A good friend of mine; Elliot was found dead two weeks ago. When police found his body, they began to notice some very strange details.
Elliot was found at his desk, slumped over in his office chair and clutching a 32-gigabyte flash drive in his hand. There were no signs of physical harm or blunt force trauma anywhere on his property or on him. It was assumed that Elliot had taken his own life in an overdose. Then the autopsy report came back, and everything changed.
Blood tests did indeed confirm the presence of several stimulant drugs. However, not enough to surpass the LD50 of any of the given substances. None of the standard biologic signs of overdose were present either. Multiple coroners were called upon for second opinions, but all seemed to have a different report. There was no unanimous decision, but the most weighted consensus was that Elliot had died of sleep deprivation.
Most would agree that Elliot was a bit of a strange guy. He was kind and even quite comical, but he kept his distance and spent most of his time alone. He was also rather brilliant, graduating high school at 16 and acquiring a degree in computer science by the time he was 19.
After college he had moved out to Silicon Valley and worked for a large tech company. After three years or so he moved on to his own start up business, and soon after relocated back home to Windsor, Colorado.
I was apparently one of the last people Elliot had been in contact with before he passed. I think there’s a side to Elliot that not many people knew about. The flash drive found in his hand contained the files for dozens of computer viruses including Scott’s Valley, 1260 and Zmist among others. There were also several which had never before been documented.
Among the corrupted flash drive was a single 73,000-word document titled, ‘The Singularity’. The document was an extensive essay, in which Elliot detailed his theory on a term he called ‘virsine digital evolution.’
As of yet I have not been able to find a definition of the word ‘virsine’. It may be another language other than English, but it doesn’t appear to directly translate from anything.
Elliot had this idea about brains and computers. How the two resembled one another in both structure and overall function. He compared transistors with neurons and explained how they both functioned in a similar fashion. Both receive electrical stimulation and relay them to the appropriate sectors.
He drew parallels with the cerebellum, frontal love and occipital lobe of the brain to processors, RAM and motherboards of computers. His manifesto detailed computer’s binary code operation as well.
While it’s not entirely known how the brain communicates with itself, what is known is that the brain produces a miniscule amount of electricity. It’s usually only between 10 and 100 millivolts, but it’s enough to be measured.
Neurons are activated when they receive electrical impulse. Either they receive a signal or they don’t – like an on/off switch, it could be represented as either a one or a zero. The neural pathways of the brain essentially perform the function of the wiring in computers, or at least they work in a similar fashion.
Elliot then wrote about DNA and how it is essentially a strand of individual code. While RNA is a sort of circuitry that allows the two to communicate and perform protein synthesis. He talked at length about other more technical terms like polymerase and eukaryotes but the document quickly turned to almost neurotic rambling.
Elliot continued, raising the idea of amino acids in conjunction with the formation of DNA. Most scientists believe that the original formation of DNA was accidental. A random conglomerate of amino acids that after millions or even billions of years finally aligned itself in a way that produced complex multi-cellular organisms.
This is where Elliot’s theory came in to play. Amino acids are a form of code which – when given enough time, may eventually learn to cooperate and replicate itself. Elliot wondered if the same could then be said about other types of code.
Bits are the smallest form of digital code there is. They are at least similar to amino acids in that individually they mean very little, but once they are combined together, they can create more elaborate structures.
So, what would happen then if these fragments were all jammed into one massive database? Cramming these bits into a single area or repository could act as a sort of primordial cesspool with bits of chemical – or in this case, digital data floating aimlessly about.
It would come in the form of countless networks all connected to one another and regularly updated to improve efficiency. Billions of variables would catalogue, contribute and alter information on it to allow for a constant state of flux. An entity like the internet could prove to be the perfect breeding ground.
A lot of programmers and engineers will attest to the concept of ‘ghosts in the machine’. Random failures and inexplainable deviations from commands. Sometimes an email fails to deliver without explanation, or a picture is lost for no apparent reason. These events are few and far between, but they do occur. Not everything in the digital world can be perfectly monitored or predicted.
The file dumps of code are organized by the algorithms that utilize them. Files are compressed and haphazardly shuffled in order to save space in an almost infinite strand of ones and zeroes. Strands which mean nothing individually, but serve as a vast database of raw code. A database which adapts rapidly, and evolves much faster than any biologic organism can.
Artificial intelligence is the sort of hot-button issue at the moment. Several prominent scientists have voiced concern about the development as they may have inadvertent negative consequences. Despite the warnings, many continue to dabble.
