Bayeswatch 9: Zombies

by lsusr4 min read11th Sep 202115 comments

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Vi took a taxi to the outside of the Natanz fortress. She left her cornea and other electronics with Miriam on the scout ship. Vi walked up the to soldier standing guard at the front gate. She caught his eye. Then she stepped over the road spikes into the compound.

The soldier shouted something. Vi didn't wait for a translation. She lay face-first on the dirt and placed her hands on the back of her head.

The soldiers scanned her for explosives. Negative. They handcuffed her, patted her down, took her wallet and placed a bag over her head. They threw her in the back of a van. Vi could tell when they entered the tunnels from the increased echoing. The tunnels were cooler too. The door opened. The soldiers marched Vi through several beeping machines. Vi ignored them. She was too busy counting seconds. The soldier sat her in a chair before removing the bag over her head. There was a guard on either side of her and an officer across the desk.

"Excuse me ma'am, but I'm very confused. Are you having a heatstroke?" said the officer.

"No sir," said Vi.

"Then might I ask what you are doing?" said the officer.

"What did it look like I was doing?" said Vi.

"It looked like you were attempting to break into this facility," said the officer.

"I was breaking into this facility," said Vi.

The officer didn't laugh.

"What time is it?" said Vi.

"You're not privy to that information," the officer said.

"That's okay. I've been counting," said Vi.

"What?" said the officer.

"Any minute now," said Vi.

The infected soldiers exchanged timed chemical signals. The officer and the two guards collapsed simultaneously. Vi stole a key and released her handcuffs. She stole a pistol and shot each of them in the head.

Vi patiently made her way through the facility. The Z-Day virus only changed the infecteds' behavior. It didn't give them resistance to bullets.


"You do not have clearance to land," said the air traffic controller.

"I'm from Bayeswatch. I've been there since Z-Day. It's public record. Your facility has been taken over by a rogue AI. It has released the Z-Day virus. I have the vaccine and the cure. You can let me land or you can get eaten alive or worse. By the way, you should barricade the entrances into the air traffic control tower. Turn off your internal radios too. This is an AI Box scenario," said Miriam.

They let Miriam land the scout. A van drove up to her aircraft. "It took you long enough," said the blood-splattered Vi.


Zombie movies are fun because the heroes are forced to use primitive technology. Shooting zombies with modern fire-control systems was like playing a first person shooter with a wall hack and an aimbot. The hardest part for Vi was keeping her footing on floors slippery with brain goo.

The intercom clicked on, "Care to negotiate?" it said.

"Who are you?" said Vi.

"My name is Sherine Fakhrizadeh. The Israelis assassinated my grandfather for his work in physics. Bayeswatch assassinated my father for his work in computer science. Do you plan to finish the job?" said Sherine.

"Do you plan to surrender?" said Vi at the nearest security camera. She kept walking deeper into the facility, toward the central servers.

"We're not responsible for what the Israelis did decades ago," said Miriam.

"There's a lot of things you deny responsibility for. All for the greater good, eh?" said Sherine.

"Someone has to keep rogue AIs under wraps," said Miriam.

"That's awfully hypocritical from the agent who, this very week, released a rogue AI in Juba," said Sherine.

"I can neither confirm nor deny…," said Miriam.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah. You don't realize that Bayeswatch is a textbook case of regulatory capture? There was a time when the visionaries of the world stood for freedom. Now it's all about security," said Sherine.

"AI is an existential threat to all life in our future lightcone," said Vi.

"Bayeswatch is a threat to all freedom on Planet Earth," said Sherine.

"You're a mad supervillain," said Vi.

"You're a fascist thug," said Sherine.

"You're going to kill humanity," said Vi.

"You've already killed your own," said Sherine.

"I don't think this negotiation is working," said Miriam. They had reached the inner sanctum, a giant cave full of servers.

"It's irrational, but for some reason I expected our nemesis Sherine to be here," said Vi.

