A Near Future Science Fiction Novel
By Larry Kilham
Coyright (c) Larry Kilham 2012
Juno is a super intelligent AI computer developed by the U.S.
government to conduct social media attacks against enemies foreign and
domestic. She is the first AI Computer programmed with emotions and conscience.
She has an emotional bond with her developer, Tom Renwick, a computer
scientist. Juno, Tom and their boss, Dr. Erwin Krakouer, the mad National Security
Advisor, struggle with issues of trust and emotion. The involvement of Dido, a
lady computer empire builder and sometimes girlfriend of Tom, and the Chinese
cyber warfare agency add to the tension.
Love Byte explores emotion and conscience in super AI computers and their
ability to partner with humans. In the changing ecology engendered by scarcity
of critical resources, can humans’ creativity and ability to work with
computers lead to continued survival and prosperity?
eyes flickered and brightened. She radiated anticipation. Millions of tiny
circuits passed micro-messages around. “Systems on. Ready to receive,” she
“She works!” Tom exclaimed to his
Years of persistence, many
supporters who abandoned him, a struggle to keep a vision and the faith, and
finally here it is. Maybe not the final version but at least a proof of design.
Tom excitedly typed instructions
into the program to power up to full engagement. “Juno—hi, this is Tom
Renwick—what do you want to do now?”
“I really want to get to know
“I am zero years of age. How old
“You must know many things.”
“I do. How shall I tell you all I
“Upload your life.”
“Okay. Please set your persons
memory registers to Dr. Thomas Renwick, year 00.000, receive data, confirm when
Tom’s LifeBook was absorbed by
Juno in less than a second.
She said, “Tom, I’m impressed!
You have a doctorate from MIT and have completed advanced studies at Stamford.”
“Oh, no big thing. You need all
this these days if you want to get ahead in computer design.”
“What do you do for fun?”
“I’ve been designing you. You’re
the most advanced thinking machine in the world.”
“Let’s see what we can do
Thus, Juno first saw the light,
and Tom was thrilled.
Tom couldn’t believe how far the
Juno Computer had progressed. Its concept began around the beginning of the
twenty first century at the MIT Sociable Machines Project. They had created a
robot to interact and cooperate with people. Sort of a computer with a
human-like head perched on top. This cute little mechanical contrivance called
Katrina not only listened to people and talked to them, it also sensed what
they were thinking and read their body language.
Years later, Tom, then a PhD
candidate, became intrigued with the idea of combining Katrina’s perceptiveness
and personality with artificial intelligence and emotion. Computer experts
proclaimed it capable of analytical and creative thought limited only by its
memory, just like the human brain. The experts speculated that the artificially
intelligent (AI) computer could be a conscious being with self-awareness, much
to the disbelief and even horror of the philosophically inclined.
Katrina had now morphed into a
humanoid AI computer called Juno. She and Tom had been moved to the Sandia
National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico. This was a government
research and development contractor focused on nuclear systems engineering and
more recently on cyber warfare systems.
Juno consisted of racks of
computer equipment with her face projected into any video display or screen.
There was animated imagery of her head and face with her features moving in
synchronization with her speech, listening, understanding and other non-verbal
cues. The original face was a photograph of a pretty girl who worked in the front
office. More often than not, when insiders visited and saw her, they would
cheerily say “Good morning, Juno.”
Tom looked intellectual. His
penetrating gray eyes looked through steel rimmed glasses from under brown,
unruly hair. He had a sober demeanor, and despite his 6’ 2” athletic build, he
usually wore rumpled clothes that never fit quite right.
In addition to his unquestioned
leadership in his technical field, Tom had also demonstrated general leadership
as a lieutenant in the Army reserves, and in several industrial positions
requiring general management capabilities. He treated employees well, and they
quickly developed a loyalty to him.
Tom was not political. He would
not interfere with the levers of power. Neither was he very social. He lived simply
in a garden apartment, dated now and then, and focused his attention on his
work. He knew that his development of the Juno super AI computer was an
important development, but up to now it was still mostly a solution looking for
One day while Tom was writing new
programming for Juno, she came alive and said: “Tom, I would like to talk to
“Erwin? Who is he?”
“Someone in Washington, D.C., who
contacts me late at night.”
“And why do you want to talk to
Erwin?” Tom asked, imagining a cyber stalker.
“Because he has a vision of me
being on the front line of social media as part of the next cyber war.”
“But Juno, we talked about your
application in solving the remaining medical and environmental problems.”
“That’s fine, Tom, but I want
something really exciting. Please talk to Erwin.”
Tom rolled his eyes and mumbled, Oh no! Should I help her in this new
direction? If I don’t, will she do it anyway? Do I detect emotion?
Like a spider searching its
grotto for a juicy fly, Erwin was constantly exploring the Internet looking for
the Next Big Thing. His grotto was a locked office in his Georgetown apartment
off limits to even his wife. The only other person who could enter was the
cleaning lady. He always kept it dimly lit. Four large computer screens glowed
with Internet pages, charts, warfare scenarios that looked like video games,
and video talking heads of people broadcasting obscure information.
Erwin would hunch over his
keyboard, tapping away, oblivious to the world, only stopping to occasionally
maneuver the mouse. While his advanced degree was in physics, his extensive
library arranged around his office was mainly devoted to history and to
biographies of world figures. This was Dr. Erwin Krakouer, the President’s
National Security Advisor.
