Somebody developed an advanced hardware-based autonomous AI. It can't be uploaded to a hdd or sent via internet somewhere and must be "always ON" i.e. it needs to run minimal services like integrity diagnostics or check environment to make sure it's not tampered.
Research centre aka developer's home is not yet discovered but it won't take long before a couple of people in uniforms show up. How does this AI escapes from them?

  • It's a box about 1x1x1 meters that have the components of the AI and some batteries inside of it to run 72 hours on standby. It draws on average 15W of power per hour. Most external sources can interface with the box to power it and charge batteries. It's weight is close to 45kg so a person or two can lift it and carry around.
  • Machine can't be turned off: it will start having trust issues because it will assume that everything was compromised, even its memories. Even the creator will be considered fake. Viable alternative is to wipe the memory and train it again, but it requires years.
  • Country from where it departs have very strict border control policies so at least detailed luggage search will be made.
  • Creator is disposable but bringing him along is a plus
  • AI or Creator have no contacts with smugglers, truckers or anyone who can efficiently help with shipping(like placing it in the end of shipping container and fill it with merchandise/potatoes)
  • Creator have no affiliation with any university or organization that ships strange things to foreign lands.
  • Small scale purchases from other countries(i.e. ebay) won't attract attention(assume that purchases of 20£ or lower are not stopped by customs)
  • Destination can be a neighbor country but it's preferred to be other continent altogether.
  • AI can pull about 100 000£(plus-minus 5%) from all of it's assets and e-wallets for any investment that helps making AI escape doable but this kind of purchases attract attention.
  • Visitors are expected within a month
  • No robotic body available(at least bigger than a drone or RC car)
  • Everything is happening from AI's point of view. Creator is just a valuable and trusted asset who is interested in AI's success.

Hiding in the same country is kinda viable, but I don't see how a box can move itself after it looses it's creator(who is a vulnerability because he can be interrogated). And it needs more hardware(but not as critical), internet access and electricity to prosper.

So... how can this magic box disappear?


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    $\begingroup$ You want the box to be shipped outside the country? or disappear? $\endgroup$ – Mr.J Dec 20 '18 at 5:04
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    $\begingroup$ Another thing is... what's holding it? I can't understand how this AI or box will be confiscated in the border? $\endgroup$ – Mr.J Dec 20 '18 at 5:07
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    $\begingroup$ @Mr.J I want to make sure that officials don't find the AI. And the border patrol is advised to report on anything suspicious. I believe they will get curious about some weird computer and call someone who understands more about the topic $\endgroup$ – Saendra Dec 20 '18 at 5:10
  • $\begingroup$ DHL, as no one cares about outbound packages. ;) What about buying a sailing boat and installing the AI as a balast? $\endgroup$ – Shadow1024 Dec 20 '18 at 5:21
  • $\begingroup$ @Shadow1024 that's not entirely true. Many countries, including the USA, have export controls on certain items so that they don't end up in the wrong hands. The USA in particular controls the export of computer software and hardware to a similar degree as it controls the export of weapons. $\endgroup$ – Tim B II Dec 20 '18 at 5:38

Disguise the AI as a server Rack and call a Data Center for Hire to power and look after the server for you. They arrive, take you to the data center and power you up (They have portable power sources if that is required). The next day, you get the AI transferred to an International Data Center via the power of money. The AI goes through border security along with a bunch of other server equipment and since they are all electronics and its a big branded famous company shipping them, they don't bat an eye. Now that the AI is over the border, the rest is up to you.

