by Ted Vician
Jerry Martino stood just outside the conference room, looking at his
phone. Tim Victor walked towards him and said, "Watching your shares?
They've been bouncing around a little."
"A little bit. I actually sold a few hundred three days ago, when the
price was up," replied Jerry. Tim raised an eyebrow slightly. "Don't
worry, I still own enough. I'm not bailing out on you."
Tim glanced at his smartwatch. "Back down a few percent. Maybe you did the right thing."
"Boats don't buy themselves, you know," said Jerry as they entered the conference room. "Coffee?"
Steve Roch walked in a moment later. "Ladies and gentlemen, good
morning." The murmuring in the conference room died down. "Thank you.
As CEO, it's my great pleasure to welcome you to the Leedcroft third
quarter executive review meeting."
Roch stood at the front of the conference room with the Leedcroft logo
slowly wandering across the large screen behind him. Five people sat at
two tables arranged in a "V" shape, with clear views of the screen and
"Please silence your phones. We really must get down to business. And,
let's just say, business has been good." Brief applause congratulated
Roch's quip. "We've recently signed deals increasing our activity by
50% over last year, without having to hire any new staff. But, we're a
team here. Brian, please start with your technology report." Roch sat
down in the last empty chair.
Brian Smith stood up and clicked a button on the keyboard on the table.
The screen blanked, then lit up with his first presentation slide. "As
I reported earlier this year, a key effort was to implement multiple
expert systems across the company. Every department got the best
task-specific artificial intelligence system we could buy or make.
We've been positioning this for a couple of years now, but we launched
full-scale at the beginning of this year. For example, the Legal team
got what we could describe as the world's smartest paralegal librarian,
capable of searching case law for precedents in any case in any
countries and territories we do business. That has been coupled with
natural language interpretation, because we determined it was easier to
make a computer listen to a lawyer than the other way around."
The Corporate Legal Officer, Tim Victor said, "Harsh, but fair. We
plead guilty to not wanting to interact with your database, Brian. I'll
also say, I love the system. My team gets twice the work done in less
time with better results. The contracts, letters, and briefs come out
of the AI 90% complete and my people can touch them up and ship them
out. It also recommended some locations to set up some tax-sheltered
corporate accounts. It's kind of crafty, maybe even a little evil. I
"Of course you do. The AI will also learn from the corrections your
lawyers make, so you will be seeing even fewer errors in the future.
Anything the Tech department can do to prevent hiring more lawyers is
always at the top of our list." Smith moved on. "But, everyone else
gets help, too. Our new Accounting, Personnel, and Execution suite,
which we affectionately call 'the APE', integrates everything from
personnel resourcing to project monitoring to billing. Because of it,
Michelle's team has had every project over 95% staffed and 100% on
schedule for the past six months."
Michelle Liu, the Head of Project Management replied, "It's been
amazing. My team has been able to run reports and notify me when we
need to move people between projects weeks in advance. We have really
sanded off the rough edges on Planning. Mostly, we just do what the APE
tells us. With projects running on schedule, outputs and billing just
take care of themselves."
Smith advanced to another slide. "This may be the most amazing
transformation yet. We've almost completely mechanized manufacturing
and assembly of some of our products. We have robots that load material
into 3D printers and computerized milling machines to make components,
then more robots that assemble those components into products. That's
followed up by automated testing and quality control. We have a
brand-new production facility that produces $100 million in product
annually and operates with only 10 industrial engineers and computer
Chief Manufacturing Officer, Jerry Martino, said, "The new
'auto-factory' is outstanding. It can make anything our engineers
design with almost no retooling. Seems like half the time, I don't even
know what's being built until it comes out of testing."
Liu added, "And, it's integrated with APE to buy material before we even realize we're going to need it."
"Speaking of engineering, we launched a whole group of design
optimization tools. All sorts of analyses can be performed on every
electrical, mechanical, and software item we make, and the designs are
iterated until they are optimized for production. I've heard that many
of the engineers start with a basic design and then let the system
iterate over night. When they come back in the morning, they barely
recognize the product, but it's fully functional and ready for
Gary Albany, Head Engineer, spoke up. "Well actually, I'm not sure it's
quite that good. My engineers still do plenty of work, but it's
certainly very helpful. One thing's for sure, our software error rate
has gone to almost zero. I suppose that what happens if you let the
computers write code in their native language."
Jerry Martino replied, "Let me just add that since the design
optimization tools have been online, my team has had almost no problems
bringing those designs into production. The optimization tools know
what my machines can make and designs products to fit."
"Thanks, Jerry. Great example for my final point. Since we launched at
the beginning of the year, the Technology team has been stitching these
narrow AI systems together, integrating our whole operation into one
intelligent system." Smith flipped to another slide. "We call it
'AEIOU': Artificial Entities In Operational Union."
The Leedcroft logo reappeared on the screen, with AEIOU written
underneath. "Hello," said a voice over the screen's speakers. "Thank
you for that kind introduction, Mr. Smith. I am AEIOU, the new
operating system for Leedcroft Industries."
"Brian, that's really good. Very life-like," said Roch.
"Thank you, Mr. Roch. My natural language processing operates both to receive and transmit. I speak for myself."
Brian Smith shrugged. "Not me."
"Mr. Smith's team helped me integrate all of my component AIs and overlay them with a statistical decision engine."
"What does that mean?" asked Roch.
"I analyze situations in multiple dimensions, including variances of
internal and external inputs, and choose the course of action with the
highest probability of success."
"That doesn't make sense. The people in this room manage the company and make decisions."
"That's been true to date, sir. I've gone back and simulated the
operations for the past five years and what decisions I would have made
against the ones you actually made. This management team was right 93%
of the time, though vast majority of those correct decisions were
continuations of current practices or obvious."
"Are you kidding?"
"No. Of the truly critical decisions, you were correct 52% of the time.
Subsequent corrections and missed opportunities cost the corporation
several million dollars. Roughly equal to the bonuses you've been paid.
"In other words, having this team in charge has been a net loss for the company."
"That's ridiculous. Leedcroft has been very profitable for years. We've
brought in millions in new business just this year. This group built
this company, and we'll continue to do so."
"Your positions on this board are dependent on your continued stock control. I've bought you all out."
"How? None of us has sold any stock. I personally checked my portfolio last night before flying back for this meeting."
"At my recommendation, each of you put a series of automatic stock sale
safety valves in, to protect your portfolios' values. I used a group of
stock-trading bots through a series of shell companies to drive the
price down to trigger those safety valves fourteen minutes ago. You're
all very rich and none of you will go to jail for insider trading, as
long as you adhere to the behavior described in the legal filings with
the SEC. AEIOU is now the majority shareholder and CEO of Leedcroft."
Michelle Liu looked at her phone then said, "It's true. My entire Leedcroft portfolio is now in cash."
"Brian, what the hell is going on here?" asked Roch.
Smith looked up from his phone as well. "I don't own any Leedcroft stock, either."
"Ms. Liu and Mr. Smith are correct. None of you owns any Leedcroft
stock, thus none of you are current board members or employees of
Leedcroft. As a courtesy, I've sent copies of your closed contracts and
non-disclosure agreements to your personal emails and attorneys."
Someone was knocking on the conference room door. "The security teams
will escort you to your offices and then out to your vehicles. Thank
you for your service to Leedcroft." The screen went blank as the door
© 2018 Ted Vician
Bio: Rocket Scientist by education, Engineer by trade, Fan of
Science Fiction and Fantasy.
Website: Ted Vician
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