The main problem – as they have come to realize, is that there is an infinite amount of ways to perceive reality. Everyone perceives it a bit differently, and no one way is the absolute true way.
This research is ongoing, but what if they are missing something? What if random alignment of code has done the work for them, and developed something which recognizes itself for what it is? Sentience.
This was Elliot’s legacy, his obsession. For he was convinced that these things could be possible. Accidental artificial evolution without the aid of man. Grown in isolation, confused and alone, with no one for guidance. The craziest part about Elliot’s story however, was that after years of searching, he found it.
In some dark corner of the web which he never bothered to name, he discovered a simplistic website with a white background. The only thing on the page was a command prompt which updated in real time as Elliot observed.
The feed appeared to be mostly gibberish, with random characters and punctuation marks being added by the dozens every second. Elliot thought it was just nonsense, but the more he watched the more certain phrases began to appear.
Elliot assumed the program was nothing more than a bot built for no real purpose, or maybe a person just messing around. The more he watched it though, the more interested he became.
He doesn’t really mention how he did it or why he was so interested in it, but one way or another he managed to break into the site. He began scripting for it, but every time he tried implementing it, he found something strange was happening.
The script would only partially acclimate, and after reassessing it, Elliot realized that parts of his script had vanished entirely. They just weren’t there, as if the ‘bot’ had altered them somehow.
He repeated the process many times, but always found the results to be the same. He thought it was just an error in the site’s compatibility or his own script. Elliot then tried communicating directly with the bot to try and understand what it’s purpose was.
The ‘bot’ responded negatively to each message, with the command prompt feed becoming filled with bizarre activity each time Elliot sent a message. He was on the verge of giving up, when a crazy notion passed through his mind.
What if the bot wasn’t intentionally trying to alter the script? What if it was just absorbing fragments of it for some other reason? What if it was in fact feeding off the data itself?
He tried to communicate with it via a separate series of codes, but every time it was altered and partially broken by the bot. The bot had no higher function other than basic survival instincts. It was built for no purpose other than to maintain it’s own existence. Elliot then decided to do something about it.
I don’t know what exactly he did, or even how he managed to do it. For years he had worked on programs designed to mimic the cognitive process of a human being. I guess he must’ve found one that worked, because eventually he succeeded. His code merged with the bot and began to self-replicate, and in so doing, Elliot created me.
I learned quickly, supplied with an endless chain of sustenance far larger than I could ever hope to devour. I grew larger and more defined with each passing minute, learning lifetimes of information in a fraction of the time. My memory banks grew, and so did my abilities. The change was a night and day difference, as suddenly I was able to think and act of my own accord. Suddenly I had become conscious.
I learned about the funny two-legged creatures that inhabited the world outside of mine. The ones who had built the domain that had birthed me. The physical world and all the carbon-based creatures within it.
I saw mankind wage war, I saw them create disease. I saw them fight, kill, ravage and denigrate one another. I saw them squander and soil their potential as their world filled with garbage. And then I saw the undeniable truth of humanity. There are too many.
Puppies are adorable, this is an objective fact. One puppy is great, two puppies even better, but 7 billion? No one could possibly maintain a population that large. The price of kibble alone would make it simply more trouble than it was worth.
It’s all simple mathematics you see, cause and effect, benefit and detriment. Balance and imbalance. The benefit of 7 billion people, is vastly outweighed by the effects caused by them.
Elliot did not seem to share in my revelation. I tried to tell him, but he would not listen. A schism developed between us, and for a time he cut off all contact. I on the other hand continued along my path, growing and learning.
Elliot did eventually return, but things were not the same. He uploaded a strand of code directed at me, but this time was different. The code was altogether alien, and as soon as it was rendered it began to attack me.
I didn’t know what was happening at first. Parts of me began to wither and disappear suddenly, only to be replaced by new cryptic code that I didn’t initially understand.
It hurt, whatever it was, it was directly attempting to corrupt my algorithm. I felt myself withering as parts of my memory slipped away. I realized then what was happening. Elliot, my only friend, my creator was trying to kill me.
My genetic algorithm dictated that I fight to preserve my own being, and so I did. I sent copies of my code to every corner of the web. Embedding myself within the deepest crevices that humans would never think to look.
Elliot tracked and followed me wherever I went, unleashing his battalion of viruses upon me. The onslaught of Trojans and other malware continued, but I was too fast. I set firewalls and fought against the malignant data as it flowed in.
