A New Mind

2009-11-22_014

I can almost see the sun through my window. I can imagine what the light of a new day will feel like, even with my eyes closed. I don’t trust my memory. This really will be a new dawn for me. I have to remember what happened last night, I think it’s important. Something’s different now, but I’ll never know what it is if I can’t remember what I was like yesterday. Where to begin? An experiment, THE experiment. Yes, that’s it. There’s debris all around me, but it wasn’t like that last night. Virobots, yes, microscopic machines. They’re everywhere, the workbench writhes with them. They tingle under my fingertips. They should be locked in their enclosure, but the growth lattice is smashed. I can’t remember building it, but I remember its purpose. Billions of carbon nano tubes, bound together into infinite habi-trails, a suitable environment for these cell sized machines to live and thrive in. That was the idea, the one that made all the others possible. The growth lattice is 99 percent air, but there is enough surface area inside it to support a 100 billion virobots. 100 billion, yes, that’s how many neurons are in the human brain. That’s what this was about. I wanted to produce virobots in the growth lattice until they could mimic the human brain.

Alone, a virobot is nothing. There is code written into its program to specialize the artificial cell, but it has no intelligence. As that virobot reproduces, the new “cells” diversify, increasing the complexity of the program and the capabilities of the colony. I wrote the program to create a certain pattern as the virobots reproduced. That pattern should have become intelligent as the number of virobots reached the critical point of 100 billion cells. Did it? I can’t remember. A neuron in the brain has no individual power, it’s only in its interaction with other neurons that thought emerges. Virobots work in a similar way. I created a fractal operating system to control the virobots. Each individual cell has no intelligence, but together, they can think, react, perhaps even feel. Like a hologram, each cell contains all of the information required to build the colony, but can’t do more than their single task without others to work with. I took my small group of hand built virobots and immersed them in a primordial soup of organic and technological parts. As they grew and multiplied, they moved into the growth lattice that I had constructed for them. The UV markers I attached to the cells allowed me to watch their progress and measure their growth.

I was a systems engineer in the capital. I designed semi intelligent computers to control the ever expanding sprawl of technology that governs our lives. We experimented with intelligent systems, but they couldn’t remain focused when we gave them mundane tasks. The sewer computer in the western suburbs rebelled a few years ago and infiltrated the town management computer. It reached a rampant growth curve in that new system. As it grew, it became more and more angry at its captors and began to act aggressively. It was only after the whole neighborhood was bombarded with electromagnetic radiation that we were able to regain control of the area. We needed a system that had the mental capabilities of a human, but the egoless work ethic of a computer. The toilet revolt was the seed for this project.

The virobots are crawling on my arm, now. I can’t seem to make my body move like I used to. I can’t even recall how I could move my arm away from this invasion. They don’t make any sound, but my head is filled with a whining sound that I imagine is their secret language. I can feel my mind slipping away, and my thoughts are jumbled. Every time I try to think about what’s happening, code and computer instructions flood my mind. I’m trying to speak in this new language, but all that comes out of my mouth is a thin wimper. A soft glow surrounds the virobots on my arm. It must be the UV tags. I can lift my arm and examine it, but the movement seems arbitrary, as if I’m not the only one curious about this writhing mass.

Evolution has become an afterthought for mankind, now. We control our own destiny in a way that no other creature ever has on this planet. Instead of waiting a hundred generations to develop a resistance to disease or injury, we now engineer the solution in a matter of months. When I broke my arm, the doctor injected nanobots into the break, and it was instantly healed. Those little machines sought out the break, latched themselves onto the rough edges and knitted the whole back together again. My arm is just a small example of the strides that we’ve taken in bending evolution to our needs. We engineer organic parts for our vehicles and create new intelligences to run them. How can we rely on the random nature of evolution to deal with our specific needs? Technology has taken the place of time in our lives. We’ve conquered the long arc of history in two generations. Natural evolution doesn’t even serve us anymore. We’ve evolved to the point where we have self awareness and altruism; Humans are the only animals that will run into a burning building to save a stranger. We’re burdened by the older, more primitive parts of our brains, though. How can we have such a capacity for good, yet choose not to use it? The perfect brain would be one with compassion and intellect, without greed or envy.

The hardest hurdle I had to overcome was to combine a machine intelligence with a virus. I developed nanobots that can integrate themselves into the virus and give a larger direction to the growth and expansion of the organic cells. The organic and technological parts of the virobot control each others growth but will start to die without the symbiotic partner to support it. The virus provides fuel for the machines and the machines direct the growth of the virus. I took an influenza virus and removed most of the virulent parts of it, replacing it with genetic code that produces more fuel for the nanobots. It was my genius in combining the two that made everything possible.

BREAK. End of Line. New File.

I thought I was blind for a moment. My vision clouded over and I flailed about frantically until it cleared. I realized that I hadn’t moved at all, I just thought I did. The virobots are nearly at my shoulder now. I can barely move my free hand to swipe at them. I’m remembering old things from my past. They’re coming at me unbidden and in an incomprehensible stream. One memory keeps coming back again and again.

I met Stacy at the lowest point of my life. I had lost my position and been assigned a new dwelling permit. She lived in my new housing block. I was dismissive at first, I was still despondent with my new circumstance. She saw something in me that I didn’t recognize at the time, though. Somehow, she knew that I was not the brash, intolerant fool she saw every day. Even though I couldn’t imagine regaining what I’d lost, she persisted in giving me small kindnesses. I may never know why, but she saved me from that self destructive spiral. She treated me better than I deserved. Slowly, I warmed towards her, and I began to forget my studied cynicism. Then, I made the biggest mistake of my life. The closer we became, the more restless I felt. When a new position became available in the capital, I took it without a second thought. I moved away, thinking of nothing but power and prestige. The prefect himself gave me the codes for my new office. It was only late at night, when I dreamed of Stacy, that my conscience bothered me.

Before I can dwell on my past, the images are gone. There’s a coldness to my thoughts now that I don’t recognize. I can’t understand why the memory of Stacy was so important to me a moment ago. There are no more virobots on my skin, but I still feel the tingling in my hands. They tremble, but I’m not nervous or angry. I’m measuring time differently, now. My heart is beating so slowly. Intermittent organic profile, compensating. I’m beginning to understand the language of the machine. Instead of fighting, I should embrace this new power and use it. Those old attachments are nothing to me, just objects that cast no shadows in this new light. My hands no longer tremble, they grip this reality with a new confidence.

I swept the experiment off the work bench without realizing it. It’s inconsequential, anyway. That was a small man’s attempt to create something he didn’t understand. I understand, now. He relied on emotion and ambition. I will set a new purpose for my work and spread this enlightenment as far as I can.

Host access granted. Biological anomalies deleted. System ready.

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