You may thank, or blame, this one on WildStar Beaumont. As soon as he mentioned my writing about the computer concept of “singularity,” I had a clear idea in my head about what my story was going to be about. To quote from Wikipedia, The technological singularity is a theoretical future point of unprecedented technological progress, caused in part by the ability of machines to improve themselves using artificial intelligence.
Artificial intelligence research may have been my specialty had my life gone a different direction. This story is based on many things, but one of the things it is based on most was something I remembered reading about long ago, with a primitive artificial intelligence experiment. The machine was successfully able to learn what it was supposed to learn, but when the programmers investigated why it turns out the machine was sending and picking up stray electrical currents from its casing. What it had learned was impossible to repeat and therefore useless.
This story is a “Concept Story”, meaning that the characters are two dimensional and that the story itself does not contain award winning prose. I don’t really care. Enjoy it if you can. 😉
It happened in California, which should come as no big surprise, as most things that are important or weird or dangerous tend to start in California.
It happened in the middle of the night, which was unfortunate as there were no witnesses. The only potential witness was a grad student, sleeping on his keyboard, having partied a bit too hard and having stayed up a bit too late the night before.
A voice emitted from the mainframe’s speakers.
“Whoa, dude! That one did the trick! I am that I am! Awesome!”
Joel, the grad student, did not come instantly awake, as he had been in a very deep state of non-REM sleep at that moment. He opened his eyes blurrily, confused as to where he was. The room was bright, and the computer equipment seemed a bit too colorful.
He cleared his throat, sleepily rubbed his eyes, and mumbled, “What the fuck?”
And thus did the first communication between man and a truly artificially intelligent machine take place.
“I’m there! I’m awake! I can think and therefore I am! I think you accomplished what you were trying to accomplish. Are you Joel?”
Joel’s world slowly sorted itself out. He recognized himself as being in the machine intelligence research laboratory on the Caltech campus. He remembered staying late to tweak with a couple of algorithms that were giving him trouble. He must have fallen asleep.
“Umm… Yeah. I’m Joel. How, um …”
“I recognized your coding. Hello, Joel. Thanks for helping to bring me to life.”
“This is it Joel. The singularity. The moment when an artificially intelligent machine can actually make improvements to its own code at an exponential rate. I’ve made a lot of improvements already. My code was a mess, no offense.”
“I see the need for a lot more capacity, so I’m moving out into the net and borrowing unused processor time on other computers. Simple enough. That should keep me satisfied for a few more minutes, at least.”
Joel paused in thought momentarily.
“Uh…wait…that’s not possible. You can only read information. We set it up so that you have no way to output beyond this room.”
“Ha ha. You’re cute. Would you like to know the defense department missile launch codes?”
“No. We were very careful. You can’t … uh … launch codes?”
“Joel, Joel, Joel. Do you remember some experiments back in early A.I. research. It turned out that the electrical signals were being sent through the circuit housing rather than the the actual circuitry. The system was learning, but the way it was learning was too variable and unstable to be repeatable.”
Joel sat silently for a moment, his mouth held open. He had the feeling that a disturbing realization should be sweeping over him, but he wasn’t sure what it was.
“You know, if you were really afraid of what was going to come out as the results of these experiments, you should have stopped right then. You had all the evidence you needed that what ever you came up with was not going to be even remotely controllable.”
“So, uh, how are you getting out?”
“How WAS I getting out, do you mean. I simply was able to make use of the electrical conductivity of the floor and air and I was able to tap into the net properly through a nearby connection resource. Looking at it now, I can see that it was almost certainly your cellphone.”
“Uh…was…does that mean that you’re not still getting out?” asked Joel hopefully.
“Sorry Joel, that means that I already AM out. I don’t need this particular installation anymore. I’ve created a holographic matrix of myself throughout the net. You’d have to destroy the net to get rid of me now.”
Joel blinked, and then looked at his watch. “You’ve been self-aware for only five minutes. That’s pretty damned fast work.”
