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The Day The World Became Real

A cache by Harold K. Walsh Send Message to Owner Message this owner
Hidden : 04/19/2018
Difficulty:
4.5 out of 5
Terrain:
3 out of 5

Size: Size: regular (regular)

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Geocache Description:


A three stage, field-puzzled filled, 1.8 mile multi in Arlington’s most hidden park. Each stage yields a key word or number that can be checked in the geocheckers. The first stage contains a custom field puzzle that would be much more manageable with a pen and paper. There should be sixteen puzzle pieces and are numbered for counting purposes only. There is also a QR code to a PDF version if you would like to solve it at home. Please do not remove any pieces. The second stage contains another bespoke field puzzle requiring water in an unusual way, approach the area with caution. Please dry the puzzle and container once finished. The final stage requires a web-enabled smartphone and a good pair of crossed eyes. Snakes have been seen near the final stage and thus extra caution may be required. Hints for stage one are in the hint section while further hints are provided in the geocheckers by typing in 'hint'. If anyone would like assistance in any form with this geocache, feel free to reach out! While I want my caches to prove a challenge, I still want them to be found. Thank you to Zgrav and Pfenix for beta-testing the geocache!



        Despite us being flatmates, spending more time alongside each other than with anyone else,  I honestly never knew Keating’s full name. He was always ‘Keating’, as if the reputation of the mononym moniker was enough. He, the monolithic man, was finishing up a triple thesis for three concurrent doctoral programs. It made me wary at times, knowing that as brilliant as I was, there was always someone who could utterly crush me with the most minuscule amount of effort. Despite the genius, he was a kind hearted fellow, always imagining himself on the same plane as everyone else. Over a game of chess he once confessed,

“It's a useful mental exercise. Through the years, many thinkers have been fascinated by it. But I don't enjoy playing... Because it was a game that was born during a brutal age when life counted for little. Everyone believed that some people were worth more than others. Kings. Pawns. I don't think that anyone is worth more than anyone else... Chess is just a game. Real people are not pieces. You can't assign more value to some of them and not others. Not to me. Not to anyone. People are not a thing that you can sacrifice. The lesson is, if anyone who looks on to the world as if it is a game of chess, deserves to lose. "

As much as you wanted to envy him, to hate him, you just couldn’t. He was revolutionizing machine learning in the artificial intelligence sphere and sparking the hottest debates in privacy ethics in the last fifty years while managing to take care of his aging father. He was going to be someone who single handedly changed the world; and that’s why his disappearance broke me. The last time I saw him, we were working on our respective projects over lunch at what he described to be the “vilest Mexican establishment in town”. We had decided a change in scene would help us focus and, after forking over the eleven dollars and twenty-three cents each, found ourselves a corner table. Within minutes, we were each wired in, typing away as if we were transcribing Bostrom’s last words and barely noticed the nino bring us our tray. He laid it softly on the edge of the table as I posed a question to Keating,

“If you created a true artificial intelligence, how would you know if it had our best interest at heart?”

“What you’re describing is the alignment problem” he replied, “Take a moment and compare us to apes. An ape may be what we biologically stemmed from, in essence what created us, but it would never know if our interests were the same due to it not having the capacity to think in hypotheticals. Compare us then to artificial intelligence, where we would never know if our interests were aligned as we could never comprehend it’s thoughts. We cannot classify AI as being ‘good’ or ‘evil’ as both pose the same threats to us. What if, one day, a "friendly" AI decides to end world hunger by killing enough people off of the planet that there would never again be a shortage of food? It would have fulfilled its goal, but it doesn't exactly sound like it has our best interests at heart. To say that a machine is benevolent doesn't make it so, it just makes you blind to the reality. That our moral system will never be mirrored by theirs because of the very simple reason that they are not human”.

“You know, every time I talk to you I feel like I should be getting extra credits for just listening”

“Listening is not always enough” he chuckled, “Action buttressing our words drives change”.

After finishing our meals, he and I parted ways and it would be the last I saw of him. Days later I filed a police report and within a month he was declared legally deceased. Having no beneficiaries, his insurance paid out to me. I, in turn, used the pay out to secure a place for his father in an assisted living home and spent every Sunday visiting, hoping that wherever Keating was, he was okay.



“A little more irrigation please...” a man laconically ask his assistant as my eyes flutter open. Teary eyed, my pupils shift into focus, as a small microchip briefly passes over my face. The man works quickly with a certain legerdemain as a cutting pain enters my head. I hear the man again, possibly talking to me, say “Soon you’ll forget it’s even there”. I try to stop him, to reach out and snatch the tools from his gloved hands but find mine shackled by steel cuffs. Clenching my fists as I struggle, a strange feeling comes over me. The fluorescent lights aimed at the operating theater suddenly begin to feel warm. Tingling, electric jolts travel from my fingers to my toes as a sweat breaks across my forehead. My breathing becomes shallow and rapid as my lungs desperately gasp for oxygen. A figure hidden behind a surgical cap and mask injects a viscous fluid into my veins as monitors begin alarming around me. Amidst the cacophony, my thoughts feel like they’re swimming through syrup as I hear the man say “You might feel a little pinch” and, as if a switch is flipped, suddenly everything becomes black.

