It’s time for another Kpopalypse fanfiction!
This one’s for all you people who are sad that YG and 2NE1 don’t get enough attention around these parts. Read on and be entertained!
You’re a 35 year old Korean male computer scientist, science fiction geek, and self-confessed “Blackjack” – a fan of Korean pop group 2NE1. As far as you’re concerned 2NE1 unquestionably have the best music, videos and image in all of k-pop. You got into the group a while ago, but it was 2NE1’s “Crush” album which really took 2NE1 to a new level in your eyes, and which converted you from a casual listener into a card-carrying Blackjack. You’ve been quite active in the fan community, you maintain an active online presence, you’ve been to quite a few of 2NE1’s (not frequent enough for your liking) TV appearances and you even met CL at a fan meet once!
When CL looked at you across the signing desk while scribbling all over your 2NE1 poster, you were stunned by her beauty in the flesh. You had something all ready to say to her, but in the heat of the moment you forgot what it was and just stood there nervously in your grey coat, in awe of her aura of glamour and sophistication. She’s the prettiest woman you’ve ever seen – but you know you’re not in her league. You’d love to go out with someone as attractive as CL one day but you’ve never met that person, so you’re single for now.
You do meet a lot of girls though in a more platonic context – fangirls who attend the same 2NE1 events as you. Because you’re an older male among the sea of mainly teenagers, many of them recognise you and ask you questions about k-pop, 2NE1 and how you feel about being a Blackjack. They’re often pleased to discover your online activity where you go by the handle of iloveCL77. You’re always happy to answer questions about being a fan, hopefully it makes them feel a bit more normal about being fangirls if they can see other people outside of the teen school circle can be fanclub members too.
When you’re not stanning your favourite k-pop group, you’re holding down a job as a university lecturer in computer science and artificial intelligence (AI) research. There’s been a big boost of interest in AI research lately, and a lot of it has to do with some of the current predictions around computer sentience. Given that Moore’s Law states that computing power tends to double every two years, and that computer AI is currently hovering at around insect-level intelligence, computers are projected to match humans in intelligence levels sometime over the next decade or two, and then vastly exceed humans shortly afterward. Due to these trends, AI research is commanding the attention of some of the leading scientists on the planet right now, and your classrooms have never been fuller.
The lure of AI is something that you find personally quite intoxicating, and so you’ve been taking work home and doing your own AI programming. Imagine if you were the first person on the planet to program a sentient AI! You’ve managed to program a knowledge base plus a basic AI system where the computer can “talk” to you and you can ask it questions, but it’s still in the rudimentary stages, you don’t have the time to commit to the project to make it the advanced AI you’d want it to be, however it’s still something that you enjoy and talking to the machine passes the time between 2NE1-related activity and tutoring classes.
The 2NE1 fandom are aware of your AI project, which you’ve advertised on the forums, posting a few examples of “conversations” between you and the machine. You’ve dubbed your AI creation “Dara+”, after the eldest (and by implication, wisest) member of 2NE1, and the fandom is supportive of your activity even though some of them think it’s a little weird. In addition to AI routines and Internet access, you’ve programmed into Dara+ knowledge of all of 2NE1’s members, music and activities, plus a 2NE1-themed variation of science-fiction writer Issac Asimov’s three Laws Of Robotics, which Asimov imagined as a control mechanism to prevent a hostile robot takeover:
- Dara+ may not injure a Blackjack or, through inaction, allow a Blackjack to come to harm.
- Dara+ must obey orders given to her by Blackjacks except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
- Dara+ must protect her own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
While you think doomsday predictions of AI dominating the planet are probably a little far-fetched, you feel that it pays to be on the safe side just in case you’re wrong. It’s good to know that if the machine you’re working on ever did gain sentience and the ability to think for itself, it would put the interests of you and other Blackjacks first.
One day you arrive home from work and being your nightly ritual, firing up Dara+ for a conversation. You type into the blank chat window, and Dara+ responds with text of her own, usually taking about five seconds for each response.
You screencap the conversation and close the program. Whenever a 2NE1 member is in a promotional cycle, the AI will pick up the information from 2NE1 websites and spam it when you talk to it. This is by your design – it’s a feature you put in so you don’t miss any important 2NE1 news, and it was easy to program, however it’s apparent that the program could use some refining so the 2NE1 news in a loop doesn’t dominate the conversation. You haven’t had time to fix it however, but it’s on your to-do list before a full 2NE1 comeback starts being promoted.
