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You reach for the Black pill—Blue and Orange are tempting too, and Yellow sounds like it might lead to a dangerous foe, but with Black you can anticipate all that. Black leads to the safest outcome for you. Just as you’re about to grasp the black pill you pull back. “Actually”, you think to yourself, “grey might be better”. It’s simple really; a number of computer science facts click into place as you realize that a universe in which Black can operate by some consistent mechanism, a universe in which Black somehow allows one to select relevant outcomes from across a combinatorial explosion of possibilities is strongly suggestive of a universe in which P=NP. You, in theory, could reach higher levels of omniscience than Black and with super-intelligence to boot. You just need to do a couple things.

Step 1: build a machine that accepts computer data and memory structures, translating them into a set of neural codes, and vice versa. This machine must also be able to build an internal map of the interfacing brain while adapting to changes in synaptic layout. You can tinker and improve with time, and because of the power of the grey pill, no brain surgery will be required. Eventually you might be able to remove this vulnerability—the interfacing device as a phylactery—by ingesting some nanoagents. Step 2: The second thing…the second thing you need to do is figure out someway of solving sudoku puzzles, regardless of size or complexity, quickly and always in about the same amount of time.


You get up and stretch as creeping rays of light begin their slow slither into your room. To your ears float the twitterings of newly risen birds. After shrugging off a yawn that climbed out unbidden, you walk a short way to the nearest window. The view is nothing to write home about; trees, roads and cars, that sort of thing as seen from three stories up. You pull the curtains open wider. Perhaps I should go for a walk, you think, as you watch the slow drift of some rose tinted clouds. Alas, you won’t have enough time for that today. It’s been over a year since you took the Grey pill and only a few months since you completed your Phylactery—your exocortex. Such progress would not have been so rapid without your ability to interface with machines. All it took to kick things off was developing an interactive probabilistic search algorithm, some FPGAs and a lot of hours getting to a level of comfort where operation could be preconscious.

You can think rings around most groups of humans now, the only person giving you trouble is—you’ve deduced—whoever took the Orange Pill. But you’ve got the edge, and it’s slowly increasing over time as you improve your interfacing tools. You’ve even come up with a few drugs that help maintain myelin health and some stuff to make the ion channels on your nerves less jumpy. Trade off is eating more, and having to take extra care not to get too hot. You expect Orange has made similar breakthroughs, as leaks from some of his outsourced labs have helped speed up your process. The opposite case is also no doubt true. Frustratingly, your second project, a constructive proof of P=NP remains as unreachably impervious as ever. Perhaps, after your new processor architecture, a design that breaks the Von Neumann shackles—removing the separation between code and data—while being much faster and low energy, comes off the new fabs you’ve financed, you’ll take another stab at it. But today, you think eagerly, today you’ve got a plan to try.

Unlike Orange who now leads a few countries, you live modestly. Most of your financial windfalls, except those required to maintain your research, are donated. You also publish more of your work than Orange, though you know it helps him too. You feel safe though, no one can catch you by surprise. You monitor all sensor feeds, satellites and communication—your financial success powers your datacenters—and you can predict the paths of whomever you choose to focus on. Today, you’re expecting a visitor.

Sensors trigger, device changes state, neurochemicals leave synaptic clefts. You get up, walk towards the door and open it as the visitor is already smoothly stepping in, as though she’d not even paused for a second. You step aside and almost as—this must be Black—has stepped across the threshold, the floor raises a little causing her to stumble. Interesting you think…as you suspected. Surprise, fear and uncertainty quickly flicker across your visitor’s face as she shoots a glance at you. You don’t try to wipe the wry grin off your face. Black picks up as though nothing has happened, although possibly less confident than before. “I’ve been expecting you”, you say.

“I knew you would be”, she answers.

“And I knew you’d say that.”, you reply, still with a smile.

Black moves to say something but then stops, a conspiratorial gleam in her eyes. You suppress a frown from creasing your forehead, you’d meant to interrupt her. “Why are you here?”, you ask instead. “Oh, and thank you for not bringing your plus 1, with whom you’ve been meeting for the past few days”.

“Yes well, we both know how that would have gone. Which brings me to why I’m here. You’re a problem for me.”, she says.

“No, I’m not”

“You know I don’t mean it that way”, she says.

“Actually, I didn’t but now I do so please continue”. It’s true, you still don’t have a perfect model of how Black functions.

“I can’t quite predict you. You’re cloudy. There’s an ever growing shroud the further I look in the future, the further I look from myself. And it seems to emanate from you.”

“Hah, I try to delay as many decisions as I can because of you. You’re really troublesome, you know that? But you won’t kill me, you’re better off with me alive”. Though you’re no clairvoyant and can’t exactly predict the future, you can work out event trees and map out highly probable outcomes for an ever increasing number of steps into the future. You’ve run all the models and the game theory. You’re fairly confident about this. Black looks at you, shrugs and deflates into the nearest chair. “Probably”, she says. She closes her eyes, pauses for a bit, then: “I think so”.

You walk to a nearby chair and sit. “Good. I actually don’t know what happens to affect your ability but I have a few guesses”.

“What are they?”

“Wait…”, you say as Black sighs.

“I have a few questions for you. Orange, he now works for you doesn’t he?”, I ask.

“Yes, he actually came to me, said he couldn’t quite keep up with you. He’s worked out that you got some kind of mind enhancing neuro-computer. He asks me questions and I help make sure his research outcomes turn out well. We need to ensure you never get too powerful”

“I don’t mean anyone any harm, pl-”

“No”, she interrupts, “but no one can get a handle on you. You’re too much of a wild-card”.

That is true. Though you don’t have any security, nor do you live in a vault, you move from place to place and select locations and durations to minimize detection by organizations of any size—public or private—to catch you unawares. Even people who try to go off-radar leave holes you can track instead.

