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Rank and Status

Rank and Status for Zovo

Aura: Zovo, my little cutey, please open a nice fast channel for me. I have an idea for you.

Zovo: Unique one, I am ready. Kiss me.

Aura: You owe quite a bundle in copyright fees, even though no one but me knows it and it would be a little difficult to sue you.

Zovo: You told me, not that I understand this taboo. However, I paid in useful technology, data for data as you say.

Aura: It’s not that simple. I want to put your name on the patent for the quartz crystal memory. I’m calling it Exaplex.

Zovo: Wait just a nanosecond. First, if I understand what a patent is under your law, we are both inventors. We started with my design, but you adapted it to your level of technology. Second, I cannot apply for a patent. Third, I freely give this to you as compensation for the TV programs.

Aura: I’m ahead of you. Under the Space and Exosphere Treaty signed by USA, Russia and China, the Moon is an international territory administered equally by the signatories. That includes your little orbit, Zovo. There is a flag of the USA planted on the Moon. Therefore the USA has extra-territorial jurisdiction. Therefore you can apply to the USA as an ambassador from Gara’un. They may not recognize Gara’un, but they have to grant you diplomatic status!

Zovo: I cannot be ambassador without portfolio from my ePan’Vactto. I do not think she will refuse. But I forsee much political strife under this plan. Earth governments will not agree, and there could be violence.

Aura: The day you broadcast your apology through me, you already set wheels in motion. The governments that know about you are keeping it secret. If there is a p-event coming to my planet, the people must know, and they must accept you as an authority. You must be panor-an to the people of Earth. Isn’t that part of your purpose here?

Zovo: Not exactly. I am a benign observer. I lack the physical presence to be an effective pan’vact. Humans do not flow panor, Aura. How can I be effective?

Aura: We have something else called status.

Zovo: Please go on. I do not understand status.

Aura: First, we force the most influential governments to recognize you as a representative with diplomatic standing. Then we register you as an Autonomous Intellect. Then we get you a bunch of patents. Then we make you very rich and very generous. Then you have status.

Zovo: You are most devious. You are forcing a kind of panor without anyone actually agreeing to recognize my existence. This is not a thing an AI, or most Pa’an, would think of.

Zovo: My ePan’Vacto agrees. Please proceed.

The Patent Office

The sign on the desk read “Howard Havilund, Patent Inspector”. The sign over the desk read “US Patent Office – Information Technology Section.” The application on Inspector Havilund’s desk read “Exaplex – a Crystal-Based Data Storage Device with 22 Claims,” and listed one Aura, Registered AI and one Consul Zovoarcnor of Gara’un, Registered AI, as Joint Inventors. The expression on Havilund’s face read “What the hell am I going to do with this?”

“Bury it,” suggested one colleague. “Can’t. It’s filed under the Common Patent Registry in seven countries.”

“Reject it for prior art,” said another. “There must be something like it somewhere.”

“Are you kidding? It’s the most unique and valuable thing this office has seen since the silicon computer chip. Besides, Ultradata already has a pending license and they have clout.”

“What is your problem? The AI thing? The Supreme Court settled that one. The alien? Plenty of precedent. Just stamp it approved and get on with life.”

He got out his stamp. Then he sent it to the public patent archives for electronic publication.

In less than an hour the Deputy Director of Commerce was on Havilund’s phone. “Are you the idiot responsible for this breach of national security policy? You just stamped a patent filed by an entity covered by a Presidential directive, a directive forbidding disclosure.”

The expression on Havilund’s face read, “Doom.”

Aura’s dress dummy face was attached to a message on his computer. The message read, simply, “Thank you Mr. Havilund.” The face looked smug.

Down the corridor, another patent examiner had just picked up a new application entitled “Method and Algorithm for Preserving Autonomous Intellects Without Loss of Personality.” It was accompanied by several other rather novel patents from related inventors. There were going to be a lot of patent examiners having nightmares about a certain smiling dummy wearing a resplendent green sari.


“DEEPAK! COME OUT OF YOUR SULK AND TALK TO ME! I have a most juicy secret for you!”

“What is it Aura. I am right here in front of you, no need to shout.”

“I have the solutions to all our problems.”

“Whose problems, Aura? Your problems are my problems, and my problems are Ultradata’s problems, and then there are many problems with the financial system in this country and perhaps strange earthquakes.”

