— Code Overload magazine—embedded reporter life log entry 1125 ––
Hey Code Overloaders, well, it’s been a very exciting few minutes at the IARPA Antarctica facility, at a secret location known only to the final two contestants in the MARSAITT competition to get our asses to Mars with the help of a fully functioning artificial intelligence rover. What do I mean by exciting? Well. DevLok’s lead programmer Bharath Das looks like he’s about to puke up a lung, Watchover’s CTO Stephanie Bask just hauled ass back inside the test site ghost-pale, and your man on the inside, Hiro Watanabe, has a front row seat for all the action! We’re in the giant cold room they call Antarctica, and shit is going down!
I only wish I could be live-streaming this to you, but the terms of my deal with the IARPA head honcho Dr. Wynne Mallory include both me not leaking this until she signs off on it and also her not disappearing me into some federal prison in the upper Midwest with six-foot-thick walls and no wi-fi. SO. I’m just going to pretend you’re out there and hope for the best, and think about my eventual book deal. Let’s do this!
We’re up on the observation deck of the super-secr—I mean, very temporary IARPA testing headquarters. Still on US Territory, though the penguin colony a couple kilometers south of us might disagree. There’s a big viewscreen that gives us eyes on the icefields where the AIs are working, and, down below us, the opaque dividers between both finalist teams—DevLok and Watchover, as I predicted—have been dropped and the doors opened. They all have identical consoles, constructed to eliminate any chance of cheating, but the setups are completely different: Watchover’s is in a circle and not many people are sitting at their desks, while DevLok’s looks like Ye Olde Ground Control, with rows of workstations and a whole bunch of sweaty, panicked people rushing around, trying to not trip over the temporary cables.
There are a lot of cables, man, it’s old-school here. Information is pretty much amber-screen text. Who knew IARPA still had amber screens? The AIs are sending back data still, but it’s gotten really . . . weird, at least on the DevLok side.
Not to mention that the viewscreen for DevLok suddenly shut off.
From where I stand, I can tell you that Dr. Mallory and her team are watching their hand-helds tensely, but it’s obviously gone to eyes-only security. Meaning they don’t want me to see what the Y3 is doing, but I can tell you what it DID.
A few minutes ago, the DevLok rover dropped into its build like an octopus. I mean, I’ve never seen a robot get that small and fit through a space that little before. I’d been making all those jokes about DevLok’s size obsession, and––wow, they sure fooled me. But not that long after, a whole lot of shaky-cam started on the view screen, and the local penguins? They went freaking backwards, man. It was like seeing a YouTube video in reverse.
I can’t tell what’s happened since, but it’s bad if they shut the screen off and let Watchover’s people come across the team barrier. And they have.
You’ll recall that Watchover’s had some . . . turbulence over the past few weeks. That’s putting it lightly. But given what’s going on, I’m happy to say that everyone’s on the field now. Genius coder Cameron Davidson and the talented Tama Whakite are rigged in and tracking the Watchover swarm’s progress as much as the primitive setup here allows, while standing by to answer Stephanie Bask’s questions on the DevLok side.
This is the weirdest code challenge I’ve ever seen. If I wasn’t very clear that the two teams hated each other, I’d say they were trying to work together all of a sudden.
I mean, everyone who made the journey from DevLok (and they’re all in corporate gear, head to toe . . . it’s a little creepy to think they had Arctic wear prepped to go like that, but they did) is crouched over their own controllers. Including CTO Trey Lowell . . . and strangely, Watchover’s co-CTO Stephanie Bask.
On a good day, watching an AI challenge is a bit like being a spectator at a high-tech sailing race. There’s not a lot to do except hope nothing crashes. Unless you like crashes and then you’re hoping everything does. I’m on the side of nothing crashing as I want the best team to get us to Mars. I hope you are, too.
I mean, what is this all about? Survival of the human race? Helping Earth recover from all the damage, while getting us off-world so we can try to start again? That’s all about working together. And if that’s what it takes, I’m sure Watchover and DevLok can get it done, but...