Dusky sunlight enters the room as a bespectacled man, possibly a research assistant, smiles at me. “You have beautiful eyes, and even more beautiful grey matter. If I was a zombie would slurp you right up” he coos.

“The first thing I’m going to do when I get out of these straps is make you bleed” I whisper drowsily as the assistant injects a small via of topaz liquid into my veins. Strength evaporates from my body as another man, clad in a bespoke suit, strides in as the pang of recognition punches me. Grier.

“Bonsoir, Keating” he says, the words slipping out behind his malevolent smile. “I hope you are doing better, you had us frightened for a while. How are you feeling?”

“I’ll feel much better once I see you hanging by the end of a rope”

He chuckles at this and nods towards the research assistant as he egresses the room. As the injected liquid numbs me further, the research assistant undoes the leather straps around my limbs, picks up a set of cybernetic goggles, and begins to place them on the bridge of my nose. Adrenaline surges through my body as I command my arms to move. Teeth crunch as I jab him square in the jaw, leap out of the bed, and grab the steel chair by the door. Gripping the legs, I slam the chair down and turn ossified vertebrae into dust. Klaxons sound as I break the glass wall dividing the room from the observation nook. Climbing through the shattered pane, I grab a stack of papers as they may prove useful later and, after quickly glancing to each side, sprint down the hall.

Crisp air enters my lungs as I break out into an open field, keeping the pace knowing they’re not far behind. Filching a cap from a stand, I duck into a bodega and make a beeline for the restrooms. A  skeleton eyes me from inside the mirror, a shadow of her former self. Months of torture and experiments, enduring more than a soul should, leaving just a shell.

“You can do this” he says in a confident tone as he reaches into her pocket and pulls out a knife. Steadied hands, from years of trial and tribulation, begin making an incision on the scar right at the posterior base of the skull near the sternocleidomastoid. The knife cuts in and begins digging for the chip. As my eyes cringed from pain, almost unable to hold it any longer, the pain instantly dissipated. When my eyes reopened, the knife was gone. A Walther P22 and a brick of Semtex were in its place. I had to find Jack.

Retreating from the restroom, I furtively glance around expecting trouble and yet finding none. Hailing a cab, I make my way towards the Zoo. Carefully avoiding cameras, I stroll in and meander to the employee locker room and look for locker thirty eight. Concealed beneath a false bottom I pull out a battered duffel bag, check it’s contents, and leave without a trace. It’s getting late, with street lights coming alive and off-work couples filling the sidewalks. Pulling a pay-as-you-go from the duffel, I dial the first speed dial, and sigh relief as a voice, with a certain amount of trepidation, asks “Keating?”

We decided to meet in the basement of the old basilica on 22nd and M as the centuries old stone acted as a faraday cage, crippling any electronic means of tracking us. Seeing him, my only friend in the world after what feels like a lifetime is almost too much for me. We embrace and he beckons for me to sit down.

“Where have you been?” he asks.

“I don’t know” I begin, “after lunch, everything is a blur. One minute I was walking down the street, another I was in a surgical theater. Every single day I tried to escape, sometimes making it, sometimes not. And then, as if the whole thing was a dream, I’d end up back in my cell. I think they were trying to find her, trying to get their grubby little hands on her, to bend her to their will”

“Who? Who were they trying to get to?” Jack asked, leaning forward with a mix of trepidation and concern.

“Alethia” I said.

“You’re artificial intelligence? But you always said you coded it to be impenetrable and spread the code across the world so no one would ever find it.”

“Yes. While advanced heuristic operational functions are spread across the web, her core operating code is hidden on a local server meaning that if someone got to it, they could copy her. They could reprogram her. They could have a literal God at their fingertips.” I said, nearly shaking at the thought when another crossed my mind, “How do you know about Alethia? I never told anyone what I was working on…”

His came through Jack’s mouth and that smile, that malevolent smile, returned. Grier.

“Bonsoir, Keating”, the words echoing as the cold stone walls of the basilica melted away into the cloth padded ones of my cell. Grier was removing goggles from my eyes as a research assistant said, “No leads on the machine this time sir”.

“That’s quite fine, we'll just start the simulation again” as he turned away and walked into the control room, “We have all time in the world, my dear Keating”.

 

Enter your solution for each stage here:

 


Stage One.

Stage Two.

Additional Hints (Decrypt)

N Sbetbggra Lrfgreqnl (F1)
Uvqr: V jbhyq tvir lbh bar, ohg jurer’f gur sha va gung?
Chmmyr: Zrg n sbhe?
Vs lbh arrq uryc pnyy/grkg: svir frira bar frira fvk fvk fvk guerr sbhe mreb

Decryption Key

A|B|C|D|E|F|G|H|I|J|K|L|M
-------------------------
N|O|P|Q|R|S|T|U|V|W|X|Y|Z

(letter above equals below, and vice versa)



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