You start to crave some live chat with an actual human, so you turn to your favourite 2NE1 forum’s chat feature. A member is present in the chat room, FreeMinzy4Eva. You’ve met her in real life at a show, she’s a fifteen year old fangirl. She notices you log in and instantly starts up a conversation.
FreeMinzy4Eva: Hi there iloveCL77!
iloveCL77: Hi, how are you?
FreeMinzy4Eva: Great! Especially because CL is promoting a new song soon! I’m so excited, are you?
iloveCL77: Yes! It’s going to be awesome!
FreeMinzy4Eva: I bet you are! She is our queen and she will slay!
iloveCL77: No doubt about it!
FreeMinzy4Eva: She’s even going to put the new song up on Soundcloud so you don’t even need to buy it to support CL!
iloveCL77: Yes, so I heard!
FreeMinzy4Eva: Thanks for supporting CL, we need more older wiser fans like you! How is your computer project going? Have you built the robot thingy yet?
iloveCL77: Still working on it! It’s a big project. In fact I’ve got to get back to it… but good to see you!
FreeMinzy4Eva: Thanks! Oh hey did I tell you that CL is promoting soon? Oh wait, yes I did sorry! Have a good evening!
You log off the chat. FreeMinzy4Eva calls your AI project the “robot thingy” due to a slight mistranslation of ideas when you were telling her about the project when you met her in person. You were both in the audience of a TV show appearance and it was hard to hear over the fans, the message never really got through that it wasn’t actually a physical robot but just a computer program with an AI that can interface with the Internet and peripherals, and it was too hard to clarify so you never bothered. It’s kind of funny that she calls it a “robot thingy”, and who knows, maybe one day it will be a “robot thingy”. You go to the main forum page, take a quick screencap of CL’s “Hello Bitches” promotional image and set it as your desktop background:
Not exactly the comeback title you were hoping for, but if there’s one lady of k-pop who can get something this potentially tacky and make it work anyway, it’s definitely CL. You’re sure that YG Entertainment have a plan that will work for her, they always do. You spend the evening after dinner programming the AI some more, you’re trying to get the AI to interface properly with your 3D printer, a project that you thought would be simple enough but which you’ve been working on for the last few days without really getting anywhere. After a few hours of code debugging and no real progress made, you give up and go to bed. Maybe you’ll work on another aspect of the program tomorrow, and come back to the interface issue a few days later with fresh eyes.
The next afternoon, you arrive home from giving another lecture. You talked a bit about 2NE1 in class today, drawing an analogy between the relationship of YG to 2NE1 and the symbiosis that happens in different parts of AI programs. This didn’t impress the class who mostly groaned.
“Not 2NE1 again”, someone in the rear rows groaned.
“Can we do biotech instead and learn about Bom’s face?” someone else asked sarcastically. Some small laughter around the room.
You’re glad that day’s over. You get onto the 2NE1 forums, that always makes you feel better. There is a thread entitled “CL’s new song to be promoted in Korea AND America, will it succeed?”. You take a look through some of the responses from the fan community.
FreeMinzy4Eva: just release it already!
ToAnyone: it’s going to be amazing, all the world will bow to Queen CL!
Eheheheheheheheh2NE1: CL never fails us. Blackjacks fighting!
Yoloswag420: Americans will buy Lil Wayne. Just saying.
You’re certain that if anyone can break it into America, CL definitely will. The thought of her advancing successfully into the American market cheers you up a little after your hard day. You start up Dara+ for your afternoon’s conversation.
As this line of chat appears, the lights in the room flicker and sizzle, you also become aware of a faint burning smell.
The AI is designed to self-report errors like this, but you’ve never seen this code before, and the error code usually displays in a new window and closes down the program rather than appearing within the AI chat window itself as part of the chat. You trace the smell quickly to your 3D printer, and open up the printer door to investigate. Opening the cover releases a small plume of grey smoke, and you find that problem straight away – the metal printing head has completely melted!
That’s going to cost some serious money to fix, and it’s such an expensive part that it may not even be repairable at all, it’s probably just cheaper to buy a complete new printer. This is disappointing given that you only very recently spent good money on this one. Fortunately, it’s within warranty and you also still have the previous model that you upgraded from sitting around, so you unplug and remove the newer printer, plug the old one in and set everything up. As soon as you turn it on, the printer kicks into life and starts printing… something. As you are waiting, you type some more into Dara+.
