Q-Brains

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My brain is smarter than I am sometimes, and it’s getting to be annoying.

It’s 5:01.0001 pm, sunlight streaming through my apartment windows. I’m sitting on the floor, watching television and leaning against my best friend’s legs. Jeremy is learning Mandarin. He downloaded and learned a complete dictionary in nanoseconds. Mastering pronunciation will take longer.

I flip to a casino scene in a heist movie. A line of text appears in the upper left corner of my vision. “We should go to Vegas,” Jeremy jokes. “We’d be rich.”

Any cell phone can do what we do, which is why they’ve been banned from casinos for years. Jeremy and I are new enough that there are no rules against us–yet.

I flip to a talk show. “Did you hear about the AI that’s suing for sentience? Sure, it seems like a good idea now, but just wait ‘till it has to pay taxes.”

“I’m bored. Read to me,” I transmit. I send him a picture of a cartoon character from my youth, all blue eyes and pigtails, hands out, beseeching.

“What book, O High Princess Veronica?”

“You choose.”

Jeremy and I are prototypes. We’re the next step in human ambition–cyborgs with quantum computer brains. The ion traps that keep our qubits in a row and the insulation that keeps noise from them is bulky, but soon there will be Q-brains that lie atop your skull instead of inside it.

Jeremy and I qualified for the project because we were brain damaged in an accident. I had my prefrontal cortex upgraded (logic and emotional control), and Jeremy his occipital lobe (vision). When I construct an image in my head, it looks like an impressionist painting of an impressionist painting. When Jeremy does, it’s nothing short of cinematic. That’s why he’s the one who reads and I’m the one who is read to.

Jeremy chooses Greek mythology. The gods rebel against their parents. The Oracle of Delphi tells Acrisius that his grandson will kill him. Patricide everywhere.

I wish he hadn’t chosen this. It makes me think he might suspect what I did. See, I’m waiting for the five o’clock news because, well, I ruined the man who helped to create us, David D’Hart, CEO of Q.C.A Global.

***

Davey, I am almost certain, is an earthworm–no, scratch that, worms are fine creatures, wiggling about and aerating the soil. Davey, I am almost certain, is a wart who managed to squeeze into a suit and has been masquerading as human.

I didn’t ruin a man because I hate him as a person. No, I wouldn’t do that.

Davey should not be in charge of a tech company. He thinks he understands computers because he can send emails.

Imagine the things Jeremy and I could do! We’re humans with the abilities of supercomputers. Davey delegated Jeremy and I to data analysis, using us as billion-dollar calculators.

I also didn’t ruin a man because he bruised my ego.

Davey had us working on a project–legal, but not strictly moral. Jeremy, my sweet, honorable Jeremy, told Davey that he didn’t want to do anything unethical. For the first time ever, Davey asked Jeremy how that brain of his was running–any issues we should know about? Of course I take an interest in all my employees, we help each other out here, yeah?

We all knew what he meant: Only by the grace of the company are you not a vegetable. I own that computer in your head, and I can take it away.

Ha! Now, threatening my best friend’s life? That, I ruined a man for.

I owe Jeremy everything. When the scientists replaced my prefrontal cortex, they ‘helpfully’ created an AI for me. She isn’t self-aware, but she is capable of machine learning, is smarter than I am, and nearly drove me insane. I could feel her, toddling about and screaming inside my skull like a baby parasite.

Jeremy read to me. He never left my side. He let me escape to another world long enough to catch my breath. If you’ll excuse me for switching from Greek to Norse mythology–I bound Fenrir the wolf with six impossible things, lest she devour the sun and the moon.

Oh, Davey made a mistake. First, he’s involved in all kinds of shady stuff, and in his arrogance and incompetence, he handed all the evidence over to me, his humble data analyst. Second, he thought I would just let a threat to my best friend slide.

A relevant cautionary tale: The great calamity of my youth was the Q-hack. Quantum computers hit the cybercrime world before most of us upgraded our encryptions. Millions had their personal information aired. It took years for us to recover.

The funny thing is we had encryptions even quantum computers couldn’t break. A select few of us were perfectly safe. The moral of this story is that new technology will be your downfall only if you aren’t being paranoid enough.

On the night I decided to ruin Davey, I loosened the chains–let Fenrir howl. She chewed up the data I was supposed to be analyzing and spat out the bare bones of evidence, which I brought to the police, the IRS, and anyone else who would listen.

***

“Business tycoon indicted for malfeasance,” says the newscaster. “Find out more after the break.”

Jeremy is reading Socrates's Apology now, which is not in the least apologetic. I smile and shut my eyes. As they announce Socrates’s verdict (guilty, sentence of death), I can’t help but think that Socrates could have used a friend like me. Sometimes, honorable men need somebody to save them even when they don’t want to be saved.

It is 5:01.9995 pm, and all is well.