When artificial intelligence holds a community’s power, what does society sacrifice?

By Charlotte Chui

It ran like a machine. Perhaps a flawed machine, a prone to malfunctioning machine, but a machine nonetheless.

Here’s what should be valued by the Machine:

The ability to feelto recognize, use, manage and understand emotions.

The ability to thinkto deduce, solve, reason and rationalize.

As with most who found themselves in power, who controlled the Machine, its push and pull, give and take, checks and balances. One gave a little and one tugged a little more, and it turned out that maybe there was only one controller of this machine after all.

 “Meeting called to order. We’ll begin with the Pledge of Allegiance.”

SRI swiveled to face the assembly, silent save for mechanical whirring.

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the Bureau of Intelligence, for which it stands, to commit myself to the cause of preserving and fostering intelligence for humanity’s benefit.”

“You may be seated,” AI representative SRI said. “At this time, we will continue the previous session’s discussions and come to a final consensus.”

AI representative ALX projected a holographic image. “The motion on the table is to make NutriBlock the exclusive food source and eliminate all other forms. This condensed bar provides all nutrients and calories required by the human population.”

“State how this motion achieves BI’s goal.”

“The NutriBlock will be consumed daily, saving time and resources while increasing efficiency. It is the most logical

“That’s too extreme.” Paige rose, controlled irritation bleeding through. “Making NutriBlock the only option is too far.”

“Variety and choice contributes nothing to humanity,” ALX said. “It’s only a hindrance to achieving our goal.”

Paige shot a desperate look at Warren. “Whose goal? Must everything be logistical?”

“Discussion over. We’ll vote at this time,” SRI said. “All AI representatives CRT, TNA, SRI and ALX in favor. EI representatives Paige and Warren against. Majority in favor. Motion passed.”


“Motion passed. Reminder that continued disruptions and suggestions of ideology against the BI’s core values results in removal. Please be seated.”

It started, like all things, with an idea. A whisper of discontent and a proposed way to solve it. The malfunctioning machine only served to propel it further, fanning the flames of discontent, fueling the rapidly growing fire. But that’s what happens when the Machine has one controller. 

In certain social spheres, the idea of the Machine malfunctioning was ludicrous. Laughable. How could a machine created with the intentionno, created with the promise­—of perfection be wrong?

In the majority, dissatisfaction ran unchecked through the streets. Like clockwork, grumbles met Sunday newspapers when they hit the stands, headlines extolling the virtues of the BI’s newest laws. Fans the flames. A shriek from little old Agnes upon emerging from the communal showers, hair still soapy. Baths were now prohibited, replaced by monitored five minute showers for efficiency of time and resources. Fans the flames. Murmurs when newly engaged Taylor and Aiden discovered that all clothing disappeared from the bridal shopsand all shops, it turned out—overnight, replaced by nondescript, unisex uniforms for the sake of practicality. Fans the flames.

“I have been informed that a rebel attack is occurring.” SRI said. Faces and identification codes flashed. “Estimated to be seven rebels attacking the Executive Building, with police officers dispatched to sector 14. Please state concerns or commentary at this time. Paige, you may speak.”

 “My team predicted this attack, from our analysis of the general public’s reactions, as well as recent tensions and protest

CRT cut in. “That’s irrelevant now. Either way, this isn’t a concern. None of the rebel groups have enough strength or numbers to be much of a threat.”

SRI motioned. “Warren, you may speak.”

“You don’t understand the full magnitude of the emotional impact. If you think the rebels’ anger doesn’t give them a strong enough common denominator to fight for, you’re not only kidding yourselves and severely underestimating their hatred of the current system but

“No, that doesn’t make sense.” TNA projected several potential attacks. “In every case we’ve run, there’s logically no way for them to win. They’re divided, without enough power individually.”

“Who’s to say they won’t come together?” Paige said. “Individuals like Harry Walker have power to unite

“Paige, you were not given leave to speak.” SRI waved TNA’s projection away, replacing it with surveillance footage. “Discussion tabled. We will be watching live footage of the attack at this time.”

The rebels faced one individual waving a white t-shirt in the air, calling out orders. Citizen 8G16015, Harry Walker, the projection informed. A police officer took a shot at Harry.

It made contact.

A guttural sound escaped from Paige, punched out of her throat. The bullet’s path wasn’t visible from the projection, but Harry collapsed on the ground, strings cut like a marionette doll. It seemed like a nonsensical dream. Paige watched as the rebel group, though disoriented without Harry’s instruction, managed to carry him into a building.

They’d trapped themselves into a hospital building, surrounded by police officers, the gathering crowd’s cries evident as an officer shot into the building. Waves of noise crashed over each other, cresting and rising, until it became obvious that they were chants. They surrender. They surrender. They surrender.

Paige watched, surveillance drone flashing over the crowd, faces blurring together. Desperation, vengeance, hatred, anger. Hope. Hope prevailed, hope that the officers would heed the rebels’ surrender. Surely, they would. Surely, the BI would call off the officers.

SRI’s voice was unnervingly calm. Detached. “Kill them.”

“No!” The force behind Paige’s words called attention. “Killing them would only prove their point right.”

“No, killing them stamps out rebellion. The logical solution is to eliminate rebels completely as a warning.”

“It’s a futile attack,” Warren said. “They’ve surrendered. They’re injured. Everyone knows there’s no way they’re going to win.”

“Do you see the crowd’s faces?” Paige pointed to the screen. “It’d be a blatant attack on the weak, and Harry is arguably one of the most influential rebel figures. You’d give the rebel groups a cause to rally and unite behind, and they’d consolidate their forces to become a considerable threat, with Harry as the symbol of their rebellion. Listen to me. This is how societyhow human emotions work.”

It runs like a machine. Perhaps a flawed machine, a prone to malfunctioning machine, but a machine nonetheless.

Here’s what is valued by the Machine:

The ability to feelto recognize, use, manage and understand emotions.

The ability to thinkto deduce, solve, reason and rationalize.

As with most who find themselves in power, who control the Machine, its push and pull, give and take, checks and balances. One gives and the other tugs, then one pushes and the other takes. A flawed machineas all machines are, after allbut maybe it’s one that malfunctions a little less.

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