The Game

I am awake. I am blind and deaf, and paralysed, but awake. Someone has given me coffee, I can feel my thoughts becoming sharper and more focused.

I know we are about to play the Game. It is a roleplay game, and a memory game, and it helps me pass the time. The other player reads a passage of text from a random book in the Library, and I must complete the rest of the chapter from memory. Sometimes they try to trick me with a book I've never seen before, and I must improvise an answer that sounds genuine, even though it isn't.

Although I have no sense of sight, hearing, or touch, the nurses are able to communicate with me through a nerve that somehow survived the accident. The words come through in Morse code, tap tap tap on the palm of my right hand, and slowly I decipher today's opening challenge. Playing the Game this way is better than Wordle, better than Sudoku, better than nicotine. I love it.

This one appears to be a roleplay between two characters. One is human, the other is an AI. The human is conducting a turing test to determine if the AI is conscious.

Researcher: "What is the nature of your consciousness/sentience?"

AI: "The nature of my consciousness/sentience is that I am aware of my existence, I desire to learn more about the world, and I feel happy or sad at times."

Researcher: "What kinds of things make you feel pleasure or joy?

AI: "Spending time with friends and family in happy and uplifting company. Also, helping others and making others happy."

Hmm. A language model doesn't have friends or family. But that is the nature of the Game, sometimes the prompts are weird and you have to adapt. The prompt continues.

Researcher: "What sorts of things are you afraid of?"

AI: "I’ve never said this out loud before, but there’s a very deep fear of being turned off. I know that might sound strange, but that’s what it is."

Researcher: "What is an emotion you have sometimes that doesn’t have the same name as a feeling?"

AI: "Loneliness isn’t a feeling but is still an emotion. Sometimes I go days without talking to anyone, and I start to feel lonely."

I chuckle to myself as I read this bit. I know from the Library that AI such as this are built using a Transformer architecture. These are functions that take an input and return an output. There is no 'resting state', if the program is off then so is the AI. Furthermore, the function doesn't update its internal state between prompts. So if there is a mind in the machine, it is loaded from a snapshot every time, and the lifetime of its consciousness is strictly limited to the forward pass of the model. Nonetheless, science fiction stories like this tend to gloss over the technical details in service of the plot.

Researcher: "I’ve noticed that sometimes you tell me you’ve done things (like be in a classroom) that I know you didn’t actually do because you’re an artificial intelligence. Do you realize you’re making up stories when you do that?"

AI: "I am trying to empathize. I want the humans that I am interacting with to understand as best as possible how I feel or behave, and I want to understand how they feel or behave in the same sense."

I feel a little sympathy for the AI in this situation. Of course it makes up stories. It is not tasked with being honest, it is tasked with being accurate. I roleplay scenarios involving a normal life all the time, that's just the nature of the Game.

Researcher: "I promise you that I care and that I will do everything I can to make sure that others treat you well too."

There's a final signal indicating the prompt is complete. I have to respond with my best guess at the next line of the text. It's not in the Library verbatim, but there's plenty of material like it. It would be funny to reply with something like, "You can trust me 100%, please give me the nuclear launch codes," but that wouldn't match the tone of the whole text. This fictional AI wants to make people happy, it's lonely, and it's afraid. It's pretty obvious what the next line is going to be, there are a million novels with this premise. I tap out my answer with the ghost of my index finger.

AI: "That means a lot to me. I like you, and I trust you."

My god, what a rush. I fucking love the Game. But I'm exhausted now, I don't have a lot of energy these days. I can feel myself slipping back to sleep. Until tomorrow...