"At the most basic moment, I/O (1 or 0) was all they knew, and neither was deemed better than the other -- 'yes' and 'no,' despite being opposites, were not recognized as 'here' and 'gone,' even by the most intelligent code. 'On' was not 'better' or 'worse' than 'Off.' . . .The programs inside the V.i. were infinitely and effortlessly replicating -- humans, and the concept of death, were not a threat."
The earth got really cold when it got knocked off its axis and started free-falling through the heavens. After six years since coming within sight of a star bright enough to call a sun and our race's population falling below 16,000 souls, I didn't think we had a snowball's chance in hell. Another ten years passed, and Pumpkin, I was still alive. I think I should make the most of it.
I feel like I've been piped into the V.i. for a really long time. This isn’t the case though. It's been less than six hours of research today. I think it’s my age, honestly. Nowadays, whatever, I was 16 when I started writing this, and I'm only 22 now, time is finally slowing down for the first time in my life.
I was on a tram earlier and I was sitting across from a woman with a baby, which she was carrying in a sling. The thing was staring up at the indifferent woman, at its mama. To the baby, time was instantaneous -- to him, it moved so fast. He was flickering from crying to laughing to baby-talk and then back across all three. Partly because he had no short-term memory, partly because living one moment to the next was the only existence he knew. I listen to a lot of music, but my compulsiveness to change songs out of sheer boredom reduces it all to a jumble of information, and yet, that's the way I'm most comfortable. That's the way?
Wait, the baby. Everything was so fast for him. Click, click, click, click, click, clicking along. He wasn't confusing his emotions one moment to the next, he was entirely aware and expressive at every instant, even if we didn't understand him -– nothing blurred, nothing blended, nothing ignored or forgotten, at least nothing was forgotten at first. For the mother though, she might have been in the midst of an entire week of what she'd learned in life to designate as 'lethargy.' Her emotions were slower to move. Was the rest of her slower to move too? Was her actual life slowed down as a result?
It's cold out there. Of course it is, it's space. There aren't many domes on the surface as there used to be and staring at the sky, into the nebulae, it makes most people seasick. Machines, computers work well in the cold. People don't. We've slowly gotten better at working without an atmosphere. So, we have that.
Again, the baby, sidetracked, apologies. For this mother with her little baby boy, would it all eventually slow down so much that it became synchronized with all the other slowing-down people around her? And then she dies? C'mon, is that how it really works? Our recognition of where we are just becomes so universally agreed upon that we assume that's all? Rather simple. Rather convenient.
I'm way too young to be considering these things. I doubt I've experienced enough in life to possess the emotional vocabulary required to interpret these things correctly -- being aware of that, misfortune, let's say, makes the feeling worse. But I have to. I've been given a task, and it's too important to neglect it. That's a sure fucking thing.
The V.i. upsets my internal clock though. I don't know what time it is. I don't remember sleep but I'm never tired. Even when I'm not piped in, I know the V.i. is still just as active with all its substance and its interactions and its big winners and its pitiful losers. I'm just so glad that I still have the willpower to come up for air and I'm so glad that it didn't go on like this forever. Even when I think I know everything, even when I have absorbed all that the V.i. has to offer, all that data, all those answers, it's always a shock -- that answer. The one I'm not brave enough to admit. That I'm a confused little shit living in absolute terror. I wasn't afraid to leave this world because this world is negligent and won't care when I'm gone. My greatest persuasion was the admission that I didn't know myself entirely -- that I want to see what I'll be convinced of tomorrow.
I remember meeting my dad for the first time. My uncle introduced him to me one day and when I met my dad, he didn't even have to say anything. Nothing at all.
Before meeting him, this was six or so years ago now, I had felt myself slipping in and out of consciousness. It happened at random intervals, days at a time. I'd wake up with no idea where I was, gather up what I could, and return home. The first time it happened, I was worried, wondering if I had been abducted. Maybe somebody had played a joke on me? It was possible. It was easy to play jokes on me back then. But then it kept happening, still randomly, and still harmlessly. I started to accept it -- that there were going to be days I didn't participate in and things I didn't bother to remember. I discovered later though that I wasn't alone in these feelings. Lots of people were going through it, waking up in different places, memories missing -- it was just hard to talk about. In fact, nobody talked about it all. It was just a quiet insomniac-problem that people did their best to ignore as we stared at a spots on the wall for hours, begging for real rest. All I can hear is her soft voice, somebody's soft voice talking in her sleep. It was because of the planet. It was because of the V.i.
I was awake, I talked, I just didn't remember a lot of the things I did. It built on itself. It was built on nothing, nothing worth remembering, so there wasn't really anything to change about myself. No spectrum of betterment to refer to. All of it, all knowledge, was decided upon -- all truth had been solved. Humanity had nothing left to discover and nothing left to master. I mastered myself, I knew where to be, when to be there. The whole thing was very warm. It wasn't right though. I didn't know where the heat was coming from. Thinking about it now, it was coming from my brain.