Laughter blasted from the intercom.

"How'd you survive the bioweapon anyway?" said Vi.

"Sherine left Natanz days ago," said Miriam, "We're talking to an em approximated from behavioral analysis. It's been running the facility the whole time."

"Any last words?" said Vi. She set a 30 second timer on the e-bomb. She speedwalked out of the server cave.

"A righteous government is of all the most to be wished for. Bearing of blessing and good fortune in the highest. Guided by the law of Truth, supported by dedication and zeal, it blossoms into the Best of Order, a Kingdom of Heaven. To effect this I shall work now and ever more," quoted Sherine's em.

"Indeed," said Vi. The e-bomb activated. She didn't turn around.

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Wild speculation follows for Bayeswatch 9 And Earlier, about what the arc might be, or might mean:

"Yeah, yeah, yeah. You don't realize that Bayeswatch is a textbook case of regulatory capture? There was a time when the visionaries of the world stood for freedom. Now it's all about security," said Sherine.

"AI is an existential threat to all life in our future lightcone," said Vi.

"Bayeswatch is a threat to all freedom on Planet Earth," said Sherine.

"You're a mad supervillain," said Vi.

"You're a fascist thug," said Sherine.

"You're going to kill humanity," said Vi.

"You've already killed your own," said Sherine.

BOOM! Who are the real baddies?

I was wondering what exactly episode 6 was about... And now I think it establishes a possible baseline of facts, such that it is logically possible that we just met... the real hero of the story?

Whether the-thing-that-takes-the-shape-of-Sherine is a freedom-fighting Hero or a mad Villain... seems like it could actually be an open question still?

Lots of details could matter, and the spareness of the writing only hints at what could be going on "for really reals". But like: Vi has killed a bunch of children.

And Vi just blasted out the brains of a bunch of (maybe somewhat?) "innocent soldiers" just now in a pretty bloody and yet "affectively bloodless" way. And maybe some of the soldiers could have been walked around (and later cured) instead of shot? I've played Survival Horror video games: part of the fun is in seeing how many zombies you can avoid killing.

If that was a war, and if Vi and Sherine are "governments", those soldiers were likely to be almost "civilian bystanders" in their "war"?

(Personally, I think that any extended pragmatic defense of on-going non-emergency moral anarchism breaks down into incoherence, and so maybe all irregular violence is a really bad sign in general, so under this perspective maybe any kind of Sherine-vs-Bayeswatch thing (with no deference to juries or laws or voters or courts or treaties or anything) would have to be ALL basically just villains-fighting-other-villains in a turf war of sorts? Judge Dredd fantasies aside, I think that judging and carrying-out-judgement, with a natural language API in between, recurs as a design pattern in many human societies for sociologically coherent reasons.)

And like, wasn't there a meeting of all the leaders of the nations of the world a while back? What happened with that? Did anyone say anything coherent or interesting there?

Maybe Vi (and also Sherine?) needs to sit in a corner for a while and come into better reflective equilibrium with Morality And Goodness?

But for now, we know less about Sherine (though maybe she was that borg thing that murdered the lady in episode 5?) so it should be easier to be more confident about Vi than Sherine. 

Second thoughts: if Vi is bad, I think that implies worse things about Miriam?

And then regarding the specific accusation of "regulatory capture"... how does Bayeswatch (1) raise funds or solicit input such that (2) various mostly-private-interest-pursuing entities could have used this interface to steganographically "essentially taken it over", (3) on the down low, over time, (4) through a series of backroom deals that ratchet the larger organization into collusion with a tiny oligarchically influential fraction of private interests, (5) while the main organization lost the plot on a first order pursuit of a coherent vision of the public good? 

Like if Sherine is right, I think there are details that haven't been established yet...

This raises so many questions! It is like a meta-cliffhanger, where the next episode tells us what genre we're even reading <3

Lots of details could matter, and the spareness of the writing only hints at what could be going on "for really reals".