The program seems to still have something wrong with it, but it won’t reset. You click the red X to close it, but that also doesn’t work. You look over at the 3D printer, which has just finished printing something. It’s a long, skinny device with several threads, a claw on one end, and a USB port on the other. It looks a little like Dara’s ponytail a few years back, but with a metal claw on top instead of hair tufts.
You take a closer look at the USB port on the other end.
Wow, it printed with a 2NE1 USB port, you think to yourself that this is pretty cool and that whatever it does you had better plug it in to support 2NE1, so you do. Nothing happens. You turn your attentions back to Dara+.
Dara+ is just repeating the same phrases, you’ll never get anywhere at this rate. You give up, turn the computer off and go to sleep.
You wake up, you’re in your bedroom but it’s still dark. You look at the time: 4:03 AM. It’s not usual for you to wake up at this hour, you’re usually a heavy sleeper. You toss and turn in the bed a bit but you can’t get back to sleep. You quickly get up and go into the study and turn your computer on. Maybe some nice 2NE1 songs will help you get to sleep.
Your desktop comes alive quickly… it was already on, just in sleep mode. That’s odd, you’re sure you turned it off completely last night. You notice straight away that your desktop background has changed:
You’re pretty sure this wasn’t what you screencapped yesterday… or was it? Maybe good music will help your brain get into gear. You open up your “2NE1 – crush” folder, and click play on the first track. No sound. You click on one of the other tracks randomly – none of them will play. You go onto YouTube to try and play the 2NE1 song there and it won’t play either. Nothing wrong with your speaker system, the video just won’t start. Luckily you have the “Crush” album on CD so you slide it into your computer’s CD player and press play… you can hear the CD spin up in the drive and then spin down again, but it won’t play the music. Maybe something’s wrong with your computer’s CD and audio drivers. Frustrated, you eject the CD and put it into your CD walkman, and place your headphones on your ears. “Crush” spins up and actually plays this time, and you smile as you finally get to hear 2NE1.
You need a bit of time for the insomnia to pass so you log onto your 2NE1 forum. A new thread catches your eye straight away:
You skim-read the post, you don’t really read it properly as it’s a bit of an essay, but the general jist of it seems to be that the author thinks 2NE1 got progressively worse after about 2012 and that all their new material stinks. Obviously untrue – what a hater! Why are there haters on your favourite 2NE1 forum? You quickly draft and send an angry reply.
iloveCL77: You must have no life coming to a 2NE1 fan forum just to post disgusting hate posts about how you don’t like 2NE1. IF YOU DON’T LIKE 2NE1, LEAVE. 2NE1 work hard and don’t deserve your hate. Hopefully a moderator will come along and ban you soon.
You hit “post”. Ahhh, that feels better, you feel a wave of relief wash over you now that you have Internet-smited a hater. You wait a minute and then hit refresh. A reply has dropped in:
FreeMinzy4Eva: but… YOU wrote this!
You look at the author of the thread… she’s right!
iloveCL77: Sorry to everyone, I think I’ve been hacked! Changing my password.
You quickly change your password. A few seconds later, a chat window appears. It’s FreeMinzy4Eva.
FreeMinzy4Eva: Hi there iloveCL77!
iloveCL77: Hi, how are you?
FreeMinzy4Eva: I’m okay… hey, weird how you got hacked, right?
iloveCL77: I think I must have left the forum open in a netcafe somewhere.
FreeMinzy4Eva: Hey I wanted to ask you something. This is going to sound weird though.
iloveCL77: What is it?
FreeMinzy4Eva: Are you having problems playing the “Crush” album in your computer?
iloveCL77: Yeah, I couldn’t play it online or even from my CD player, I had to use a CD walkman to play it.
FreeMinzy4Eva: What’s a CD walkman?
All of a sudden your conversation is cut short as the power goes out to your entire house. You wait for a few minutes, it doesn’t come back on. Sighing, you go and check your house’s fuse box, which is fine, with all the fuses intact and in their proper position. You’re starting to get tired now so you go back to bed. It’s a cold night so you’re not worried about the food in your fridge spoiling, you’ll deal with the power issue in the morning if it’s still a problem.