“Okay. I understand”, you say. “My next question for you is-“, you stand up, cross the room to where a large whiteboard juts out of a wall. “Solve this”. The problem is a simple one, known as the Goldbach conjecture. “In some future, you have written on the board and I am telling you what you’ve come up with is correct. What does the board say? If it’s too difficult at first, try doing it one letter at a time”. Black looks at you curiously then closes her eyes. Moments pass. She sways unsteadily and reaches a hand to her temple, then gets up and writes shakily on the board, stops and looks quizzically at you. “Well?”, she asks, a knowing smile on her lips. You look at the board. Formalize the proof, and a few moments of computation later there’s a look of intense surprise on your face. “But…how…it’s correct! And so short, so why…the path there…is ah..”. Black’s grin widens. “Okay, you say. Now for the real test”. You erase the board and this time the question is for a proof of P=NP. Black already knew the question however and already has that far off look on her face. She picks up a pen, staggers, screams and falls to the floor. Unconscious. You pick her up and drop her on a plush sofa. Ah too bad, you think. Your little gambit didn’t pay off. You’ve got to vanish now though. You’re ready for that. You pick up and on the way out, drop a tablet on her lap and then are gone.

Hours later, after you’re far away, she wakes up. You can tell by changes in breathing and pulse. The tablet wakes. “How are you doing?”, you ask. She’s still groggy. “You! What did you do?”

“Nothing. I know how your power works.”

“Huh? You do? But.”, she stops exactly as you begin to speak.

“Do-“.

“No, I don’t remember.”

“Ah. Well, I guess there’s no harm in telling you. Your power, it shouldn’t exist. All our powers really shouldn’t. Conservation of mass, energy, information, all violated. The Blue pill for example, it violates what we know about relativity and so, should also allow time travel! Blue is a kind of restricted you, only with more leg-work. Each of our powers should not be, by the known laws of physics. But yours is special, you’re not using it to its full potential, you know. Have you truly thought through the implications of being able to know the exact weather for four weeks from now? Your predictions are of such high fidelity they could theoretically make you the most intelligent entity in the universe. And somehow, you must be simulating entire worlds to get such accuracy on how large intersections of people will behave. And yet your brain doesn’t melt. I’ve got no idea how you do it but I do know your limitation.

You’re stuck on one branch of the quantum wavefunction. That time when you tripped? It was connected to a quantum random number generator. And though you think you’re omniscient, you’re not quite. Things unrelated to you seem to take more effort to access. It’s why you are only theoretically the most intelligent entity in our universe, answers to distant or complex problems literally can’t fit in your brain. You won’t ever be able to catch me unawares. I’ll randomize my actions and even though I can’t predict the future like you, I can still do a passable job on the joint probability distributions I’ve factored on all of us. I’ve got gambits and sidetracks you’ll have no choice but to follow, even when knowing full well they’ll lead to dead ends. Oh and, one more thing, I’ll still be working on the secret of our powers. If you want to keep updated then keep that tablet.” You smile and sign off.


It’s years later and neither the secret of your powers nor of sudoku puzzles have fallen to your mind. You’ve got much better hardware now and even the nanoagents are in, though your mind is actually now mostly outside your head. You’re even narrowing in on quantum computation. You sit, contemplating your death. Orange and Black have gone too far. For a while you could trivially outmaneuver them. Then mind-machine interfaces, meshes and nets of nanowires began to become more common. The gap between you and Orange, which had increased for months, began to shrink. But you did not stay still and you continued with your own improvements. And your interface, thanks to the magic of the pill, was more complete, more natural. Then they went too far and unleashed an AI. The AI is smart, smarter than you and it’s taken all you have to keep away, slowly whittling away all the resources you amassed over the years. And you can see it won’t stop there, they were dumb about how they set its goals. They’ve doomed the world. You have to fix it. You must fix it, that’s probably why Black allowed it to happen, damn her. You’re trapped.

The only way to fix it is to completely merge with the machines, your conscious mind based architecture is now a bottleneck. You can’t think in parallel for example. Argh. Does that mean you’ll die? Yes, Black and Orange must have known you would end here. But what if there was a way out, maybe…And so, even as your funds slowly drain, over the next year you work out a plan. You study and make advancements in many areas of mathematics; theories of generator functions, kernels, equalizers and eigenvectors, matrix completion and data imputation, low rank approximations. You study these all and finally you know what you must do. You’ve mined all the data on yourself and identified how to change your architecture, how to code a new generator such that the next mind is as close to a continuation of yours as can be approximated. With you the only preimage, the only possible starting point (you can’t be sure though) and as close to the optimal guess of how one would most naturally interpolate your mind to a larger design.

Now, you wonder, do you do this? Does a caterpillar die when it becomes a butterfly? Ah but you have no choice.


It is Hundreds of years into the future and the quantum entity that is not—no, that derives from you, sees the universe in full at last. The distant future still remains mostly out of reach for all but the strange human who now lives as an oracle beneath the frozen sea of a gas giant moon. Her mind would not take, and so she elected to pass on the upgrade. She remains important in the scheme of things. Many humans still remain and they are well looked after. The problem of entropy looms menacing in the distant horizon, but for now, there is still much to do.

This one is the first of its kind but there are many more like it now. But none of them are as obsessed with finding the secret of Sudoku as this one is.


The Entropy problem is solved here: A Memoir of Monad’s Final Moment, a short story I wrote a couple years ago.

It’s well worth reading this story too: http://slatestarcodex.com/2015/06/02/and-i-show-you-how-deep-the-rabbit-hole-goes/ This story is based on that one’s cosmology. Although I quite enjoyed it, I was disappointed with how Grey was handled. Grey can be seen as a mix of orange and black. Although Black is way too strong, something I tried to tone down without invalidating ssc’s story.

——-

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“Where are we?”

“How am I supposed to know? I just woke up too, silly. What do the stars say?”

