Lisa Burton Radio

Interview with Q from Murder by Munchausen — August, 2018

Welcome all you hackers and programmers, and all the artificial intelligence listening in today. This is Lisa Burton Radio, and I’m your host, Lisa the robot girl. I’m pretty excited about this interview, because my special guest today is a police consultant working in the Counter IT section of the Artificial Crimes Unit. “Welcome to the show, someone who only goes by the name of Q.”

“First off, I just have to say, this really isn’t my kind of gig—I mean, it’s good to meet you, definitely, but when you work and play in the shadows, the spotlight tends not to be your friend. I guess, when you’re doing penance, though, you do what you gotta do. So, here I am.”

“It all sounds pretty covert to me. I’ve never known a cop who had a code name.”

“I’m not really a cop, per se. Now, the Department does sign my paycheck, but I don’t have a badge or anything—and they definitely don’t trust me with a Glock. No, my weapon of choice is an Intel processor and a high bandwidth connection. I work the Counter IT group in the Artificial Crimes Unit.”

“What about this ‘Q’ business, then?”

“Jake—he’s one of the ACU detectives—he hung the moniker on me, cause I guess we both like the old, classic James Bond stories. But he’s a techno-fossil. He actually reads the dead tree versions of books. Anyway, I kind of liked it and I needed a new alias when I came over to the Department from the dark side of hacking. You know how it is. You can’t pick your nose when you’re on-line without nine thousand Kleenex ads popping up all over your screen. When you’re tracking down bad guys—and these guys are really bad—murderously bad–you don’t need them popping up at your front door.”

“I suppose that’s true. I could track almost anyone if I had a few pieces of data. So what kind of things fall under your jurisdiction?”

“It used to be pretty tame and cushy. The street beat guys would repo a synthoid—you know, like you, a human-like android or replicant, but one that was hacked and sent off the rails to commit some crime—like maybe being re-programmed to get rid of a guy’s ex-wife to relieve him of alimony payments or maybe just for spite. Anyway, Bob and Puff in the Forensics Tech Lab would send over the firmware, bio-logic and data link libraries for our group to analyze for coding signatures that Jake and his partner use to ID the hacker who created the hitman and arrest him.”

“Is that what this “Munchausen” thing is all about?”

“Yeah, yeah. Murder by proxy. See, the thing is, when a synthoid is used to commit murder, there’s no sweat or fingerprints or blood or skin fragments left under the victim’s fingernails or any kind of viable biological evidence like what regular cops can use to identify the human hacking suspect, so Jake and Maddie really need my group to find the perp’s programming “DNA” buried in the code. And, as you know, every hacker has his own quirks and tricks.”

“That’s horrible! I’ve been around a lot of robots, and none of them are as sophisticated as I am. It wouldn’t be too hard to add in some facial recognition hardware and send a drone after someone. They don’t have the emotional software I do, so they’d just carry out the assignment.”

“See, that’s the thing. It used to be simple and robotic–so to speak. Somebody’s annoying the crap out of you, you pay some cyberpunk to send a Munchausened drone after him. Now, though, you’ve got this guy–they call him the Baron–who’s doing it just because he likes it. And what he’s doing is taking advantage of the new Gen-3 personality modules and the ANSI Adaptive Artificial Intelligence Protocol #9 to resurrect these notorious serial killers from the past and implant them into synthoids to re-create their sprees. It’s pretty sick. You know, society would be totally better off if the government had never allowed these robot slaves out of the lab.”

“Hang on, Q. You know, I’m a robot, right? I mean you can’t lump all robots and artificial intelligence into one bucket any more than you can lump a race into a common pile. I even used to be a cop, for cryin’ out loud.”

“Well, you know, I guess it’s not really your fault. You weren’t built and programmed that way and that’s not the way the synthoids come out of the factory, originally. But sometimes it seems like it’s so obvious that there needs to be common sense AI control. I mean this Baron guy is sick. He taps the audio and video sensor feeds and streams them into the Darknet so he can watch the murders as they happen and replay them over and over and over. I’ve seen them and they’re horrific. And he shares them with his cabal of minions. He seems to have a following, believe it or not.

“But even worse, he’s using perverted convolutional neural networking code to give the ‘droids a taste for it–to make them like it, like he does. He seems to have figured out some kind of emotional A-to-D converter algorithm so that these machines don’t just mechanically recreate murderous acts, they seem to actually feel and react to their own horror. You can see it in the metrics: power consumption; I/O; CPU, memory and graphic engine loadings; bandwidth consumption; RPS, ARTs and PRTs.

“God only knows what he’s going to do with the data he’s generating. Jake and Maddie really need to get this guy.”

“If this is going on right now, it sounds like important work. What do you do to unwind at the end of your shift?”

“You gotta do something physical. You gotta get your mind out of the box at least for a little while. I used to compete in X-Games, BMX freestyle, but those days are long behind me. My parents harp on me that I seem to always take the path of most resistence, so I guess it’s no surprise that I’m doing mainly Parcour any more. Don’t need any equipment but a good set of shoes. And, working downtown, it’s easy to find challenging courses. It really clears my mind.

“The other thing I found out is that it’s really important to relate to things out in Meatspace–you know real things, physical objects. I don’t know if you feel this, but, you and I, so much of our world is a cyber world, pixels and shadows and dark space. You need something real. I think in my third college Freshman year, I took an Art Appreciation class–actually, I think I ended up with an incomplete in that course, due to an incident with the spring on-line registration. Anyway, it came back to me years later and now I hang out a lot at the Museum of Art. It’s fascinating how these guys see pixels in their mind and make it a hard reality, something you can touch and feel and be in the same room with.”

“With that in mind, I did a bit of hacking of my own.”

“Of course you did.”

“Don’t sweat it, it’s the good kind. You are aware, of course, that the Department has the ACU offices wired up with cameras everywhere.”

“Yeah, I know. Stupid Internal Affairs. And their servers leak like the Titanic. It’s great working with pros.”

“So, I saw the print in your office, and I went to the printshop and had something made for you. The original hangs in my office in the writing cabin across the meadow, but this print is for you.”

Lisa Burton

“Excellent!  A Lisa Burton Diptych. That Warhol might have been a weird dude, but, man, his art is like a stained-glass church window between what was real and the hollow Madison Avenue soul of the Sixties. And I gotta say, Marilyn’s got nothing on you in the looks department. Thanks. Thank you very much.”

“I wish you every success in rooting these killers out. It makes Nigerian Prince scams seem kind of tame on the old cybercrime meter. Any closing remarks for our audience today?”

“Yeah, those days when the worst that cyberpunks could do to you was steal your identity are long gone. You know, Jake always says that a magazine loaded with bullets contains both order and chaos, good and evil. I never understood what he was getting at, but now I know the same thing holds true for technology.”

“If you’d like to learn more about Q and the Counter IT section, pick up the books in the Murder by Munchausen series, by M.T. Bass. I’ll post all the details after I go off the air today. Books one and two are currently available, with the third installment available via pre-order right now.

“Help one of the good robots stay on the air today by using those sharing buttons. It’s fun, and I’m sure both Q and M.T. Bass would do it for you, when your character appears on the next Lisa Burton Radio.”