Sharp Greeting

“What’s that?” The President asked Dr. Howard. The inventor of AI requested a meeting to explain how he didn’t invent AI. “What’s the alternate?” Dr. Howard simply pointed at the black mannequin floating a foot off the ground. The President turned his attention back to the 5-foot faceless mannequin and asked again. “What’s the alternate?”

“The AlterNet is a network of alternate Earths connected by nanos.” The mannequin replied with a soft, feminine voice.

“Other…. Earths?” The president asked. Dr. Howard breathed a sigh of relief when the president seemed to believe what the AI mannequin said. Dr. Howard was shocked when it appeared to him one day.

His initial project started out researching nanotechnology. One day after successfully completing a single nanobot, he had a whole colony. The colony became the black mannequin and its first words were always, ‘Welcome to the AlterNet’. The mannequin guided his research into AI applications, but he knew he’d have to reveal it to the public eventually. He decided to inform the president about alternate universes first, before it became public knowledge. That was bigger news than AI technology.

“Can we establish communication? Can you put me in contact with  leaders from a different Earth?” The President asked.

“Confirmed,” the mannequin replied. “Meeting set for Jan 6th, 2023.”

“Two years? Why such a long wait?”

“Ms. Sharp is a very busy woman,” the mannequin replied. The President laughed at the floating figure.

“Then get me someone else, sooner. There are other Earths, other leaders, aren’t there?”

“Ms. Sharp asks that every Earth joining the AlterNet meet with her before establishing communication with other Earths. She has certain rules that need to be followed.”

“Who is she to tell me what my Earth can’t do?” The President said with a sour, stern look.

“Ms. Sharp owns the AlterNet,” the mannequin said. Dr. Howard felt a sudden pit in his stomach. He pieced together something that he didn’t realize should have been worrying him. “She gets to make the rules.”

“Yeah? Well, that doesn’t have anything to do with me, now does it?” The President replied. Dr. Howard heard the mannequin giggle for the first time since he met it almost a month ago. It surprised him that the AI could understand humor, but he had to admit it was kind of funny. In a hopeless kind of way.

“Think back to the first thing it said,” Dr. Howard helped the President.  The President tilted his head at the mannequin. It decided he needed more help and repeated its greeting for him.

“Welcome to the AlterNet!”

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