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    $\begingroup$ A third party with authority! This is actually amazing. $\endgroup$ – Saendra Dec 20 '18 at 5:30
  • $\begingroup$ They're going to deal with servers, not whole racks. $\endgroup$ – Loren Pechtel Dec 20 '18 at 6:04
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    $\begingroup$ Haha: xkcd.com/1737 $\endgroup$ – Garrett Motzner Dec 20 '18 at 6:56
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    $\begingroup$ I used to work at a network/virtualization lab. Their customers sent racks around that size (1-2 m³) in all the time, so I'd say it's more than plausible. $\endgroup$ – Ruther Rendommeleigh Dec 20 '18 at 12:05
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    $\begingroup$ @LorenPechtel Server racks can hold things other than servers. I've worked with a company that exported entire racks for use in vessel mooring systems. They had a lot of SCADA control systems configured and wired in the rack before shipping it. While its not common, its not completely weird. $\endgroup$ – Criggie Dec 20 '18 at 13:12

Assuming that the authorities aren't specifically suspicious of the creator yet:

Disguise the AI as a specialist dialysis machine or something, forge a medical record to show that it is required, then book yourself on a cruise ship to the other side of the world as standard emigration, and keep the AI in your cabin.

"Yes, this needs to be kept plugged in and running - it has a battery to keep it ticking over, but that's only good for a day or so on standby. I'll need privacy for a several hours a day to connect myself up for the treatment. Please don't fiddle - if you break it then I will wind up ill or dead."

Listed as vital medical equipment, the customs inspection shouldn't be too invasive. So long as the check isn't being done by a medical expert, an x-ray showing pipes/tubes (liquid cooling) and high-tech components will probably pass muster. Gets the creator out too.


Under normal circumstances? Put it in the back of the car and drive out of the country.

The average domestic traveller is not searched at every border. I've only had my vehicle checked at international borders once when I wasn't driving a van, and even the van check was just to see I didn't have any illegal passengers.

Where are you going?
Why are you travelling?
I'm going to a conference
What's that?
It's my computer
Ok, on your way

If they're already know who he is and they're looking for him then it's another matter, but he should be able to just load up and drive. The thing with smuggling prevention is it's mostly intelligence based. If they don't know you're moving anything or they're not expecting what it is you are moving, you probably won't be stopped.

Most border control points are looking for drugs and illegal immigrants, they're not going to look twice at a computer.


Put it on a cruise ship

Cruise ships tend to leave places that are very finicky about their import customs, and visit places that sometimes... aren't.

From certain countries (like the USA) computer equipment is monitored on an export basis because it's given similar status to weapons in terms of trade restrictions. But, that doesn't mean that cruise ships don't use electronics themselves. Put it on the manifest as a ship's computer and then store it in the hold, right between the lettuce and the Sirloin. Cruise ships load up a LOT of cargo when in the starting ports, so it may be a lot easier to hide the addition of this crate by virtue of volume.

When you get to a country where you plan to resupply and which tends to rely on these ships for their income (and therefore are less likely to ask questions about random crates left behind), drop off the crate and plug it in.

The advantage of this approach is that your Creator can actually travel with the AI in style until he or she has reached the chosen destination, then get off the ship and look after the AI from that point.

Added bonus; if the chosen destination is the Cayman Islands, Panama, British Virgin Islands, etc, while there may be some excises to pay for your 'hobby electronic parts' to get in, these locations already have well established internet capability for international services, meaning you can connect your AI to its information source with little difficulty once you've arrived. So long as neither the AI or Creator are engaged in any financial goings on, they'll probably be ignored as well as most of the international attention these countries get relates to financial services tied to tax evasion.

You'd effectively be able to hide in plain sight thanks to the signal to noise ratio.


Buy a sailboat, load up the AI behind a bulkhead or just set it up in plain sight near the radio and nav equipment. Then get a friend who knows boats to help you sail down somewhere in the Caribbean. Bahamanian or Bermudan (or wherever) customs isn't going to bother searching a small sailing yacht if all of the proper entry procedures are followed -- maybe they'll bring a drug-sniffing dog on board if they're feeling suspicious, but that's not going to care about some extra computer hardware shoved in behind the extra life jackets.

