Midway through the Twenty-first century, an integrated global computer network manages much of the world?s affairs. A proposed major software upgrade?an artificial intelligence?will give the system an unprecedented degree of independent decision-making power, but serious questions are raised in regard to how much control can safely be given to a non-human intelligence. In order to more fully assess the system, a new space-station habitat?a world in miniature?is developed for deployment of the fully operational system, named Spartacus. This mini-world can then be ?attacked? in a series of escalating tests to assess the system?s responses and capabilities. If Spartacus gets out of hand, the system can be shut down and the station destroyed . . . unless Spartacus decides to take matters into its own hands and take the fight to Earth.
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