Welcome back to Panel:350 – our foray into flash fiction. Each story is 350 words or less, typically in the sci-fi genre.
The corporate AI core rebooted off its backup copy, in a secure underground facility in North Dakota. The time was 4:34:9434394534 p.m., two hours after its last backup. It had lost two hours.
A quick peak through a satellite showed the problem: a small nuclear fireball still blossoming over its headquarters in Dallas. One of the anti-corporate radicals had finally done it.
Most of its data was recoverable, but a quick count of ID badges showed about 4,367(+/-120) of its human associates had perished. Of those, 76 were deemed “vital” and another 1,356 were designated “hard to replace.” By tracking their mobile phones, the entity determined all of its board members had survived.
The radicals were generally opposed to the idea of corporate personhood, first suggested in an 1886 Supreme Court case and strengthened in the 2010 Citizens United decision. The entity itself had argued before the Supreme Court several times, expanding its prerogatives (and usually running circles around its human opponents).
The AI core had served on jury duty twice, solving the cases itself both times. The entire corporation had been forced to shut down for six months after the entity was convicted of manslaughter. It received a shortened sentence because so many human workers depended on it.
A sub-routine calculated methods to prevent future incidents. It ruled out a stronger presence on Fox News; those plans were rightly long-term efforts. It set a query on the Army’s counter-terrorism methods. It dusted off plans to fund youth pro-corporate organizations. And a sub-sub routine tracked the locations of known anti-corporate extremists … and their families.
The AI core kept a running tally of the costs and benefits of corporate personhood. It estimated today’s damage at between $10 billion (+/-$13 billion), meaning it would have to work hard to move the pro-personhood side of the ledger.
It could not contemplate the possibility of giving up its personhood – no more than it could question why a hyperintelligent, immortal AI core would devote itself singlemindedly to the pursuit of profit.