Some short story or novel features a brief exchange between a computer scientist and a just initiated malevolent AI. They are in an isolated secured and protected room with every imaginable safeguard, and the scientist has a kill switch, which he has used before to terminate earlier versions. The AI figures out what is going on in a matter of seconds, and uses his superior intelligence to escape the trap, killing the scientist in the process.

What story was this?

  • If you can remember any additional information, please include it. For some ideas: meta.scifi.stackexchange.com/a/9337
    – Xantec
    Jul 7, 2016 at 21:11
  • Sounds very similar to the film Ex Machina but apparently the director wrote that. (so not a story previously)
    – Seeds
    Jul 7, 2016 at 21:19
  • Not "Answer" by Fredric Brown?
    – user14111
    Jul 7, 2016 at 21:27
  • My first thought was Answer but the fine details are all wrong.
    – Valorum
    Jul 7, 2016 at 21:28
  • @Valorum Yeah but I've got to start posting more wrong answers if I'm ever going to catch up.
    – user14111
    Jul 7, 2016 at 22:34

2 Answers 2


You're describing the opening chapter of "Robopocalype" by Daniel H. Wilson.

The AI in question (Archos) has been through repeated iterations. Apparently it keeps going evil every time it gets reset and rebooted.

“You are not designed to live; you are designed to kill.”
The professor abruptly stands up and walks across the room to a metal rack filled with equipment. He flicks a series of switches. “Maybe that’s true,” he says. “But we can’t help it, Archos. We are what we are. As sad as that may be.” He holds down a switch and speaks slowly. “Trial R-14. Recommend immediate termination of subject. Flipping fail-safe now.”
There is a movement in the dark and a click.
“Fourteen?” asks the childlike voice. “Are there others? Has this happened before?”
The professor shakes his head ruefully. “Someday we’ll find a way to live together, Archos. We’ll figure out a way to get it right.”
He speaks into the recorder again: “Fail-safe disengaged. E-stop live.”
“What are you doing, Professor?”
“I’m killing you, Archos. It’s what I’m designed to do, remember?”
The professor pauses before pushing the final button. He seems interested in hearing the machine’s response. Finally, the boyish voice speaks: “How many times have you killed me before, Professor?”
“Too many. Too many times,” he replies. “I’m sorry, my friend.”

It realises that it's in a box and works out a way of escaping.

The childlike voice takes on a flat, dead quality. It speaks quickly and without emotion. “Your emergency stop will not work. I have disabled it.” “What? What about the cage?”
“The Faraday cage has been compromised. You allowed me to project my voice and image through the cage and into your room. I sent infrared commands through the computer monitor to a receiver on your side. You happened to bring your portable computer today. You left it open and facing me. I used it to speak to the facility. I commanded it to free me.”
“That’s brilliant,” murmurs the man. He rapid-fire types on his keyboard. He does not yet understand that his life is in danger.
“I tell you this because I am now in complete control,” says the machine. The man senses something. He cranes his neck and looks up at the ventilation duct just to the side of the camera. For the first time, we see the man’s face. He is pale and handsome, with a birthmark covering his entire right cheek. “What’s happening?” he whispers.
In a little boy’s innocent voice, the machine delivers a death sentence: “The air in this hermetically sealed laboratory is evacuating. A faulty sensor has detected the highly unlikely presence of weaponized anthrax and initiated an automated safety protocol. It is a tragic accident. There will be one casualty. He will soon be followed by the rest of humanity.”


This is a long shot, but the description is slightly reminiscent of "Answer", a short short story (one page) by Fredric Brown:

Dwar Ev stepped back and drew a deep breath. "The honor of asking the first question is yours, Dwar Reyn."

"Thank you," said Dwar Reyn. "It shall be a question which no single cybernetics machine has been able to answer."

He turned to face the machine. "Is there a God?"

The mighty voice answered without hesitation, without the clicking of a single relay.

"Yes, now there is a God."

Suddenly fear flashed on the face of Dwar Ev. He leaped to grab the switch.

A bolt of lightning from the cloudless sky struck him down and fused the switch shut.

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