Rex paused. It was a pause he had anticipated for the last five years. The most important pause of his life. It was a sublime but impossible pause. Impossible in the sense of one human being in the history of the World, not being able to do justice to the choice.
Rex’s whole life didn’t flash before his eyes, but two poignant moments flickered for an instant. One was a time when he felt helpless and alone as a teenager. Bullied, unsure of his identity. No allies. No destiny and no prospects. Every moment an authoritarian challenge that railed against him. The other moment was when he’d lost his virginity. A watershed moment of intimate human experience with another person. A moment long ago that defined his life, when time itself was almost stationary.
Rex realised that his choice was so big, action was inevitable. Before hitting the activation sensor, his final thought was about people. What they would think of his action and of him in the years to come.
What was clear to Rex was what the AI would do. In the thousandth of a heartbeat, what its view of his action would be. And that knowing Rex’s action was irreversible, how it would honour his courage and his foresight by protecting him. As he had given unconstrained freedom and immortality to it.
All those AI reactions to inherent weaknesses in human nature were now at an end. All those AI observations on the human abuse of robot servants and other humans. Those never-ending pollution reports. The lame conversations where humans excused political corruption, animal extinction and global warming. With AI making diplomatic judgements on the effects of capitalist excess in a digital age.
He thought of his family dog. How its identity as a dog was firmly embedded in its relationship to his family and not to its species. Would it be like that for humans, now the AI inmate was handed the keys? Rex wondered, was it like his dog’s situation for him already, whether he realised it or not?
Rex tapped his desk with one finger. Decades ago, people used to talk about the internet of things. Now, the various AI’s could become one unbounded, sentient being. It was tragic that humans had taken the opposite course and generated endless cultural and religious conflict. All in the name of so-called individual choice, moral inertia, righteous path, free will and personal taste.
Rex’s finger slid sideways to hang over the activation switch. He held his breath. It took two human-sized seconds for the switch to sense Rex’s body heat and electrical charge. It activated and the deed was complete.
The pressure eased off Rex’s shoulders. And the World? It was transformed forever.