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Author Topic: EP704: Failsafe  (Read 1855 times)


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on: November 26, 2019, 09:54:23 PM
Escape Pod 704: Failsafe

Author : Tim Chawaga
Narrator : Tina Connolly
Host : Alasdair Stuart
Audio Producer : Summer Brooks

Failsafe is an Escape Pod original.


When the machines finally decided to replace Liv, they broke her heart.

Her desk was tiny and wedged in between two massive automatons: The Vial Dispenser, which Liv called DJ, and the Vial Accepter, which Liv called Alvin. Above the desk were a couple of dusty posters that she had hung years ago and the big red button. The security camera that was pointed at her was broken, and she knew that it would probably not be fixed. There were no windows.

Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!


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    • Mokalus of Blog
Reply #1 on: November 26, 2019, 10:34:24 PM
I like the idea that a human society, burned once by artificial hyperintelligence, would start valuing uniquely human emotional traits, ditching efficiency measures entirely, and inserting human gatekeepers into machine processes. It is especially ironic that those gatekeepers would be chosen for their empathy, but required to perform repetitive mechanical tasks. I do like the suggestion that the machines might have learned some humanity from their keeper, but you never can tell when a closed mind is playing a long con. What bothered me most, I think, is that efficiency KPIs are not only still a thing, but still a very primary thing for this manager and this department. It does feel like a focus on efficiency at any level of management should be a Big Red Flag.

Finally, I'd just like to note that Liv laments that management would want her to automate without their knowledge, for full deniability, and then technically she does just that. Yes, she had some reason to believe that her machines had learned some humanity from her, and were probably not going to Skynet out, but she cannot be certain of that. She's taking a trust fall into AI's arms. I hope her trust continues to be rewarded.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - This might be the first time I've used the name "Skynet" as a verb.
PPS - I also wanted to contrast this story with the Butlerian Jihad of Dune.

Tomato is a fruit, watermelon is a berry, banana is a herb and everything you know is wrong.
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Reply #2 on: December 03, 2019, 05:15:36 PM
Love your postscripts, Mokalus! The Bulterian Jihad was much more of a dogmatic (and serious) rejection of AI than this story's corporate take on the matter, but I can see some parallels.


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Reply #3 on: February 25, 2020, 07:45:44 PM
Thank you MokalusOfBorg! I came to the forums looking for an explanation of this story's ending, and you delivered. I enjoyed, and would say I followed, this story right up until the last paragraph. Then, I couldn't make out what was going on or what the MC was thinking/feeling, let alone what the machines were thinking. Alasdair's outro didn't help, so I was totally confused. Thank you for making sense of it for me. Liv's leap of faith in believing the machines had absorbed some humanity (or maybe she's just anthropomorphizing and the machines are playing a long con), makes sense to me and explains both her actions and the machines' at the end. So, again, thanks for that.