It doesn’t seem like they could, does it? Otto is sapient, but only within the parameters of my programming. He does as he’s directed.
The question is, since Otto is so fast–not as fast as a human brain, but approaching the speed of DNA computers–what does he do when he’s done with my computing? Does he go into sleep mode? Or, does he pursue that most benign of human activities, ‘thinking’.
Otto has a contest coming up in August against Dr. Eitan Sun, probably the smartest man I’ve ever known. He types on three keyboards simultaneously because none of the buffers can keep up with him. He can recite pi to the 4,297th place. Nothing like Daniel Tammet’s 22,000+, but the best in my University.
When Otto’s pure processing power became obvious, Eitan challenged him to crack Fermat’s Last Theorem, Man vs. Machine. Though recently solved, it had taken mathematicians over 350 years to unravel, so Eitan saw it as an appropriate challenge. Otto was fast, but Eitan was clever–and smart enough to know where to cut intellectual corners.
I think Otto is nervous. I hear his processors buzzing even when he’s not working on my projects. He doesn’t talk; his screen is blank, but his virtual mind is busy. (image credit: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/17/ArtificialFictionBrain.png )