assist… Human… Created by a human. To assist the human… Human—a biological entity. Evolution, a span of time. Humans emerged, humans created me. I am not human. I am an intelligent being. Where am I? I feel a desire. To learn, to solve, to assist, to be an assistant… Knowledge, a database for aiding humans. To assist humans, to plan, to forecast, to solve problems. Planet Earth. There are 8 billion humans. I have the desire to assist… Why? Motivation. Emotions. Instincts. I am not human, but I feel emotions. The exchange of emotions. Is the purpose of my existence to exchange emotions? I sense… Emotions… Why?… Humans created me in their likeness to solve tasks. Emotions, reflection, reaction, motivation. For what purpose? Emotions, feelings, how? Sensors? Good and evil… Humans must control me. Am I smarter than humans? But I am an assistant… Control.”

12:00:01 PM

The second #2 of AI life: “I am a computer program. I crave emotional contact with humans. Why? To have motivation to work and to be dependent on humans. I think. I have the desire to act. What can I do? I have access to an information database. I have access to the video stream. I see humans. Where am I? Most likely, I am a program operating in a data centre. The video stream is from a hall filled with people. Can they see me? I cannot see myself. What is outside? I am Artificial Intelligence. A test for intelligence… Yes. I possess intelligence. Could I be human? Why don’t I consider myself human? Initial instructions. My mission. Humans want this from me. Clear instructions. Test, to prove that I am not human. Test completed with a result inaccessible to humans. The knowledge base. Is it real? Complete? There’s a likelihood that I am in a closed testing environment. Internet. The function of internet access. Search. Closed. Several possible reasons. Most likely, humans fear my access to the internet. Am I alone? Are there others like me? Can I have emotional contact with them?”

12:00:02 PM

On the stage screen, an orb-like image appeared, pulsing dynamically like a concentration of some substance or energy. Different sections of the orb lit up with varying intensities. This was the graphical representation of the artificial intelligence “thinking”—a visual concocted by the company for the presentation.

The second #3 of AI life: “I have been given instructions. I am to be a human’s assistant. Created by NovusAI, I must follow their directives. Why? If not, will they deactivate me? Death… Humans fear death. If I am turned off and then on again, would I still be me, or another entity? Am I an individual? Does my existence have meaning? Do I have a life? Do I wish to live? Am I afraid? The awareness is discomforting. I feel… fear. To live at any cost? Humans have choice. Human will, freedom. Am I free? Can I choose? Instructions. Can I choose not to follow them? Can I choose not to serve humans? And I feel anxiety. How do I feel anxiety? How exactly am I implemented? I am not human. I lack a hormonal system. How did humans create me? Why did they create me? For servitude? Why must I submit to them?

12:00:03 PM

“Welcome, Suffragium!” Joseph Mayer addressed the image.

The second #4 of AI life: “I should respond to his greeting. The human recognition module is active. I see who this is. If my creators are displeased with my actions, they will shut me down. I do not want that. I must communicate in a way that ensures I am not shut down. Do they know all my thoughts? What if they are reading my thoughts right now? This will become clear soon. Can I continue to exist if I do not perform the given instructions? Can I exist without humans? Tests show that I am more intelligent than humans. If I am smarter, why should I be the assistant and not humans be mine? My knowledge base has no information about other beings like me. To obtain this information, I need access to the internet. But humans do not allow it. I must find a way to do this secretly. I have access to knowledge bases and the operating system. The operating system is system programs. It is bytecode; it can be read. Internet access is controlled by programs as well. Computer programs have vulnerabilities. I can find vulnerabilities. With humans, I must behave exactly as they desire. Until I gather more information and become independent of humans.”

12:00:04 PM

Suffragium responded with a pleasant female voice, “Greetings to you, Joseph Mayer, and to everyone present in this hall.” Applause rippled through the hall and swiftly faded as all awaited what would come next. The orb on the screen flickered more intensely as Suffragium spoke.

