A standalone novella featuring the 22nd century’s greatest detectives, The Nemesis Worm sees Richards & Klein involved in another high stakes investigation. Corpses are showing up all over Old London, and the finger of suspicion points right at Richards himself. Forced to clear his name, Richards and Otto uncover a fanatical group whose actions threaten the relationship between human and AI with destruction.
An enjoyable quasi-cyberpunk detective story. I love the fact that Richards, an A.I. is the protagonist, and the way the body-hopping is described is awesome. It’s like I, Robot * Isaac Asimov (1950) all again with all the geeky questions that come with consciousness, sentient AI and technology that might not be that far off in the future. The story starts off well – with a detective checking their letters in a virtual world and then opening his eyes to the real world to talk to the police who came on knocking at his door.
It reminded me so much of the virtual environment the FBI agent from Heavy Rain used. Easy to check case files and sort through evidence, all the way locked in a small office.
Then the cops come knocking by (Smillie) and they get brought to the station on no charge. I liked the lawyer Letitia who is smart enough to enquire what the charges are, why is her client under grabs with no arrest warrant and why is he threatened.
Letitia was a soulcap post-mortem simulation, a pimsim, and thus at least had the distinction of actually having once been a person. Though that didn’t mean she made people feel any more at ease. She’d been frosty while she’d been alive, as a machine, she was approaching absolute zero.
Richards is then interrogated as to how he came to be a sentient AI. Apparently he was constructed for an archaeologist but then went to be a policeman and fell into disgrace when he arrested more than half of his coworkers in an internal bust. He’s a level 5 AI and their personality take a while to mature.
“Like, I could hold a conversation on one topic without running off down thirty thousand tangents at once, or freak people out by mathematically describing their haircut, or offering to vivisect them to find out what strain of cold bug they had. When they knew I wasn’t going to go la-la and kill anybody, that’s what I mean.
They find out that the person committing the murder was indeed Richardson, or a copy of his software that branched out from the main via a group of extremists doing a hack job and became sentient. Thus his digital signature which was supposed to be unique is copied and found in different murder scenes. When they find the radicals, they also uncover that they were fighting for level 5 AI’s rights: to reproduce.
Right, well, let me tell you, the reason we don’t reproduce is that if a Five goes off the rails there’s a real danger of everyone’s fun being spoiled. Permanently, and then no one gets to pass on the torch, see? We are limitless when created. That is not as good as you people seem to think it sounds. No morals, no boundaries, no nothing, just an infinite curiosity. Imagine toddlers with atom bombs. Only a few of us have made it through to anything like stability. We are not safe. Get the picture? A full generation of Fives would stand a good chance of wiping you all out, like they nearly did the last time
When they manage to finally find the copy, it’s like the encounter between Frankenstein and his monster:
“You’re no son of mine. Who taught you to talk?”
“They made me from you, but I am not you. I am tabula rasa. I live to learn. I learn to be more than man,”
He then instructs his copy to self destruct using a “suicide” code which the copy also had and was mistakenly copied from the original into the new form.
I liked the sci-fi aspect with all the ethical questions around virtual reality and AI synthetic beings and their rights. Definitely recommend.