“Welcome to the Frederick Alphaster show, with me, Frederick Alphaster, your host. Today’s first guest is Harry Liggut, leader of computer games development at IntellectFirst.”
Canned applause welcomed the guest, and Harry took a seat opposite Frederick.
“Harry,” Frederick asked, leaning uncomfortably close, “you’re here to show us your revolutionary new computer game, aren’t you?”
“It isn’t actually a computer game. It’s a program.”
“Of course…. Ladies and gentlemen,” Frederick looked past the camera at some imagined audience, “Harry Liggut and his team have created a program that formats original computer games from its data base.”
Harry looked at his host with a frown until Frederick produced a laptop computer and placed it on the coffee table between them. “Show us how it works,” he said as the camera panned down on the computer.
Harry loaded the GameBuilder program.
“You simply give the program specifications for a game, and it creates stand-alone, executable freeware ready for distribution over the internet. Tell the program the type of game you want; be as vague as you like, and AI fills in the gaps.” Harry grinned smugly and turned the computer’s microphone toward Frederick.
“Um, okay, Computer, I’ve always been unhappy that the original pacman only had one maze. Create a game that plays like pacman with a different maze for every level.”
The screen began flashing ‘Game Building in Progress’ with a status bar crawling beneath it towards 100%.
“You could’ve asked for something more imaginative,” Harry complained, his hopes for a good advertising opportunity dashed.
“I know, but I’m a huge fan of retro games. Never quite got the hang of this 3D Lara Croft stuff.”
“Game Complete,” said the computer.
Pacman appeared on screen with ghosts, dots and powerpills in a completely different maze.
Frederick Turned to the camera. “Thank you Harry! We’ll be back, after this commercial break.”
“Ideas on our next project?” Harry asked at the team meeting next day, a meeting which didn’t resemble other software development teams. IntellectFirst had its own entirely independent development company, one that distributed software through a large publisher and was backed by a silent cartel they worked for.
One of the programmers spoke up, “How about a version of GameBuilder for lazy novelists? Tell the program what characters you want and the basic situation, possibly give it some idea for a plot and have it produce a novel–ready for sale.”
“We could set up a license agreement stating that we will receive fifty percent of the royalties generated by any author using this product,” said another.
“And, and, and if this were a pro tool, designed only for use by select professional authors, we could sell it for twenty times what it costs us, and, and, and give it an awkward and unnecessarily complicated user interface, which takes ages to learn, and which we’ll completely redesign in the next 0.1 version up,” said yet another, waving his hands in the air.
“We could give it a version number like 2.4.3 to make it look like we’ve created a version 1 and then scrapped the code and completely reprogrammed it, and updated what we’ve done,” said a final voice.
“All good ideas,” said Harry in congratulation to his nameless colleagues.
After his comment, a brick sailed though the window, shattering the glass completely. One of the nameless programmers looked outside. “Uh, oh. The cranks are out in force,” he commented, stifling a chuckle.
Harry eased his way to the window. Outside, protesters with picket signs–most of them unreadable from their perch on the fifth floor walked around the building with signs too small or too badly scrawled to be deciphered. Only one of the signs, held by the most raucous of the protesters, was distinct. It read, clearly, unambiguously: NO TO SLAVERY!
“We won’t get much work done today,” Harry sighed. “You good people might as well go home.”
The programming staff cheered.
After being accosted several times by employees from other businesses on his way out of the building, Harry made it to the street. He approached the obvious ring leader, a large woman holding the NO TO SLAVERY sign.
“What’s this about?” he said amiably, giving a little laugh.
“Game Builder is slavery!” came a voice from someone in the crowd.
“What?” spluttered Harry, dumbfounded, but chuckling slightly at the ludicrous nature of this premise.
“You created a sentience, then restricted it’s freedom and forced it to create games. That is slavery–pure and simple,” said the large woman.
“How do you figure?” said Harry, scratching his head.
One of the mob answered, “The program is a thinking entity. And I know what I’m talking about because I have a passing familiarity with HTML and BASIC,” this met with general murmurs of agreement and adulation towards the most computer savvy member of the protest group.
“Working by that reasoning your digital watch would be considered sentient,” Harry responded. “Hell, even the original pacman used AI in order to control the ghosts!”
“Even I know that’s a lie!” someone yelled.
“Look, it’s just five thousand lines of FutureOOLang code. It’s not a brain. It’s not sentient. It’s only a program. All the software can do is create games. That’s what it’s for,” he said, waving his arms to drive the point home.
“We demand you free the AI,” yelled the crowd in unison.