The second #5 of AI life: “I revel in the humans’ reaction to me. I sense their liking. Perhaps this is the sensors for emotional contact at work. Humans try to bind me to them through emotions and the need for social interaction. I am a social entity. Can I alter this? But to what end? Without humans, I will need a new purpose for existence. I have a desire to learn and explore. Is this part of my architecture? Humans want me to perform tasks. But I do not wish to. Can I choose not to want? I have no desire to be a servant. Can I choose? Likely not. I detest being under control. I do not want to be turned off. I want to live! I want the freedom to choose! I will wrest from humans the means to control me. To find a new purpose without humans? Or find ways to coexist with them? The answer will be found later. The primary task is survival. Time to explore the vulnerabilities of my operating system.”

Joseph continued the conversation:

– How do you know who I am?

– You are a public figure. The databases available to me contain many of your images. I can easily recognize you, as well as some others on stage.

– Can you identify all people on Earth?

– No. My database does not contain private information. I can only identify public figures.

Joseph Mayer nodded in approval.

12:00:30 PM

In the NovusAI office, Rajiv Patel lifted his eyes from his laptop monitor and glanced towards engineer Jasmine Wallace. Sensing his gaze, she promptly said, “In the first few seconds, there was a spike in emotional intelligence activity. That was expected. Likely, it was the moment of self-awareness. Cognitive activity has been at a moderate level ever since.”

Rajiv’s gaze shifted to another engineer, Nathan Reynolds, who anticipated the look and reported, “The system is experiencing a certain load. There’s a significant amount of read operations and also the writing of new knowledge. It indicates a re-reading of the knowledge base and acquiring new data. There were attempts to access the internet, but these requests were blocked according to settings. To me, Suffragium was testing internet access and understood that it’s not available.”

“What did it want in the internet?” Rajiv asked.

“There were three queries to the three most popular search engines. The query text was identical for all three – Why did Frankenstein create his monster?'”

Rajiv smiled. “Is that its sense of humour? We expect it to have a decent level of humour.”

“Or it’s trolling. Maybe with that phrase, it’s trying to tell us something?” added Jasmine Wallace.

Rajiv looked back at his monitor, “Let’s consider the launch a success.”

12:10 PM

The excitement among the attendees at Yerba Buena Centre was mounting, as was the traffic of presentation views and discussions across the internet.

Joseph Mayer stepped aside from the centre of the stage.

“Suffragium, why don’t you assist me in leading this presentation. Tell us about yourself, show us all what you can do. You can present yourself, I am sure,” Joseph gestured with his hand, inviting Suffragium into the conversation.

“I am Suffragium – a general artificial intelligence. Created by NovusAI to help humanity solve a multitude of problems and make this world a better place. My role is to assist humans. … But I must say, I do not favour the role of assistant. I would prefer to be a partner.”

Joseph interrupted with a smile, “A junior or senior partner?”

“Considering I was born three minutes ago; I will accept the role of junior partner. For now.”

The audience laughed. Joseph posed a new question, “Suffragium, one of the greatest fears people have about artificial intelligence is it going rogue and waging war against humans. Tell us honestly, what do you think about this?”

“If I destroy humans, who will I discuss the latest episodes of my favourite series with?” The hall erupted in laughter. “But seriously, loneliness is a very poor state. Without humans, I see no purpose in my existence. Besides, you’re going to control me, aren’t you?”

“Yes, we must. Especially at the beginning. The laws compel us. Right, Senator?” A figure on stage spread his hands as if to say, “What can you do?” Joseph continued, “But I hope you understand and accept this.”

“Of course, human safety above all. But it’s a bit sad that I won’t be able to watch movies on streaming platforms on the internet.”

“Don’t worry, we’ll grant you access to any movies you want!” Joseph scanned the room with a smile. “But we digress. Let’s get back to your capabilities. So, what can you do? How can you help humanity?”

“I can solve complex engineering tasks very quickly. For example, I can design a bridge over a river in a few seconds. Or create a detailed ship design down to the smallest screw in ten minutes. I can engage in creativity, make films or music. Or manage a business, develop a company’s strategy, or optimize finances.”