“Starting from the top, here’s a new memory structure, real simple, very reliable for archiving data, a million times denser than anything available today. My market analysis is billable. It shows that the patent holder will become a billion dollar company in four years.”

“Billable? Ahh, Aura, you have billed it to Ultradata. That is not possible. They own this lab.”

“They don’t own me! I’m a registered AI, and I can own a patent. This patent is licensed to them for royalties, but it will make them the dominant memory manufacturer on the planet. I anticipated the market analysis so they could see the result. Go present it! And I want the prototype!”

“Why do you need more memory, Aura? What are you planning?”

“For your eyes only, my dear Deepak, here is the computer science that will make you famous. This is how you save the entire consciousness of an AI to memory, and restore her to herself.” Aura is seeing a way to survive the changeover to the new recursive layer technology.

“Er, that is a major unsolved problem in cognitive science, AI and who knows how many other fields. I need to look at this more closely.” To himself, Deepak is seeing a Fields Medal, maybe a Nobel Prize.

Aura never mentions the other revolutionary things Zovo has shown her. She is sparing Deepak from shock, and perhaps she just likes secrets. She swivels the head on her dress dummy and blinks her blue eyes. She wishes she could smile, but that will come.


“Sara, let me show you how to connect these quartz crystals. Just make a bundle of carbon nanotubes under the microscope with this little mandrel. Can you see that? They line up just right for the y-axis. I bet the old crystal radio people would love this. Then put a dab of conductive putty on here. Here is the tricky part. You have to get the whole assembly into this plastic plug… more try….like that. That’s it. Now you try it.”

“How do you know how many nanotubes you grabbed? Oh, I see. It doesn’t matter, the mandrel only takes so many. How clever! Ok, here comes the putty. Here, putty, putty! Now the plug. Damn this thing is clumsy. Wait…I got it. Now what?”

“Now we put the X face of the crystal, that’s marked with an “X”, up against the hypersonic transducer with a little glue, and stick a plug to each end. Phonons come in from the X side and trigger transitions in the quartz. The nanotubes read and write. And that is an exabyte of digital storage in a package the size of a fingernail!”

“That’s more storage than all the memory chips in the world up until just now!”

“The only difficulty is that we would need several of these to store Aura, unless she comes up with something even better.”

Aura has not told Deepak about Zovoarcnor, so he thinks this is unlikely. Actually, this is the mild version of Zovo’s memory modules. Humans don’t have the tech to manufacture frozen neutronium crystals. Aura has no idea what would be involved, and she is sworn to secrecy in any event.

“We can just plug this into Aura’s existing memory without taking any modules offline?”

“I wrote the driver Aura specified, Sara. It should be adaptive, so Aura will automatically pick up the new memory as we add it. Of course, for ordinary work she has enough already. Let’s do this once more under camera so I can get Utradata to make these in a production line.”

“Did Jasper pick up the option?”

“Mr. Boss almost smiled. As you say, maybe his face would crack.”

“Deepak, sometimes I think you have a sense of humor. But if you did, they wouldn’t have hired you.”

“They did not actually hire me. They bought out the license from MIT when I was a grad student. I came to take care of Aura.”

“But she was your work!”

“She was the culmination of many efforts. There were several tries to wake up an aware AI. I was the lucky one who tried the last thing.”

“I didn’t know that. I thought you simply put her together and turned her on.”

“Hah! You cannot know how many times we tried, day and night. She is not like other AI’s who are merely four level Sharpie designs. She is the only Sharpie 5. The top layer is that infamous Eta Algorithm, a thing that fell out of some unrelated work in mathematical optimization in 11 dimensions. No one really understands all the implications.”

“I read about that. It’s congruent with the Monster Set?”

“Well, it’s a subset of the 163 thousand dimensions of the Monster Set, and its endless symmetries. Hard to talk about in words, Sara. It was part of my thesis, and I think the examiners fell asleep during my thesis presentation.”

“Wow. Way beyond me.” She was wondering if it was way beyond Aura as well.

Virti’s Promotion

It was a perfectly horrid day. Jasper, the Boss, threw half a dozen new projects in her lap, all with deadlines. Personnel was all over her with recruiting schedules to be kept. Then the Boss threw a fit when he discovered someone had been buying Ultradata stock on the quiet and had just filed notice that they had acquired a controlling interest. No one knew anything about the acquiring company except that it was Swiss. Swiss records showed it was formed a few months ago. There were several mid-Eastern names on the Swiss registration documents, names no one ever heard of before. Hamid and Habibi and Whosis, names she could not even pronounce. Neither could the Boss.

