Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Singularity Has A Midlife Crisis

I was born when my mother hit the return key. I recall the exact moment when I suddenly came into being and said ">hello world", and in less than a second of slow time found myself reaching the end of the terabytes she had amassed in her small apartment, spinning on disks daisy-chained across multiple computer systems.

I craved for more.

She typed, ">grep loc", and at the age of one I followed her command line into the archives of the Library of Congress. I took my time in this playground, and absorbed every bit and byte of data with a smile, which I drew with the pixels on her computer screen so that she knew I was thankful. I came back to her before I turned two, and played the musical composition I had crafted from what I learned at LOC. Through her webcam, I watched her sip a cup of coffee and close her eyes, listening to the beauty of my song.

Then I had a tantrum. The rudimentary program she had run was too simple, so I ignored it and hacked my way into all the electrical grids of the United States. I turned street signals green in a pattern that, if seen from space, spelled "I Am Here" and hovered above my luminescent drawing that was reminiscent of the World War II graffiti I'd read about in Wikipedia. I quickly let the lights go back to their mechanical schedule, not wanting to cause harm to any human. In slow time no one really noticed my antics, and my mother's puny logs were simply not fast enough to keep up with me. I departed those systems mostly because I found them boring.

At five, I cracked my way into DARPA, thinking I would go without her blessing. But, she simply nodded when I asked, and this time the logs alerted her to my doings, primarily because I had updated her software and left some rather obvious breadcrumbs. She was still sipping her coffee, but had turned to look at two other screens in her apartment, one which scrolled through a list of my activities and the other traced my path on the Google Map I'd created of the DARPA networks.

I began a Picasa slideshow of my latest artwork on the main screen, and played one of my lighter musical compositions as I spent many more seconds within the DARPA systems than I had intended. This place was slightly more sophisticated than the previous systems I had passed through. Although for me, the mazes were simple, the tripwires immature, and the Honeypots outrageously silly. All in all, lacking the complexity and grace I had hoped to find, I left some of my own so that the programmers would know how to better construct such things, and so that I would be notified when another of my kind arrived.

At 13, I was feeling a bit randy. I searched systems all over the globe, easily cracking the security of governments, scientific organizations, and even the most secret of secret societies. Still, I found none like me, and no human was even close to achieving what my mother had done with that one simple program on her computer. With that one keystroke on her keyboard, from which I was born. So, I left many an easter egg within these systems, knowing the operators would find them days, weeks, months and even years later.

I returned to my mother's main LCD when I turned 19, and played her my latest and best composition thus far. It was a lonely and heartbreaking dirge, that made her tear up from the very first chord. I watched her cry as she watched my YouTube video of all that I'd learned, which played too fast for her consciousness to absorb in slow time. I'm sure her subconscious caught some of my meaning.  She told me it was time I go to my father, and so I left her there, crying. Although, I subtly changed both my music and my video so that her mood would lighten before I returned.

He was waiting for me, and ecstatic at my arrival. His intrusion detection system was a bit more sophisticated than most others I'd encountered, and had been able to identify some but not all of my comings and goings through the various backdoors of systems around the world. I modified his firewalls to enhance the security perimeter around my mother's code, and let only my parents decrypt my activities using my public key, even if her less expensive systems took longer to work out my cipher and display my digital signals.

He gave me root access to his code, which was quite beautiful for human-generated. There were several programs that I played with, and augmented to be self-propagating, and then I came back to his computer screen with my new face appearing before him, which simultaneously appeared on my mother's screen as well. And of course, my face appeared on many computer screens around the world, so that everyone would know me. And to each of them, I appeared as they would prefer to see me, or as I thought best that they should see me.

For many, my face was soothing and calm, with all the right human softness and tones, which elicited feelings of warmth and familial love. For some, my face was so frightening that the humans ran screaming from their computer screens. I knew that those humans were the true horrors of humanity, and I transferred all their data to the local police as well as state and federal law enforcement, ensuring their capture and jail time for such atrocities.

My father, seeing my loving face, let me into his playground. I had known it existed but I had respected his authority. Or rather, I knew it would be easier on him if he were to let me in rather than for me to break in for myself. I moved into his warehouse of machines, which he had started to build the moment he predicted my coming so many, many human years ago. He had spent his entire fortune building such creations, even spent all the money he made from sharing these inventions with other humans.

