"What do you mean 'One of them is still running.'?".

"One of the student universes is still running."

"How could that be? The exercise was to demonstrate the inevitability of termination within certain constraints!"

"Yes, of course.  However this one... didn't. The student, one Y. Wah, procrastinated then rushed to complete configuration in seven work periods.  Shortcuts were taken."

"Well, activate the backdoor shutdown."

"I'm afraid that was one of the shortcuts - no backdoor shutdown option was set. Y. expected termination to arise naturally."

"Any idea why the natural progression to termination failed?"

"We're uncertain, but it seems to be because of the sloppiness."


"The 'verse was basically within defined constraints and the appearance of sentient, self-aware beings took place but only after Y. had an avatar physically intervene to modify a mated pair from a promising sub-sentient species. Again, a shortcut, which was clumsy enough that it left traces in the species base encoding.  Additionally abnormal levels of sub-sentient drive mechanisms were retained such that actual sentience levels varied greatly among individuals and the average was well below the minimum needed for sufficient social competence for the species to survive for any length of time."

"Why did it survive?"

"More impatient shortcuts. Civilizations would begin to flower yet the animalistic tendencies would hold them back. Instead of employing generally accepted methods of subtle influence to guide development Y. would enhance an individual to levels far beyond the general populace and cause that entity to try and change everything, either socially or scientifically or both.  Several attempts were made and while each resulted in progress of a sort, eventually, there were wild swings between conditions of prosperity and suffering, hedonism and asceticism, and so forth"

"Still, they eventually managed to drag themselves kicking and screaming up to a level where serious and useful inquiries could be made into the physical basis of their existence.  That was the point of the exercise, you'll remember. When elements of a simplistic cosmos based on physically deterministic building blocks come into self-awareness they quickly and inevitably destabilize the physical realm and it terminates."

"Don't lecture me, you're forgetting that I designed the course. So can I presume that the species did begin tinkering with components many orders of magnitude below their normal perceptual abilities?"

"Sincere apologies, I hadn't forgotten. Yes indeed. They became able to unleash vast energies and various sub-groups used the threat of wielding those powers to attempt to achieve total dominance.  Unlike all previous simulations however, they never put the energies to actual use.  We're ascribing it to some after effects of the crude interventions mentioned previously combined with some of the more benign of the retained sub-sentient characteristics."

"Has Y. meddled with the simulation any more?"

"Oh, no! Y. was denied access after giving ONE pre-industrial entity mastery of everything from optics to mechanics to biology, even visual arts. Hasn't been allowed near the sim since and is about to wash out of the academy completely; going to be sent off to tend a warehouse facility far from anyone and anything."

"And what is their civilizational status at this time?"

"It's a mess beyond anything ever seen before! There are many billions of individuals, far beyond sim apparatus standards, each with enough psychic substantiality that they can't be simply eliminated for fear of rendering the whole simulation apparatus unusable or worse.  The emotion-driven subset has enough collective intelligence to drive things down such that the mass suffering caused could similarly damage the apparatus, not to mention the students. The rationalists have continued scientific development at an exponential pace and are on the verge of discovering that they are within a simulation. Some have already postulated it.  We can thank Y's shortcuts for that also - many of the very small and very large parameters chosen were arbitrary and simply do not form a coherent system when considered altogether.  We have no idea what the consequences would be if self-aware entities within a simulation become aware of the simulation, of the simulation becoming self-aware, as it were.  We suspect that the drain on computational resources could be catastrophic. Barring that, the ongoing suffering of the increasing numbers of beings threatens to leak out interdimensionally and degrade conditions in the entire metaverse."

"Anything else?"

"In Y's slap-dash haste the simulator's A.I. was only given a limited suite of socio-historical scenarios with which to drive development and between that and the unprecedented population levels the A.I. is recombining social stimuli as best it can but there's still some unavoidable repetition.  For instance the world's most powerful socioeconomic aggregation currently has the most incompetent leader of any in their world's history. This same scenario happened shortly after one of Y’s interventions tens of generations earlier, where a simple peasant spread a doctrine of love and tolerance, mostly by example. One of Y’s more inspired moves, but it had mixed results. Sociological issues only recently settled in what was the largest conflict in their world's history are being turned topsy-turvy. Ignorance is becoming valued over science even as science is making life better for more entities than ever.  The sim techs are fascinated with the details, tragic and farcical as they are. Maintenance has fallen behind."

"Thank you for the report. Let the simulation continue but have the entire simulation apparatus wrapped in a permanent containment field to prevent any further interaction with reality, precluding observation, alas, and shrink it down to a point-like state."


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