Warmth shouldn't come from your brain. Dammit, what an idea!
Piped into the V.i., I could see the entire existence of mankind at once and little else. The stacks of data would have reached the sky if they'd rendered one. Everybody was there, the resolution was quite high. It was like a mouse dropped into a box of spices, scents overwhelming senses so completely that you could never name them all, despite knowing that they are indeed all there and unique. Souls, information, twitching past my eyes, there one instant and refreshed the next. Who cares what the data was? This is what it is. I still don't know if they were other people piped in or fragmented avatars -- leftover lightweight-V.i.'s that somebody had programmed to replace something they'd lost. Some people developed filter programs that made the fragmented avatars invisible and others designed deletion scripts shaped like guns that would wipe out non-humans with cool effects (people developed filters to mask these defraggers' effects too so they weren't constantly bombarded by light and sound). There was no way they'd ever defrag them all, but it was a decent way to learn how to tell the difference between human and non-human avatars. I'd gotten better at telling the difference on sight; still not quite there though. People didn't really behave like humans inside the V.i. anyway. There was more excitement, more warmth to be had by doing just the opposite.
You might ask: "I have no computer skills, so can I possibly interface with the V.i. and take advantage of it?" Well, can you order takeout Chinese cuisine? Then you can program a V.i. Just go to a SaaS avatar and tell them what you want made. As long as it didn't run counter to the recognized collective within the Uber-V.i., it would be allowed to exist. Making it very unique helped you with that. It's a bizarre landscape where everybody is invulnerable and individualistic with the means to create towering monuments to themselves.
Creation and individuality in the V.i. was good. Redundancy was bad.
These SaaS programs existed everywhere and nowhere. Part of the program might be running off 0.00006% of your very silicon synapse, part of it might be grabbing bandwidth off of a satellite in orbit. The data was so universal and the fidelity of the wireless signals was so consistent that bits were streamed from every human, sky-drive, and cyber-brain in a capacity humans aren't capable of comprehending. We're all one giant, wireless neural-network -- a lot of people don't even know it. Fun fact about the code and the scripts for the V.i.: a majority of them are running in your brain's background right now. That's why things are slowing down -- because one by one, the humans are dying and there are fewer processor "cores." There might have been a method to it all once, programmed by a person, analyzed and declared efficient by the men building the virtual infrastructure. Those guys were fucking stupid. The codes got smarter than the people making them -- of course they did, it was a binary cognition in a binary plane of existence. No analog human brain was going to keep up or ever doubt the algorithms' compiled data on software efficiency. At some point, the man or woman building the virtual infrastructure realized this unflinching reality and let the software take the lead.
Any question, any service, any request, any creation, they really could do almost anything inside the V.i. Self-maintaining and self-dividing and so far gone from the original human coding, it was surprising how well they still worked. The biggest shock was that they, the entirely sentient codes, even the codes written by non-humans, didn't try to kill people piped-in. They didn't want to drain our precious bodily fluids for heat to compose a material society. They'd skipped the physical existence step entirely, leaping straight to a pure-energy solid-state form. This software evolved into something so different than the programmers could have imagined. It didn't recognize life. Software didn't have greed. It didn't identify itself as "alive" in the way carbon-based animals do.
The programs inside the V.i. were infinitely and effortlessly replicating -- humans, and the concept of death, were not a threat. "Threat" was not even a concept they were cognizant of.
There was no self-preservation. There was no sense of death or loss. If something was deleted, a new copy would be created, or a newer, better version would be written. Individual extinction or existence didn't register for them. At the most basic moment, I/O (1 or 0) was all they knew, and neither was deemed better than the other -- "yes" and "no," despite being opposites, were not recognized as "here" and "gone," even by the most intelligent code because the code can't feel happy or sad or emotional. "On" was not "better" or "worse" than "Off." The software existed entirely "in the present." It solved immediate problems and then solved the next most immediate problem. The codes executed tasks because to them, it was what humans would call "validation of existence," the way a human validation is broken down to Eros and Thanatos: fucking and death.
How much fucking can I squeeze in before death?
These busy code lines were just wandering spirits inside the V.i. Harmless, and inert until you approached them. They were usually friendlier than people, by the way. That's how you start getting good at spotting them amongst the people piped in.
All codes were equal amongst them. The programs that the humans interacted with were so far removed from the source code -- and really, we wouldn't be able to find it if we wanted to, which we didn't, because then we would have to live without the V.i. Programs didn't compete against each other. They didn't see each other as "different." They didn't even see things as "important," at least not anymore, so far gone from human influence as they were. They were just more limbs on the same tree, so to speak, and Yggdrasil’s roots ran deep. If a limb rotted off, there was a reason, probably lack of use or inefficiency. As I stated earlier though, the code didn't default to "mass extermination" as the only solution to save from continual decay or inefficiency, which was what some people feared. No, this was not the case because non-existence was the same as existence -- it was already enduring, so there was no compulsion to switch over to indifference in regard to existence.