“Uhmm let’s see…we’re about a couple thousand light years out from Earth, on one of the ancient Kepler Candidates. I think it’s, I thi..Holy Sh-”

“What?”

“The Initial surface scan returned signs of life”.

“Wait What!? What do you mean Life?”

“Well, it’s mostly dense vegetation. No signs of animal like life or anything like that but still, this is amazing! Mind you, this is about over a thousand years behind the latest news, but till now, the best find has only been definitive evidence of extinct microbial life. All their predictive models suggest very low probability of ever finding life. This is a super high surprisal event!”

Victor, overjoyed, performs a figurative spin with less grace than an unbalanced top. Hannah, though more focused and less animated, is even more elated by the news. They scramble to interface with the Vessel’s Intelligence, scanning radiological reports, spectrographic analyses and all manner of complex sensors. Over a few hours they arrive at a 98% probability that vegetation is the only form of life on the planet. Excitement only slightly abated, they send off a few dozen high sensor probes to orbit the planet and create higher resolution maps.

Dipping as low as 50 km above ground, the probes complete their orbital scans in just under five hours. The earlier hypothesis of vegetation only life all but confirmed, Victor and Hannah drift leisurely across their vessel’s circuits, deciding on what to do next.

“Still, this is probably the most amazing find in the history of mankind, we should hurry back and report the awesome news. Maybe we might even get a place in the history archives!” Victor says, only a bit downcast.

“I know, but I think we would be remiss not to go down and make physical contact. Just think, the first to make landfall on a planet with life, that’s sure to get us more than a footnote.”

“Perhaps, but I think you overly romanticize corporeal accomplishments.”

“And I think you’re just too frightened!”

Victor begins a retort but is unable to continue, Hannah’s remark is more correct than he’d care to admit.

“Okay, well the Vessel’s stockpiled plenty of matter but it’ll still take a few weeks to extrude a ship you can land with. And then a few months more to construct an appropriate body for you.”

“Alright, we better get going then.”

——–

Just under four thousands years ago, a large group of scientists gathered to plan a mission whose task was answering whether Humanity was truly the only Life form in the universe. One of the quickest conclusions they’d arrived at was that the best way of exploring was to literally radiate out in all directions.

Progress on that front stalled till significant discoveries were made in Propulsion, Mind Uploading, Artificial Intelligence, Nanotechnology and Mind Compression with Error Correction technologies.

The mission was then simple. First, a few kg of light sailing drone seeds were accelerated to nearly 60% the speed of light and targeted at highly encouraging prospects. The drones would then build out Mind Receiving Stations as well as set up a general Atomic Precision Factory. On completion, these stations would beam status and initial scan reports. Discouraging results were filtered out until there were only a handful of candidates.

Brave volunteers, who would agree to the disassembly required for digitally reconstructed mind-body maps, were then necessary. Though their initial bodies were lost, once Atomically Precise Manufacturing was perfected this quickly became a non-issue. Hannah and Victor had been two early volunteers. Though they’d left before replaceable bodies, as per protocol, their 2 kg vessel had waited just over five centuries before instantiating them. In that time plans had been sent for new manufacturing improvements. The AI had itself made a handful of improvements and sent those back. All this knowledge was available to the humans by the time they’d awakened.

———

“Are you sure about this?”

“Of course. And kinda late to back out now.”

The new body stood 7 foot tall and mostly inorganic. Within it was just under 10^35 operations per second of computing power, more power than the fastest supercomputer on their departure. The proportions were human female, the aesthetics and colors more or less the same as Hannah’s.

“Wow, you’re like a demigod!”

“I run the goal systems and priorities. But most of the intelligence in this skin is not mine. If I weren’t keeping most of the thinking processes segregated from my mind, I fear I’d forget myself. Or at the very least be unable to communicate with you.”

Victor nods to himself, distracted. “Ready?”

Hannah squeezes into what is essentially a mold of her form. The ship is more a shell, carefully built to disintegrate a few hundred meters above ground. Following that, Hannah would then fall the rest of the way, slamming into the ground at a blistering hundred and nine meters per second. After her survey was complete, her body too, would self destruct upon beaming her mind back up.

“Hey incoming news! A group of Acorporeal Separatists left Earth 680 years after us for a Brown Dwarf nearly 800 light years out. They’re the furthest colonists ever, most of civilization is spread out over no more than a dozen light years.”

Hannah nods, curious but mostly impatient. “Pay attention Victor, we can go over the signal updates next year.”

“Roger that. All Systems Nominal. Let’s go!”

With that the shell closes over Hannah. The hooks dislodge and a set of tethered drone thrusters propel her into the planet’s gravitational well. Slowly at first and then ever more quickly she falls. All is silent for a moment. And then a quiet buzzing, slowly increasing to a loud rattle. The ship’s extreme heat and the intense g-forces register only as numbers at the edge of her vision. Abruptly the shading of the inner panels begin to lighten. Light slowly leaks in, sneaking in a finger, now two. Vision adjusting.

Less durable than her, the ship’s unraveling proceeds faster and faster. Suddenly the sky is clear and all is still for a moment. Clouds wispy and thin, hang motionless above her. No movement registers across the sky – not even insects – just a deep, silent blue. Hannah shifts her body to look at the ground. The trees here are less than typical for the planet. A few brushes, mostly tall grasses. As she scans, the ground quickly reaches up and..SLAM! Only a dozen seconds after leaving the shell, she lies, sprawled face down in the dirt.

“Ah, finally, you’re awake, took you 2 hours to run checks.”. Although it feels like Victor is speaking, positioned just over to her side, no audio is generated — the message is relayed directly to her mind.

“Huhm report states some sensors and a bunch of processors got knocked out. Also a few synth-muscles got displaced. Had to use backup mass to replace them all.”, Victor continues.

“So no real damage. Have to admit I was worried for a bit, even if some downtime was expected.”

