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
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
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
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
'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
Azuma leased the CBC-S17 Relay Station
, 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
, MD-AIF, Einstein
, Troika, Wintermute
, Triune, Paralax, HEUTI, Oustlandar
, each and everyone of them amazingly alien
. 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
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
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
. 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.