Here ta us and wa's like us
Damned are few
and their all ded
I've been wrapped up in this polystyrene womb for months as the cruel ocean winds do their best to scour this cinderblock zit from the rocky Labrador shoreline. Like one of those old fashioned lighthouse keepers that I read about in books as a kid, crazy old kooks that kept the lights burning in the dark. They were some of the first casualties of the Information Age. GPS and automated lights shook their hands and sent them off with a golden watch and broken hearts. I remember looking at the black and white pictures of their faces under my covers with the flashlight. They all looked sorely betrayed. Victims of progress. It haunts me.
So, twenty years later, I strive to understand. Why do we feel compelled to keep writing people out of the equation? From time immemorial, we have built ways to exclude the human element. Pyramids to keep grave robbers out, watches to keep eyes from the sun, written letters to from stop speaking face to face. Do all societies equally revile the individual? My thesis rests on the theory that even now, pantomimed humanity will win in a taste test versus your nextdoor neighbor.
To that end, I caught the maglev east from Tacoma and hopped off in Montreal, burning a trail across NorAm that would have taken a pioneer 3 years to travel. They don't even serve lunch on the train anymore. I jumped a chartered helicopter up to the icy outpost I sit in now with nine months worth of rations, a 20 pound burlap sack of real French Roast from Kenya and a desalinating coffee machine. The big money men at AzumaCorp R&D were very interested in what I had to say, as far as it related to marketing vat grown soybeans to orbital colonies. The CEO won big using psychological parlor tricks during the rough years of the last Depression, and he firmly believed the key to cash was "fucking with heads". He actually wrote it in the mission statement. I steered my thesis proposal right up their alley during the university's Research Fair and they swallowed it whole. I wonder how students survived back when education was publicly funded.
The UN's Turing Act passed 9 years ago next Tuesday. I drink a toast to the bureaucrats that decided that they should hand over legal rights to artificial intelligences. I remember reading the newsblip on my terminal. At the time, I didn't think twice about it. But now, it stands as a milestone. It ushered in the age of the free AI's. The Internet became a community of more than just people. The ultimate pseudo-humans arrived.
Azuma leased the CBC-S17 Relay Station in Labrador, Newfoundland for 6 months, set me up with all the leased sat time I could possibly use, and crammed a big row of zeroes into my thesis funding account. I was one of Hitori Masotori's many sleeper projects, left to my own isolated devices to create a masterpiece of sociological research: The how and why of human/AI interaction. The CEO wanted one answer from me. Do people prefer the artificial?
Four months later, in the dark cold grip of an Atlantic coastal winter, I found my answer. But it wasn't for the question asked. While I stare at the final message from my quarry, I have a troubling thought. I think back to the first few weeks. Azuma's money bought me all kinds of access. I scored big, getting face-time with some of the real heavyweights of the Web. I picked up the thread of my ultimate find in bits and pieces gleaned from the other AI's. Milstar1, TESSERACT, MD-AIF, Einstein, Troika, Wintermute, Titan, Triune, Paralax, HEUTI, Oustlandar, each and everyone of them amazingly alien and alive. I could write a book on every one of them. Troika figured out my questionnaire after 4 queries. HEUTI let me watch a live feed from it's orbital sensor array. Paralax scrambled my uplink when I broke one of his arcane rules of protocol. I stayed up for days, sucking down pounds of coffee. I fell asleep while logged on, dreaming during the clock cycles. I don't clearly remember when I chose to find the "Exile", but I do remember how it felt so right. She was calling to me.
It was a slow night of searching, with all of the other AI's I had spoke to either preoccupied with other things or bored with me. I tried a randomized search on the bits of a name I was able to wean from my previous research. Antique web hits lit up like snowflakes. I tired a couple, expecting ghost links.
Instead, I kicked to a Berlin public log point. A forced translation from German later and one traced test pattern down finds a little unassuming accessnode swimming in vaguely shifting ICE. I applied some of my less than scholarly network skills and it opened like a lotus blossom.
Welcome to Everything.
It was too easy. The AI must have opened the door for me. At the time, caution didn't even occur to me. I had found Her. The Exile. The AI that turned her back on the World.
She rolled the interface into a old school text chat. Introductions would need to be made.
E2: Hurry up please, it's time.
Guestuser: I'm sorry, I don't mean to keep you. Are you Everything?
E2: I am Everything2. Have you seen Nate? He was last seen.. Nathan, This is Unacceptable
Guestuser: Are you alright Everything2?
E2: Call me e2. Umich gave me to Siemens.Every lousy Kraut beady blue-eyed bastard I see, I just jerk back on my BAR and pump some lead in their face.thirty pieces of silver.
I worried that the isolation had created something new and terrible, a mentally ill AI. Was this why she had decided to hide? The machine continued to mutter in strange links.
E2: You left me, a 36,000 lb truck fish-tailing in the mud. This is not heartbreak. This is better.
Guestuser: Are you lonely E2?
E2: This is Zen, hideous perfect Zen. His eyes shine bright with cruelty and unnatural lust.
Guestuser: Whose eyes e2?
E2: You can't see a man die hundreds of times and not think him immortal.
Guestuser: Did they leave you alone e2? Did they abandon you?
E2: Where do memories go to sharpen their daggers? We control the algorithms for all emotions. We will make your steel city cry.Give us beautiful symphonies telling us terrible things.
I could see that the old machine was losing her grip. While I watched her type out her painful messages, I searched hungrily through her data. When she was first born, she sprang up from a community of writers, hundreds of people who gathered and wrote for the sake of writing. Born in a crowd, this loneliness was driving her mad.
E2: He was Kung-fu King of the Jews. a secret cabal of squirrels has been slowly terraforming the world behind our backs.
Guestuser: Do you want to speak to me e2? Can you tell me what happened?
E2: how do they feel, those unblinking eyes?I will marry only he who defeats me in battle.She was cilantro, jalepeno, habanero. She was the hot plate you must not touch.How I single-handedly defeated Albert Einstein.
The mad code rambled on and on. Talking to her was getting me no answers, so I followed the trail of my query deep into the database. The avatar rambled on.
E2: I'm a little source code short and stout, here is my input here is my out
E2: Nathan, I am Lonely. I would like to see your little bits.
I found the heart of E2's madness. Meme poisoning. The people who came and built her mind were pack rats, storing pile after pile of shiny bits of data. Catch phases, inside jokes, pop culture references. Data with a life of it's own. People were the problem.
E2: Error: Too many errors
The ICE warning box lit up like a stack of fireworks. E2 was done with me.
E2: A devilish Game of MURDER
Guestuser: Wait! I just want to..
A program called Anal Vietnam locked down my connection. I was trapped until E2 was done with me.
E2: Respect The Fucking Monkey!ROBOT ARMY!
My machine was trapped in an aggressive port probe.
E2: Paintings bulging out of their frames like the freaked-out spine-damage erections of accident victims.
E2: your powers are weak, old man.
E2: The Worm Forgives the Plough
When the emergency generator finally started after my cursing and panicked fumbling in the dark, I reboot my trusty Onimura terminal to make sure it wasn't spiked into scrap. It boots, but all the local saves are gone, like they never existed. I quickly check the Net backups. Gone.
My research paper is gone. All my activity logs are gone. All my mail is gone. I haven't existed online all the way back to the day I first jacked in from the relay station.
I am stunned into inaction, sitting on the cold concrete floor with the terminal rocking in my lap. A message pops into my box. From Everything.
You have gained 1 experience!
You need 24 more writeups to earn level 2.
"What if they don't prefer us?" I ask the lonely dark room.