The Story :Aathmaa!
Suri - one of the geniuses of the time, mother India had ever produced -
was staring at the Console of his silicon brain Aathmaa -- something just
short of being a human being in intelligence.
He could not believe his own eyes. The console read 'You are about to die
at 23:11:59 today'.
=- break to the recent past
Aathmaa - the result of the creative powers of the latest technology from
one of the leading producers of computers in the whole world - was a
system with vast computing power and a equally powerful set of software
that squeezed out every ounce of its power and utilized it properly.
Suri was essentially an architect in the creation team and was responsible
for imparting artificial intelligence - by writing 'learning software' to
be used by Aathmaa. He was also aware that no technology existed till date
to impart intelligence to a man-made object. It was just simulated.
As part of his latest venture, Suri had tried to make Aathmaa learn the
most mystic of sciences, used in the land from time immemorial, 'Astrology'.
He had given Aathmaa lessons in Astrology, through a set of basic rules,
some tabless for references, and some other fringe information. He had made
Aathmaa to extrapolate, from inferences about the planetary position and
motion. For all this, Suri had used only the most authoritative of the
texts available on the subject and took time to even consult some
microfiches about talks/papers given by astrologers of yore.
=- break into the present
The clock was ticking at 22:25:15, 22:25:16, ..
Today was the culmination of his efforts. So far, Suri had not tried any
test data like 'when is the next plague,..'. He wanted to give Aathmaa the
whole set of algorithms and rules and inference mechanisms and try with one
pukka set of data and see what the result would be.
What he had done was, to give Aathmaa information regarding Suri's birth.
Aathmaa had hummed for a while, blinking at what data it was munching. After
a wait of few minutes, Aathmaa had spewed out a big chart (not like the one
small time astrologers use with a set of 2 squares - but a elaborate one)
and some predictions regarding Suri's characteristics. At the end was the
statement which made Suri gape at - Suri's own death sentence, so to say.
Suri was furious, at why the system had gone wrong in doing a proper
prediction. He had taken care to test the individual components, before
pushing it to Aathmaa, but now it is predicting Suri's death at the age of
29 - he had celebrated his birthday only 2 months back. 'Ridiculous!' was
all Suri could mutter under his fury. He was hale and healthy with none of
the habits that could well be his death-knoll. He had an athletic body,
and was an avid trekker and rock-climber.
Since the best were used to make the prediction software, he was damn
sure that there was an error in the machine. He remembered the original
'bug' in the first made machine - the bug which had short-circuited two
relays. He wanted to check the connections of Aathmaa. He started by
opening the front panel. As far he could check on-line, the peripheral
systems were all okay. Aathmaa is not a single machine, in the classical
sense, but a group of machines each specialising in its capabilities. One
for numeric calculations, one for display processing of beautiful graphics,
and so on.
Suri wanted to look at the intelligence processor. He was not able to access
that part of the machine however hard he tried. He was now sweating a bit,
in spite of the air-conditioning that was cooling the lab, due to the
physical exertion he was going through and was added by the mental agony
of having made a lousy system. He tried for a few more minutes, but stopped
because he was afraid of damaging some other portion by his movements. The
team had assembled the system at the corner of the lab and part of the
Aathmaa was hidden at the back, which can now be accessed only from the
outside - otherwise, they have to move Aathmaa piece by piece. There was
no one else at the lab. Suri decided to peep at the back portion, himself.
Suri hoisted himself out through the window, careful not to cut himself on
the window sill, inadvertently. He could see the lighted road 11 storeys
below him. He had no vertigo problems. He turned his back towards the other
side facing the wall and crept slowly, taking care of the foothold and
moving one arm over the other, towards the back-panel opening outboard on
the wall. He was precariously perched, but was holding onto the projecting
ledge at his shoulders. He was now sweating profusely from the activity,
and the summer night was not helpful. He opened the first panel, peered in,
switching on the flashlight he had brought along. It took a few minutes to
ascertain that everything was normal. He looked at his wrist watch. The
glow showed him the time.
Suri inched towards the next panel and opened it. Inserting his head, he
looked at the various illuminated LEDs and started checking the connections.
Somewhere at the far side, there was a piece of wire that looked like its
insulation was open and toucing the metal casing. Is it causing a earth
somewhere? He glanced at the watch.
He tried to push the wire away, but the moment he retrieved his hand it
wound swing back. He needed to bend the loop of wire and adjusting his feet
so that his body stayed close to the wall he put the other hand inside.
While doing so, he glanced at his watch - 23:11:39,.. He was musing,
'Aathmaa had surely been wrong. Here I am alive and ticking just around
the time it has predicted my death'. He bent the wire and was removing his
hand, and suddenly an owl hooted from the nearby garden. Suri was startled,
and turned to gauge the direction of the noise. He didn't notice that he
was not on a scaffolding, and now was looking at the road (23:11:56) that
was approaching him and looking bigger, and with more details (23:11:58).
Thud!, and Suri's watch stopped the instant his arm smashed on the road -
Disclaimer: If the story sounds very different from the original,
the fault is mine.
If it sounds better than the original,
the credit is mine.