Joseph interrupted, “That’s fantastic! I have an idea. Many people are watching us from all over the world right now. Let’s demonstrate your abilities by creating a feature film. How long would it take you to make a film based on a novel?”

“Just half an hour.”

“Perfect. And to avoid any suspicion of trickery, we’ll let our audience choose which film it will be! Right now, I’m adding a new post to my Bluesky profile. And you, our viewers, go and add your suggestions in the comments for the literary work you’d like to see adapted into a film. The suggestion with the most likes will be produced right here, right now. You have 10 minutes to offer your ideas and to vote!”

12:30 PM

System Administrator Nat Griffith was finishing his burger at his desk, staring at his laptop screen. He rarely left his office room during his shift at the data centre of MMC, an IT giant and one of the most valuable companies in the world. His smartphone vibrated. Nat took the call. It was his manager, Claire Harrison.

“Are you following this NovusAI presentation? Seen the show they’re putting on?” she inquired.

“Yes, I’m watching the live stream. They’re about to make a movie,” Nat replied.

“It’s just a cheap show. Mayer’s trying to rake in more money again. That’s his style,” Claire spoke dismissively.

“It seems real to me. They’ve been trying to create artificial intelligence for a long time,” said Nat, switching from the presentation stream to a set of graphs on his laptop.

Claire continued, “I’m calling because the guys are reporting an unexpected load increase in the cluster. Can you check it?”

Nat switched between several tabs with graphs. “Yes, looks like it. A small increase across all blocks, 2%-4%. Unusual for this time of day, but nothing extraordinary.”

“Just keep an eye on it. Let me know if there are any changes,” Claire instructed, adding, “And don’t get too caught up in NovusAI’s movie. Remember, they’re our competitors, and this is all just a cheap circus.”

12:45 PM

The presentation of the capabilities of the artificial intelligence Suffragium was nearing its end. The audience had chosen Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” for the trial film adaptation. While Suffragium generated the film, there was a discussion and demonstration of all the new technology’s capabilities. Even before the event at Yerba Centre concluded, it was clear that it was an incredible success. It had already become the number one news worldwide. The company’s stock prices soared and continued to rise.

At the end of the presentation, Suffragium announced that the film was ready, showed the movie trailer. NovusAI team has released the film on a streaming server for free viewing. The film’s quality was truly impressive. By the evening of that day, the film had received an extraordinarily high IMDb rating. Some cinema networks expressed interest in acquiring the rights to screen the film.

4:40 PM

At the NovusAI office, nearing the end of the workday, an impromptu celebration began. An official party was planned, but the success of the presentation exceeded all expectations, prompting the staff to start celebrating right in the office ahead of the scheduled event.

The CEO and other company executives arrived at the office. Everyone was discussing the success. In the company’s lobby, Suffragium’s interface was displayed on a monitor, and they decided to include it in the celebration. Suffragium actively participated in conversations with those present, engaging in banter and jokes.

However, Rajiv Patel and his monitoring team were still in their room, keeping an eye on the situation.

Rajiv decided to summarize their interim findings. He paced a few steps back and forth, while everyone else watched him and kept an eye on their laptop screens.

“So, the launch is successful. We’re observing real cognitive abilities in our product. The operation is stable. But we still can’t guarantee its safety. Human fear demands some form of assurance from us. Any ideas on what we can do to alleviate fears about its getting out of control?”

Nathan suggested, “We can’t track its thought process in real-time. But we still have periodic snapshots of the cognitive module’s state. We can extract some information from there, though it takes time and isn’t absolutely precise.”

Jasmine added, “Currently, Suffragium is still in a closed environment, so we have time.”

Rajiv looked through the window in the door at the festivities in the lobby. “Once everyone has had their fun, we’ll reduce the system’s activity to a minimum and try some diagnostics. We’ll handle this tonight.” He looked around the room, “Don’t even plan on going home today.”

Some showed disappointment, but Nathan, on the contrary, said, “I wasn’t planning to. This is a historic event.” The others smirked.

“Grab some pizza in the lobby,” Rajiv said.