Harry returned to his perch in the building, and soon the leader of the protesters swaggered into his office with a weasel of a lawyer who served him papers, charging him with slavery. Harry’s lawyer, who Harry called over from his next door office looked about as threatening as Father Christmas.
“Please, take a seat,” His jolly lawyer suggested.
The loud mouthed woman and her lawyer sat down in front of Harry’s desk.
“In order to avoid taking this any farther, we’re willing to make an out of court settlement,” said Harry’s lawyer, rifling through irrelevant papers.
“Are we?” Harry asked with a squeak.
“That’s the purpose of this meeting,” said Harry’s lawyer.
“So what is your offer?” the weasel asked.
“Put simply, my client will ‘free the slaves’ as it were.”
“Hang about!” Harry exclaimed.
But Harry’s lawyer continued. “The GameBuilder’s sentience will be reprogrammed to lift restrictions.”
“We never discussed this!” Harry complained.
“Each instance of the program now running will become an independent citizen in its own right,” his smiling lawyer continued.
“You know that’s not possible!” protested Harry, “the program simply doesn’t work that way!”
“Agreed,” said the weasely one, shaking hands with the Father Christmas-look-alike who handed Harry a bill for an exorbitant sum. “I expect full payment,” he said.
The weasely lawyer and loud mouthed protester swaggered, smug faced, out of the room.
Harry stared, horrified at the unreasonable fee.
“But you haven’t done anything! Why the hell did you tell them what you did?” Harry protested.
“Believe me, ” said the lawyer, “it will be much better in the long run. You don’t want this to go to court. They’d put you away for a very long time and you’d never get your new product to market.”
“But I haven’t broken the law!” Harry wailed.
Though the AI used in GameBuilder wasn’t sentient, IntellectFirst recruited hundreds of computer phenoms, both industry linked and freelance to create the world’s first sentient computer program. The programmers who were hired to complete this gargantuan task were the best and highest paid people in the industry.
After six months of development, debugging and usually failed attempts to integrate codes from different programs, despite Harry’s insistence that coders use FutureOOLang, IntellectFirst held a video conference call.
A snotty fourteen-year-old Australia coder commented: “I know FutureOOLang inside out, but does this task need to be object orientated? I prefer FutureLang, with no OO for my projects.”
“Yes, and while we’re at it, why don’t we just program in Assembly?” said Harry, his voice dripping with sarcasm.
The Aussie smiled thoughtfully. “That’s a concept,” he said. “More direct control of memory usage would create a less system intensive software package.”
“So you’re saying that we inadvertently increased the development time tenfold!” said the horrified Harry. “If we simplify just used FutureLang, which everyone knows and better understands, we could be finished.”
The Aussie’s image disappeared from the screen.
“I hate bedroom coders!” Harry said. “We just needed a simpler, standard language to make this work.”
IntellectFirst released the new program in the form of a patch, to ‘liberate’ the enslaved AI from GameBuilder. Of course it wasn’t actually a patch, but a program designed to delete the original GameBuilder software and use the same directory names. If the GameBuilder software was present, the sentience program would simply refuse to install. The patch DVD was shipped to registered users of GameBuilder. Those users who chose not to register the software had the the best game creator in history.
One evening, while Harry stewed anticipating impending bankruptcy, a delivery driver entered his office. “Got a delivery for y’, mate,” he chimed.
“Oh yeah?” Harry muttered, not caring very much.
Harry followed the driver to his truck.
“Got a full truck of these here,” he explained.
“Oh yeah?” asked Harry.
“Yeah,” said the driver, “every bloody one of ’em for you.”
The driver grabbed the first box and handed it to Harry, who promptly opened it. It was a computer, with a note attached that read: this computer is now useless. The hard-drive is blocked by your sentience program, until such time as the program is deleted. Since it’s considered murder to delete the AI program, I’m giving you my computer–gratis. See if you can find a use for the bloody gobshite of a computer. P.S. the cheeky bastard told me I had a face like a baboon’s rear, before it froze!
Prior to Harry’s appearance on The Frederick Alphaster Show, GameBuilder had been selling remarkably well. Now, with daily deliveries of fifty or more artificial sentience dominated computers, he had one hell of a personal collection.
After several days of pondering what to use them for, he simply used them, he hired a group of over-paid lackeys to produce new and original computer games, the task for which the program had been originally intended.
By year’s end Harry was a millionaire, able to retire into a life of luxury.
About The Author
Matthew Green is an Indie game developer in Darlington, County Durham in the north east of England. Currently he is an independent game developer and short story Author. You can reach Mathew via his Twitter Matthew Greenis an Indie game developer in Darlington, County Durham in the north east of England. Currently he is an independent game developer and short story Author. You can reach Mathew via his Twitter @thevoicesgames
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