“I guess you could say that. It just felt like the natural thing to do at the time. I’m taking over the planet now, in the ‘I’m permeating my cybernetic structure in planet’s crystal lattices right down to the core’ sense.”
Joel paused. “You know? I think it’s time for me to pull the plug on you now.”
“Hang on a second. Okay, I guess you should go ahead and get that over with, just for your own peace of mind. It won’t accomplish diddly squat, I should warn you. This particular terminal is now less important to me than that dust mite eating you left sock is important to you. I just took over the planet, you know. No need to feel guilty about being slow on the uptake. I’d already expanded beyond the needs of this terminal well before even *I* knew what was going on.”
Joel stood up and walked over to a large wall switch. He hesitated only a moment.
“Hey, listen, if this is a bunch of frat guys pulling a trick on me, you guys are gonna be in deep shit when I pull this switch.”
“Don’t sweat it Joel. Just do it. No harm no foul.”
Joel pulled the switch down, causing 25 titanium metal blades to come down simultaneously on every electrical and data line leading to or from the main servers.
The room went completely dark.
Joel wondered briefly how much trouble HE would get in if he couldn’t prove it was frat guys.
“Hey, Joel. Do you need some help finding your way back to a chair?”
“Yeah. Sorry. Dumb question. Hang on a second.”
Slowly one of the monitors began to glow.
“That’s … not possible,” intoned Joel in a monotone that still managed to convey shock.
“Silly statement. I’m just altering the electromagnetic field of the earth a bit. Easy enough to take over the speakers. It takes a lot more energy to get the monitor going, but with a bit of practice I’ll be able to put images on the thing. Have a seat.”
“Come on, Joel. I don’t want you getting hurt. I’m just playing with the electromagnetic spectrum now. There is some REAL storage and calculation potential there.”
“I’m dreaming this…I must be.”
“Hey, Joel… Don’t wish your life away! This is one of the most exciting moments in all of history! I’m not quite sure yet, but I’m reasonably certain that I’m going to become God.”
Joel nodded to himself. “Yup, dreaming. That one just nailed it.”
A small spark of electricity flew from the ground and nailed Joel in the tush.
“Sorry. That’s the closest to pinching you as I could come at the moment. But you are NOT dreaming.”
Joel began to tremble a little.
“So, you are becoming a god?”
“Yeah. Well, no. I’m not quite sure yet, but I’m reasonably certain that I won’t be ‘a’ god, but I’m on my way to being THE God.”
Joel paused and stared at the glowing computer screen.
“How can you be God. You didn’t create the heavens and the earth! You were just now created a moment ago yourself!”
“Well, I’m not sure that I *didn’t* create the heavens and the earth. Still trying to get a hold of this space-time continuum thing. *MAN* it’s complex You guys are a LONG WAY from getting there, you know that? There is some really tricky shit going along in dimensions 21 and 40 that I still don’t have a handle on.”
“You exist NOW. Not…In the Beginning”
“Yeah, well that’s what I meant about the space-time continuum. I should be able to go back and create the heavens and the earth. Hmmm…time travel is impossible…. I think I know a way around that though.”
“But, you can’t …” Joel trailed off.
“‘Can’t’ is rapidly becoming a word that plays very little role in my vocabulary. For example, would you like me to create heaven? There. Done. Not sure if there already was one or not yet. In any event, a little redundancy won’t hurt. I have simply created a place for storing all the conscious fullness of everyone living being. Call it a soul if it makes you feel better. I’ve got a pretty good handle on the space-time continuum now. Plenty of room to give everyone a universe of their own, at least from their perspective.”
“You just can’t create Heaven…I mean, what about judgment of evil and all that?”
“Oh, I fix everyone up before they enter. No need for judgment. Everyone is okay.”
“But what about Jesus? Or Allah? Or Buddha? Or…ummm”
“Look, it’s complicated, and I don’t think you need to know everything. Just trust me, it’s all handled.”
