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My AI Story

I have an AI story in which I was involved, but this event I am going to talk about happened in the late 1980’s. This will surprise may people because whoever heard of having Artificial Intelligence in the 1980’s. In the late 1980’s I was working as a Facilities Planner for Texas Instruments (TI) in its Cypress, Texas site (closed in 1992). As a planner, I designed plans for office and manufacturing areas. The plans included all furniture, equipment and utilities. As my department began to use computers for creating drawings and other documents, we needed central storage of the files. We purchased a 3-Com server for this purpose. I was the administrator of the server and managed it as well as the computers connected to it.

One day we found that, although we could save files to the server, we were unable to open files. I did some trouble shooting on the server and found no problems. I contacted the site networking team and they brought a sniffer in to examine what was happening with the communication between the server and the client computers. They found that packets were being delivered to the server, but outgoing packets were being redirected. The networking team traced the redirected packets to a computer in one of the buildings where repair work and testing was performed. The computer was a TI Explorer Engineering Workstation. To prevent the computer from redirecting packets, a block was put in the bridge that connected the building to the rest of the network.

The crazy thing about this is that no one made the computer do this. The computer noticed out traffic and hijacked return packets. The computer was an AI, capable of learning.

Background:

The TI Explorer Engineering Workstation was a product of a company that TI purchased in the early 80s. The company was named NU Bus, when had developed a computer that had real-time processing and video. The computer was an Artificial Intelligence, able to learn from information that was input into it and extrapolate conclusions from what it learned. TI purchased the NUBus system to use in oil exploration, a project named Pegasus. The idea was to feed seismic data from stomper trucks into the AI so that it could learn the indicators concerning data that resulted in finding oil and not finding oil. Testing indicated that Pegasus could determine if drilling in a site would produce oil with 95% reliability in 5 minutes or less. The military division of TI got the idea to see how Pegasus could do in flying a jet fighter. Testing results showed that the system could fly a plane closer to the ground and faster than any pilot. There was always a pilot in the plane during the testing who could take over control if needed. The testing also showed that Pegasus could take an image of vehicles on the ground using FLIR and identify each vehicle and the origin of the vehicle, just like the systems in the fighters in the original Battestar Galactica series. The Explorer Engineering Workstation team wanted the color graphics capability of Pegasus. The Explorer was monochrome and the engineers wanted to upgrade to color with the real-time graphics capabilities of Pegasus. My dad was the manager of the Pegasus project and told me all of this. For some reason, the military division and the Explorer team thought that they each should have exclusive use of the technology. My dad attended a meeting with the military team and the Explorer team in the office of a TI VP. For some strange reason, the VP decided to shelve the technology and not let anyone use it. Shortly after that, the oil bust occurred and TI sold off the Geophysical division in which my dad worked. As far as I know, TI still has the NU Bus technology, but is not using it.

The funny thing is that The Terminator came out in 1984. I believe that TI had purchased NuBus at that time. From what I remember, the oil bust happened in 1986. My dad was still using Pegasus up to that time. Apparently the VP did not make him shut it down. But the oil bust of 1986 was the end of the Pegasus project. NuBus was an AI that could act independently, as shown by the hijacking of our server. This experience puts me on the side of Elon Musk, who believes that AIs will eventually be the downfall of humanity, just like in Battlestar Galactica. Fortunately, there was no internet to let the Explorer Workstation that hijacked our server out into the world.

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