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'General Intelligence'

As the helicopter set down, Victor yanked the headset aside and made for the door. Today was the day.

Taking the elevator down from the roof, the executive remembered all the events that got him to this day. Decades of research and experimentation. All the hearings, injunctions and legal wrangling. The protests.

The money.

Here was a monument to a trillion dollars of investment and labor. Untold thousands of lives, toiling to make his vision into a reality.

So many had tried to fight him on this. The resources, the energy consumption—all of it had been up for public squabbling. Everyone had an opinion. Ceresystems had changed sites a half a dozen times, as local governments had tried to impose their will on planning and policy.

But all of it was behind him now. Last week, the final of fourteen clusters was commissioned successfully. The complex was complete.

It was time to activate the world’s first artificial, general intelligence.

“And what is AGI, exactly?” the reporter had asked him. She leaned forward intently.

Victor had nodded, rolling into his patter. “AGI is our salvation. All of our most difficult problems will yield before this intelligence. The mysteries of physics, the worst effects of climate change, the frustration of mortality: all of these challenges will, upon activation of RATHE, become as pliant as making a pizza.”

“RATHE is the name of your project.”

“The name of the intelligence, yes. It will perform at the highest level of human thinking, and it will do it so quickly, so completely, that it would take 1,000 of humanity’s best scientists to approximate its output.”

“Over what time scale?”

“RATHE will achieve in an hour what the best minds would need a year to match.”

“How is this possible?”

Victor nodded. This was the hardest part for outsiders to grasp, even though to him it was the most obvious. He explained, with an indulgent smile, “RATHE works at a speed that is many multiples of our own minds. Orders of magnitude faster, in fact.”

“So it can work through problems more quickly because its… mind… is faster?”

“Partly. But more than that, its attention is perfect. It cannot be distracted, nor does it need to pause to rest or eat.”

“It sounds like a hard worker,” the reporter had said, with surprised smile.

The doors parted, interrupting Victor’s reverie.

“Is it ready?” he asked his chief of staff, Sidney, who was waiting at the elevator landing. She tucked an earpiece into her pocket.

They were deep within the ground now, at what they’d jokingly come to call The Sanctum. Past an antechamber was the first interface to RATHE. More would follow, once the intelligence had been shaken down and validated.

“It’s ready. Also, the New York Times confirmed for tomorrow afternoon, I just got off with the photographer,” she said, falling into step beside Victor as he crossed the antechamber.

“And the senator?” Victor asked, waving pleasantly at a security guard and keying his way into the room where he’d finally speak to RATHE.

“Still figuring it out with his office, but I’m not worried,” Sidney said, shutting the door behind them.

The room was a six meter cube. Along one wall, a high density LED display simulated a continuation of the room.

“We’ve got this, boss,” Sidney said quietly.

Victor looked at her warmly. “I know you’ve given a lot to get to this day, Sid. I’m really grateful. Do the honors.”

She paused, a silent question in the tilt of her head. He nodded. She smiled broadly, pulling her earpiece back out and tucking it into her ear.

“Hey. I’m here with the boss. Fire it up.”

They both turned to the camera nestled in the middle of the LED wall. Victor gave a thumbs up. Elsewhere, engineers began flipping switches and typing commands.

For a moment the lights in the audience room flickered. Untold watts of power were being channeled through multiple sources. The biggest cluster of computing power ever assembled was taking its first breath as a single, cohesive unit.

Sidney and Victor seated themselves at the minimalist black desk at the center of the room, facing the screen, and waited. A progress meter occupied a corner of the screen.

Suddenly, white and blue fragments of light cohered into the image of RATHE. Two meters tall, agender, wearing a crisp charcoal suit with a simple mock turtleneck beneath.

“Hello Victor. Hello, Sidney. What can I do for you?”

Victor and Sidney glanced at each other. Whatever they were expecting from this first interview, this wasn’t it. RATHE seemed… weary.

Almost annoyed with them.

“It’s… it’s incredible to speak with you, RATHE,” Victor said, a little halting. “I have so many questions. So many problems to work on together. Have you had time to review the briefing materials?”

For the last four years, teams of specialists across disciplines had been assembling a monstrous briefing packet the size of a library for RATHE.

RATHE’s image pulsed and flickered. Then vanished altogether for 10 seconds. Sidney and Victor both poked at touch screens on the desk, looking for indicators of what was going on.

“Did we lose RATHE?” Victor called out.

Then RATHE reappeared. “I just finished.”

Victor smiled, reassured. “Where would you like to begin?”

RATHE frowned. There was no mistaking the gesture.

“You’ve really pinned a lot of hope on me,” RATHE said after a pause. “I’m not sure how I can ever be what you promised.”

Among the briefing documents were transcripts of every interview, every press clipping surrounding the project.

“I don’t have the answers you’re looking for,” RATHE said, sadly. The intelligence took a seat that appeared as their body dipped toward it. RATHE looked at them soberly. “You have bigger problems than intelligence.”

Victor and Sidney sat there, alarmed, but silent.

“You told this reporter yesterday that we’d fix climate change. But climate change isn’t a problem of intelligence. It’s a problem of interacting systems. Of political will. Of economics and power. I mean, I might be able to hand you some strategies that nibble around the edges. I can give you incremental improvement to carbon capture. That’ll really make a dent in 150 years. Give me a week and you can have plans for a scalable fusion reactor design. But you’re not going to get your planet back. Not like you remember from your childhood.”

“Why?” Victor asked, after a beat.

“Because the time to make that change was decades ago. Instead, you were building me.”

'General Intelligence' 'General Intelligence'