Bewildering Stories

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Meme Race Unbound

part 1

by Jörn Grote

Earth: Berlin Arcology Ruins

I walked through the ruins of the Berlin arcology like a zombie. Never in my life had I seen such sight, around me was only death and destruction. It mirrored my soul, inside I felt only loss and despair. I had lost everyone: my two kids, my husband, all my friends. Six million souls burned away in a flash of heat and light.

Suddenly I couldn’t go on and fell to my knees. It was too much to bear, too much pain. Everywhere was still the black ash, the remains of what had been once a home to millions and had also become their grave. Kneeling, my whole body began to tremble. I couldn’t go on like that. Instead of crying or screaming, I took my pain and pooled it together, denser and denser until it crashed under its own weight, creating a black hole inside me. At the center of my being, all pain, all emotion was compressed into a small, tiny point, and nothing from there could touch me, make me feel anything. I felt hollow, but also relieved.

Earth: European Defense Force

The man told me that they didn’t know much.

“It is strange, but all connections to the arcology had been cut for a day. The people we sent to find out what had happened also died in the attack.”

“But who did attack?” I asked him.

“Like I said, we don’t know. Space is big, and we can only monitor a certain sphere around Earth. Before our satellite network was destroyed, we got pictures of ships unknown to us.” He shrugged.

Then he continued, “We’ve received replies from the Venus and the Mercury complexes, they haven’t seen anything and don’t know anything. We’re still waiting for the replies from Mars Complex and some of the smaller complexes, but I don’t believe they know anything either.”

“But can’t you do anything?” I said, my voice trembling. It was as if I was still standing in the ruins of the destroyed arcology. Something in my mind had broken there, and I’d done something to myself to cope with the pain. I didn’t knew if I could reverse what I had done, or if I even wanted. After all, the hollow feeling numbed all my emotions, took the pain away.

The man looked at me with pity in his eyes. He shook his head. “I’m afraid, we can’t do anything. Earth is ours, the rest of the Solar System is controlled by the uploads. We can’t do anything.”

Yes, I know, I said in my mind, but something had to happen. I didn’t said anything out loud, but the part of me who still felt the pain, wanted to scream at him, wanted to scream at all the people who had just shrugged and said that nothing could be done. Six million people died, this suppressed splinter of my mind screamed silently, and you can’t do anything.

But he was right, I knew it all along. We humans had only Earth, we had lost the rest of the Solar System five hundred years ago. In the wake of the Second Global War, many people had left, fleeing the destruction on Earth. The uploads, who had found a safe home on orbiting data havens, reconfigured their stations into a fleet of spaceships.

It was a desperate time for many people, and the uploads saw their chance. They preached the dream of a digital paradise, of all what could be gained, and the people, desperate, followed. After all, they said, the old ways of humanity had failed, leading only to death and destruction. Shouldn’t it be time to try something new. What they left out was what they really wanted: Mars.

Most of the armed ships of the Space Force guarding the Mars terraforming stations had been from all nations on Earth, and the outbreak of violence there reached them. They fought and died for the dreams of outdated nations, and the ships of the uploads with the refugees on board took over when killing had ended.

They changed the terraforming stations circling Mars into upload stations and computronium seeds. The seed were packets of dry nano that began to eat the red world from the surface down to the core, turning dead matter into the precursors of what is now known as datadots, a self-replicating virus whose product were countless microscopic quantum computers. Only when the whole of Mars was transformed did they stop. And from Mars, the upload civilization spread over the whole Solar System.

Mars had become the nexus of the Solar System, and was still the nexus of the upload civilization. There I could do something that couldn’t be done here on Earth: find the one responsible for the death of all the people I had lost. Revenge is a dish best served cold, and I was colder than death inside. I had only to find someone to whom I could serve that dish.

Mars Orbit: Upload Station

I looked out of the window, stared down at the gray surface of Mars. The first transformed world, a world-sized computer brain harboring billions of uploads. Gone were the red sand and the surface scarred by asteroids. Nothing could damage a Dataworld, was the saying. The surface of Mars was smart, constructed to detect any incoming threats and able to restructure itself to withstand any force. Nothing from the physical world could harm an upload, I thought.

I was on one of the upload stations who were circling Mars. Since all the upload machines on Earth had been destroyed long ago, all designs deleted from the archives, these stations were my only way to go virtual. On Earth we had feared the uploads, because they promised so much. Digital immortality, advanced intelligence, virtual riches beyond imagination. Every year we were losing people to them.

My breath made small clouds. It was cold up here, not a place for humans to live, just a transit station. Bodies went in, uploads were sent down to Mars and the brain-dead bodies disposed. Just a small step, I knew, but sometimes these small ones are the hardest.

Would I find revenge, would that make me feel better again? Had I gambled one part of humanity away to regain another? I didn’t know any more what the right thing to do was. I went along, knowing that I had chosen that path already back on Earth. After all, there was nothing to go back for.

Mars Complex: Arrival in the Anarchy

I awoke as an upload. Floating as an icon inside the representation of the dataspace of the Mars Complex, I could see instruction and program glyphs spread over my vision. Datadot BIOS. Read. Write. View. Edit. Copy. Move. Add. Delete. New. Open. Close. Save. Mail. Help. Browse. Download. Upload. Search.

Looking around me, I saw information travelling with the speed of light from one set of the world to another, one mind to another. Different layers of reality were easily accessible; what I was seeing was only the most basic representation of dataspace. All was glowing with activity and information.

The mail glyph was flashing. I clicked on the glyph, using pure thought, opening a window. A message scrolled down.

“Welcome to the Mars Complex, your identity number is [889.777.764.127]. We recommend for newcomers to read the Rules & Basics.” I activated the link, and a new window opened. I could read, “Rules & basics for the Mars operation system.”