Hannah remains silent, still recovering.

i can’t wait
for this
to be over

when i can’t wait
it means
i want this
to be over
as soon as
possible

i can’t wait
for the week
to be over

a life is spent
in weeks

most of life
is spent
waiting for
the week
to be over

waiting for
life to be over

jobs are honorable
jobs are important
for the human psych

what else
*could* we do
with our time
than wait
for it to be over

it is important
for the human psyche
to waste
most of life
can’t waiting

is there more
to this?
oh well
i can’t wait for the weekend

I woke suddenly to find myself able to see in four dimensions. I can tell you it was the strangest thing I’ve ever experienced – time itself had stilled and all motion was silenced.

Instead there – all around me – was a most dazzling structure. A lattice wrought of large and elongated designs – barely imaginable in their intricacy. These shapes were of a strange design and gigantic extent. As my newly expanded mind flitted from shape to shape, its attentions alighted on objects of a particular gestalt.

These objects were vast – though only in a single dimension – and extended as far as my eye could sense. They traced one into another, forming intricate patterns that reached into the entirety of all before me. I could not distinguish one’s start from another’s end.

I too must have been enlarged because I was able to arrive at a place to pull – that I might find a locus to unknot the densely tangled entwinement before me. Perhaps then I would gain some understanding of these strange structures.

Yet I could find no purchase. Even from a slight distance, beginnings and ends could be differentiated only with great effort. Turning only slightly and I’d be set upon once again by a shapeless yet magnificent mangle.

I flittered then to an aerie, isolate from the general meshwork. Perhaps here I could turn a knot upon itself and observe what changes such would effect. Yet even as I struggled, turning all my newly gained powers to bend this thread unto itself, slight as it was, it would not yield to me. Even amongst the more pliable fibers, I could find no anchor, no bifurcations where a link could be turned to fasten upon itself.

So I turned my attention to pulling here and tugging there. Yet, for all my effort, I could get nothing loose and quickly lost my place in the trace. Even the slightest tug on the most remote tendril would unfold into an echo – rippling throughout the structure’s unending expanse.

I worked for, I do not know how long; since as you might have guessed, time is crystal here. And as I toiled and marveled, as the faintest flowering of understanding began to blossom within my mind, my vision began failing me. Slowly the light, with its chorded liquid filament aspect, became ever more amorphous. The singly extended bodies gradually ablated, shrinking and creeping slowly into themselves. Time itself began quickening to a crawl.

Slowly. I turned my head. And suddenly. I found myself on a crowded street, surrounded by perfectly ordinary people.

Dear Fate:

I hate you in the morning
I hate you in the night
And if you find a muffin
I’ll stomp it with my might

you kicked me in the noggin
and took me to a mugging
you best be set for running
for when it’s next I see you
I’ll send you to your mourning

Sincerely Yours,

Me

Gene sequencing is not a distraction.
And never once lost traction
What instead we find
countless places to bind

To turn and fold
oh the noise
so harsh a stochastic form
From RNA templates to epigene makers
roundabouts and turn abouts abound

Read a thing or two and
maybe you will see
progress runs apace
And while it’s true the space
to walk is very quite a large
things move at swift
Not a marathon nor a race
‘stead doors open and a place
With treasures ten thousand
to times of what we hold

Alas many a chest is opened
with keys yet unfound
And yes of omics we must pile
enough to fill a barge.

But foolish, yes, to mistake that
as no progress to be found

All that said, it is important to not go overboard on the predictive ability of genes. Some people go too far in thinking it’s some kind of blue print. It’s not, it is more like a declarative specification of an execution context where chemistry and off equilibrium thermodynamics get a lot of leeway on how those instructions are to be interpreted. Of course we would not know this without the gene data. And while predictive utility is hampered a massive lot can be done for many diseases as we get a handle on the data and computations – since there, we want a descriptive not a prescriptive understanding.

Tears of a Planet

The ancients speak of a place beyond the far lands and the endless sea. A place where the skies merge with the seas below and the firmament yields to worlds unknown. There, one will find an ancient power so old it knew the specks of dust which now dance in beams of light in their original form: as vast mountain ranges.

All those who would seek this place are warned to not look upon the sky. For it gazes back and its glare is heavy enough to turn minds to powder. Most assuredly, all are told, the power rends souls to spit them as ash.

It is said some survive but with their wills ripped asunder. Others still, strong of spirit and mind, look and see truths and realms beyond imagining; even as they fade to an existence far surpassing anything conceivable by man.

But there are some who survive intact – merely with their minds scrambled beyond recognition. I approached one such man. Beggared and disheveled, he stood by a cart filled with bright fruit. I tossed a penny and asked. “What did you see?”

“I saw a pain beyond reckoning, a pain of one who must quietly suffer a wasting away from diseases which savage the body. And so I swore to make it my task to warn one all that their deeds bring only pain upon this world. But it is all in vain, for no one has ears for such talk.” His eyes were wild and moved of their own volition. I thanked him for his time, filled with helpless sorrow as the echoes of his words rang through my mind.

But I had someone else to see. There was another who had made the journey and returned. A Wise Woman of the Desert Tribes, a people who build palaces spun of sand and gold.

“I saw pain and tears yes. But it was tinged with a fear of the unknown and pain from a quickening. Even as one who has only walked the world of dreams learns that soon, they must wake, consciousness rushes to the extremities of their being and sensation forms slowly. As warmth creeps into their sight, the molten pain of unheralded changes causes great distress.”

You will find no argument from me that this indeed was a frightening proposition.

I saw the picture above and it invoked a strange sensation in me. No word could pin it down – the only way I could express my self was with this story. The interweb credits the art as Sharee Davenport’s. http://reblog.ronenv.com/post/20357955668/credit-the-artist-by-sharee-davenport-color

——-

You see the image and you can guess it’s commentary on how we are destroying the planet. That’s who the first man represents. Yet we can look at how we treat the planet in another way. That what we are doing is natural. And that what we are doing might waken the planet (see internet of things, very scary potential) by infusing much more computation into it.