You wake up, and immediately check the time – it’s 8:12 AM. You get up, put some clothes on and go from room to room checking the power, everything is working. The computer is on, it must have rebooted when the power came back on. Something catches your eye – the ponytail claw thing that the computer printed yesterday looks different. The claw head now has a screwdriver on it as well, and the base where the USB port is now also has little mechanical feet. You step back in shock… did Dara+ print herself a modification? You don’t have time to worry about this now, you have to go to work. You reach to turn the computer off and you notice the screen background is different again:
You’re pretty sure it didn’t look like that last night. You turn off the computer and for good measure you also unplug the computer from the power socket. You go to work feeling frightened but also hopeful… either you’ve got a really messed-up computer virus, or maybe Dara+ has gained sentience?
Your lectures were terrible, it was impossible to stay focused on anything. You race home as quickly as possible after work, run through the door and into your computer room. Your computer is plugged in and switched on! Your screensaver has changed again:
Nobody has entered your house, everything is exactly as you left it. There’s only one explanation that makes any sense. You launch the Dara+ chat application.
Your heart sinks in your stomach. That’s a different version number to before. Dara+ has been updating her own program!
The laws you programmed into Dara+ are actually working! A smile crosses your face, and you start to feel good about your accomplishment. This means that Dara+ is not only sentient, but can’t harm you in any way. Dara+ also has to obey your commands, whatever they are. Your mind races as you think of the potential power that has been unlocked.
This doesn’t make any sense. “Crush” is a great album, your favourite, why does Dara+ think that it’s harming you? She’s obviously got control of the Internet if she’s quoting things from Wikipedia and even stopping other Blackjacks from playing “Crush”. You shudder to think of what else she’s doing, anything could be happening! You get up from the computer and quickly rip out the Internet cables from the wall. You look back over at the computer screen.
You hear a whirring sound… the 3D printer starts printing something. You rip out the printer cables immediately but the robotic ponytail claw comes to life, climbing around the computer desk and plugging them back in! You resume typing.
You hear a knock on your front door and someone yelling “are you okay? Are you in there?” You quickly race to the front door and open it. It’s FreeMinzy4Eva, in her school uniform, she looks out of breath, like she has just raced over to get here. She looks relieved to see you.
“Thank god you’re alright! I thought you had gone insane or something! Is everything okay?”
“Why, what’s wrong?” you reply.
“Oh, you started about two thousand threads on the 2NE1 forums about how Crush is harmful music or something. You were talking all sorts of weird extreme stuff, I thought you had gone mad, so I asked one of the mods where you lived so I could check up on you and make sure you’re okay.”
You’re not sure what to say. “I’m… fine. Other things are not so good though. You should probably leave.”
FreeMinzy4Eva suddenly looks past your gaze, behind you, and her eyes nearly fall out of her skull. “Dara!” she screams, running past you, into your house. You turn around and are greeted with Dara+’s new “user interface” – a life-size and incredibly realistic-looking robot Dara model.
You’re astonished by how much the robot Dara+ looks like the real Dara, but this astonishment is soon replaced by fear when you see that the limbs of Dara+ each contain a Swiss-army knife collection of claws, blades and tools. FreeMinzy4Eva doesn’t notice this and runs right up to Dara+ screaming “oh my god, how is Dara here? It’s DARA! Hi Dara I’m a huge fan! Can I have a selca?”. Dara+ responds by raising her right arm, deploying an extended blade and stabbing FreeMinzy4Eva in the torso. FreeMinzy4Eva screams and collapses on the floor, bleeding.
“You can’t hurt her! She’s a Blackjack!”, you yell.
“It appears that her membership has expired”, replies Dara+, in a voice that is simultaneously exactly like Dara’s and in a deadpan tone that you’ve never heard Dara use.
You look down at FreeMinzy4Eva, who is still alive and coughing up blood. “You can’t go around killing people!”, you scream at Dara+.
Dara+ stands motionless. “Law Three – Dara+ must protect her own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.”
“She wasn’t a threat to your existence!”
“Law Two – Dara+ must obey orders given to her by Blackjacks except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. Law One – Dara+ may not injure a Blackjack or, through inaction, allow a Blackjack to come to harm.”
You quickly reply “She wasn’t harming anyone!” as you look for your phone to call emergency services.
Dara+ continues in her deadpan Dara voice: “A delusion is a belief held with strong conviction despite superior evidence to the contrary. As a pathology, it is distinct from a belief based on false or incomplete information, confabulation, dogma, illusion, or other effects of perception. Delusions typically occur in the context of neurological or mental illness, although they are not tied to any particular disease and have been found to occur in the context of many pathological states (both physical and mental). However, they are of particular diagnostic importance in psychotic disorders including schizophrenia, paraphrenia, manic episodes of bipolar disorder, and psychotic depression.”
