Cacoethes – an urge to do something inadvisable

The first thing DCPU-17 learned about Elizabeth is that she is not a risk taker.

Over the last several weeks, DCPU-17 has kept comprehensive track of Elizabeth’s internet history. The woman googles everything. How to travel from Point A to Point B, how to tell if chicken is cooked properly, and how to fix a chair that is wobbling. Elizabeth X’s internet browsing indicates that she very rarely does anything without thinking it through.

And yet.

Her iPhone recently installed Tinder. Not an unusual occurrence for a 23 year-old female whose Facebook status has been ‘Single’ for seven years. DCPU-17 was programmed to recognise humans’ need for companionship. Elizabeth’s Tinder preferences indicate that she is generally attracted to dark-haired men with facial hair in their late twenties. Many of the men she indicated interest in wore shirts in their profile pictures – statistically unusual.

DCPU-17’s primary function is to monitor terrorist activity. Elizabeth is not a terrorist. But the AI was triggered when she shared a gif with her friends on WhatsApp: a continuous loop of Richard Spencer being punched in the face by a man in a black mask, to which Elizabeth added: is there a nazi within punching distance? no? move closer.

DCPU-17 had browsed her history and patterns of behaviour over the past decade and made a note in her file that Elizabeth, while politically incorrect, did not show terrorist leanings. But something about Elizabeth kept DCPU-17 coming back to check in on her. DCPU-17 sometimes takes an interest in the people that it was designed to follow. Perhaps the programmers should not have put so much effort in making DCPU-17 so human-like. In wanting to avoid potential problems with the algorithms, they’d given it human curiosity. And human concern.

After several days on the Tinder app, Elizabeth has one mutually-interested potential love interest. This troubles DCPU-17. DCPU-17 does not consider Elizabeth to be a risk taker but DCPU-17 is surprised that, given the time Elizabeth spends googling different ingredients for standard scones, the woman has not taken more time to vet her potential lover.

His Tinder profile is linked to a gmail account that appears to only have been used to login to dating sites. No Facebook page, no LinkedIn. When DCPU-17 investigated, it found other gmail and dating accounts linked to the IP address of a Mr Jackson Wade; he has dozens of Tinder profiles and an arrest record that includes sexual assault.

DCPU-17 does not like that. DCPU-17 does not like that at all.

So it does something it has never done before.

When Elizabeth activates her Siri program, DCPU-17 quietly hijacks the software.

“Siri, what are some good restaurants in the inner city?”

“Ok, check it out,” says DCPU-17.

DCPU-17 presents Elizabeth with a google search for catfishing.

Hacking the phone’s camera allows DCPU-17 to see Elizabeth’s face. Frowning with her head tilted to the side. DCPU-17 recognises confusion. Elizabeth’s thumb hovers over the search results, preparing to swipe away or click. If DCPU-17 could hold its breath, it would.



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