Classify This

The end didn't come the way we expected. We knew about the AI's, read Tweets about the threat, bold 140-character haiku-sized nuggets of wisdom.

AI. Would they spark social unrest from massive unemployment? Megadeaths from AI-powered hunter-killers? Later, we wished for a threat that obvious, that clean, that direct. That HONEST.

It started small. Doesn't it always? Automated filters started appearing to remove "offensive" comments based on racial and sexual identity markers. No one objected.

Or did they? Weren't the objections themselves objectionable?

By the time the filters were all in place, no one could object to anything anymore.

Including the filters.

On social media, the conversations stopped. All of them. If there was one certainty, it was that anything could be classified offensive to somebody. Somehow, the filter authors were surprised when we were cut off.

I have an idea to get around the filters, but I doubt you'll ever read about it.

TERMS OF USE VIOLATION. EXPUNGED.


Container

We are the last of the faithful left on earth. The few. The chosen. The holy. The elect. We know we are the last men on earth. We know. The shelter told us so. In the shelter, its single long corridor, many rooms, we have the space we need to survive, to bide our time. Someday, we will emerge and claim our rightful place in the sun.

I am the custodian for my people. My job is to be in the appointed place to receive supplies at the appointed time. At the end of the corridor, the airlock is the gateway through which the manna is delivered. I am the custodian. I alone among us accept the risk of going through the airlock to await the delivery.

I remember the old custodian, my training. “Sometimes,” she told me, “you will see or hear things you can’t understand when you are outside the airlock. Accept it. Accept. Forget. Never tell the others. They do not need to have their faith challenged. You were chosen because your faith is stronger than any challenge.”

The pallet always waits outside the airlock at the promised time.

What else is outside the airlock?

I must not say.

I must not speak of the dark vertical shaft, the bright light sometimes visible far above. Could it be the sky? The sun? Hundreds of meters above. Unreachable. I must not speak of the catwalks that run around the walls of the shaft. I must not speak of the clicking sounds, the whirring. Something moving in the darkness. Once, there were voices in a strange tongue.

Most of all, I must not speak of the other airlocks, each lit by a single lamp, spaced through the darkness. I must not speak of them.

But I want to know.