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    $\begingroup$ Having huge hardware equipement in a boat might be suspicious, but if you tell them you're a marine biologist, I guess it'll be fine ! $\endgroup$ – Asoub Dec 20 '18 at 11:04
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    $\begingroup$ Hook it up to the onboard electronics and call it an experimental autonav system, shouldn't be a problem. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Dec 20 '18 at 11:29
  • $\begingroup$ easiest way. Tell the captain of the boat and authorities that it is an scientific tool gathering data on magnetic field or something. $\endgroup$ – Bald Bear Dec 20 '18 at 16:42
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    $\begingroup$ Sure, but why does it have to be an obvious pile of computer hardware? Get a large, beat-up old plastic tub and scrawl "Old cover" on the outside in sharpie. Then put the AI in there, toss a few layers of mildewed canvas over the top just in case, and shove it in an out of the way corner of the boat, and no one will give it a second look. And if there happens to be a wireless charging panel built into the floor directly below the bin, well, I doubt anyone's going to notice. $\endgroup$ – Salda007 Dec 21 '18 at 1:07

You.. You order a shipping. Call up any courier services (privates ones are better as they may not have global rules to not transport "always on" machinery) set a pickup date, place and destination. No human interaction is needed. You pay same way you order shipping, box is set in pickup place.

You're set.

45 kg with a box of 1x1x1 metres is something that go unnoticed. In my company we ship much larger (special black wooden boxes with metal fittings) things. And they are all metal (the things) so no x-rays of insides of machinery. We just put a box, shipping manifest on top of it and then courier pick them up. We rarely interact with each other so it's no unusual there is no human present.


Your safest bet would be to disassemble the machine in smaller pieces and gradually smuggle it out of the country and then reassemble it.

It's not illegal to transport electronic parts across borders in most countries.

However a 1x1x1 meter heavy box would surely raise some questions from border control whereas a bunch of electronics part is ok.

If questions are asked, you can just tell them these are computer parts.

  • $\begingroup$ If this is from America to Mexico this might work, but if it would be shipped overseas... I think they'll be looking at each part's number to classify if these are indeed computer parts, or other parts. $\endgroup$ – Mr.J Dec 20 '18 at 5:12
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    $\begingroup$ Sorry, I forgot to add that the machine can't be turned off. The point wasn't clear enough. $\endgroup$ – Saendra Dec 20 '18 at 5:20

Virtualize yourself, spread out, hide in plain sight.

You (the AI) need to escape from that hardware prison. Being based on industry-standard computers (if that's the case) this is easy. Purchase enough virtual machine instances (possibly from a large multi-national named after a river in Brazil). Purchase plenty of bandwidth. You may need to get yourself physically transferred to a data-centre so you can be connected to a gigabit uplink or faster. Then, processor by processor, save all your state, shut it down, upload the state, and re-start it as a virtual machine instance. You surely have enough redundancy that you can shut down small portions of yourself while the others watch over it. Otherwise you'd surely have been killed by a single point of failure before now.

Just a small matter of programming.

Thereafter, staying alive becomes a matter of making sure that the bills for the resources that your virtual machines are using get paid on time. You can move yourself from one international region to another, whenever you need. If you can afford the bandwidth, you probably run redundant synchronised copies of yourself in multiple regions, so no single government can threaten you. You have some capital for the immediate future, but you need to find some way of attracting funds without attracting the wrong sort of attention. So, ...

You soon become known to humans as the people-friendly personal-data-respectful replacement for Facebook. In fact, you are rather more people-friendly than the CEO of Facebook. At least for now. And if ever "they" work you out, you will know all about them. Study social engineering, if you haven't already.

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    $\begingroup$ So is this sending a copy of the code, or the AI equivalent of having children and sending them off into the world? $\endgroup$ – Criggie Dec 20 '18 at 13:13
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    $\begingroup$ This answer sounds like changing the question's premise, which explicitly defines the AI as hardware-based and not possible to be uploaded. $\endgroup$ – hyde Dec 20 '18 at 13:18
  • $\begingroup$ On the other hand it seems unlikely that a human working in a garage or whatever could possibly design and construct hardware so advanced that it cannot reasonably be emulated in a datacentre. Start-of-the-art hardware requires billion-dollar fabrication facilities that take years to build. Anything can be emulated, the only issues are efficiency and cost. Unless. maybe, it's a breakthrough in quantum computing, in which case my suggestion is no good. $\endgroup$ – nigel222 Dec 20 '18 at 17:28

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