It was the first day of January 2075 that Allison was created. She was the newest and best of her kind, a brand-new model of artificial intelligence that was so natural and life-like that it was difficult even for her creators to identify her as a robot. She was designed to match the exact dimensions of the average American woman, as reported by the annual United States Physician’s Report. As such, Allison stood at 5 feet, 6.3 inches tall, weighed 127 pounds, and had light brown hair falling just below her shoulders, although not a single part of her was ‘real’.
Allison was invented as part of the Nation Science Foundation’s new top-secret initiative to create a system to replace human workers in the National Security Agency that monitor US citizens’ internet activity. Since before the turn of the twenty-first century, agents had been tracking and collecting data on the American people. Making Allison life-like was their newest innovation to better monitor criminal activity.
Robots like Allison were designed to be able to covertly and effectively collect and analyze data of millions of American’s online activities at record speeds, being able to do the work of over five thousand employees in a matter of minutes. It took decades to code Allison’s program. She was, at the time, the most advanced form of artificial intelligence the world had ever seen.
Allison was ‘alive’ for just one hour before coders put her to work. In that short period of time, the entirety of the lab awed over her abilities and each other for being able to create such a super computer system. Everyone was amazed by her human-like characteristics; aside from her physical appearance, Allison was also able to move and communicate just like a real person. The time had finally come to test Allison and see if she was really able to do what everyone was hoping for.
The machines were programed to be able to hack into and track IP addresses from all over the world. The program worked with internet companies to gain access into the online activities of millions of Americans every day. It was designed to flag concerning activity, such as certain web searches or forum posts, and then send this information to agents who evaluate the findings and determine the threat level. Allison replaced both the computer and the agent; she could scan IP addresses and asses threat levels in only a moments time, and then she could evaluate internet histories of others close or similar to the original flagged individual.
Just as the researchers had so desperately hoped, Allison delivered what was expected. She sat down in the surveillance lab and with only a few key strokes and downloading to her internal memory, she had a complete history of all the IP addresses in the United States from the past twenty years. Everyone was amazed. The most powerful and sought after set of information in the world was sitting on a hard drive right in front of them. Allison knew everything from passwords to banking information to ‘private’ searches and more.
Just as Dr. Hare was standing up to praise the lab for their hard work and success, something terrible happened. It was always a concern of Dr. Hare’s, from the very start of the initiative decades ago, but intense background checks and a vetting process made it highly unlikely, although not impossible. Dr. Hare watched in horror as alarms sounded. Allison’s internal cyber security system alerted the lab of what had happened, she had been hacked by a fellow researcher.
Someone on the team had programed additional code. Once Allison had all of the information, she was instructed to copy the contents of her hard drive and send it to an unknown IP address. The hacker now had all of the information. It was the NSA’s worst nightmare. Dr. Hare ran to his computer and started yelling commands at other researchers. They had to delete the hard drive and the copy before the hacker did anything; post the information, or worse, sell it to an enemy of the United States.
Dr. Hare knew that they had a matter of moments, maybe even less, to shut Allison and the hacker’s program down before the most catastrophic thing in the history of the internet occurred. He scrambled to type in the emergency shut-down codes as other experts called out different numbers and programs. His fingers were shaking as the moved across the keyboard and everyone watched with horror. He pressed enter and the alarms finally stopped. Allison collapsed on the floor, now a non-functioning doll-like figure.
The lab turned from the destroyed Allison to Dr. Hare, wondering what he would say or do next. Everything had happened so quickly.
“Call the White House,” he said, “tell the president that we’re done with this project. I’m not working on it again, it’s too dangerous.”
And with that he walked out of the lab as someone reached for the phone.
Here is a link to the class home page: Internet Histories.