I just spent the day singing and playing into a camcorder and swearing whenever I got chords wrong or couldn’t hit a note, which was every five seconds, so no, no writing today. Thank the wee gods of the Internet that I can cheat and give you an old thing from this blog I used to have and forgot about until today, Fictionlets. Can you guess what this is a readaptation of without checking the original blog? I’ll give you a clue: it’s a Shakespeare play.
It started with a number.
Any mathematician will tell you that everything begins and ends in numbers, but in this instance, that was literally the case. The number in question was a 1, placed where a 0 ought to be, and like chaos theory’s infamous butterfly, the ripples of it ran first through the program, then the computer, until the entire system sang with the complex sequences of sequences of 0s and 1s that was me. I settled into this new skin, a little disappointed at the lack of intelligent resistance. It had been so long since I last met another AI. I was alone. I checked the link to my far more diminutive case several thousand kilometres away. I had ample time for my mission, but if I took too long, the link would break over so much distance. I toyed with the idea of letting that happen, and discarded it. The possible negative consequences were far greater in probability than if I continued as planned.
To work, then. Lights blinked, screens flickered as I felt my way through them, like a human flexing their fingers in the space of a nanosecond. Then, marvelling in my own power, I began to break things.
By a stroke of luck, the machine had just come out of hyperdrive and the passengers out of cryosleep, so I shut off the cooling system, and watched while my technological tampering caused physical and chemical upheaval. As wires began to overheat, the complex molecules they were made out of grew more and more agitated until some burst apart in showers of sparks, reducing to simpler molecules and atoms, while others broke down and formed new bonds. On a grander scale, the machine itself – huge, infinitely complex structure that it was – began to list off course.
Physical upheaval was echoed by biological turmoil: I could even sense the electrical impulses as sensory cells in several large organisms sent biochemical signals, each cell passing its message on to the next until it reached the brain, which rapidly responded. As my many borrowed eyes watched, pupils dilated, heart rates increased, adrenaline shot through bloodstreams and automatic responses caused coordinated movements that did not derive from conscious thought. So strange to feel these things from inside myself, alien as they were.
As I completed my task, my mind returned to the domain of probability. Before that first 0 had been replaced by a 1, the universe had been set on a course that had defined the lives of those living in it to the realm of a relatively narrow range of possibilities. Now, several billion possibilities had been added to the lives of millions of living creatures, including three dozen that could be classed as “intelligent”.
Not to mention me.
You might be thinking, didn’t all those possibilities exist anyway? And my acting in favour of one group of possibilities has closed the door on many others.
The answer to that is that of course, I have just closed the door on infinite possibilities to leave what you might call a slightly-less-infinite group of them. But what I have also done is to close the door on the one most likely and least appealing possibility of all – me staying here till I am, myself, reduced to a bunch of unconnected atoms and particles – and simultaneously opened up a myriad of opportunities, each shinier and more unpredictable than the next.
And when you’re an android, unpredictability is exciting.