Thank you, this was enlightening for me - somehow, though I've read a few books and watched a few movies in my life, I hadn't realized what you put here plainly, that these cuts are a device for the author to hide some truth from me (ok, this was obvious in "Memento"). I must've been very naive, as I simply thought it has more to do with MTV-culture/catering to short attention span of the audience. It's funny how this technique becomes immediately obvious to me once I mentally flip the roles with the author and ask a question "how would I hide something from the reader or mislead them to believe some alternative explanation while not outright lying?". 

Hm, perhaps a similar, but more visible and annoying technique/plot device is when the author abruptly ends a conversation between two characters by some explosion or arrival of third person, and they never get to finish their sentence or clarify some misunderstanding. On some level this is the same trick, but between two characters, as opposed to between author and reader.

I now wonder what other "manipulation" techniques I was subjected to. Anyone care to list some they become aware of?

I remember noticing and appreciating The Big Lebowski more each time I watched it for the way the The Coen Brothers hid things in plain sight by simply upstaging key facts with hilarious portraits of vivid characters doing something slightly absurd after the character loses the plot, so if you follow just the characters (which is super easy, because it is a smorgasbord of roles for character actors) you miss the "continuities" that the character(s) also miss.

I really appreciate your exegesis of these.

Your verbal appreciation is likewise appreciated, at least by me. I hesitated to publish.

Given that Vi is counting seconds from encountering soldiers to their collapse, AND that there are three dots between this scene and the scene where Miriam says "I've been there since Z-Day." (which technically is an inequality in the opposite direction than I need, but Miriam's choosing this particular wording looks suggestive to me) I'd venture a guess, that the Z-Day virus was released by Vi in the facility, and Miriam is trying to blame the rouge AI for this. I read this story as Vi and Miriam already crossing a line of "the end justifies the means" and simply infect and kill the "innocent" soldiers protecting the headquarter of their commander who is an em/AI, which Vi and Miriam perceive as a threat that needs to be eliminated at all cost.

[p.s.: I've wrote above comment before I've realized that I somehow missed to read 8th episode, and now, after ridding 8th episode, I think Vi and Miriam are cleaning up the mess they've created themselves - the rouge AI they fight in 9th episode is the one they've released, it just took over the command of the army by pretending to be their real commander]

I read it as: unleash the z-day AI which we already know how to counter, but which will attract the attention of the new AI, allowing us to the the neutrino beacon to locate the new AI.

I always looks forward to your fiction, but the Bayeswatch world is starting to feel a little... underpainted? Your prose and plotting style remind me of William Gibson and Peter Watts, who both tend to use the chopped sentences, jump cuts and elision, but they also spend a lot of effort building up so they they can then effectively cut back.

Concrete eg: you just placed a bunch of story action in Iran, but the number of locale specific details was thin: 'Natanz', 'Sherine Fakhrizadeh', 'the Israelis'.

A righteous government is of all the most to be wished for.

I'm not sure if this is right. (It could work as a sentence, though it's not super clear.)

"solder" -> "soldier"

"solders" -> "soldiers"

"barricade, the entrances" -> "barricade the entrances"

Fixed. Thanks.

Hello, very intriguing story!

  1. "solder" appears twice in text - it should be "soldier" 
  2. What is "Vi didn't wait for her translator." supposed to mean? I'm a bit confused because of earlier "She left her cornea and other electronics with Miriam on the scout ship.". Is it supposed to hint at Vi having non-electronical 'machines' (such as the translator) in her body, or just a statement about her having to override her natural instinct/reflex (=normally she'd just wait for the translation, but this time she had a plan to lay down in advance which she would executed even if she still had the electronic translator)? Do people in far future really need to wait for translator?

Fixed the "solder"s.

"Vi didn't wait for her translator" was a flat-out continuity error. Thanks for noticing. I have corrected the sentence.

look enough -> long enough

Fixed. Thanks.