The Beginning of Everything (1)
※ This is seen from Claire François’s point of view (the first loop・・・).
“How’s progress coming along, Claire?”
The question sounded more like condemnation than a quick checkup.
This was the director’s office in a research facility located and run by the US government.
I came here after being called in.
Unlike the other rooms in the research facility, the director’s room looked more like it belonged to the President rather than the head of a company.
The person in front of me was the director of the institute.
He looked like a typical Anglo-Saxon and about fifty years old.
He was the kind of person who was given his position because of his management skills rather than his achievements as a researcher.
I was not good at dealing with this person.
“…… It’s still a work in progress. It will take a lot of time, but my research is――”
“I don’t want to hear any excuses. I haven’t seen any results. You understand what I’m getting at, right?”
The director interrupted me mid-sentence and cornered me with his words.
“There is little time left for mankind. We don’t have the kind of time or money to stand by and leisurely wait around for your research.”
“…… I apologize.”
As frustrating as it was, the director had a point.
As it stood, mankind was on the verge of extinction.
“I had high expectations, and I even invested the time and money into you. However, I can’t wait any longer. Let me give you a clear deadline. You have six months.”
“What!? But I told you before that my research isn’t something that was expected to be finished right away. It’s a long-term――”
“The government has started to squeeze fundings for research. They’re beginning to think about how they can look out for themselves.”
In other words, they were ready to let the general population die out in order to preserve their own lives.
They were going to search for some sort of cosmic paradise that may or may not even exist.
“That is the decision I’ve come to. You have half a year to produce results.”
“…… I understand.”
I left the director’s office filled with despair.
The air-conditioned corridor suddenly felt chillier than it actually was.
“What’s wrong, Claire-san? Did you get scolded by the director again?”
When I returned to my laboratory, my colleague, Lene, made some small talk with me.
She was a researcher that was about the same as me. She was a cheerful woman with beige colored hair.
Without answering, I took the presentation I was going to present to the director, tossed it aside, and slumped into my chair.
“…… What happened?”
As expected, a colleague called out to me when they noticed something wrong with me.
“They said if I don’t produce any results in the next six months, I’ll be fired.”
“Huh!? Don’t they know that that’s impossible!?”
Lene raised her voice as if her blood was boiling.
“I said the same thing. However, the director wouldn’t have any of it.”
“Haah, and that’s why people that study humanities are… Those people don’t understand what research is like at all. There is no such thing as research that can just conveniently produce amazing results right away.”
Lene began to complain incessantly.
It seemed like she didn’t want to speak ill of the director, but at the same time, she was trying to show sympathy towards me.
“Thank you, Lene. I feel a bit better.”
“No worries. But this is troublesome. Only six months, huh……”
“Yes. Even if I use a certain someone to her full extent, six months is still way too tight.”
You could call that certain someone something like my daughter.
She was created through the culmination of my research, which I had worked on for nearly half of my life.
“Ah, speaking of which, let’s ask her how we should proceed from now on. She might be able to come up with something for us. TAIM-chan!”
After saying so, Lene pulled on the sleeves of my white lab coat and opened the door to the laboratory next door.
“Hello, Lene. Did you need something?”
TAIM replied with such fluent English that you couldn’t even call it synthetic speech.
The Artificial Intelligence for Mankind―― or TAIM for short―― was a state-of-the-art AI specifically designed to solve the predicament that mankind was facing.
Through my research, I created her for the sake of attempting to save humanity.
Towards the end of the twenty-first century, humanity’s very existence was at risk of facing extinction.
The environmental issues that were feared throughout the past century had not been resolved, temperatures and sea levels had risen rapidly, and over the last one-hundred years, the coastline had swallowed hundreds of kilometers’ worth of land.
During the summer, the temperature would rise to the point where it was impossible to go a few minutes without wearing a cooling suit, and in the winter, temperatures would drop anywhere below the two-digit range.
Climate change ended up affecting crops, and severe food shortages became a chronic issue.
The population, which was predicted to reach 10 billion people at the beginning of the 21st century, had actually shrunk to less than one billion people worldwide.
Those hundreds of millions of people could die at any time if we stopped reaping the benefits of science.
All of humanity was literally riding on that one word.
Governments that were initially fighting over who was responsible for causing the destruction of our planet had soon realized that this was no time to argue over such things, so over the past few years, they had begun cooperating with each other in an attempt to break the deadlock.
The creation of this institute was one such result of those efforts.
However, the destruction of the environment was already so severe that no solution could be seen in sight, despite the concerted efforts of humanity.
“Hello to you as well, Claire. Did you need me for something?”
TAIM, who took the appearance of a woman in the form of a hologram, appeared before us.
This was TAIM’s interface.
She had a fairy-like appearance that was a bit different from regular human beings and had silver hair and red eyes.
“Yes, I’ve run into a bit of trouble. Could I ask you for some advice?”
TAIM was the artificial intelligence that I created.
She was an AI that utilized a quantum computer collegial system created through distributed computing.
On the surface, it appeared to possess a single personality, but internally, it was actually made up of a collection of several different AIs with hundreds of different characteristics.
TAIM’s computing power―― in other words, its ability to think―― far surpassed those of human beings.
“The director has informed me that I have six months to produce results. I would like to hear your opinions about this matter.”
In response to my question, TAIM paused, seemingly in thought, before answering,
“As it is right now, it would definitely be difficult to produce any results within the next six months. Although I may be able to find a solution for the current situation, it would take several years to do so.”
“…… Of course.”
No matter how extremely advanced the AI was, it wasn’t a god or anything.
There was no way it would give me a convenient answer.
I was a little disappointed after receiving the answer that I had already expected and started to feel defeated.
“Could I make a suggestion though, Claire?”
“What is it?”
“I can predict that with the three of us alone, we will not be able to achieve any results within the next half a year.”
“However, if you add another person into the equation, there is a small chance that you could see some favorable results within a short amount of time.”
So there was a sliver of hope……?
“Who would that person be?”
As long as they were able to produce some results, I was willing to pay anything to pull that person in, even if they had a high asking price.
“They’re a Japanese researcher.”
“What’s their name?”
TAIM answered my question with,
“Oohashi Rei. She is an expert on soul quantization.”
That name would eventually become something unforgettable to me.