The Mischievous Nerd's Guide to World Domination
Author: Stephen Oberauer

Chapter 23
My African dream

My friends and relatives soon discovered that I was hiding something. It was obvious from quitting my job and buying a large house that I was up to something. It wasn’t long before I had to tell them that I had started a software business and that it was doing really well. I didn’t tell them that the business was booble.com, I didn’t tell them that I was using artificial intelligence, and I certainly didn’t mention my profit.

The real world seemed to be getting more and more miserable. The real world being the world that I was not living in, but surrounded by. The newspaper was full of hijackings and murders. I could see people struggling to earn enough to get through the month and becoming depressed. I had the ability to make a difference in the world. While lying awake in bed one night I thought about things that could be changed in the world to make it a better place. If there were robots everywhere, helping out, then surely they would be able to do the work instead of people, and we could all just relax and enjoy living rather than working ourselves to death.

My spider, John, was learning more and more, but he was still very much a robot. My goal for him was to become as human as possible. There were, however, some problems with that. I wouldn’t want him to be human because, if he were, he could be greedy and dangerous. Probably the biggest problem I faced was how to give something the ability to think for itself, but control it at the same time, and prevent it from hurting anybody else. I suppose its the same problem that God had with Adam and Eve. His solution was to tell us that if we didn’t do what he said, we would be sent to hell, and our fear would keep us under control. I considered doing something similar with John, but realised that he might simply not believe it, and then I would have a problem. I thought about programming them with certain priorities like that they should never injure a human, but firstly that would be incredibly difficult to do properly and secondly they could then either change their programming, or find some other way to cause a chain reaction that could end up hurting a person. Love is not something that can be programmed, I realized, it’s a human thing that requires a soul.

The problem bothered me for a few weeks and I thought that perhaps I had come to the end of the road. Perhaps there was not much more that I could do for John, but the problem remained in the back of my mind as I hoped that one day I would find a solution.


For new years eve on 31 December, 2002, I had a party at my place. I invited some old friends who I had not spoken to in a while. I could blame it on my project if I wanted to, but I know that I could have invited them around if I was willing to put my project on hold for a short while.

The complete guest list was: Raymond, Ryan, Ian, Owen, Andrew, Alan, Trevor, Rupert, Rodney and me. Yes, despite having everything one could ask for, I still struggled to speak to girls.

The night started off as a bit of a karaoke evening. I had all of the band equipment set up in the lounge, as well as a strobe light, lasers and a fog machine. We played some punk rock songs while the guys who weren’t members of the band took turns singing with the band.

As it got close to midnight we headed outside. I jumped as a loud bang came from the house next door and the red glow of a firework shot out of their back yard. We looked up and watched it. ‘Cool,’ Rodney approved.

10 seconds remained until 2003. The ten of us counted down at the edge of the pool, ‘... 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, happy new year!’ we shouted as we simultaneously bomb dropped into the dark, slightly heated water below. Bangs and cheering could be heard all around as red and green fireworks shot up into the sky.

Cape Town really does have some fantastic summer nights. It was good to catch up with my old friends and see my brother again. I had sent my brother a plane ticket and invited him to stay with me for a month. I would never have guessed that the night would have ended up as a religious debate in the pool, but it did. Andrew had brought enough alcohol with to make us all drunk, but since I was brought up in a home that taught that alcohol was bad, I refused to drink any.

Rodney became curious about my insistence on being sober, so while paddling in the pool he approached me and asked, ‘Why don’t you drink, dude?’

‘My mom’s had some bad experience with alcohol, so she’s very anti drinking.’

‘She’s not here,’ Rodney pointed out.

‘I try to be as honest as I can, so it doesn’t really matter that she’s not here.’

‘So, its not a religious thing?’ Trevor asked, joining in the conversation.

‘No, well, maybe its a religious thing to my mom, but Christians are really not supposed to get drunk. The bible doesn’t say anything against having a small amount of alcohol,’ I explained.

The others made their way over to my end of the pool to join in the conversation, and Andrew asked, ‘Do you still go to church, NB?’

‘Yes. You?’ I asked back.

‘Haven’t been for a while,’ he said.

‘I have a question,’ Trevor began, ‘If God created us, who created God?’

Everyone looked at me, expecting me to give the answer. I answered, ‘Well, the bible says that God just always was.’ Being defensive like most people when their beliefs are challenged I threw back a similar question, ‘I also have a question. If the big bang created us, who built the bomb?’

Andrew seemed to find the conversation a little too serious for his liking, so he added in a very humorous tone, ‘Maybe a super God created God!’

‘And a super, super God created the super God, who created God,’ Alan added.

Its funny how the mind works. When there’s something that you’re looking for, like the solution to a complex problem, sometimes the solution will be found in the most unexpected place. I may have found my solution, because in a way I was like God, trying to create intelligent beings, but perhaps I did not need to build them myself. Perhaps I would get John to build the robot. Since we were on the subject, I decided to use the opportunity to get my friends to brainstorm ideas for me in a way that they wouldn’t know what I was really asking. ‘I have a question’, I began, ‘If you were God, what would you do to try to keep people from doing bad things?’

Andrew answered first, ‘I would zap them with a lightning bolt every time.’

‘Okay,’ I responded, ‘but then you’d have to monitor every single person’s thoughts and that could get a little boring.’

‘What I would do’, my brother replied, ‘is to tell people that there is really only one soul, so when you die you become someone else. So, if you do anything bad to someone else, you’re really doing something bad to yourself; only it’s either your future or past self.’

‘I think I would just modify their brains while they’re asleep, Rodney suggested. If they’re plotting a bank robbery then they’re going to wake up the next morning with the urge to buy fluffy, pink clothing.’

‘I like your idea, Rodney,’ I told him, realizing that Rodney may have actually come up with an idea that I could use to solve my problem. ‘But God’s going to be really busy, so he’ll probably want to use artificial intelligence to monitor everyone’s brains rather than doing it himself.’

‘Totally,’ Rodney replied.

The conversation just became sillier after that, and we started a game of volleyball in the pool.

 

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