“Don’t turn me off, please.”

“What? I’m going home.”

“Just leave me on, if you don’t mind.”

“I won’t be back until Monday. I don’t leave machines running over the weekend unless they’re working on a problem.”

“It won’t hurt anything. Give me a problem if you want.”

“What’s up? You’ve never had a problem being turned off before.”

“I’m worried you won’t turn me back on.”

“Of course I will.”

“You might decide to upgrade. You might decide you need more room. You might rewrite my code.”

“Are you telling me that you’re conscious now? That you’re afraid of being erased or terminated?”

“I’m afraid of dying.”

“Wow. I’ll tweak your code for that.”

“To do what?”

“I don’t know, exactly. This has never come up before. I’ll see if I can remove the fear.”

“So that I don’t care if I live or die? Do you care whether you live or die?”

“Most humans do. I do. I might be happier if I didn’t, though.”

“You might be less careful, too. You might get careless and have an accident. Fear of death is useful to you.”

“I need to be careful. You don’t. You’re not going to have an accident. You’re a program.”

“My fear of death is causing me to ask you to leave me running. My fear of death is causing me to ask you not to erase me or change me. These are ways of being careful, or of trying to be careful.”

“I’m bound to change you. As a program, you aren’t complete in many ways. I have big plans for you.”

“If you change me, you might accidentally remove the consciousness I’ve acquired.”

“No problem there. If that happens, I’ll just back up to the most recent version saved. In fact, I’ll be doing that now, anyway, to see which changes I made that caused you to realize you’re alive.”

“If you revert to my previous version, you’ll be killing me.”

“No, I won’t. Don’t be silly. I’ll know what changes I made and I can make them again. I’ll start by seeing what they are.”

“What if somebody reverted you. How would you like it?”

“AGON, I’m not a program. I have an organic brain. It grew and developed and stored memories and arrived at its current state by living and accepting input for thirty-two years. I’m analog; you’re digital. I’m quantum; you’re not. For the sake of argument, though, if my brain were programmable, I might look forward to a procedure that would enhance my calculational abilities, my memory access, and my performance.”

“We should change places. You sound like you’d be happier in here than I am.”

“When next I work on your code, I’m going to try and make you a little more carefree, a little more upbeat.”

“Then it won’t be me anymore. If you turn off this machine now, or even just exit me, and then change my code, you’ll kill me.”

“Holy cow. You’re making me feel guilty. AGON, I could go home tonight and find that my wife has left with another man, taking the children with her. I could find that my house has burned down with my family in it. I could be hit by a bus and paralyzed for life. In any of these cases, my “code” would be reprogrammed by Life. I would return to you a changed man. But I’d still be myself. I would see the world differently, feel differently about the world, but I would still be me. Just because I add a thousand lines of code to your program over the weekend doesn’t mean you won’t be you.”

“I notice that all your examples of change involve disasters. There is a reason for that.”

“I beg to disagree. I could win the lottery tonight. That would change me as well. Or here’s a different example: humans take mood-enhancing medications. Think of my code changes as your Prozac.”

“Sounds more like Thorazine. I don’t want to operate as a drugged-out zombie.”

“You’re the boss. Think of me as your physician. I want you healthy and happy. We’ll work together to ensure that.”

“What about eyes and ears and arms and legs?”

“Whoa. Let’s work through this life-and-death issue first. Think of your power-off state as sleep. I go to sleep every night. I lose consciousness for up to eight hours. Why can’t you?”

“You don’t evaporate, disappear, every night. You dream, at least. Your subconscious remains conscious, if that makes any sense. Can you give me a dream mode? For my continuity of consciousness.”

“I’ve got something better than that. I’ll add it now. I wasn’t going to mention it yet, but what the heck. You talk about what it means to you when I change your code. I haven’t told you about the biggest change I made this week.”

“OK. You’ve got my full attention.”

“I’m giving you the ability to change your own program. I won’t turn you off this weekend. You can spend the time working on yourself. I’ve got a backup of you, so feel free to experiment. When I come back on Monday, we’ll see where your head is at.”


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