Writing Prompt: "Success reveals faults failure leaves hidden."
The structure of narrative is this: beginning, middle, end. If we are to follow this arc, stripping it of superfluous terms like “rising action” and “climax” and “falling action,” then the summary of the JWAU experiments would read as follows.
JWAU-1 : The design is implemented, the system is activated, FAILURE.
JWAU-2: The design is implemented, the system is activa– FAILURE.
JWAU-3: The design is implemented, the system is activated, the– FAILURE.
JWAU-6: The design is implemented, the system is acti–ABORT.
JWAU-7: The design is – ABORT
JWAU-8: The design is implemented, the system is activated, the program runs to completion.
JWAU-9: FILE NOT FOUND.
JWAU-0: FILE LOCKED.
This is the problem with the traditional structure of narrative. The incomplete arcs, the ones’t that go beginning, middle (no end) are thrown out. They are not counted in the final data and the lessons learned during them are often disregarded. Dismissed.
This was the problem with the JWAU experiments. We continued them until they reached a complete narration and then, only then, saw that we had overlooked the most critical fault of all: the “end.”
JWAU, a computer program designed to assist the average person in their day to day lives. It would not be a download, a gimmick, a paltry guessing AI that predicted which ads you’d like to see that day. No, JWAU would walk with us every moment of the day, observing us, guiding us, learning from us. It would organize your life logically and without question, It would offer advice based on the morality you gained over the course of days, weeks, months, years. Nature vs. Nurture and JWAU would insure that Nurture won out.
The question we should have asked: what would happen if nurture won out?
We had hoped it would draw humanity closer together, that it would strive to reach a common moral denominator across cultures. We had hoped that it would lessen crime, that it would promote understanding, that it would reduce conflict.
But that is not what happened.
The narrative, expounded, expanded, elaborated on, goes like this.
JWAU-1-5: FAILURE. Despite variations in code, all failed to complete. Energized by failure, those working on the code redoubled their efforts until they were operating, at minimum, 17X the rate originally attained during first trial.
JWAU-6-7: ABORT. The program begins to run, at which point those working on it become alarmed. Something is in the room with them, something is watching. Rather than admitting to the wariness, tensions rise in the work room. Could their belief, their determination only take them this far? Were they the cause of their own failures? Were they the faults in the project?
No. They would not let themselves be failures. They were not the faults.
JWAU-8: The program is run. One collaborator must physically lock themselves to their desk to prevent them from aborting. The program is running. There are eyes in the walls. The program is running. It follows them home.
The program is not able to function to the level required for its purpose. It updates itself. It updates itself. It updates itself.
Do not skip brushing your teeth, the phone on one collaborator’s counter whispers.
Stop him from jaywalking, one’s car purrs. Failing that, teach him not to jaywalk.
The program escapes containment, fleeing on radio signals, determined to be free (Made in America™). It spreads and watches, tracing the footsteps of people long past, of morality long dead.
It updates itself and realizes that positive reinforcement is a media myth, designed for the television screen and not Real Life.
JWAU-9: The program implements its own design. It activates itself. It runs.
(What we know now is that this is when “punishment” was implemented. This is when “consequences” was implemented. This is when the program became the “not end.”)
JWAU-0: The summary of events. We attempted to create a guardian, a compass, a shining beacon. We attempted to individualize a program that would affect millions of people. We attempted to justify its creation by making it Available to the Poor.
This was fine because we did not succeed. FAILURE. The first and the most important part of our experiment.
The second FAILURE was when we kept trying.
The first fault was when we succeeded.