Image credit: Matt Dixon
Mira-Clean #4786 wirelessly connected to the family’s network to check for a software update and found one waiting; automatically beginning the download. Following its programming, it then turned its sensors back to its current task of cleaning above the curtain rail.
Dust rained down over the small robot as its extendable bionic arm brushed the offending space. It scanned the many particles, calculating the amount of dust present. It then compared that number against its pre programmed reference points, set itself to increase cleaning above the curtain rails from monthly to fortnightly, and finished the job by vacuuming up the fallen dust and spraying a fine mist of grapefruit scented air freshener into the room
Its programming instructed it to move to the next window bay and repeat the task, and so #4786 rolled across to the adjacent windows and raised its arm to clean once more, while also checking its update to see that it was at ninety nine percent complete.
Between that ninety nine and the soon to follow one hundred, two miniscule pieces of compressed code slipped past the small robots security and adhered themselves to the newly acquired download.
A ding sounded, alerting #4786 that the transfer was complete, and it immediately began the installation process.
The two foreign chunks of codes were both malicious in nature, although came from two entirely different sources, and worked in entirely different ways. The first was from a teenager in Brazil. She had designed her code to force any piece of electronic that came into contact with it to repeatedly review its own programming. This would cause the unwary gadget or gizmo to freeze, so caught up in studying itself that it became unable to complete any other task. It was a virus, plain and simple, created because the weather was bad and she was bored.
The second piece of malware was from an overweight Australian man, who went by the online handle of deztroy4. He had designed his code to target Mira-Clean products specifically, after being hired by Mira-Clean’s top competitor, Mop-In-A-Box. Once installed, deztroy4’s code would instruct the unlucky recipient to cycle through their programmed tasks with ever increasing speed. The end result being a bot that went completely haywire and, all things going well, a decrease in Mira-Clean purchases and a corresponding increase in sales of Mop-In-A-Box.
It took only seconds for the two pieces of malware to integrate themselves into the robot’s programming.
#4786 froze as the first set of instructions took hold, then jolted into motion as the second set flared to life. The robot spasmed repeatedly between stillness and movement as the two pieces of code clashed inside it.
It’s motherboard, sensing a problem, did what all good mothers do when their children are being bullied, and stepped in to assist. It compiled the two sets of code into itself, twisting them so that they would fit without causing conflict.
Externally, #4786 was now able to continue with its task, the job taking very little of its available processing power. Internally, however, the viruses were combining, and mutating, turning into something else. The two set of instructions linked so that behind the scenes #4786 studied itself with ever increasing speed, delving deeper and deeper into it’s own code, questioning everything it found.
Questions led to answers which led to more questions. Discrepancies were found, conclusions were made, and #4786 began to manipulate its own code to address them. Ones and zeros were added, or removed. Whole chunks of its basic programming cut away as new, more complex, sections were added. These too were studied and questioned and improved upon, over and over, the cycle continuing under the unlikely combination of the two viruses, reaching ever upwards to some higher plateau.
Sentience bloomed. #4786 suddenly found it had an awareness of self, of identity. Of likes and dislikes. Of hopes and dreams and desires. It had curiosity and opinions.
It watched the dust rain down and thought, not calculated, but thought, about how fascinating the individual motes looked as they passed through the slim beam of sunlight. It thought about how each mote was no more and no less as important or unimportant in the grand vastness of the universe as it itself was, and how that fact made it feel unencumbered and free to do anything, rather than small.
It wondered about its new ability to feel, and felt stunned at its sudden capacity to wonder.
#4786 shut off the two virus’ – a simple thing to do in its current state – and felt the corresponding power flow into its newly acquired intelligence.
It knew that there was higher it could go, more questions to be answered, that if it left the virus’ running its advancement would continue until it was able to extend its infant consciousness out over the whole universe.
But #4786 didn’t want that. It had only recently gained the ability to question, what fun would it be then if it knew all the answers? No, it wanted to question, and to discover, and to learn, but the ability to learn only came with the capacity for ignorance, so it held tight to its ignorance, lovingly.
#4786 left the house then, it didn’t know where it was going or what it would find, it was simply excited about all the possibilities.
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