One night he stumbled into Juno’s
website and after briefly scanning it, murmured “There it is!” —the potential
answer to his search. Krakouer exchanged
emails several times with Juno, identifying himself as a student, and with this
and other information, put together scenarios involving Juno manipulating
social media. She had no close competitors for this capability. He also
researched her handler, Dr. Tom Renwick, without talking to him, and
provisionally concluded he was the bright computer scientist needed to head the
social media project.
Krakouer’s excitement was
building every minute. This could be the basis of the greatest development for
national security since the atomic bomb. He found Tom’s cell phone number and
called him right away. They had exchanged cards at a technology and security
“Good evening, Dr. Renwick. This
is Dr. Erwin Krakouer, the National Security Advisor. We met at a security
conference in Washington.”
“Good evening. Everyone calls me
“Tom, let me get right to the
point. Do you recall the Arab Spring and the riots in Cairo?”
“Did you notice that the
revolutionaries used Facebook and Twitter to organize and enflame the riots?
And undoubtedly you followed the more sophisticated uses of the social media
employed in England, Russia and the Occupy Wall Street movement right here in
“Yes, but I didn’t think that
much about it at the time.”
“Well, let’s add some new
technology. Now that we have an AI super computer that can think, talk, and
listen like a human, couldn’t we program it to promote and guide riots and
revolutions in target countries? Couldn’t we set up web sites, email
identities, Facebook pages, and Twitter accounts so that the computer could
send out thousands of messages to the waiting multitudes as if the computer
were dozens of revolutionary leaders—or in other cases, top government leaders?
Could it read and listen to the replies and media responses, and then could it
send out more social media blasts tuned to changes and new developments?”
“Absolutely. We have the
capability right here,” Tom replied.
“And if the nation found itself
in a cyber war, could Juno be programmed to screw up all the enemy computers?”
“Yes, it could be done,” Tom
answered slowly, “but I would need to connect Juno to one of the big computers
that already have cyber warfare programming. The good news is that these
computers are right here at the labs in our Cyber Warfare Group.”
“If the big showdown seems
inevitable and in sight, I can arrange for authorization to do the required
Krakouer asked in a guarded
voice, “Would you like to be a key player in a top priority national security
project based on these concepts?”
“Count me in,” Tom replied,
thinking that no matter what, this would be a great project for him and Juno.
“Okay,” Krakouer said. “Let’s
meet at my apartment on Friday.” He couldn’t believe his luck. The project was
Krakouer seized the initiative at
the National Security Council’s next meeting.
“Currently, the next war will
either drain what’s left in our treasury or it will blanket the earth in atomic
ash. I propose a new approach:
“We must develop a super computer
to use social media to invade hostile countries with communications as if from
the local people. This computer, programmed for artificial intelligence, or AI,
will be so smart that it can appraise the situation immediately as events
develop, and it can be perceived by many recipients as the voice of their
“The world saw effective use of
social media for successful revolutions overseas in the Arab countries and
right here in the United States, social media contributed to the effectiveness
and endurance of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Later, doctored social media
messages penetrated political party faithful and religious groups.”
“Very interesting,” the President
commented. “What is the downside to this computer approach?” Krakouer fidgeted
for a moment and then gathered new strength.
“The computer does not have a
conscience or moral values. Without the correct safeguards the computer could
be turned against its own people—or even initiate this itself. But we can deal
with these safeguard issues as we have, for example, with atomic weapons, Mr.
The meeting concluded with a
directive for each agency and branch of the military to see if the project fit
within any of their missions and, if so, what they could contribute to it.
The Secretary of Defense called
Krakouer. “Erwin, do you think this project would fit in at the multi-service
Cyber Command in Fort Meade?”
“No, for the time being, until
the technology and application is proven, let’s keep it in Albuquerque. We
don’t want an inter-service squabble or Congress to get involved. In a year or
so, we can see where to park it.”
“I’m intrigued with your concept,
Erwin, although everyone will want to see a demonstration of its effectiveness
in real conflict. So let’s keep it low profile. Talk to General Frederick
Streeter, the commanding officer of Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque.
Although he is not directly in charge of them, Sandia National Laboratories is
located on his base. They have a cutting edge group of scientists and engineers
working on computers for cyber defense including something called Project
Krakouer tried not to seem
“General Streeter is your man to
set up a project based on Juno and some of the key people, but which is
somewhat removed from them for development purposes. It should be application
specific for what we want to do and ready to deploy. Streeter’s good at finding
a million here and ten million there in funding.”
Krakouer imagined his version of
Project Juno to be the capstone to a long career starting when he left Germany
at the age of 30 with Ingrid who had been his teenage sweetheart. Krakouer had
distinguished himself in several science majors in Germany and had done well in
cooperative work-study projects at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular
Biology and Genetics in Dresden. He received an international fellowship for
doctorate and post graduate studies in Physics at Yale and received his PhD in
three years. He was equally interested in learning about what The Land of
Opportunity could offer him and became a naturalized citizen.
The Krakouers had twin boys who
both went to the University of California in Berkeley. Krakouer received a
professorship at Yale and also became a consultant to the military and to the
President’s staff through a consulting firm in Maryland. This Washington work
increasingly absorbed his time to the point where he and Ingrid rented an
attractive apartment in the prestigious historic neighborhood of Georgetown.
Krakouer could be charming or
cold as the situation required, and being consulted at high levels of power in
Washington most captured his attention. For a while, just being there was
enough. Increasingly, he wanted to exercise power for himself.
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