A young man sat, not quite looking at the camera. He wore a dress shirt, stark white against his dark skin, but it clearly didn’t fit very well. About half a second in, he jumped.

“Oh, right,” he said, now focused on his theoretical audience. “Hi, KickStarter. My name is Steve Jones. And this is John Henry 2.0.” The camera moved with a jerk until a computer monitor could be seen next to Steve. A rendered human face was on it. It had rather generic looking features, and a low resolution. “Say hi, John.”

“Hello, Rebecca,” a harsh, automated voice said. The face moved about half a second too late.

“Not to her, to the audience. This is going up on the internet.”

“I understand. Hello, Mr. or Ms. Internet. It is nice to meet you.”

Steve smiled, but it was a little pained. “John here is a fully operational AI system. But, as you can see, he’s not very smart.”

“Hey!” the robotic voice said, and the face displayed frowned.

“It’s not your fault, John,” Steve said.

“I know. It’s yours.”

Steve let out an embarrassed laugh. “As you can also see, he does have a functional personality matrix. None of this was scripted. All John needs is a systems upgrade. Better processors, more RAM, that kind of thing.” He paused.

“And a body,” a woman’s voice said, barely audible in the video.

“Right! A body. You see, we want to enter John in the Prometheus Challenge. Only we couldn’t find a sponsor. But we’ve spoken to a manufacturer, and they can build John Henry’s body in plenty of time to meet the entry deadline. So… um, well, we need money, obviously, or I wouldn’t be making this video. It’s going to cost two million dollars, but obviously the more we get, the better. If we can get enough, we can use better materials and stuff. There should be a chart on the KickStarter page. And anything left over will be used for maintenance and stuff…”

He pulled at his collar. “What else… oh, right. Prizes, or pledges, I guess. John, can you tell them about the pledges?”

“Of course. At the lower levels, we have Team John Henry bumper stickers and patches.” His face faded away, revealing a stylized logo of a hammer smashing an old-fashioned steam engine. Then the face reappeared. “I don’t know what those are, but Steve told me to show them to you. Rebecca likes them, too, so they must be good. Higher pledges include invitations to Prometheus Challenge events as guests of Team John Henry, a personal visit from me, once I have a body, and even three honorary membership positions on Team John Henry. The highest pledge will let you decide what my face will look like. I would like to recommend David Tennant.”

Steve gave a mildly annoyed look over the camera. “So, there we are. This is a long shot, but we want to prove that innovation belongs to the people of the world, not just the megacorporations. Say good-night, John.”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t have a body yet.”

“It doesn’t…” Steve took a breath. “I’ll explain it to you later.” He made a slashing gesture across his throat, and the video stopped.

 

“Probably should have done more than one take,” Jack said, a grin on his face.

“It’d do more harm than good,” Luke said. “Every take they do, John would be more rigid in his responses. They needed to make sure it was clear that he’s actually an intelligence.”

“Can we help him?” Eileen asked.

“You know he’d be your competition,” Luke told her.

“Yeah, but he seems sweet. Ooh! If we give them enough money, we’ll get to meet him!”

“If he’s in the Prometheus Challenge, you’ll meet him anyway.”

“Can we get a Team John Henry bumper sticker then?”

“You can’t…” Luke started, then turned to his brother. “I don’t have time to explain it. You handle it, Jack.”

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