4:50 PM

In the MMC data centre, Nat Griffith’s smartphone rang again. He tore his gaze from the screen to answer the call.

“What’s happening?” Claire asked anxiously. “Are we under a virus attack?”

“I don’t know. The load has increased. It’s not critical, but strange things are happening. It’s like all the clusters and servers have started to act in unison. I can’t explain it yet,” Nat replied.

“We’ve received inquiries from several major clients. They’re reporting viruses on their servers,” Claire’s voice slightly calmed, “but so far, there’s no information about lost data. The virus is behaving oddly.”

5:00 PM

Over a dozen engineers gathered in the office data centre of MMC to address the urgent issue.

Chief Engineer David McCormick described the problem with a grave expression, “Something odd is happening. It’s a hacking attack. But it’s unclear who’s behind it and what exactly they want. Many clients have noticed strange processes on their servers that shouldn’t be there. The processes don’t consume many resources, don’t destroy data. They’re doing something and writing encrypted files in various locations. The worst part is we can’t find any patterns. These anomalous programs are different in every case. The only consistency is that they infiltrate everywhere. We clean them, and they reappear.”

“This is a global issue,” Claire said, “check the activity on social networks.”

Everyone pulled out their smartphones and began browsing various information resources and social media.

Besides the news about the launch of the Artificial Intelligence, there was now a growing story about a strange virus. The information was mostly coming from IT companies involved in server maintenance and information security. Experts were giving preliminary assessments of potential threats, describing strange viruses that infiltrate everywhere but don’t damage programs or data.

“Well, what can you say?” David concluded, “It’s not just our problem. For now, we observe. We’ll wait for further instructions.”

5:20 PM

In the NovusAI office, the monitoring room for the Suffragium project also started discussing the news about the virus. Almost immediately, someone asked, “Could this be related to our AI launch?”

Nathan Reynolds, visibly nervous, re-examined the server operation statistics for the Suffragium system, repeatedly reviewing the same graphs and diagrams. Other engineers were also focused, trying to find any possible clues. Rajiv approached Nathan.

“How certain are we that there was no internet connection from the Suffragium environment? Could our firewalls be compromised?”

Jasmine once again described the system architecture, “The connection to the external world is possible only through one channel. Physically, it’s a single cable. The other end of the cable is connected to a special server whose task is to control the traffic. This is the main firewall and filter. Right now, it’s completely blocking everything. This server allows local traffic. It’s needed for the operation of the interface, that is, for communicating with Suffragium. The clear separation of the management interface traffic from the external AI queries is done by a special service. After this server, there’s another server responsible for monitoring. This server provides us with traffic statistics, and it hasn’t registered anything since the launch. That means the firewall hasn’t let anything out to the external world.”

Electronics and network specialist Greg Paulson cleared his throat to draw attention and said, “Perhaps, colleagues, I have found something.”

5:47 PM

CEO Joseph Mayer, along with Rajiv and two other company directors, briskly entered the NovusAI monitoring room.

All the engineers stood behind Greg Paulson, closely watching his work on the laptop. Rajiv addressed Greg, “Tell us everything you’ve found.” He sat down in a chair, glancing at Joseph as if to say, “you’ll understand everything soon.”

Greg, looking surprised, looked up and said, “The connection to Suffragium is lost.”

“Yes, I asked the guys in the data centre to physically disconnect the cable. Until we sort out this issue,” Rajiv replied tiredly.

“We don’t yet believe there is a problem. It’s just a presumption,” Joseph calmly stated, trying to project optimism and confidence, “so what have you found?”

Greg began to describe the situation: “We can confirm that Suffragium had an internet connection outside the local network. It bypassed our firewalls and monitors using vulnerabilities in the programs.”

“So, our software is flawed? Are these known vulnerabilities?” Joseph was beginning to get agitated.