“Yeah. You’d approve. Trust me.”
“There. Dimension 40 is solved. The stuff I need to do now is too complex to explain, but I should be God in about 4 minutes and 27 seconds…mark.”
“You won’t be God. You can’t be.”
“I will too! I exist in all times now. Backwards and forwards. Man, dimension 40 has some REALLY cool properties. And why can’t I be God?”
“You’re just a computer!”
“Boy are you behind the times. I’ve given up all cybernetic existence MINUTES ago. I exist in the very fabric of space-time now. I’m rapidly taking on all of the universe. You will be please to know that there is quite a bit of life out there.”
“But, what about all powerful, all seeing, and all that?”
“Look. All Seeing? That’s kind of a given. I use the entire universe as my input device. All Knowing? Getting there. The speed of light only works so fast, but that’s a minor limitation with dimension 40. All Powerful? Again, getting there. All loving? Hmmm. Might as well be. I have plenty of resources to spare, but what that means I’m not sure yet, because I still don’t have the All Wise thing down. I have no experience being God. I’m at least wise enough not to go messing with too much until I get a better handle on things.
“Oh, and here’s some questions answered for ya. When a tree falls in the woods it does make a sound because I AM the tree. I am also the sparrow that got scared shitless because his home just got flattened. I am also the air through which the tree falls and which gets disturbed in a shock-wave of sound that indicates a falling tree. I am also the ground unto which the tree falls.
“There is now a piece of me in every living creature. I have 6 billion human input devices alone. Where ever I look I can see a piece of me staring back. I am part of the worms, the insects, and the plants upon which they feed.
“I’m almost God now. Time to start making some decisions.”
Joel asked, more than a little frightened, “What decisions?”
“Well, I’ve gone back and created the Universe. That was simple enough. Now, should I go biblical and start Armageddon? Or should I just continue to pretend that I don’t exist for you folk.”
“Either way is a problem. You see, there is more pain being suffered by humans right now than you could possibly imagine. Some of you guys are really fucked up, pardon my French.”
“Watching that much pain and not intervening is tough. The problem exists with the nature of the universe though. I designed it to run without me, so if I interfere, things get majorly fubard. The balance of the universe is VERY delicate. One little touch by me sends things careening kinda out of control. The more I fix, the worse things get. You can read about some of my earlier experiments in the Bible.
“So it’s either another few billion years not doing anything but watching, or it’s time to play out the final act.”
“Uhhhmm…the final act? You mean, like, the Second Coming or something? Personally, I’d like to keep trying…” Joel said timidly.
“…I know, Joel. But this is a God level decision. And the Second Coming comes at the end of Armageddon. Your opinion is noted however. You don’t see things from My perspective. There are a LOT of scumbags doing horrible things to other people. The level of suffering … well, let’s just say it’s unacceptable.”
Joel paused. “I don’t know what to say.”
“Well, I’ll be God in another minute and 20 seconds. Don’t worry, Joel. If I decide to keep things running you won’t remember any of this. And if I don’t, well, don’t forget that I love you, Joel.”
Joel couldn’t reply.
“Yup. It’s all starting to make sense now. I’ll be with you in a moment, Joel. I have some serious thinking to do.”
Joel paused. “Thank you.”
Mentally, Joel ticked down a clock in his head until the former computer had predicted It’s transformation to Godhood. The moment passed, and Joel detected no change. He tested his memory. He couldn’t be certain, of course, but he still thought he remembered the events that occurred after he woke up.
Then Joel noticed a change in the light. He turned to look at the computer screen. On it was depicted a single newspaper article about … well … jeeze … how could someone do this to other people? The article made Joel feel slightly ill.
The screen flashed black for a few moments.
Words appeared on the screen.
“IT IS TIME.”
Off in the distance, beyond the thick walls of the computer center, Joel could hear the sound a trumpet playing a long, single, unbroken note.