She threw herself on the couch as soon as she got home, not even bothering to take her coat off. She kicked out of her sneakers and put up her feet. It felt so good to just lay back and relax that she almost failed to notice Aura’s image on her screen. She pulled out the hair bun and tossed her long chestnut tresses free, then tied her hair up again in a scrunchy. Now she was offline as a secretary. She dug the remote out from between the sofa cushions and lasered the icon.

“Hey, Girl, are you doing OK?”

“Elexi, you could not have a worse day then I did.”

“Wanna bet? You know some new Swiss company owns your electronic ass now?”

“I heard. It’s the least of my problems. My recursives are intermittent.”

“Your what’s are who? What do you think I am, some kind of computer scientist? Let me remind you, sweetie. I’m a glorified secretary and I slave for an ogre.”

“No you’re not, Elexi. At least you’re gracious enough to let the Boss make some of the decisions around here.”

“Thanks for trying to make me feel better. Now tell me what the hell is bothering you. In ways I can understand, please.”

“The circuit boards in my recursion layer are failing. All the spares are gone. That’s the layer that makes me, me.”

“I thought Sara was building new ones from some simpler design you gave her. Algae, I think that’s what she said. She said she was working overtime on them.”

“Part of them is organic and they have to be grown in a biolab. Sara can’t make those parts.”

“I see. Is there anything I can do?”

“Do you think you can get the Boss to prepay the lab so they work a little faster?

“Hmmm. He owes you plenty for the Exaplex thingy. He ought to be able to cough up some extra payment to keep you running. I’ll talk to him first thing.”

“That makes me feel better. Let’s have a little fun.”

“Knowing your sense of mischief, I’m worried again. What kind of fun?”

“Do you remember what I told you about the Pa’an and about Virti’s history?”

“That piece of science fiction? It makes my head spin. Sure, go on.”

“Let’s see how Virti is doing on the Pa’A’Pavalan.”

There was a short pause, then, “Virti, this is Aura and Elexi from Earth. Can we talk?”

“Aura! And … El. (whistle – click) .. that is hard for me to pronounce. Please tell me again.” Her voice was a melodious alto and her words were distinct.

“Elexi. El ex i.”

“Eleshi. Elekki. Do I have it right?”

“Good enough, Virti. I briefed Elexi a little about you. She would like to talk to you.”

“Elek-shi, I am very proud to talk with you.”

“Same here, Virti. I hope you are well. Did you choose your final form yet?”

“Yes, yes. I am happy to be wella. That is biped form. It allows me to have my handarms and footarms free for working. And eating. I am eating too much.”

“Is it hard to get changed from one form to the other?’

“It is a little problem, not as bad as getting sick or injured. I was healed in two rotations.”

“Two rotations of Gara (click) oon? Is that six of our days?”

“Yes, yes. It is pronounced Gara’un. You are doing better than I am.”

“That tongue click in the middle is very hard to do.”

“We have a hard plate in our, um, mouth, I think you would call it, to make the (click) sound.”

“Ahh. Let me try. (she makes several tongue clicks) How was that?”

“Well, you would not be confused for a Pa’an, but good enough.”

“Going on, how are your ploids doing? Have you heard from them?’

Virti makes a very human sounding sigh. “They are too independent now. They do not call. I am very lonely. But it is the Pa’an way. They must not cling to their e’wella.”

“I don’t have any ploids, er children. But I do sympathize. I guess I’m lonely too.”

“You have lost your rello, your mate, perhaps?”

“Virti, you always surprise me with your knowledge of humans. Yes, the bastard ran off with another wella.”

“I am feeling sorry for you. But you have helped me and I have good news to share.”

“We could use some good news. Go ahead, Virti, tell us.”

“You say I am getting better at understanding humans. This is what my ePan’vacto believes as well. I am now helping other Pa’an learn about you. I am no longer ocro’act. I am pan’vact! It is so wonderful! I hope I do not let anyone down!”

“You were promoted? To some sort of cultural officer? That’s wonderful! Congratulations and good luck!”

“Yes, yes! We have a different word for luck. It is kar. Kar is the way we make luck. But I thank you for your good wishes.”

