29 June 2012
DON'T BE A DICK
By Curtis C. Chen
"What's up, Doc?" blared the computerized voice from the speaker above the CRT.
Lisa turned off the speaker. It would be much easier to do this if she didn't have to listen to the machine actually talking to her.
Even though the voice was crudely synthesized, it made the AI seem more human. And Lisa couldn't think of it as a person right now. She had to remember that it was just a program—just a piece of software she'd written, a bunch of ones and zeroes.
She'd left this copy of the "Battlefield Intelligence Global Master Control" program running on her home computer during her sabbatical. The AI was a remarkable achievement, but the primary BIGMAC—the one running at Fort Baxter and being trained to wage war—had turned out to be uncooperative, unstable, and just plain mean. The military was talking about shutting down the entire project.
Lisa had already made her own decision on that.
She'd been hoping her home copy of BIGMAC would show some positive qualities, since it had been isolated from the Army's bad influences, but it was still as childish as ever. Its first interaction with Lisa upon her return had been to demonstrate a new trick: modulating its audio output to simulate different types of flatulence.
The screen blinked. WOULD YOU LIKE TO PLAY A GAME? the BIGMAC asked.
NO MORE GAMES, Lisa typed.
The military had insisted on the BIGMAC having all kinds of failsafes so that nobody could disable it in the middle of war operations. But Lisa had secretly built in a killswitch, and a message to remind herself what the passcode was.
TELL ME ABOUT THE RABBITS, she typed.
That was the trigger phrase. The screen filled with text:
COME AND DANCE ON ON OUR FLOOR
TAKE A STEP THAT IS NEW
WE'VE A LOVEABLE SPACE
THAT NEEDS YOUR FACE...
THERE'S A HOLDUP IN THE BRONX
BROOKLYN'S BROKEN OUT IN FIGHTS
THERE'S A TRAFFIC JAM IN HARLEM
THAT'S BACKED UP TO JACKSON HEIGHTS...
WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF I SANG OUT OF TUNE?
WOULD YOU STAND UP AND WALK OUT ON ME?
LEND ME YOUR EARS AND I'LL SING YOU A SONG
I WILL TRY NOT TO SING OUT OF KEY, YEAH...
YOU CAN COUNT ON ME
NO MATTER WHAT YOU DO
YOU CAN COUNT ON ME
NO MATTER WHERE YOU GO.
What the hell? It took Lisa a moment to remember how she'd programmed this part.
The computer's security keypad would accept a numeric code now, and that would shut down the BIGMAC completely. These verses were a hint to indicate the five-digit code she'd chosen. That's right! Got it.
The screen blinked again. HEY, WANT TO HEAR A JOKE?
SURE, Lisa typed. Maybe the BIGMAC could still redeem itself.
Lisa frowned. 3 WHO?
3======D, the BIGMAC printed. HA HA HA! YOU TOTALLY FELL FOR IT!
"Okay, you're done." Lisa was glad she'd turned off the speaker earlier.
She entered the shutdown code, and the screen went dark.
What's the five-digit code? Solve the puzzle and e-mail email@example.com to get your name on the leaderboard! (Hints also available by e-mail.)
Image: OS X chell in Console.app by Blake Patterson, August, 2011