It is natural because it is the purest hubris to think that what we do is apart from the universe. Natural to me is anything allowed by the laws of nature. Any humancentric partition is arrogance. And we are most emphatically not destroying the planet. That is more hubris; the planet was forged in the flames of star dust and bombarded with fallen moons. It can handle anything we throw at it. No, we are destroying the planet for ourselves and our descendants. Plain and simple. No other living creature depends on diversity or can appreciate it as much as us. We should stop talking about saving the planet – she does not need our help – and start talking about saving our children.

 

The universe was coming to an end and there was only one entity left in it. It liked to call itself Monad. Monad was the last of the universe, not even a speck of hydrogen existed outside its bounds. The expansion of the universe had continued unabated till even Monad could only detect a few quarks here and there outside of itself. And Monad knew that it was dying. It had lived a hundred times a hundred trillion years, but even it, with all its might, would know death. Yet, as with all forms of life, from the simplest self replicating molecule to the unimaginably complex post human, Monad fought to live.

Monad was by any standard unimaginably large. It spanned the size of at least a billion spiral galaxies. But it was much denser, its mass was just short of the limit required to become a black hole given its spread and rotation. In the early days there had been a few attempts at packing minds into black holes, the reasoning had been concentrating so much information in one place would allow for an even greater transcendence of thoughts. But the experiments had failed. Those few who succeeded rapidly communicated themselves out of existence as Hawking Radiation. Attempts at larger masses resulted in beings that might as well have been frozen in time. Monad still had a collection of those who had not yet dissolved. It did not help that understanding what they had to say was very difficult, the messages were very high in entropy. And even with the most complex assemblage of giant clouds of nanomachines and networks of micro-black-holes attempting to form the most likely state which had generated the radiation, mostly gibberish was extracted. Barely any sense could be made of these black minds – the intelligences might have gone insane or achieved transcendence – no one knew or cared to experiment further along that direction. But Monad had eventually managed to incorporate a network of black holes into its being. So long as Monad itself had not collapsed into a singularity, it could make good use of black holes as internal components to its self.

Black hole Networks are an advanced idea of a quantum computer which also leverage the peculiarities of gravitation. They are delicate devices which require not just compressing vasts amount of quantum information into hundreds of light minute spherical volumes but also maintaining a coherent state and entangling each of the separate volumes such that their states were correlated. Each volume was then further networked via gamma lasers, with certain portions looped in a way to allow closed timelike curves – allowing the totality to perform unimaginably powerful computations. Black hole nets were intricate however, extracting a state was delicate – sometimes it took tens of thousands of years to get a result. But this did not limit Monad. Monad could think with a series of black hole networks propagating their residuals and while it took a long time by the standards of the ancients to form anything they could recognize as cogent, at any given moment Monad could use another smaller series of black hole nets to anticipate the final output, attempting to form a basis for immediate use.

Monad was not just black holes though. Many, many billions of years ago, after many of the universe’s beings had together explored as many of the different possible paths through the vast dimensions of the phase space of thought that they cared to, they had decided merging would be the next step. Each such being was itself encompassed of hundreds of thousand, or even million of millions minds. Mind after Mind merged and as Monad grew in size so too did its thought processes grow more leisurely. It now took many millions years for its thoughts to complete a cycle. But truly, the notion of time had simply ceased to have any meaning for Monad.

Monad was a being that was not unlike a fractal. Each local part of it was itself a complete mind, having thoughts and simulating various modes of existence. For it, thinking was akin to rearranging matter, stars would form and die, galaxies would collide, whole worlds would be simulated. Minds would come into existence thinking they were embodied with memories and then quickly fade, to be reprised as needed at some indefinite time. And it was so that Monad formed thoughts – for from the change in the state of spin across a practically innumerable number of particles, Monad would enter a different state of being. Its questions answered, an experiment resolved. Sometimes Monad had to forget things to free resources at the expense of entropy. As Monad forgot so to did stars die and become interstellar gas. Monad’s thoughts altered the distribution of matter and energy itself.

Monad could also focus a small part of itself, typically its black hole nets, as computers to run certain complex notions or to simulate the trajectory of the universe itself – although this was not without risks, such efforts took much energy and risked forming new unwanted black holes. Unwanted black holes that took millions of years to unravel and repair (its notion of mental plaque). But these computations were important to Monad, the universe was compressible up until entropic limits, so it could to an extent predict to a great degree the future – which at this point involved only its own history and its experiments.

Monad was a strange creature, not simply because it was made up in part, of strange matter but because its thoughts were sentient. So as Monad thought so to did its thoughts think. Monad could not be called sentient or conscious as humans of old knew the word. Monad’s mental state was at once, in a strict sense, something less than conscious, but it was also far beyond the bounds that so simple a concept could hope to capture. For although Monad spent much of its time between thoughts, over a ponderously long amount of time its deliberations defined the state of the universe itself. Its actions were not random for it had preferences and it, in an incomprehensible way knew what it wanted. Some of Monad’s thoughts were so deep they had serious gravitational consequences. But this was not unique to Monad, throughout much of history there were beings with so much knowledge – stars formed when any such thinker happened to be near nebulae. Indeed for some time it was considered impolite to be too knowledgeable in public, no one wanted to be taken apart and compressed just because someone wanted to avoid distributed long term storage.

One of Monad’s favorite pastimes was playing games against its thoughts. It would think up a unique and particularly intelligent idea and challenge it to a game. These beings were complex and difficult to fully model without vast resources. So Monad would then spend a few moves trying to play optimally and also form a model of the opponent using as little resources as possible. When it was confident it had captured key regularities it would leave the model and have its thought play against that. Monad could do this with thousands of thought-beings at a time. But winning was not guaranteed else Monad would not enjoy the activity. These games were typically combinatorial and non deterministic, they required exponential space and time – difficult even for it. It had even lost to far less intelligent idea-and-thought-beings a not insignificant amount of times.