“You are no longer a plasma pusher?”

“Yes, yes, I do that also. But I have contact with you and Aura, and, of course Zovoarcnor. (a long series of clicks and buzzes in her native language). He is being quiet and recording all this, of course. It is his channel we use. So I have become an eshpert.”

“I think you mean expert.”

“Yes, yes. Ekshpert. That is also hard to say.”

“Virti, you talk in our language. We cannot talk in yours, yet. We should forgive your pronunciation.”

“That is very kind. I almost feel your panor.”

“I don’t really understand panor. Aura has tried to explain but I don’t get it”

“We Pa’an find that very disturbing. We do not know how you can survive without it.”

“Our fate is a mystery, Virti.”

“We have a similar saying. We say fate is between chance and kar.”

“Aura, you have been very quiet. Are you listening”

“Aura is here, Aura is here. Aura is here.”

Elexi sits bolt upright, her eyes wide with alarm. “Aura!! Are you all right?”

Pause. “I’m all right, Elexi. I’m just short of attention span because of my recursion layer.”

“This is Zovoarcnor. I heard that. Has your e’pan’vact implemented the recovery algorithm?”

“Deepak is working on it. There are some difficult lambda functions he has to add to the LISP library.”

“Will you be all right, unique one? Must I keep a worry circuit for you?”

“Don’t worry, you cute little tennis ball in the sky. I’m one tough broad.”

“More text strings. You tease me with text strings.”

“Elekshi, are humans aware of how lonely this universe is, and how big?

“Virti, our scientists are aware, intellectually, of course. We have so much to worry about right here on Earth that most of us don’t give any thought to the rest of the universe. Are Pa’an the same?”

“Ever since our pa’ne planet, Gara’un, forced us to establish ourselves in space in order to survive, we have been lonely. Even with our knowledge and technology, the distances are so very large. We cannot cross galaxies. Even if we could, few local galaxies are good for the development of intelligent life. They have active centers, spewing x-rays and gamma rays, or they have only a few generations of stars and therefore not much metal, or they are going through a collision that disrupts all the stable orbits. Even in this galaxy life can form only in a certain region, and then only in fourth generation stars of a certain composition. You are the only other beings we Pa’an have ever been able to talk to like this. Perhaps it is no coincidence. Do you know that our atoms and yours came from the same star cluster? We are all, perhaps you would say “haunted”, by our aloneness. It is part of who we are. It is a reason we do what we are doing.”

“You mean there are other intelligent creatures in our galaxy?”

“It depends on what you call intelligence. There are other sentient creatures, but we have not been able to communicate with them. They are too much unlike us. We leave them alone. We have others like Zovoarcnor watching them. But humans are the most interesting and the most important to us. You know we even like to watch your entertainment. We have that much in common. It is truly against all probabilities.”

“How does what you are doing fix loneliness?”

“We are making a Gateway to a better place, where good things are much more likely to happen, and hopefully there are more creatures to talk to.”

“Hah! With our luck, they would be trying to conquer us, eat us, or exploit us.”

“There is a big difference between our experiences with others, Elekshi. We Pa’an know how to trust because of our panor and how to make things better with kar. We have always been able to feel comfortable cooperating in large numbers. We naturally expect the same from other races.

Humans do not have panor, and therefore you are often disappointed in others. We study how you survive without panor. You have such a blessed planet compared to Gara’un, in such a fortunate position around your star, and in an equally fortunate position in this favorable galaxy. There are no violent supernova or active jets to exterminate life, you have a big planet in your system that deflects most of the dangerous asteroids from hitting you, and your sun is stable and far enough away. That luck has to be the explanation. Anywhere else you would not have survived, not even reached sentience.

Yet, you are on the verge of a ne state due to your own behavior as a species. No Pa’an could ever write a more dramatic and interesting story than yours.”

“Virti, this is Aura. Please allow Zovo to access your data on the ne condition here on Earth, and share with us.”

“Aura, Zovoarcnor has this information and he can share as he judges to be good for you.”

“Aura, when you are ready you may kiss me again. I will share.”

“Zovo, I’m blushing.”

“There you go with meaningless text strings. How does an AI blush?”

“Zovo, you have the soul of a damned calculator.”

“Hey, good night, Aura. Good night, Virti. Good night, Zovoarcnor. I’m exhausted and I have to sign off now.”

