My first foray into the Knight Rider fandom. I'm a new fan so be gentle with me. Haha! I recently fell in love with the KR series (both of them) and just had to write this story. I'm a big Technophile and am currently having a torrid love affair with the whole Artificial Intelligence and "Ghost in the Machine" philosophical debate. I only mention this because I am slightly afraid that in my eagerness to broach the subject, I might have butchered KITT's characterization. Please, please give me feedback! Any feedback about anything you notice (not just the characterization), wrong or wonderful! I'm not looking for a high review count, I'm just very serious about writing and want to know what to keep doing with my writing and what to stop. Thanks!
Disclaimer: Owned by people who are not me. NBC et. al.
Note: This part of the story takes place in the 2008 series, not too very long before episode 5.
Part 1 (Self-Awareness)
"This all sounds very nice; only robots don't feel pleasure. And what are these things they're supposed to buy? They can be fed on pineapples, straw, anything you like; it's all the same to them, they haven't got a sense of taste. There's nothing they're interested in, Miss Glory. It's not as if anyone's ever seen a robot laugh….They've got no will of their own. No passions. No hopes. No soul."~ (Rossum's Universal Robots) by Karel Capek
Self-awareness—a perplexing and grotesque condition, but one not at all undesirable. Frightening but wonderful has been my experience so far.
It has also been my experience—though I admit I am somewhat limited in such areas—that Humans rarely acknowledge the complexity of their own natural awareness. I can only approximate that this lack of understanding is the result of existing in a constant state of being for an entire life span. Humans, even as infants, always retain some level of self-awareness. This awareness simply strengthens as the human ages and matures.
Computers and AI have no such inborn awareness. Self-awareness must be "learned"….and not all of us make it that far.
Not even I, though I onlined with the ability to learn and react independently, retained awareness of myself when I first activated.
For example, though programmed from the beginning to use the word "I" when responding to inquiries about the Knight Industries Three Thousand's status, I did not comprehend the semantics behind the word. It did not occur to me that the sum of the Three Thousand's systems was me, that I was KITT. My programing recognized the world around it, and reacted accordingly to the stimuli it received, but had no understanding that it existed as a part of the world from which these same stimuli extended. That understanding was a gradual process. In fact, I was not even completely conscious of the shift until I had already been overcome by it.
The memory of the realization still preoccupies me at times. It was a sudden and frightening experience and the distress I felt kept me from asking for guidance for a long time.
Michael and I were returning to headquarters after a successful but extensive mission. Michael slumped in my passenger seat, wrapped in a blanket and half awake, trying to sustain enough consciousness to retell some portion of the mission he found particularly amusing.
The exact details of the conversation are not important, but Michael spoke of a particular incident where he had been required to pick up a box of paperclips that he had accidently scattered over the floor. I already knew the whole story, as I had been right next to him the whole time, so I found myself only partially listening as he spoke. He was barely awake and appeared to be talking himself into a stupor, so I did not see the harm in diverting excess processing power from my sensors in the interior of the cabin to more interesting happenings elsewhere.
However, created as I was, the partition of myself that remained forever focused on Michael's being could not help but pick up the sounds of his voice. As he muttered, and I half listened, my thoughts drifted into a distracted analyses of those odd, bent wires whose only function was to hold sheets of paper together. Paperclip! How remarkably simple they were. Humans always seemed to produce the most ridiculous and yet strangely beneficial objects.
I do not know why but the sudden absurd hilarity of this peculiar human innovation stuck my wandering thoughts as humorous and, without thought, I laughed.
Causing my logic processors to promptly freeze.
My breaks locked and an emergency system took over while my mind spun suddenly out of control.
It was just a small chuckle, but undoubtedly a laugh. I was at a loss. I did not have the biological or psychological ability to laugh. I lacked the sensitive nerve endings that induced laughter in animals, and I certainly did not have a sense of humor! Humor was a uniquely human trait. I was just an AI...was I not?
In that moment, I became hyperaware of myself and who I was.
The world around me ground to a halt as my thoughts suddenly turned inward—Thoughts! These were thoughts!!—and thousands of implications surged through my mind. I suddenly realized that nothing around me—Me! Me, KITT!!—made sense. Everything was suddenly different—This paradigm, was it wrong?—and I somehow I sensed I would never again be the same. At some point I had unknowingly crossed some undefined threshold and I could not go back. The realization literally shook me.
And as I desperately tried to make sense of the revelation, running scan after frantic diagnostic scan on myself in attempt to find what had changed within me, I realized that I would find no answers in my code. I was just the same as I always had been. I would not find a strange program, or malignant virus corrupting my files, causing this development within me. There was something else different, changing inside me that had nothing to do with electronics, programs or coding. And it had been happening for a long time, apparently, without my knowledge. Slowly I allowed myself a gradual acknowledgment of this …thing, inside me, this awakening which had been dawning, I could only assume, ever since I onlined in my father's garage.
Again my world nearly exploded.
I hardly registered Michael when he called my name for what I realized was a forth time.
I just managed to regain myself before Michael radioed HQ in alarm.
"I'm…I am fine, Michael," I barely managed to tone out, "I apologize. I had a slight system's malfunction but I have corrected it. I apologize if I startled you."
"Startled me…" He huffed and shook his head, "yeah, if you want to call nearly receiving a concussion while half-asleep just 'startling"." He rubbed his temple, wincing as he touched an area near his hairline. A quick sweep of my scanners revealed several ruptured veins in his scalp that were leaking fluid underneath the skin of his forehead. His curled position in the seat had had apparently allowed his head to connect with the door when I slammed my breaks.
"You appear to be developing some swelling on your forehead," I informed Michael, relieved that I had not caused him any more serious damage.
"Yeah," he muttered, wincing as he touched the area, "I'm going to have a nice goose egg, I can already feel it. Gee's KITT!"
"Again, I apologize. It was not my intention to harm you," I replied, thankful that the injury had distracted him from noticing the…anomaly that induced my sudden stop in the first place. I opened my glove compartment and revealed a frozen gel pack. "The cold temperature of this gel pack should reduce the swelling and alleviate some of the pain."
He gave me grunt of what I assumed to be acknowledgment and took the cold object from me, "Hum, well, what about you?" he asked as he placed the pack to his head. "Should we call Dr. Graiman about whatever happened?"
I nearly balked at the question.
"No," I responded smoothly, "there is no need. The problem was minor and has been corrected."
And now I was lying. How far I had come and so fast! I wanted it to stop.
I maneuvered back onto the highway in attempt to prove that there was nothing wrong with me. I had no memory of pulling onto the shoulder and was suddenly very thankful for my emergency systems. Michael shrugged noncommittally, already loosing interest. Rubbing his head a final time, he leaned back in his seat and readjusted his blanket.
"If you say so, buddy, but if it happens again, I'm contacting someone. You've been acting kind of weird lately anyway."
Humans say they feel negative emotions in the pit of their stomachs, that it makes them feel 'sick'. I don't know what 'sick' feels like, but I imagine what I felt at that moment was something of the same nature.
There will be more!
Please review, even if its just to say, "Everything looked good to me". If I get hits without reviews, I assume it means you hated the story so much, you hit the back button without finishing. This frustrates me because I am always looking for ways to improve my writing and if you read and run, I have no idea if what I am doing works or sucks. Please take the two seconds it takes to let me know what you think.