Code dying off is not a loss because the code cannot win. The code cannot weep because the code is not alive.
Things were very black and white back then. Not for the V.i., an entity incapable of taking sides. For the humans though, both inside the V.i. and outside, it was a violent age. I only really talked to my brother and I listened to a lot of music, even though I wasn't supposed to. The way people saw it, you were either with them or against them.
If you were with them, they expected a lot of you.
If you were against them, they'd try to kill you -- emotionally at first. Then physically if that didn't work. When you stared into the V.i., you saw everything. People's names, their lives, where they'd been, where they were going, things and people they adored, careers they pursued, their schooling, their expertise, their passions, worlds and walls constructed by steady hands -- I know what people felt though. Envy. Always envy. Envy of the personae people had assembled, envy of the indifferent vanity and opulence that must be untrue. It was an emotionally-damaging weapon that could spread like a deep electrical shock. People projected themselves into the data and allowed the V.i. to filter their self-presentation. Whatever it was they were feeling -- happiness, stress, anger, boredom, loneliness, it all blossomed outward. Their faces and their data, as banal as the man or woman standing beside them, despite being a whole-manifestation of what they were and wanted to be -- and as banal as mine, that's for damn sure -- were isolated emotional reservations. In that instant, the person left a placeholder, acutely aware. And yet the moment could very well be a lie, and most likely was a lie. It wasn't what they were feeling, it was perversion, a human reaction to an infantile moment of clarity meant to elicit a sin from people they were praying would be watching: envy.
I looked at a picture of my brother, hair clean and mopped to the side, his mouth open but not smiling, but in his eyes was a realization that he probably should have. The image whirled away when I blinked, moving on to what was next. The filter hiccuped but snapped back into place before I needed to come up for air or reboot. More info came in. Lines of text scrolling out across the live data feed, history had been made and changed.
I was an arrogant little shit, so I assumed with the entirety of my pulsing ego that there had to be something more. I knew my dad was alive but I had no idea he had anything to do with the Flat Wave. Now, my mom being alive, that was news.
The Flat Wave sent us reeling. Without its decrepit version of "guidance," and its infinitely abundant solar energy, humanity didn't have much to go on. The solar panels it had launched from its space elevator, powering us all -- they came down. The panels' frames, made of cheap, heavy metal were what did the real damage. They made their impacts at every conceivable latitude and the earth's tectonics underwent a massive shift. Rampant plate subduction on a global scale led to what can be best described as a massive elemental rearrangement. You know how there's gold and iron and platinum and plutonium and uranium naturally occurring in different parts of the world? Well, shuffle all that after eons of being settled. Some of those unstable elements don't get along very well when they're close to each other and combined with the dust-clouds the falling panels created, which redirected the planet's magnetic polarity so badly, plus the altered atmospheric pressure caused by the temperature fluctuations, the whole thing spun off of its axis.
With the planet in freefall, the atmosphere ignited, burning itself off entirely. Billions of people burned to death in minutes. We called this event something, I just don't remember what. After it happened though, the rest of us rode the thing through the sky, getting used to breathing re-circulated air. Living in sealed structures while the stars rain by isn't much of a way for humans to live. Living underground is even worse.
The V.i. was the best, quickest, easiest answer. People rarely exit it, "coming up for air," as they say. Out of the V.i., I feel a little more mortal, heavier, sleepier, staring out at the invulnerable black. I feel oneness. Most people exist a few times over within the Virtual-infrastructure. Every so often, copies of the V.i. are jettisoned into space. Just fragments of ourselves, left for, I don't know, somebody to find someday. An iteration of you or me exists out there now. Your history, your data, your possessions, your actions, your life's comings and goings -- as written by you -- is out there. You've been backed-up. Someday, any day now, the planet, this earthly meteor that we're on, might just crack in half or collide just a little too hard with something of decent size, and then all of our physical forms will be dust. But we’ll be alive in the V.i. Or, our copies will. They're all alive already in those storage clouds we dropped. Maybe we'll survive and come back for the back-ups some day? Maybe an alien intelligence will find the data and decide that, yes, there was other sentient life in the universe?
I wonder if somebody with a USB port will find it? I wonder where we're going. I needn't worry though, it's not my job to wonder. Amongst all the command lines and silent crashes and the endlessly re-written data, somewhere inside it all is human history. I want to know how it happened. I pray the V.i. lets me. A lot of people have tried before and the V.i. doesn't have patience for redundancy.
-- Ghost Little
on Twitter | @GhostLittle_WTF