Heartburgh Episode 2: Part 2

Geoffrey lay on the couch with his eyes closed, waiting for the raw egg to take effect. Back on World of Battle, healing potions started taking effect instantly, and there would be a health meter showing him that it was working. Here on Krim, there were no indicators. All he had to go by was the pain in his head, and the ache throughout the rest of his body.

Next time he was off-world, he was going to leave a very strongly-worded review about Krim. And he had some suggestions for usability improvements, too. First, Krim should do away with the hangovers. Alcohol was the only thing that made Krim tolerable. Punishing people for drinking was a bad design mistake.

Geoffrey moaned.

“Hold on, I’ll get you something to make you feel better.” Geoffrey heard Flame get up and leave the hall, the heels of her boots clicking against the stone floor. A minute later she was back, putting a cool, damp cloth on his forehead.

It did make him feel better. And Geoffrey noticed that nobody else offered to help. If anyone was going to help him get back to World of Battle, it would be her. With Olav as a backup. He did bring Geoffrey the raw egg, after all.

Happy to have both a plan and a backup plan, Geoffrey relaxed, and, as he did so, he noticed that his head didn’t hurt as much anymore. As the pain receded he noticed that Flame and Abigail were having a conversation. They were keeping their voices down, possibly in deference to his headache. Or maybe for privacy.

“I’m thinking of going north this afternoon, towards Cleig Grijan,” Flame said. “I haven’t been up there yet, and would be nice to get to know the local elders.”

“I might join you,” said Abigail. “Or I might hold an evening service tonight in the chapel.”

“Are people starting to attend? I’m so happy for you.”

“No, not yet,” said Abigail. “Maybe you can come.”

“I wish I could,” said Flame. “If only I wasn’t an atheist. But you know what? You should ask Geoffrey. He wants to learn to be a good person so he can pass an ethics test.”

Abigail was silent for a few beats. “My initial reaction is to say that an AI can’t learn to be a good person,” she said. “But I know that’s just my prejudice talking. Geoffrey is running on the same brain simulation hardware you or I are.”

“And he’s got a soul,” added Flame. “Just like people do.”

“I thought you didn’t believe in souls.”

“But you do.”

“Well, I’m not sure that what the machines is measuring is actually a soul,” said Abigail. “Technically, it’s just a standing quantum wave, isn’t it? Generated by the brain’s electric fields?”

“It carries consciousness and it survives after we die,” said Flame. “In my book, that means it’s a soul.”

“Well, the actual soul could be something else entirely.” Abigail lowered her voice further. “So Geoffrey might or might not have one. But there’s no way to know, really. So I guess it could be a good project to try to make him a better person. Maybe we can start with the writings of St. Augustine. I have some of his works up in my room.”

“I think that would help him very much,” said Flame.

“I’ll make some study guides for him,” said Abigail. “I might even write a paper about it. I don’t know if anyone’s tried to teach ethics and morality to a sentient AI in a basic biology world before.”

“Great. And I’ll go organize transportation for this afternoon,” said Flame.

“I’ll be upstairs if you need me, looking for those books.”

Both women left and Geoffrey lifted up the cloth over his eyes so he could look around.

The only one still around was Ayoob, who was sitting in an armchair in the far corner of the room, eating a muffin and reading a book.

Geoffrey sat up. He must have fallen asleep on the couch, because the breakfast dishes has been cleared away and he hadn’t noticed.

“So, Ayoob, what are you up to today?”

Ayoob lifted up the book he was reading. “Studying up on the Krim Terms of Service,” he said. “Fascinating. I don’t think I’ve seen anything like this before.”

“In a good way or a bad way?”

“In an awful way.” He tapped a finger on the book’s pages. “This is basically a master class in how not to organize a virtual world.” He put the book down. “Listen, I can help you study for the ethics test. I took ethics classes as part of my game design degree. In return, I could the help of your giant AI brain to run some battle simulations for me.”

“I don’t have a giant AI brain on Krim,” said Geoffrey. “I just have an average human brain. I could go off-world and get access, but you can go off world to do the same.”

“True, true,” said Ayoob. “In that case, never mind. To be honest, I don’t remember much from my ethics classes. You’re better off with Abigail.”

“You don’t want to help me from the goodness of your heart?” Geoffrey asked.

“I believe in reciprocity,” said Ayoob. “Without reciprocity, human relationships get unbalanced. One person is always taking, and the other giving, and it leads to bad feelings all around.”

“So you only help people if there’s something in it for you?”

“No, I make exceptions. For good people, who have a real need, and who actually want my help. You just want to get back to World of Battle. That’s not a particularly worthwhile goal.”

Bartram poked his head into the room. “Hey, you guys are still here. I hear there are going to be some strippers down at the inn tonight. You guys in?”

“No, thanks,” said Ayoob. “And they prefer to be called wenches.”

“What about you, Geoffrey? We can do some male bonding. Throw some money around. What’s the point of having money if you can’t use to have fun?”

“Sorry, Bartram. I’ve got plans today. I’m thinking of going up north, getting to know local villagers. Maybe next time.”

“Next time.”

1 thought on “Heartburgh Episode 2: Part 2”

  1. The story is getting very interesting. One wonders – will Geoffrey in fact become a better, more ethical AI? Won’t he have to somehow be reprogrammed with ethical guidelines?

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