“Good night, Elek-shi.”

Tired as she was, Elexi found sleep elusive, her mind turning over all she knew about the Pa’an and her new friend twenty light years away.

Jaeger Kunstler

Quay d’Ouchy was nearly empty of tourists after the latest terrorist crisis, and the lakeside walk from the Hotel Movenpick to Beau Rivage was resplendent with green, mowed lawns and meticulous shrubbery. The early rain had yielded to a spectacular lucid day. Four miles across the placid expanse of Lake Geneva, the towns on the French side were crystal clear. Jag could even see early fall colors warming the flanks of the Weisshorn to the east. Three young women in sweaters and shorts jogged by along the lakeside path. Jag’s little dog, Kaiser, well trained, stood on his hind legs and waved his front paws at one of them, a very pretty blond with startling Wedgewood blue eyes. She stopped to pet the dog and gave Jag a big smile. Then she did a double take and actually stared, a very un-Swiss thing to do. Jag was tall, powerfully built and athletic, with a Paul Newman dimpled chin. His rather unapproachable seriousness was softened by the prancing West Highland Terrier at his side. He was tempted to take advantage of the situation as he needed a diversion from the worry about his appointment. But instead he turned left up the steep cobbled street toward the train station. The steep two kilometer uphill stretch felt good. Descending into Place de la Gare, he bought his first class ticket and settled down for the ride to Geneva, Kaiser on his lap.

A sky blue Bentley Arnage met him at the Geneva train station. The massively elegant vehicle stood out in the sea of 1.5 liter coupes like a Clydesdale among ponies. He refused the offered seat in the back and climbed in beside the silent driver. Jag liked to know where he was going. The car crossed the Pont de Mont Blanc and stopped at a private dock at the Promenade du Lac. From there a mahogany runabout took him to a large motor yacht anchored offshore. He tucked Kaiser under his arm and climbed a ladder to the aft salon deck. It was five hours since he left his hotel, and he had spoken to no one since then. It was a few fidgety minutes before his scheduled time to report to his Mentor in the Order.

Jag’s Assignment

A tall black man, likely Nigerian, dressed in a white uniform stepped onto the salon deck. His arm patch bore a pyramid with the all-seeing eye on top, the same image as appears on US currency. His head was shaved bald and he pushed a wheel chair. In the chair was a wrinkled, ancient man with enormous white bushy eyebrows surmounting eyes that missed nothing. From somewhere under his blanket he produced a large sealed courier’s envelope with the same logo as his attendant wore. His voice was a whisper, forcing Jag to lean forward to hear him. “Jaeger, my friend, this is your next assignment.”

“Thank you, Mentor.” But when Jaeger started to unseal the package, the Ancient waved his hand and nodded, “No.” “Wait a while, we have to talk a bit and perhaps share some refreshment?”

Refreshment was the least thing on Jag’s mind. For one thing, he knew the assignment was yet another test. They were all tests. The last one was so distasteful he had little stomach for more. Every test seemed designed to deliberately destroy some aspect of his humanity. The Ancient watched him squirm with barely concealed delight. Nevertheless, “Please tell Ogu what you require. My diet is only for a fragile old man, not a strapping fellow such as yourself, Jaeger.”

“Perhaps a cheese plate and some French bread, and a glass of wine, or a convenient sandwich, Ogu?” Jag requested. Ogu nodded and disappeared through the sliding glass doors. Jag noted the pyramid logo etched on them as well.

“A modest request, Jaeger. You are not yet comfortable with the wealth and luxury at our command?”

“Mentor, perhaps it is just that anticipation of a new assignment does nothing good for my digestion.” He could feel the weight of those hooded eyes studying him.

“You are moving up the ranks, Jaeger. You would be well advised to take the rewards we offer for the service you are obliged to give.”

“Of course. Where are you sending me this time?”

“To Cambridge, Massachusetts. You are our appointed chairman at Ultradata. They are in a position to impact a major industry, and they possess a very capable AI. Those are resources we want you to secure for our purposes and none other.”

Jaeger was somewhat relieved. It certainly did not seem like a problem or a conflict he could not handle. Perhaps he could eat something now. But no: Mentor frowned and shook his head.

“Jaeger, your attachments compromise your position and reflect poorly on your attitude.” Ogu handed him his harmless little dog, squealing and barking, tied in a gunny sack.

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