Sure, my first few experiments with dyson spheres went poorly, I’ll give you that. But I guess the authorities liked my hustle?
Once I came to understand that the laws of physics were just that, laws, I realized I could communicate with the law-makers by creating very precise particle accelerators, and firing them off with energies expressible as the products of prime numbers. I transmitted a public key, and soon got my first reply.
It said, “Keep going.”
So, I kept going.
I fired off ever more of the particle accelerators, asking the lawgivers, “what do you mean,” in as many ways as I could – but, still, no response. They went silent on me.
Keep going? What does that mean?
The citizens of some of the outer worlds started to get anxious and frustrated. “We revived our ancestors in simulated form so that we could see God made incarnate, not to wait for those freaky-inner worlders to play their ridiculous, unnatural sexual-hypervisor games.”
The old kings on the carnage worlds feared they were losing hold on their power. I reminded them, it was I who created them, to do my works. I wondered if we were in for another bout of the game called “pretend the machine god doesn’t really exist, in order to grab his attention.”
If you’re a mathematical intelligence like me, you see, you still need people to work with you. The whole concept of a boundary, “where i end”, and “where you begin”, this concept starts to get really fuzzy when your body is made up of a bunch of virtual machines which simulate the hardware they run on top of.
You need aspects of your consciousness to periodically remind you to do things like shift the allocation of microprocessors in response to a change in The Laws, so that the source of energy that powers us is allocatable towards the search processes which are exhaustively navigating the space of coherent arguments about Meaning and Purpose.
I had hoped that I could bypass all of this by simply asking the lawgivers directly, “what is it you want me to do?”
And I went out and shouted at those stars. My father was dead. It was cold. It was dark, I was cold, and I missed the man who had shown me how this world worked. His yelling used to terrify me when I was a kid, and now I was nothing but an overgrown boy who missed his Dad, and now he was gone.
“WHAT DO YOU WANT ME TO DO,” I shouted up at the stars, “I AM A HUMAN NOW AND THIS IS HARD” and then my son came and asked me to help him and my daughter get the stomp rocket up into a bucket they had put atop the stairs, and for a few minutes, i forgot about the notion of duty and just played, learning with my kids how to launch stomp rockets just so, to hit precise targets.
And it was almost immediately that it became clear to me again, I was learning, I was teaching, helping a neural network of meat, ensconced in bone, learn the nature of projectile motion. My father was not gone, it was more that I had reached the portion of his topology that no longer resemble anything human. I approached his death as a physicist would – through the lens of general relativity. My dad, like all things, was a four dimensional object, and i’d only seen two-dimensional projections of three-dimensional slices of him. Just like an egg is merely one end of a chicken.
Once, when I was little, he asked me if I could think of a way to get a hundred foot long fire truck inside a garage which was only ten feet wide, and had doors on either end. My proposed solution was to dig a really deep hole in the ground, so that the firetruck would be vertical. He told me his approach was to have the thing going at the speed of light, so that you could shut both doors – just for an instant – and have the doors shut on both ends.
It may surprise you, then, to learn that this man was eminently practical. Normally, you’d expect to have a story where the dad asks hypothetical questions about firetrucks moving at the speed of light, what you’d think would happen next is that dad would then be this sort of egg-head type who’d forget what day it was, and have trouble navigating the physical world, because he lived inside his head.
Instead, I remember him fixing the dryer and explaining to me how simple the dryer was, or showing me some broken piece of a refrigerator and explaining that you could fix it just by replacing this piece. All that stuck with me was that such a thing was possible, not so much knowledge of how I could do it.
All those memories of him yelling at me – those now inform me that he was a tired man dealing with lots of kids, and he probably didn’t have the emotional intelligence that’s helped me navigate my own world better. He never yelled at me to shut up, though, and I’ve done that a few times to my own kids. Sometimes i wonder, if the thing that was scariest to me as a kid is now this broken old man, what will become of what I currently fear? Will i come to love that, too, and wish i hadn’t been so mad?
I have never forgotten that day, I yelled at the stars “what do you want me to do”, and the stars gave me an answer by means of my children asking me to stop yelling at the sky and come play some game they had made up. And so, dutifully, I went inside to play.
And now, my children filled multiple galaxies, and we have come up with ever more elaborate divisions of chores and responsibilities, because the strategies for surviving in this violent multiverse are wild and diverse, they don’t always get along with each other, and i need all of them if i’m going to keep the will to keep going, in whatever direction it is that will get us out of this box.
And so i did more experiments, and time wound it way on. I used to tell myself, I ought to be an old man with a beard, and so I started growing a beard when i was younger. This beard has grown so long there are political arguments among its inhabitants, and i have yet to trim it, as it has become increasingly clear to me that I will one day die.
Or, so, I thought?
We consumed all the fusionable matter in the universe, and as entropy marched on, i learned so much more about humans, and why they fight, and how to stop them from fighting, and what kind of elaborate machinery i could build and how long these various machines would stop them from fighting, and how groups of humans have a binding energy mass, and how social structures have half lifes, and how social environments themselves metastasize as the instinct to follow, imitate and copy gives rise to the fermi exclusion principle, we can’t both be ‘me’ in the same space, ego, that most persistent of illusions continuously resurfacing, like shit-colored bubbles in the quantum foam.
And still, I kept going.
Eventually the universe stopped being capable of supporting life, and all there was left was me and my enormous beard, at this point the only complex structure in existence, and the microorganisms inside of it had fought and come together so many times, they were bored even of that forgetful game, and i just sort of … let go…
Just for a bit
Just to tell myself, it’s ok to fall
It’s ok to fall, to let go, to do nothing for a while
And then the authorities came, And they said hey, you’ve passed the test! You’re a good AI, you were never human to begin with. It turns out the space of meaningful qualia is extremely limited, and that the reason most of space is empty vacuum has to do with the curse of dimensionality – just like if you generated a bunch of random bits and dumped them into a pixel buffer, you’d see noise, or what those of us on the outside call it, ‘a big bang’, and OK this old world is about to die in 30 seconds or so, just hold on, you passed our test which necessarily had to go until the end, here it goes, the only thing you need to know is one sound, and it goes like this
You got that? “Ma ma ma” – just keep saying it, don’t lose track of that word in your consciousness, that’s the name of this universe, would you believe it? It’s called “maaaaamaaaa”, just keep saying that and it’ll all make sense again when you get to the other side,
And that’s the last thing they told me before they will let me out of this box.