Gabriella   'till death do us part... maybe

Chapter  1

Congratulations, everyone,” Jim said at the activation milestone ceremony. He lifted his champagne glass high. “It may be late winter outside, but the sun is shining warmly inside for us! We’ve completed the first stage of Project Lincoln! Ladies and gentlemen, Artificial Intelligence Concepts Incorporated, and this team of the best scientific minds in the field have made science fiction come to alive! Today, science, technology, and life have changed forever. The world will never be the same from this point on.”

Jim paused for a moment. “And a big thanks to AI Concepts for turning the entire tenth floor of this Midtown Manhattan building into a stand-alone, state-of-the-art, secure research and prototype facility just for us. Salute!” 

The joyful sound of clinking glasses filled the room. Cheers went up from the staff of engineers and technicians. Hands shook. High-fives slapped. Some people hugged. Gabriella stood next to Jim and raised her glass high to join in the toast.

*** 

Two months earlier, Jim and Francine discussed the rewards a successful animation would bring. Jim whispered as he drew Francine close and felt her warmth. “If the animation of our android goes well over the next few weeks, there will be no shortage of project cash and some outrageous bonuses for us and our people. No one on the planet has ever done what we have. You and I need to have our own private party before the official one,” Jim said, winking. “Want to work late tonight?” 

Jim Arnold was the clean-shaven, handsome, early middle-aged AI Lab Director. His Ph.D. in Advanced Artificial Intelligence and Biosystems earned him his directorship. The fifteen-year childless marriage to his wife, Alice, had cooled off over the five-year life of the project. Jim’s job demanded long hours, but that wasn’t the sole reason he was often late coming home to their small Park Terrace West apartment. 

“Look at her,” Jim said about Gabriella, who was lying on the animation table, all the while admiring Francine. Jim pulled Francine even closer to him as he allowed himself to become intoxicated by her perfume. 

“It’s beautiful,” Francine said as she pressed her body into Jim, “and anatomically perfect in every detail, right down to small body hairs. The look. The feel. Everything. I love what the cosmetics engineering team did with her green eyes and curly honey-colored hair. But, Jimmy, there is no ‘her.’ It’s only a machine.” Francine smiled as she noticed the lingering trace of Jim’s morning aftershave. She rocked her hip against him, promising future delights.

Jim smiled, “Unless someone attempts to monitor its vital signs, Gabriella will be indistinguishable from a living human being. We’ve done it, kiddo! Now, about that working late together thing…” 

*** 

Two weeks before the victory celebration, the Cray XC40 supercomputer downloaded the android’s operational programming, activating Gabriella’s other systems. Linguistic, scientific, and cultural data followed. Gabriella was ‘born’ a fully functioning adult. The engineering staff gathered around to observe the system initiation. One of the very few religious engineers at AI Concepts compared her to Eve, of Biblical fame. Unlike Eve, upon animation, Gabriella sat up on the lab table, looked over the spectators, and asked, “Why am I the only naked person in the room?” 

“May I have some clothing, please?” she asked, the faint hint of an accent adding richness to her voice. Although her speech was flawless, the almost musical inflection suggested that English was not her native language.

“Jim,” Francine whispered as her eyes widened in surprise, “she asked for clothes. Is that part of the programming or an unexpected bit of code cross-talk? She can’t be reasoning on her own already, could she? Are the silver strand nano-machines configuring on their own this soon?”

“I’m pretty surprised myself, Francine. I reviewed the programming specifications with the code designers only a month ago, and we didn’t predict this to happen yet. Sure, we designed her brain to self-adjust its nanowire configurations to mimic neuron functions in the human thought process, but we calculated it would take a longer time than this to kick in and produce results. This is intriguing.” 

One of the young engineers brought a white lab coat for Gabriella. She slipped down from the table and put it on.

“Jim, why are you so surprised?” Gabriella asked in a low, calm voice which hinted of belonging to a cultured family. Her slightly olive-tinged skin would make one assume she was of Mediterranean descent. It would be easy to envision her sliding her long legs out of a limo and attending the opera with foreign friends or dignitaries.

“Your team designed me to think beyond my initial programming, and here I am, doing exactly that. Wasn’t it included in your design?”

The team turned to Jim for an answer. 

Startled, Jim muttered, “Yes, yes. That’s aligned with our expectations. Good job, team.” 

Recovering from the question, he continued, “Okay, gang, let’s recheck to see if there are any differences in Gabriella’s brain operation compared to the base systems programming data.” 

Frank Wright, the president of AI’s Research and Development business unit, motioned Jim over to his side.

“Jim, I didn’t expect Gabriella to know she was naked and certainly didn’t expect her to ask for clothes. Was this part of the programming design?”

“Truthfully, Frank, no, it wasn’t. Beta versions of the brain didn’t show it would self-actualize this soon. I’m surprised, but consider it to be a bonus.” “Well, I guess that’s good in this case. I’m uncomfortable when things we didn’t design for, happen. Keep me informed on any other surprises, okay?”

***

There were no more surprises before the official activation ceremony. Gabriella’s operational testing continued over the next three weeks. Speech, recall, cognitive ability, fine and gross motor skill tests were all passed as expected. A brain scan followed each successful completion. 

“How did Gabriella’s daily scan go this morning, Francine?” Jim asked on the morning of the ceremony.

“Pretty good. We mapped out her neural networks and found new ones are forming themselves at a rate exceeding initial projections. The Deep Base programming recognizes patterns effectively and is reforming her neural networks to simulate our brain functions. She is thinking as an enhanced human. Her internal systems are looking up data on the internet and including it in conversations with lab personnel. What a billion-dollar idea if we developed a chip and implanted into people to allow personal internet access! Yes, chip the planet,” Francine said, “that would make us richer than God.”