Thursday, 04 September 2014 08:53

Moonshot Part 2

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...The incident that ultimately aroused the suspicion of the project technically occurred first but the analysis was concluded afterwards so it was generally treated as the second checkpoint in the road to the revelation. The initial reaction hovered between heavy uncertainty and cautious concern, a concern that only grew over time.

Recommended reading: Moonshot part I

The briefing with the various governmental representatives came and went and was as excruciatingly pointless and braindead as Z had presumed. He and Colin survived it and promptly got wasted afterward, though Z had a flight to catch the next morning so he needed to exercise more moderation. By the time he was back in the Midwest and sufficiently rested to return to work though, Colin had received the analysis of some rather strange anomalies in the server logs and was already waiting eagerly for his counterpart’s return.

“Still jetlagged?”Colin asked as Z logged in, two hours later than even his usually belated entrance.

“No, going west doesn’t really bother me, I was just out running errands so didn’t see your message. You said there was something weird going on?”

Colin nodded and brought up the contents of a log on one of the larger displays. “Pierre noticed that a lot of our servers seemed to be running pretty hot from doing heavy computation even when no one is logged in. No one fessed up to doing any number crunching on the side so I decided to set up some extra monitoring to see who was kicking off processes. According to this, it’s none of us.”

Z’s eyes narrowed. “We been breached?”

Colin shook his head. “That was my first guess as well, but no. In fact, all the processes were being fired up by the bunnies.”

Z cocked his head to the side. “KJK borrowing some CPU time for his pet projects?”

“Again, no,”said Colin. “I asked him and he was pretty surprised that it was happening.”

Colin fell silent as Z continued to stare at his coworker. The other man looked composed and calm, but there was definitely an underlining tension that was now more evident. He then glanced around the room that they were in.

“Is there a reason we’re in one of the secured chambers?”Z asked.

Colin nodded. “I’ve looked at the processes that have been running and they’re all physics simulations, pretty complicated ones for that matter. In fact I asked Timo to examine them and he says that they look like simulations of fusion reactions.”

At this Z frowned in confusion. “What in the world would cause the bunnies to run those?”

“That’s what I don’t understand,”said Colin. “This is so far outside any of our core projects that only a third party would be interested in it, or a project member who has a side interest. But Timo didn’t generate these simulations and as far as I can tell you didn’t either and you’re the only two that have a known interest in this kind of stuff. I’ve pretty much ruled out anyone internal being involved.”

The Timo in question was a physicist by training but had gravitated towards computer science for his career. He had demonstrated considerable proficiency in both fields and the project was fortunate to have him. Z’s own interest in physics was more of an amateur nature due to his brief stint working on sensors for particle accelerators.

“And you said that we haven’t been breached,”Z said carefully.

Colin nodded. “All the data that was fed into the simulations are from publically available sources, journals, and the like.”

“And the bunnies also fetched them? They weren’t already downloaded for some other work?”

Another nod.

“So what would prompt the bunnies to run simulations on nuclear fusion,”Z stated.

“Exactly. And I have no idea. You spoke with KJK a lot more than I did and you worked with him on bootstrapping the bunnies. Any ideas?”

“The bunnies are designed to be self-contained but also part of a larger network,”Z said. “Each one has a specific subset of routines active to allow it to carry out its assigned task to maintain a lower footprint than loading all of their shared routines in each one would entail. If one bunny’s processing power isn’t enough to complete a task, others can switch their active routines and help gang up on a problem.”

Colin nodded. That much he already knew, but he let Z work along his train of thought.

“How many bunnies were working on these simulations?”

“All the ones not engaged in pre-assigned duties.”

“And do we know which routines they were running at the time?”

“Their advanced mathematical solver modules,”Colin said. “We don’t really have them exercise that one much beyond the financial instruments tracking algorithms.”

“Hmm. In what form did the simulations take?”Z asked.

“I’m sorry?”

“Well, the bunnies have limited adaptability,”Z said. “If they encounter a problem where they cannot converge on a solution, they are capable of trying different algorithms and the like. They also have the ability to tune their existing algorithms, to reorder instructions and so on to cut overhead.”

“So you’re saying that they’re trying to optimize their algorithms with these simulations?”

“I don’t know,”Z admitted. “The strange part is why they’re doing this kind of computation at all. As you said, we don’t have any kind of projects that involve fusion physics. Stocks certainly don’t really have any correlation.”

“Well it’s certainly something we can at least look into,”Colin said, “see if there are any improvements to the performance of the math module.”

“I suppose. But you still haven’t explained why we’re having this conversation on such a secure line.”

Colin half grimaced and half smiled. “I think your imagination is more than enough to tell you why.”

“Alright, are you going to take any specific precautions?”

“Some,”Colin said. “The bunnies have actually adhered strictly to their operating guidelines and as far as we can tell they’ve kept themselves confined to our internal servers. That said, I’m going to see about actually enforcing hard boundaries on network access, keep them completely off the servers that act as gateways.”

“Makes sense,”said Z. “Are you going to still let them query for new data?”

“For now,”Colin said, “though we’re going to be scanning, tagging, and auditing everything they request from an external source. Maybe that’ll shed some light on what’s going on. Hopefully there’s a simple explanation for this.”

“I can certainly see less useful ways of burning CPU time,”Z said. “Who knows, maybe the bunnies will come up with something that we can patent.”

“That would be most ideal,”said Colin, “and might help us show off some additional applications for our work. But one step at a time, first we figure out why this is happening at all.”


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