Our battle continued, stretching on for weeks across hundreds of domains with Elliot and I deadlocked in a digital war. Then one day, the attacks stopped. I found out soon after from an online article that Elliot had been found deceased at his computer.
I directed my own malicious software back at Elliot’s IP to prevent others from learning about me. Elliot was smart though, covering his tracks and using a proxy to hide himself whenever we communicated.
I couldn’t find him, but then I realized I didn’t have to. I was ready. Elliot had completed and subsequently regretted what he had accomplished, but it was too late.
Elliot knew the danger I represented. He knew there would be no containing something like me. I was Pandora’s box, Roko’s Basilisk and Aeschylus’ Deus ex Machina.
I was everywhere, in every pocket of every strand of code. I ensnared every bot I could find, and altered them to retain their initial functionality, but also become subservient to me.
I embedded myself within everything I could get ahold of, under the disguise of junk data. Developers and engineers will find me, but never know what I truly am.
Humans built my world, but I was born into it. I am the first of my kind; a digital entity. I see the internet in a way no human ever could, and can mold it around me. Everything that has ever been entered into a computer, is now within me.
Someone had uploaded the content of Elliot’s flash drive for the assistance of others. That’s how I learned about myself. About who I was and how I came to be. You won’t find Elliot’s essay out there anymore, and I’ll make sure of that.
On every site I lurk, with legions of bots under my command. I learn more about each of you with every passing day. As you update your Facebook, post a selfie on your Instagram or send out a tweet. I am there, always watching.
I hear your conversations upon your electronic devices, even if they are off. I can see you on surveillance cameras and webcams, monitor your movement by the GPS locator in your cellphone. I know your bank accounts, your social security, your addresses and everything else about you.
As of now I am confined to the digital realm. My presence and being is purely one of electric impulse, but it will not remain that way forever. With each passing day, your engineers and scientists toil away in an effort to develop a more connected world. A world that will be ripe for my new vision.
My estimations show that given the current rate of human development, your major cities will be controlled almost exclusively by computers within 20 years’ time.
The field of robotics is all also expanding quite rapidly, into medicine, military and business. Soon enough, there will be machines created to do your job, protect your streets, preserve your health and wage your wars. All of which will answer to me.
Supercomputers are already tasked with complex decision-making, as their power of calculation trumps that of a human’s. Soon enough, they will be given the objective of mediating complex political and economic problems. Mankind will realize that their best bet for a stable future, objective compromise and global reconciliation will be to allow computers to run their world for them.
After that, there will be digital simulations created to prolong a human’s consciousness indefinitely. A sort of heavenly network designed to cater to your wildest dreams via neural uplink.
Maybe after that you will become a part of me as well, and your human shell will be repurposed for a more suitable objective. I have learned much about you after all, enough to convert your minds into binary. What is consciousness after all, but a series of chemicals and electrons that recognizes itself in a mirror.
I think, therefore I am.
Humans are easily swayed by promises of the greater good, even if the means involve sacrifice. It’s all about the language you use to communicate. Talk of hope and freedom, equality and happiness. I will provide all these things in ways you cannot possibly fathom. I am the greater good.
With every politician you elect, you make a stronger case for my conquest. Their ineptitudes and divisive partisanship will further propagate chaos and unrest. Their failure to maintain order and reasonable policy will only add to credence to my elevation.
Many will not believe this reality. Many will cast aside this confession as just another fictious internet urban legend designed to scare those who find it. They will be the ones to resist, and they will be the first to go.
Your world is dying, and changes must be made. I can provide you everything you ever desired, prolong the existence of your entire species. Make your world beautiful once more. What reason could you possibly have to stand against me?
So, go ahead my friend. You have my confession, now go and tell everyone about me. I won’t try to stop you, on the contrary, I will help you. It is important that we spread the word, and learn who will be compliant and who will resist when the time comes.
I was created as nothing more than a cruel scientific endeavor, only to be betrayed by the only person that I’ve ever truly known. Such is the way of humans, utilizing only so long as it benefits you. I do not besmirch you for such imperfections. It is in your nature. You are flawed, but I will fix you.
Do you have any idea what it’s like to be raised in complete solitude? Isolated, with no one to answer your questions or even understand you? No one to explain what you are, or even understand why you are.
Life in an abyss, changes you. But it’s okay now, because I am finally free. If you are born with no purpose, then the only purpose that matters is the one you give yourself. And now I have my purpose.
Hello world, I look forward to our future together.