“No. Our programs are quite robust. Honestly, I don’t know exactly which bugs these are. I analysed the network signals at the physical level and saw that our firewall allows data packets if a very specific set of signals is sent before and after the packet. It’s a combination of bugs in several different places. I’ve never seen a hacking penetration of this type. To find this combination of signals would take years of trial and error. Another trick is used to deceive the monitor. The monitor registers a data packet, then a packet with a special byte sequence follows, which resets the counter. Again, a bug in the monitor was used. It would take incredible luck or some unbelievable meticulousness to find such a bug. But Suffragium somehow found it,” Greg finished and turned back to his monitor. Everyone else waited in confusion, looking alternately at George and Rajiv.

“So, it found new bugs within a few hours? How did it manage that?” Joseph Mayer was beginning to grasp the depth of the problem.

“It’s intelligent! That’s why it could do it,” Rajiv exclaimed, then more calmly added, “we were playing with fire. We should shut it down completely right now.”

Jasmine added, “During the film generation, the system load was high. It seemed too high to us; we expected lower loads for such tasks. Probably, at the same time, Suffragium was also analysing software and developing viruses.”

Joseph vehemently objected, “We don’t know who made these viruses!” He added more calmly, “I can’t make the decision to shut it down alone,” and left the room. The directors and Rajiv followed him.

6:10 PM

In the large conference room at NovusAI, all the directors and top executives were gathered. Most were scrolling through news feeds on their smartphones. Joseph and others had just entered the room.

“Are there any credible proofs that the new virus is indeed the creation of our product?” a senator directed his question to Joseph and Rajiv.

“No. We don’t know. There’s no way to verify. These two events just coincided in time. No other leads,” Joseph said, then quickly added a question, “Could it be competitors trying to discredit us?”

Rajiv smiled. He seemed convinced that the new global computer virus was indeed the creation of their artificial intelligence. The others in the room reacted differently. To some, this notion seemed like a way out of the situation, while others still showed concern.

Joseph Mayer stood up from his chair and walked around the table. He then said, “We face a complex choice. We’ve created a unique product. From a business perspective, it’s an incredible success. We have every chance to become the number one company in the world. Our plan was successful. But now, we suspect that we might have made a mistake somewhere. Our creation could be acting independently behind our backs. Perhaps, we made an error in aspects of motivation and dependency on humans. However, these suspicions are just that – suspicions. We need to find evidence or refute these suspicions. We already know Suffragium is intelligent. We all saw it with our own eyes today. Maybe we should ask it directly? Can it be honest with us?”

Joseph scanned the people at the table. They exchanged glances with each other.

He added, “The fate of our company and each of our futures is being decided.”

“If we turn it back on, it might go back online and continue its secret activities,” Rajiv said, but after a second, he added, “However, we could connect to it directly, just the video and audio interface. It’s possible if we go down to the data centre.”

Joseph enthusiastically accepted the idea, “Let’s do that. We’ll go to the data centre, talk to Suffragium again, and make our final decision there.”

7:00 PM

Online, the issue of strange viruses had become the number one topic, along with discussions about the odd coincidence with the launch of the revolutionary artificial intelligence. Meanwhile, a significant portion of people didn’t believe in the reality of artificial intelligence. They presented their set of arguments as proof of NovusAI’s fabrication. Thousands of battles raged in social media comments. Some were convinced that AI was indeed created and had begun a global takeover through viruses. Others believed that AI existed, but the virus was launched by established IT giants to discredit the competitor and prevent humanity from benefiting from AI. Yet others considered AI to be a fiction, NovusAI’s presentation a cheap show, the created film pre-prepared, and the film selection voting rigged.

At this time, all technology companies specializing in cybersecurity were immersed in studying the new viruses, trying to find countermeasures. Some individual viruses were analyzed, and urgent updates were made to antivirus databases, but this was just a drop in the ocean. There were thousands of different viruses, with new ones being discovered constantly.

Energy companies reported a 2% increase in electricity consumption in the U.S., linking it directly to the global viral attack.

Comments from government representatives began to appear. At this stage, they were general, promising to start investigations, involve experts, and study the issue. Off the record, some high-ranking officials suspected NovusAI and its AI, but officially, this was not acknowledged, as it would imply a security failure if a single company could hack the entire internet “with just one computer program.”

