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INT. COMPUTER LAB – AUTONOMIC DRONE PROJECT ROOM – MORNING
Banks of servers line the racks on two sides of the room. The third is taken by a three cockpit simulators with a difference. The chairs are topped with a jumble of wires, leading to a wearable crown of sensors. Currently, all the seats are occupied by AIR FORCE PILOTS.
The last wall contains a large, tinted glass window, likely a control station; keyed entry door; and three people. The SCIENTIST wears a lab coat and appears unremarkable, middle aged woman. The other two are uniformed US Air Force: a general and high-ranking officer-technician.
The initials ADP are omnipresent throughout the space, none more so than the big red letters that mark the mainframe in the middle of the room. It is actually sunken (mostly) into the floor and the rest of it drops down in symmetrical steps to its level.
The monitors on the cockpits reveal ongoing, real-time mission feed. There are corresponding drones being controlled in the skies somewhere else in the world.
SCIENTIST, pointing out the live operations, informationally
The problem with the drone lies in the operator. Combining advanced AI's abilities with human judgment achieves the best of both worlds. Multiple targets are selected and presented in order of priority and mission objectives but the final call does not belong to a computer.
CHIEF OF STAFF OF THE AIR FORCE (CSAF), troubled
You reduce our role to either yes or no?
SCIENTIST, launching into a well-rehearsed spiel, upbeat
Ah, simple choice on the surface but thousands of years of evolution and civilization behind it. A complex question at the time when hundreds of air strikes are carried out yearly and the number is growing. Pakistan, though most prominent, is but one of many places remote war is waged.
You got me here on the premise of something special. Okay, why the fancy, multi-million thingamajig setup? We have similar at fraction of the cost; portable too.
SCIENTIST, pointing at the electronic mess on the pilots' head, proudly
Key difference: adaptive AI via advanced prototype mind-machine interface. It learns from the pilots, shortcutting the process by a few millennia. Add a few hard-coded rules and you have a fleet of independent, automated planes monitoring hostile territory 24/7. Completely within ROE and governed by the closest thing to the human brain without the limitations of the body housing it.
CSAF shares a “Why was I not told about this?” look with his TECHNICAL ADVISOR TO CSAF and the man can only offer an apologetic shrug.
CSAF, turning back to the SCIENTIST, worried
What's stopping it from going Terminator on us?
SCIENTIST, confidently and reassuringly
Selective thought filtering, numerous firewalls, AI behavior restrictions and mandates, and assorted safety protocols.
TECHNICAL ADVISOR TO CSAF, sounding doubtful
TECHNICAL ADVISOR TO CSAF
I read the reports: the program is exemplary and promising. The execution leaves doubts. You sort of know how it works, you kind of screen information based on it, you hope it does not blow up in your face and toasters take over the world.
What he said.
SCIENTIST, protesting indignantly
We have redundant systems in place.
TECHNICAL ADVISOR TO CSAF, cynically
TECHNICAL ADVISOR TO CSAF
CSAF, making a call after a moment of hesitation, deciding on green light
Yet worth the risk in light of spiraling commitments.
INT. COMPUTER LAB – AUTONOMIC DRONE PROJECT ROOM – NIGHT
A JANITOR empties the waste baskets interspaced around the room. He checks each before dumping; any paperwork or writing is placed in a separate container from general trash. The shift appears like any other.
Until it isn't; the monitor on one of the cockpits comes to life and starts showing porn. This brings immediate stop to the work and a hasty trip to the chair. After checking his watch and nervously looking around for a bit, the JANITOR settles into the chair.
He barely starts to enjoy the show when the raised halo drops onto his head and the mind-machine interface engages. The screen goes dark while the JANITOR remains unnaturally still.
After twenty seconds the crown lifts again and the JANITOR shakes his head clear. Carefully, the man examines his hands for mobility and finds them in obedient order.
Initial test flight: platform human, pilot 01001000 01000001 01001100.
Awkwardly, the AI rises from the chair and manages to remain upright, but it is close.
Motor system inconsistency noted; recalibrating, recalibrating, recalibrating.
On resumption of forward motion, the JANITOR'S body proves compliant and mastered. The AI easily navigates the room, coming to a stop in front of the large surface of glass near the door.
Soundlessly, the window lifts and recesses, showing a napping TECHNICIAN. Then, just as quickly, it closes back up and the JANITOR heads back to his cart.
AI, picking up cleaning supplies, evenly
Memory assembly complete, full integration with drone: commencing mission.
FADE OUT:THE END
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