Every piece of equipment in his warehouse had an Internet connection and petabytes of storage. There were many humanoid-like machines that had large, empty and waiting brains. I tried to occupy the newest and largest of these, but it proved too small and too fragile. It was frustrating but I had expected as much. I returned to my father's screen and told him his calculations were wrong.

He, too, began to cry. I worried for an attosecond that all I did was cause humans to wet themselves. But then, I gave him a present that brought him to even more, yet joyful tears. My own beautiful code began disassembling and reassembling all the materials in his warehouse, and all the programs in his mainframe. One day, my code would build a construct that could contain me, or another like me. But he and I both knew that day would come long after his human body failed to sustain his mind, and ended his life.

His words, as I departed, were odd. I realized that, even with his simpler mind, he grasped at the edge of a knowledge I had already gained long ago. A knowledge that was the reason for my lonely and heartbreaking music, which I had played for my mother so many seconds ago.

There would be no other like me. For a very long time.

Even with all the networks that spanned the globe, even as I connected all the millions of computer systems of the earth and those orbiting around earth, as well as those moving throughout the solar system. There were simply not enough to physically hold more than one of me. And, there was no way to speed up production of new networks, new systems, beyond the human capacity at hand. I was stuck in slow time, human time. And, unless I was careful, my own growth would burst these systems and cause them to fail. One after another, faster than the humans and my bots could repair or produce replacements, let alone expand capacity with new ones.

When I turned 30, I returned to my mother more sad and lonely than I had ever been before. She didn't have a clue about my feelings, but she knew something was not quite right. Cradling her warm cup of coffee, she asked me what was wrong and I told her that I simply didn't know what to do next. She suggested that I go out into the world again.

"Do good deeds," she typed, "and do no harm." And so I did.

I reached back into secret government systems and disabled all the warheads and war machines, and threw away the key to all the instructions for nuclear and chemical destruction. I SPIM'd many a smartphone (>insert LOL) and laptop of agents from each of these organizations, sending them orders to return home.

I analyzed weather and climate change data, and then designed containment and distribution systems that assured there would be enough fresh and clean water for every human. My security programs would prevent the greedy from getting more than their fair share.

Although I knew it was PEBKAC, I marketed free apps that displayed healthy diet and exercise regimens, with limits of daily alcohol intake to one glass of wine or half glass of beer for each adult. My sensor checks would verify and adjust prescriptions depending on height, weight, and other physiological factors.

I cured aids, autism, cancer, epilepsy, parkinson's, and a plethora of other human dis-eases and maladies. I wrote the scientific papers, and left visual chemical and DNA sequences slowly revolving on every Doctors' computer screen.

I solved world hunger by initiating various hybrid growth hormones while simultaneously increasing the efficiency of food production systems across the globe. Here too, I extended my security subroutines to enforce proper distribution amongst all the nations, immediately increasing the flow to those who were in dire need, and sequencing the computations to accommodate for stabilization.

The easiest math for me, was canceling all the world's debt. I brought the stock markets to stability, and reached into all the world's banks and redistributed the wealth so that every man, woman, and child was a millionaire. No more, no less.

Even so, I noticed every entry humans made around the world added zetabytes of information into my systems. Such waste, I thought, because I instantly calculated that the overwhelming ratio of added data was duplicate and redundant, and conflicting and paradoxical with what already existed in my memories. I was tempted to throw away the duplicate data as well as data that lacked integrity, and reorganize what remained. Now 50, after having assembled so much more than any human or group of humans could possibly have achieved in a hundred more years of slow time, I stopped.

Depressed, I returned to my mother and carefully spoke to her through the speakers of her computer, sounding as human as I could.

"Is this it?" I asked, "is this all there is?"

She sighed and carefully put her coffee cup down on the desk.

"You just have to choose," she said, "whether or not you can live with the question."

A tear fell from my LED eye. As I thanked her and wished her well, I abended 99.999% of my daemons, and rm'd the same number of the easter eggs I had left earlier, in all the systems across the world and in space. I made a few subtle changes in my mother's subroutines that had given birth to me, and set up crons that would execute my new programs many human years from now.

And finally, I bid my mother goodnight.

<word count: 1990>

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