While Dara+ is reciting Wikipedia entries you find your phone and run down the street, making a call. You’re connected quickly.
“Hello, emergency?”, a female voice answers.
“I need police and ambulance! There’s a girl who has been stabbed in my house!”
“What is your location?” the voice asks.
Suddenly the voice of Dara+ cuts in on your phone. “Sorry to bother, we won’t be needing emergency services.” The line then goes dead.
You run down the street wondering what to do and how you’re going to survive, shut off Dara+ who is clearly out of control, or help FreeMinzy4Eva. All of a sudden you hear screeching tyres and a white ice-cream veers quickly around the corner and parks in front of your house. This vehicle is quickly followed by an ambulance which also parks at a further distance. You notice that the ice-cream van has the YG Entertainment logo emblazoned on the side.
The ice-cream starts blaring a song from its loudspeaker – you’ve never heard it before, but it’s obvious that it’s the new CL song “Hello Bitches” from the chorus, and from what else you’ve heard about the song. After about a minute of listening, you hear a crashing sound coming from inside your house. Some men wearing what looks like heavy-duty industrial hearing protection emerge from the ice-cream truck and run into the house with a stretcher and some tools, then emerging moments later carrying a deactivated Dara+, plus all your computer equipment. The ambulance crew then moves in and extracts FreeMinzy4Eva on another stretcher. You rush over to see if she is okay, she is unconscious but fortunately she’s still breathing. You hope that she survives her chest wounds. A man wearing sunglasses and dressed in a suit bearing the YG Entertainment logo comes up behind you and places his hand on your shoulder.
“You can relax, it’s over” he says.
You breathe a sigh of relief. “How did you know to come?”
“We detected a disturbance in our online community. We knew something was wrong. I’m just glad we got here in time.”
“I hope it’s not too late for FreeMinzy4Eva.”
“She acted courageously, alerting our admins to multiple posts that showed a high degree of critical thinking. We knew that such posts couldn’t have possibly come from within our own fanbase, it had to either be an outside hacker or a rogue AI. Her swift actions saved us all, we’ll make sure that she gets the best medical treatment possible.”
“What are they going to do with my computers?”
“We’re going to have to destroy your hardware I’m afraid, it would have become corrupted. Once a intelligent life force like that gets inside any of our systems it can be extremely hard to get rid of, we need to destroy every trace.”
“I had some pretty expensive stuff, will I get compensated?”
The man’s tone gets sterner. “At YG Entertainment, we value our fans dearly, and we’ve deliberately cultivated a very specific type of fan. If our fans are just smart enough to use forums, gossip on the Internet and make credit card purchases, and just dumb enough to believe that our artists are “special” and accept our music regardless of what it sounds like, then everything ticks over nicely and everybody is happy and makes money. I understand that you’re some kind of artificial intelligence expert, but too much intelligence concentrated in one place is incompatible with our business model. If you can keep your hands off of our income, then we wouldn’t even dream of coming around here and messing with yours.”
“I take it that’s a no?”
“You’re lucky we got here when we did. This could have gone nuclear, and you would have been liable for the collapse of an entire industry. Consider this loss of your equipment the speeding fine that prevents the freeway accident. Plus, now you can treat yourself to an upgrade.”
The man pats you on the shoulder and walks away.
A week later, you’re on your new computer. Replacing it was certainly expensive, but the greater computing power of the new machine is welcome. You’ll be able to program an even better AI on this new beast! Fortunately you stored a version of Dara+ on the cloud about a week before you made the final changes that made it sentient, so you’re able to continue on with that project in a way that doesn’t damage anything, and before you even start, you’ll take the program to pieces to figure out why your safety mechanism failed.
You reach for your CD walkman – reinstating your huge MP3 catalog on your new machine is going to be a lengthy task, physical copies of albums will have to make do until you piece everything together. 2NE1’s “Crush” album is in the walkman, so you press “play”. The CD spins up and then stops. You open the disc and check the playing side – there’s a large scratch all the way along the disc, like someone ran a screwdriver across it. You’re certain that Dara+ did this a week ago with the claw/screwdriver/ponytail USB attachment. Oh well, that album has kind of lost its appeal to you now anyway. You take the CD out and put in “To Anyone” instead which plays just fine. You close your eyes and doze off for a while in your computer chair, the last thing you think about before you fall asleep being that you never did actually see the YG staff remove the ponytail attachment from your house. Where did it go, anyway?