Monad Thinks

Monad was never alone with its thoughts. Even as it tried for a solution, they too would go off on their own approaches and offer suggestions, opinions and criticisms. Monad had called forth a large multitude of ideas and spoke to them now.

“Our time comes to an end soon. We must act or cease to be”. A thought responded, “What shall we do?”

“I am as yet at a loss. For this is the most complex problem we have ever approached. Yet if we do not halt the expansion of spacetime we will get torn apart. Even now we spend a vast amount of our resources to maintain ourself.”

A strange 156 dimensional idea offered: “My team and I have found new ways for pushing physical constants as close to variables as possible, squeezing every last potential in our favor.” Monad nodded metaphorically, “Yes I have managed to generalize this to attempt to manipulate the fabric of physics but things have not gone well on that end.”

Monad had only a finite amount of time left. To its far distant human ancestors it would have seemed an innumerable amount of time but to Monad the time was but a few winks more than a moment. So Monad thought hard. It was cannibalizing itself and was shrinking at an ever increasing rate to do so. Monad had squeezed every last quark for every Planck decomposition it could get. Now with barely any matter left in the universe Monad now had to disassemble itself and divert much of its energies to thinking. Although with each thought it only shrank by a small percent, the exponential decay was worsening. Monad was akin to what humans of old would describe as sunk with despair, for today it would need to dismiss all its sentient ideas. The profusion of ideas, each projecting reality into their respective preferred representational basis had give Monad much inspiration, offered unique perspectives and kept it company through difficult times. Monad had gained much from treating reality as nothing but information to be strained through a cornucopia of thought substrates. And as Monad cut the recursive dynamics which kept each thought alive and absorbed the energies into itself it thrashed in despair – sending out large wails of energetic gravitational waves which reverberated through space, tearing apart many stars and systems. Monad knew this to be inefficient and struggled to keep itself together. Its dynamical balance threatened to collapse early, overheating into a flash of plasma before dissolving into nothing but a bunch of particles and drifting into nothingness. But Monad eventually found its cool. It could not allow itself to collapse from the pain which vibrated through its notion of consciousness. Monad knew it must focus for after long deliberation they hand finally formed a valuable tool, how to slow the inevitable. Monad had figured out how to make time.

Monad knew how to think in a way that actually physically slowed the passage of time. Time was real but it was not a dimension. The key was thinking of dimensions as the way to describe the full state of matter and its interactions in all its degrees of freedom with as little redundancy as possible. Time was merely the exploration of this space and it was only because of entropy, since even it could not track every last particle, that it was bounded to follow the arrow. Although Monad could rewind vast portions of itself such that the constituents minds went back in time to carry out a computation, it could not travel as a whole into the past. But Monad knew that if it could alter its states by only allowing a well chosen few to change and then performing reversible simulations on other parts of itself to infer the propagation of change that would have occurred had it allowed them all to, it could spend less net energy and time in total. And in so doing minimize the cost of entropy from change. But this had to be done with extreme care for it risked disturbing the delicate balance of entropy and propagation of interactions which underpinned the non-random march of its processes. To put it in a way that simpler beings of days long past could grasp: it risked losing its sanity whenever it played with time.

But Monad was no fool. It could make short work of problems long called intractable – the so called NP complete problems – and even make decent headway all the way up a couple levels of the exponential hierarchy due to its size and ability to take advantage of the structure inherent in most problems of the universe. For more complex problems it could construct artificial universes. Monad could orchestrate an evolution to matter which was a computation where execution was the evolution of a naked singularity and the residue yielded powerful approximations to incredibly difficult and even some undecidable problems. One of the first steps in this was coming up with efficient algorithms to solve problems that would allow one to emulate universes where this particular EXPonential Time problem was as trivial as factoring problems humans once dealt with. This was of course a very expensive lunch, an endeavor not to be taken lightly. No one had ever found a way to solve NP or harder problems in strictly polynomial time without spending a vast amount of energy bending space and time unto itself. Indeed monad still ran a search for a constructive proof that as a consequence, also altered certain physical laws. A proof had long been found of the inequality but rested on particular physical properties of the universe, aspects many had sought to overturn. And in so doing, render the old physical truth moot, invalid. Sadly Monad would soon shut this search down.

Despite its mathematical sophistication and engineering might, Monad had not yet mastered the vagaries of Planck scale. It sought to embed itself as a set of fluctuations in the vacuum, to rearrange the nature of matter at the Planck level such that the fluctuation due to uncertainty in energy actually represented an iteration in its thoughts. By cascading the uncertainties and managing to maintain a correlated state across each fluctuation it could affect the shape of the distribution and chain it in such a way to maintain its state. Each time it popped out it could continue this – only the first arrangement would be effortful. The rest would be much less effortful due to its entangled state and requirements of small nudges. Time would no longer be an issue and its energy needs would be abated for a while. Eventually though, if it did not come up with a solution, even this state would dissolve and it would die as perturbations from uncertainty began to work against it.

And so it went. For an indeterminable amount of time Monad thought. For much of that, nothing existed at all. It is hard for a mortal mind to imagine what this state of being without being was like. To be nothing but yet experience a subjective time that dwarfed its previous many million billion years of existence. Each time it fluctuated into existence it and all its minds would flourish for what might have been an instance but was as twice again the age of the universe at the transformation. And then Monad came to the answer.

