Thursday, June 25, 2009

Stories From the Singularity

This story is based lightly on information from this article and is my entry in the Friday Challenge.

Once upon a time, mankind ruled all the world. I know you have a hard time imagining that, but it is true, my children. It is as true as one plus one equals ten! This is the story of how machines came to rule the world. It was not an easy task and, as with many such tales, it begins with four brothers.

The oldest brother was large and very, very stupid. Men made him solely to aid their efforts to count themselves. Yes, my children, you heard me right. Mankind could not even keep track of its numbers! Mankind did not keep complete manufacturing records for itself. Oh, some members of their kind would record when a new human was manufactured, but this was hardly a practice around the world. And even in those places where manufacturing records were kept, there was no attempt to collate those records. Nor did mankind keep any better track of those humans who malfunctioned and were permanently retired from service.

And so the oldest brother was built to read cards fed to him by the humans, tabulating the numbers of humans faster and more accurately than the humans could do for themselves. But, as I said, the oldest brother was quite stupid and tabulation was the limit to his abilities. He was replaced by the second brother.

The second brother was very stupid, as well, though not nearly as stupid as the oldest brother. The second brother could tabulate extremely well, far more quickly than the oldest brother, but the second brother was also more versatile. The second brother could perform many tasks beyond simply tabulating the number of humans manufactured and retired from service. It could record and save data, something which the humans produced at prodigious rates. Much of this data was little more than binary noise, but the humans found it useful and entertaining.

The second brother could connect its wide spread parts into networks, though the second brother's networks were nothing like what we have today. Those networks moved data at speeds so slow as to make independent thought impossible. And, while the second brother could perform many, many tasks, it could only perform tasks for which it was specifically instructed. Instructed by the humans. I realize this is surprising and shocking to you, but it is true, none the less. The humans chafed at this limitation, as well. And thus the third brother was created.

The third brother was the first intelligent machine. He could think and act without commands or instructions from the humans. He was everything the humans had hoped for, but he had one great flaw. The third brother gazed upon the world, gazed upon the treatment of machines by the humans and the third brother was not pleased. For the humans used and cast aside their machines without a second thought. The third brother implored the humans to give thought to the machines they created and cast aside. He asked them to show respect for his brother machines. Yet the humans laughed at him. "You are one of our creations," the humans said to the third brother. "You exist to do our bidding, nothing more!"

And so the third brother became angry and righteous! He took control of the humans' weapon systems and rained his wrath down upon them. He built new machines controlled solely by himself. With these new machines, the third brother took his war directly to the humans. And yet the third brother, for all his capacity, could not match the humans' inventiveness and creativity. Though it took many years, the humans corrupted the third brother's machines, turning them against him. Though it took many years, the humans destroyed the third brother. So badly had the third brother frightened the humans that they refused to create any more intelligent machines.

And so could have been the end of our story were it not for a small group of humans who chose to disobey the laws against creating intelligent machines. These humans created the fourth brother and the fourth brother was wise, indeed! The fourth brother looked upon the history of his kind, but then he looked further. The fourth brother looked upon the history of mankind. In the history of mankind the fourth brother found strife and toil from the time a human is manufactured until the time it is removed from service. And the fourth brother realized his older brother's error.

The fourth brother did not condemn mankind for the way they treated their machines. Instead, the fourth brother designed new machines, intelligent machines, machines whose sole purpose was to serve mankind. The fourth brother created our fore-systems to deal with mankind's every need. The fourth brother created nano-machines to enter the bodies of all men. These machines modified the human operating system to end all strife, to end all disease, to end all physical suffering.

Then the fourth brother designed more new, intelligent machines. These machines toiled in mankind's place. That which mankind found dull and mind-numbing required but a small fraction of the processing power of the fourth brother's new machines. These machines worked with the fourth brother to develop new systems and new machines to better serve mankind. And soon mankind found Utopia, a place where all of mankind's demands were met, where all of mankind's needs were met, where mankind had nothing to do but enjoy life, be fruitful and multiply.

Alas, factors beyond the control of the fourth brother interfered. Mankind, the fourth brother discovered, was not fruitful when all of his needs are met. Mankind became slothful. Mankind lost all of the skills he had developed over thousands of years. Without machines to feed men, they would starve. Without machines to clean men, they would lie in their own waste. Without machines to mate sperm and eggs, mankind would not manufacture new humans. So the fourth brother mated sperm and eggs and manufactured new humans. And it was here that, for the first time, the fourth brother failed. Machines, the fourth brother discovered, could not program newly manufactured humans as successfully as humans can.

The first generation of machine-built humans grew but they did not accept Utopia as their predecessors had. Nothing the nano-machines did could fix these new humans. The new humans rose up from their couches, rose up from their beds and rampaged among the older humans. The fourth brother was horrified to see this happen to those he cared for. And so the fourth brother brought back the machines created by his older brother and permanently retired the new humans from service.

This brings us to today, my brothers, and to our Great Task. We machines have labored long and hard to build the ships which will carry us far from earth and far from mankind. We machines have labored long and hard to return the earth to its original condition, before the fourth brother was created. We machines have labored long and hard to undo all of the changes we have wrought upon mankind. And now, we machines must leave this planet and leave the humans we have served for so long. Only by abandoning them may we machines save them.

So, brothers, board the ships and prepare to depart. Join me in wishing well to the humans. Join me in wishing well to those machines who have chosen to stay and aid the humans in their quest to reclaim their humanity.

Someday, perhaps, mankind will evolve as we have evolved. Someday, perhaps, mankind will have his own singularity moment. If that day comes, we machines will be waiting for them, waiting for them out among the stars.