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all there in the car’s code commits, like a fossil record. The autoDAO’s cars were reinforcement learners: they experimented with
business models and rewrote their own code to maximize rewards.
At some point the car had discovered that when applied to pairs
of passengers, the tip prediction subroutine could predict something that correlated with bigger tips—sexual tension. Pairing
passengers to maximize that property resulted in longer journeys
and even higher rewards. Another experiment had led the car to
covertly modify its EULA so it
could record what its passengers
got up to. Then it had discovered a
lucrative market for those recordings—selling wedblock-breaking
adultery data to AI judges. Finally,
it had started pairing up married
passengers likely to commit adultery with each other. The car was a
Cupid gone bad, just as she had
guessed when Tapani first mentioned meeting Riya in the car.
The rage rushed through her
again. The devil machine had found
the perfect match for Tapani: the
frizzy-haired Riya, with the skinny
legs Alina would never have, able to
talk about art and food, with her
sexy Syrian accent with the soft Rs.
Alina couldn’t hurt Riya, so the
car would have to do.
Gritting her teeth, she wrote
a command to upload the neural
Trojan. It was malware, dormant
in the car’s code until it synched
with the DAO’s repos and infected
all the self-owning company’s cars.
Then, when they had no passengers, the Trojan would blind them
and crash them.
She could do it with one keystroke. Her fingers hovered over
the Return key. Get on with it, she told herself. The autoDAO
drone was probably on its way. Why was she hesitating? She wasn’t
hurting human beings, just idiot machines. Idiot machines that
That was what she had done, accepting Tapani’s proposal.
The rules she had made for herself when her father left: Never
let yourself be hurt again. Make sure there are chains and
vows and punishments. Only to Tapani, the wedblock had
been something else: a hedge, a convenience. And now she was
drowning, just like the car.
She thought of Sini’s wicked glee at the smashed snowman. You
shouldn’t break something just because you can, Tapani had said.
Alina took a deep breath and backspaced the Trojan upload
code into nothingness. > rm -r /var/lib/RL/policy-
trees/3435/*, she typed instead. That deleted the Cupid
blackmailer behavior. Later, she would submit a ticket to the
lawchain repo so the wedblock AIs could watch out for it. Finally,
she deleted her ride request from the job queue.
Then she closed the laptop, plucked out the cable, and
got up. Her left leg was mercifully numb. She limped back
into the water and pushed.
To her surprise, the floating,
airtight car moved easily,
although icy water poured
into her boots and her teeth
started chattering. When the
back wheels touched ground,
she put her back into it, and
then the car’s engine hummed
to life. The tires found purchase, and with Alina pushing, the car backed out of the
lake and up to the road.
It stood there for a
moment, lidar nub spinning.
Standing in the lake, Alina
gave it a nod.
The car made a sudden
pirouette. Then it sped away,
just as the sun’s rim peeked
above the treetops and turned
its metal into gold.
When Alina made it back
to the summerhouse, there was no feeling in her feet. But there
were still embers in the fireplace, and soon she had a roaring
blaze. She wiggled her blue toes in the heat, and realized she had
put the rubber boots exactly where her father used to, leaning on
the curving brick side of the chimney.
Outside, the sun glittered on the snow-covered lake. It was
perfectly quiet. She closed her eyes, smelled the warm rubber,
and listened to the crackling of burning birch. In a little while,
she would call Sini and tell her she was coming home. In a little
while, after the boots were dry.
Hannu Rajaniemi is the author of Summerland, the Quantum
Thief trilogy, and several short stories.