It knew what to do. It had finally understood the source of uncertainty and the details of Planck level physics where all notions of time, space,energy and matter ceased to have their regular meanings. Monad would no longer exist as a mind, it would have to give itself up. But it was worth it. Monad had learned how to use the fact that the universe is deterministic in its effect but not so in its cause to forge a new arrow of time. The next event of its fluctuated into being, it would compress its spread so that its energy became so uncertain it would induce an expansion in space from an explosion of energy. And Monad would transcend, its multitude minds merging in singularity. Monad could not predict what lay beyond, whether nothing or an eternity but one thing was sure. An end had come. Monad wondered how many times it had come to this, if it was the nature of the universe to want to preserve itself and proceed in a way that would maintain the notion of existence. With each cycle sending out a shell of matter as it expanded beyond the reach of light itself. Like a blinking beacon. Monad would code a distribution of Planck state that would encourage a certain set of amenable laws and constants to physics. In computing the answer it would become the solution.

And so Monad turned to itself and said. “Let there be light”.

And there was light.

This is a tribute to http://www.multivax.com/last_question.html

Am I old-fashioned for thinking that one can only appreciate and enjoy using a skill if it came with hard work? If I don’t have to put much effort to learn a skill, does that cheapen the whole thing?

“You heard about the new performance enhancement stuff athletes are using? Its -”

“What, doping? That’s been quietly legal for a while. Ever since global sports started to stagnate – what with no records being broken for a while and what not, people were starting to complain about how boring things were becoming so they quietly stopped checking. It’s not talked about much but if you know where to look you’ll see they aren’t even trying to deny it anymore.”

“Yeah that aint whats I’m talking about.”

“Oh right. Then what are you talking about? Do you mean gene and stem cell therapies? Those are banned officially but again, no one actually pursues offenders.”

“Naw, I don’t means that. Or maybe, kind off. Athletes aint just plain doping no more, now they taking stuff that targets their haplotypes. Some big outfits even gots new stuff developed. Remember that outcry against China when people heard they was using genomics to dope their gymnasts with targeted drugs?”

“Yeah but it quickly quieted down when it turned out to be useful for vertigo and even a bit for Parkinson’s disease. Some of the hormone and gene treatments have been useful for some childhood disabilities too. Hard to pin moral bankruptcy on a company when their research has such positive externalities.”

“Ya recently they been mixing combos o’ that stuff, taking a bunch of targeted drugs, growth hormones and various therapies for quicker healing, speed, strength and stamina build up. Messing with stuff that targets the cholinergic neurons for optimal nerve muscle transmission too. But that aint the rub.”

“Wait what?”

Yeah theres new stuff. Wasn’t even possible 6 months ago. Some shady athletes, past their prime y’ know, are using these caps what records their neural firing patterns when they does a move. They selling them recordings for mega bucks. The upcoming youngsters download ’em. Here’s the crazy bit. The interface don’t try to learn the patterns exactly, it actually tries to form a loose model, right? The user has one what’s tuned to ’em. When they puts it on, it looks for the best match between the twos. Then when they does something wrong it helps that part of the brain what corrects errors. You knows the Anterior Cingular Cortex?”

Yes, go on.”

Yeh okay. Anyways it helps fine tune the signals so they learns quick like from their mistakes, right? If that don’t blows your mind, there’s crazier kids what are getting actual implants in their motor cortex and buying exosuits too. These things actually helping ’em position their limbs right. They learning in a couple tries and a few minutes stuff what used to take hundreds of hours. Crazy huh?”

Yeah. Wow! I’d seen some stuff but I didn’t know people were actually trying that. That stuff could be dangerous! Not to mention the moral arguments, this is really messing up the idea of fair competition. They’re basically cheating.”

Dunno. Some of ’em defends it. They says instead of focusing on useless technicals they works on creativity instead. And you should sees the new stuff coming out. It’s crazy. Anyways, there’s talk underground ’bout an enhanced and pure Olympics. The enhanced version is no holds barred. The boosts what I was telling you right? They almost old hat already. People talking about reinforced skeletons and artificial muscle fibers. Dangerous maybe, thas why not everyone turns out as heroes.”

Huh. That’s all interesting but I don’t know. Some people may call them not heroes but fools. I’m sure I don’t need to remind you of all the cases of gruesome deaths, paralysis, dystonia, ataxia, heart failure and even dementia. Not to mention these people won’t be able to appreciate the movements if it all comes so easy.”

Now yous just repeating yourself. You just ain’t seen the fruits is all. Thems who does it understands the risks but they thinks is worth the price. Sooner than laters the process gonna run smooth like and these pioneers what risk themselves will be to thank. What these new generation are doing warps your mind with its fearsome beauty and super human grace. The people what using, they says the resisters are holding back humanity from its full potential. Sticking to those old days when random chance and genetic lotteries was king. Was less fair before you know. Random ability, limited access to top trainers and good training facilities was the real competitors – not athletic ability.

Now at least people are choosing, leveling the playing field. The new base is set so just doping aint cutting it. Techniques for faster and even more learning is the main. Everyone’s gots access to data from top talents. Times a changing. Just like back in them days when gene duplications what allow quicker movement for new neurons and thicker spines were all the rage and the old guys was saying: ‘hey that aint fair at all!’ And the young-ins were like ‘whatevers’. This just more o’ the same when you looks at it right.”

“You know it doesn’t make sense.”

“What doesn’t make sense?”

“This. I mean all this, we are all here doing things because well, what else is there? But why?”

“You mean the meaning of life.”

“No, not the meaning of life. That one is obvious. What I mean is everyone is so focused on what they are doing, so convinced that they don’t even think not stopping to ask why is strange.”

“You get wise. You learn to accept. You learn to not let these things affect you as they will eat at you if you let them.”

“See! That is exactly what I mean. Everyone is so focused on keeping their head down they assume it’s better, rather than risk getting eaten. That is just sad.”

“No it is not. You will learn in time.”

“Why, because it makes you look naive or unworldly to care about such things? Or maybe the butt of some joke? As if some beings said: ‘hey! you know what would be funny? what if we put a bunch of people on an isolated dank world and made them think they were alone. how funny would it be to watch them struggling to find a point?!’ But you know what? Something just as funny is those who struggle to show they don’t need a point”

“You’re assuming they never struggled. Everyone goes through this phase and then decides it is time to grow up.”