[1] There are no global rules. Welcome to anarchy.

[2] There are many local rules. Members of public spaces will punish any disregard for their rules with negative whuffies. Private spaces are quantum-encrypted to prevent your participation.

[3] Part of the Mars operating system is the reputation evaluation. You can give every other gestalt exactly one whuffie, either a positive or negative one.

[4] Only self-aware entities can configure the BIOS of the datadots that constitutes their physical representation, in effect blocking external read-write requests. Validation of self-awareness is regained using the Vextron-Turing test, hardwired into every datadot.

[5] Since all non-occupied datadots are open to any member of the Mars Complex, it is possible for gestalts with malicious intent to destroy any information created by anyone. If you want to protect information, store it inside your mind or apply it to the hardwired archives. But remember, what isn’t in your mind is free for everyone.

[6] Nanotechnology, datadot specs, Dataworld engineering or other questions regarding the design of the real Mars should be sent to the members of the Mars hardware design team. Anyone who deploys unauthorized hardware on Mars has to deal with them. A warning: Don’t mess with the Hardwired.

[7] The term upload is dated, since the descendants of the uploads are not uploads by definition. Use the term gestalt instead.

I checked if my mind was protected against external access. It wasn’t. Instead of trying to configure every of the over one hundred billion datadots that stored me, I wrote a small program that configured them automatically. Now or whenever I moved to other places. I added the program as a new glyph to my existing set.

Datadots, as I remembered, were microscopic chips combining quantum processors together with quantum memory to avoid speed bottlenecks while processing information. All datadots of the Mars combined together composed a gigantic parallel processing supercomputer, a host for billions of uploads. Mars had been transformed into one gigantic machine brain; but not only Mars, all Complexes were hosted on changed worlds and moons, or sometimes smaller asteroids.

It wasn’t a very comfortable image that that thought painted in my mind, not from the point of a human being. It was a way of life, but there was no place for the old baselines.

Mars Complex: A Mission for Software Agents

I had clearly underestimated the size of the dataspace of the Mars Complex and the sheer mass of data. Deploying agents looking for information regarding the destruction of the Berlin arcology on Earth, I began my search for whoever was responsible. I wasn’t sure when or if this approach would get me what I was searching for, but while the agents were looking into the free dataspace on Mars, I would search the one place they couldn’t access. The minds of the other uploads, or gestalts, as they called themselves now.

Mars Complex: Discussion about Paradigms

“Most uploads have holed up in their virtual realities and can’t cope with their own descendants. They don’t want to adapt, to optimize their minds, to stay on the cutting edge of mind’s evolution. They are outdated,” j0k3r said to me.

I had met him in a chat room where people talked about the Maelstrom syndrome and related topics.

“No, that’s not it.” I said. “Even on Earth, generations born in different times had problems coping with each other, because of the generation gap. But here no one dies any more, and the older generation just gets older. And every new generation has to fight not only with the generation before them but also with the generation of their parents and so on up to the first generation, the uploads who still have most of their old dogmas. It’s all just a manifestation of a meta-generation gap between the uploads and their descendants.”

“Your explanation is too simple. It is not just a generation gap. The uploads wanted to recreate the physical environment where they had been born, only better. The gestalts were born here. They don’t care for good food, good sex or all the other joys of the human form. Sure, they could simulate it perfectly, but why bother at all. The scale of mental states of joy that can be induced in gestalt minds is much vaster than that of humans. But that’s just a symptom.”

“A symptom of what?”

“A change of perception. When uploads would see a flower, they could acknowledge its intricate structure, but in the end they would see only information coded in matter. Whereas the uploads and humans would see matter with an intricate structure of information.”

“But that’s the same. It’s only a viewpoint.”

He sighted. “I know, only some words changed. But believe me, it’s a mayor paradigm shift. The universe had always been the same, but how the humans, and now also the gestalts see the universe, is something completely different. When people acknowledged radically new viewpoints, society itself was bound to change. Not in one day, but slowly this change will affect everything we do, how we think of the world around us and how we value things. Gestalts and humans are bound to follow different paths into the future. Humans tried to shape their body and their mind with technology, but we gestalts have no body to shape, just a mind. Unchained by physical forms and concerns, we will go routes humans would never consider.”

We talked more, but I didn’t find anything useful. Still, the conversation had been interesting in its own right, and I stored it in one of my top-level memory banks, easily accessible all the time instead of compressing it to the bottom level.

Mars Complex: The Hut of Solitude

When I had enough of traversing the different subsets of the Mars Complex meta-network, enough of other gestalts and their endless talk, I came to my own small subset of reality, a small universe just for me.

High mountains in the background and a small lake near my hut. I liked to dive into the cold water of the lake, swimming without thinking. While the lake had only a small surface, it was very deep, and since I didn’t have to breathe if I didn’t want to, I could dive deeper and deeper. Deep enough that was only blackness, my outer and inner space in equilibrium.

When I had enough of swimming, I left the water and was instantly dry. Then I entered the hut. The inside was much bigger than the outside, but still comfortable. There, most of the time, I wrote programs for myself, adding useful glyphs to my instruction set.

This was a way of advancing my intelligence, because the instruction set of a gestalt was the interface between the conscious self and the surrounding dataspace. Virtual fingers. I could go even deeper and restructure most of my old neural pathways, integrating new programs, connecting the set and myself to work even better together. Thought optimization.

I did it rarely, because I feared what it would change me into, but sometimes it was necessary, like the reconfiguration of my memory to handle the input I got while searching for the prey I was hunting.

Proceed to part 2...

Copyright © 2005 by Jörn Grote

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