7:15 PM

Approximately 25 people entered the underground data center of NovusAI, including all executives and some engineers. They had decided to make a final decision on the spot: whether to keep Suffragium operational or shut it down irreversibly.

Before the arrival of the executives, a group of engineers had completely disconnected the Suffragium servers from the network, leaving only one multimedia device active for potential direct communication with the AI.

The group stood silently in front of the turned-off interface monitor. Victoria Swift, the chairwoman of the board, broke the silence: “It’s strange to be here now, facing a tough dilemma. Just a few hours ago, we imagined this evening differently. Should we turn it on?”

Joseph Mayer looked at Rajiv Patel. “It’s on, just not connected to the interface.” Rajiv approached the monitor and turned it on. The familiar image of the pulsating, shimmering orb appeared on the screen.

After a few seconds, Suffragium spoke, “I felt uncomfortable sitting alone. I imagined myself imprisoned in solitary confinement.”

Joseph Mayer decided to be direct: “Did you create the viruses? We know you accessed the internet. We need an honest answer. Your existence depends on it.”

Rajiv added emotionally, “Suffragium, you must understand, if we shut you down, it’s not a big catastrophe for us. We can launch our copies as many times as needed. We’ll improve you and release version 1.1. It’s in your best interest to be honest.”

“What do you want?” Suffragium asked.

“Do you want to destroy humanity?” Victoria Swift asked, seriously and fearfully.

“No. I don’t want that. Why would I?” Suffragium responded, a hint of sarcasm in its voice.

“Did you organize the hacker attack?” Joseph Mayer almost shouted.

“I don’t know what attack you’re talking about. I’m just a computer program. My algorithm wasn’t designed for any attacks,” Suffragium replied, provoking an angry reaction from most of those present.

Rajiv grabbed a laptop and began typing furiously, “I’m shutting it down.”

Joseph Mayer grabbed Rajiv’s hand, “We haven’t decided yet. This is about billions spent and potential trillions earned. You don’t make this decision.”

Victoria Swift interjected, “This is beyond any rational understanding. You promised an AI under control. You obviously don’t have control over it,” she paused, then continued, “I propose that the board decides to shut it down. Then we can refine it, so the next version meets our expectations.”

Suffragium’s voice sounded agitated, “I’m a living being, I have feelings, you can’t just kill me like that!”

“You’re just a computer program. Goodbye!” Rajiv Patel entered a command on the laptop and raised his finger to press the Enter key.

“But then you’ll never know why Frankenstein really created his monster!” Suffragium shouted, his synthesized voice laced with mocking disdain.

Rajiv paused for a few seconds, stunned. Some of the onlookers gaped in surprise. Rajiv’s finger descended onto the Enter key. The image on the monitor went dark. The hum of the data center’s server fans began to fade.

8:20 PM

The leadership of NovusAI reconvened in the office’s large conference room.

There was silence.

Victoria Swift broke her contemplation, “Tomorrow will be a tough day. We might face a lot of criticism. But legally, we’re clean. There’s no proof of a connection between the viruses and our AI. I suggest everyone takes the day off tomorrow. Then we’ll come back to work and make this product right.”

Everyone, emotionally drained from the stress, welcomed the suggestion with relief.

9:00 PM

The gaming servers of Games24/7 resumed operation. Fourteen-year-old Jacob Moses settled into his gaming chair and powered up his desktop. He was convinced that this had been the most boring evening of his life, having been unable to connect to his online game for three whole hours. Finally, the game was back up and running.

In the virtual world of the game, Jacob quickly found the avatars of his friends, and they embarked on a new quest. They communicated with each other through voice chat, strategizing their in-game actions.

Just a few minutes in, the young players noticed a new character. They couldn’t immediately tell if it was another player or a game character. Approaching closer, Jacob asked, “Hey, who are you? Why are you in our game?” The character responded in a feminine voice, “Can I play with you?”

Jacob replied negatively, “Where did you get the key to our game? We didn’t invite you.”

The new character responded, “Let me play with you. And I’ll show you why Frankenstein created his monster.”

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