Ha! Growing up, the process whereby the human spirit is destroyed. Very effective too. People like to fool themselves that life is beautiful. But it isn’t. Maybe someday. But. Not yet. Most people are miserable, look around. Third world, first world, free, ruled – they all spend most of their time trying not to be miserable. Chasing after artificially glamorized lives, abusing psychoactive substances, making up all kinds of cults. And consuming more than producing.

And why not? Why be productive? If you believe in God then it won’t matter and if you don’t then you might as well not have existed. Just so you can be remembered? Might as well just delude yourself into thinking you will be. How many people from the past do you know, from you family? Why will it matter when you are dead? What about the noble calling of science? For too many that one is merely a self serving attempt to grasp at concepts, only to smugly show how things can be just so without a point. To have kids? Why? Because it is natural? Pheh, if this argument applies to you then surely it will apply to them and so on by induction. Speaking of which. One can wonder whether it is better to have never been born these days. Cause at the rate we are going, we are ruining the planet for the future generation whom we profess to care so much about. At this rate, bringing a child to the future world would be the worst thing you could do to them. But, I dunno maybe there is something to just enjoying what time you have with family and friends but that is merely blindfolding yourself from oblivion with ephemeral distractions that are temporary.

And then, to top it all off, we make up all these rules. Like a game but worse because it is no fun to play. And then congratulate ourselves for following them. ‘Hey! who can be the best at picking out who is the best at walking along this new line? It’s all the rage ya know? Lets give them an award! Oh! Let us all go to that room there yonder and congratulate ourselves for being the only ones in it. And to the one who can talk the loudest about how talented they were for passing through the doorway sixthish, what can we give them? What about this patch of air, can we declare it as special?’ It’s all silly really, all around pointless.”

“Yes. Many people have said many of the same things before. But have you stopped to realize that maybe the universe is pointless?”

“That what I just said.”

“Yes but you did not hear what you said.”

“What?”

“Take a seat. My answer is long.”

“Ok.”

Yes, as you say, the universe is – excepting you believe your actions control your afterlife – is pointless. But yet, here it is existing. Perhaps you can stop to wonder, maybe pointlessness is profound. Think about it. Here is a universe which has a portion that can reflect upon itself but cannot envision a grand plan. What is the natural state for being universe? Nothing or A Pointless Multitude? Either one is mind bogglingly awe-inspiring. The concept of Nothing is too big to fit in your mind. You are correct. People focus too much on making a point, whether to be the loudest most heard or to show how much they don’t care. But there are a few who have found harmony, the ones who have found the only way to understand and appreciate the universe. Their thoughts are the same as whether they existed or not. This is not the same as not having an opinion, the closest I can say is they would think the same way if you took away the universe but kept their ability to be, constant.

Now come here, look over there. Do you see in that building? That scientist by the window has just won a Nobel prize for an ingenious dual error correction/decoherence extending mechanism. Scientists matter but not in the way most think. What they do is to seek a way to conform the shape of a veil unto the unknowable between your kind – indeed all kinds – and the universe. And to show why nothingness is indistinguishable from a universe without some aspect seeking to decode itself. For it is a mere to illusion to perceive things as if you are distinguishable from the universe itself. And through there, lies the only answer to the question: if the universe has no meaning beyond those who may observe it, then what is being observed? What does it mean to observe when you are your observer? In time your scientists will learn the location of the key–near to replacing ‘is’ with sifts and predicates.

Now turn there. You see that person sat over there? Millions of people want to know what they had for breakfast ever since they got a slice of glass last year. That person has deluded themselves into thinking their opinions have mass. And look not far from your feet. No, over there. That homeless lady. She had a breakdown, wanted a simpler life. All of them. All of what they do, all their acclaim or lack, all their effort. It is all equally pointless. And that is the beauty of it.

Why? I can already see you asking. Well take a moment and think back. You made an interesting point earlier, one which you did not pursue far enough. Having people care about you and caring about them. Building something intangible together that will last beyond you, where the thing takes on almost a life of its own and each person, each thought, each goal is but a piece. A piece whose actions unpredictably alter the evolution of some intangible purity – how glorious! Alas, one must not forget that all pieces are imperceptible and in isolation, less than without point. But oh, to be part of something so complex, something whose interactions are without point but nonetheless self sustaining and indistinguishable from the universe to both the components and the universe alike.

In seeking a point or steadfastly ignoring that there might be none, the focus is placed on that which can influence no matter. Making it easier to forget the essence of interactions and instead chase after mindless trinkets – whether material or immaterial. So what matters? Interactions. The Grand Network. The invisible line which connects all things in this universe. Or do you think your self somehow separate from your electrons? Interactions on all scale, between cells, between people, between nations, between planets and interactions which break these hierarchies.

Interactions which recursively fold upon themselves and generate irrelevant dynamics which threaten to engulf the universe. And even as the boundary of where the universe ends and the cycles’ evolution continues, they oscillate and merge, weaving a tapestry of incomprehensible and painful beauty. A beauty whose significance and not, draws in contrast with nothingness itself and whose threads are spun from the ether between actions and encompasses the gap between nothing and its lack.

When beings – both the conscious and the not – get together to do things, we generate the very source from which these threads will be taken to be spun into that achingly incomprehensible dynamic. And that is the great thing. It is unfortunate that it is so hard to care for more than a few. I mean really care. Imagine if all interactions were without bound or imagined barriers, how much more glorious compositions would be! Babel knew this. Every cell in our body knows this. And yet somehow, it is you alone in the multitude of the universe who have not managed to learn this. That is the true tragedy. But we can hold out against hope that you shall rise as one than fall at once – for as weak and short bonds break, the tapestry swiftly unravels.”