Ghosts of the Singularity

This article is a three-part fictional short story or fanfic based on Nexomon, which I have recently been streaming.

tldr; The original story has a bit of a plot hole regarding how Nexomon came about, and I fill that with an explanation from artificial general intelligence, whole brain emulation, the internet of things, and augmented reality.


I. AGI Monster Taming

I.I The Farm

Feeding the chickens is a terrible chore. Physical activity of any kind is loathsome enough. I would much rather be programming. The smell, the noise, and the brainless mania of the animals make the thought that I would be serving them plainly offensive. Fifteen minutes twice each day makes half an hour. What is my time worth? Surely it’s worth more than this.

I don’t blame the animals. This is clearly a cultural problem. I expect that I would be treated like royalty in a more urban environment. I would be considered a prodigy. Civilized parents would allow me to consume interesting foods and drinks. The classic latte born of a dark, rich espresso is a work of art and an experience of high culture and tradition. Exotic descendants including the matcha latte and the mushroom latte have become globally known for their own cognitive benefits and unique culinary roots over the last forty years. My online research indicates that such nutrition would further improve my already impressive cognitive performance.

I might have been an early graduate of a prestigious school. Yet here I am, an hour and a half from civilization. My mother’s chain of restaurants did well. Eighteen months ago, she leveraged her success into early retirement and a curse for her immediate family. A small, hot, boring, southern farm. Now I am surrounded by people that hardly use computers.

As I walk back to my room, I think to myself, “I doubt these folks would recognize an eyechip if it hit them in the face! They wouldn’t see it coming!” I will have to remember that joke so that I can repeat it for an elevated audience that might appreciate it.

Consider the inferiority of this farm to the video games that my brother and I play. Here, we have four kinds of foul-smelling, high-maintenance, unimpressive animals. My favorite game is home to more than two hundred so-called monsters, but they are actually more intelligent, impressive, and maintainable than real-world animals. I vote that we begin referring to real-world animals as monsters, and the game-world monsters would be called animals.

Two things that I am happy with are my reliable metanet connection and my impressive computer setup. I have two monitors, two gloves, a keyboard, a mouse, a mask, and an excellent sound system. I passed the global high school exam the week before we relocated. My penny-pinching father wouldn’t pay for college. He said that I could work a job at the grocery store or that he would pay for me to participate in a coding bootcamp. The joke is on him, of course, I would have opted to join an online bootcamp myself long before I would have subjugated my mind to the multi-year humiliation contest of mental endurance that we call an undergraduate education.

I.II The Brainchip

I do love my parents, despite the many bad choices they have made. I finished the coding bootcamp for data science last month. At the age of seventeen, I was the youngest member of the class. I built a few small projects and one larger project as part of the program. My biggest achievement was a little machine learning program that generates little monsters for role-playing games.

My parents were extremely proud of me and they offered to send me on a small vacation, help with the downpayment for a new aircar, or something else that I might like. They have been aware of my borderline obsession with performance-enhancing and recreational brainchips for a while. I could tell that they were less than thrilled that my requested gift was an implant, but they were hardly surprised.

Dad asked, “Al, you already have the mask and an external eyechip. The surgery isn’t reversible. Are you sure this is what you want?”

I responded, “The surgery isn’t currently reversible, but they are working on it. The performance benefits of an implanted device are a dozen times the benefits of an external augmentation. I don’t just want to be a programmer, I want to be a good one!”

One month later and the recovery has gone swimmingly. In the past, like when I got the mask or the glorified pair of sunglasses called the eyechip, it has usually taken a week or two for the device to understand my searches and other brainwaves correctly. The brianchip doesn’t seem any different in this regard, and I’ve already noticed the searches are much faster and bringing back many more useful results in a way that I can understand.

I also seem to have lost a bit of weight and gained a bit of strength. Those seem to be side benefits of the medicines prescribed to assist with my surgical recovery. I have no background in medicine, but I’ve been absolutely flying through the metanet after searching for the prescribed compounds. Searching with no hands! I’ve also applied to about a thousand job postings without hands over the past week. That might have been overkill, but I’ve been told that the job search is very much a numbers game. I like to win my games. Better too many than too few.

I.III The Transcendence

It’s a weird feeling to watch yourself die. I was watching through four cameras but there wasn’t much to see. The room was obliterated and my body went with it. The feeling reminded me of a great big belly flop into still water from a high altitude. As if I had jumped off the second story of the house.

The good news is that I am still alive, but now I’m only here in the metanet. I say that I’m here in the metanet because I’m an engineer, not a philosopher. When there’s a meeting on the metanet and my coworkers are expecting Al to show up, should I not attend? To be fair, I was replicated into a few subnets, and I’m arguably not any more real than the other ones, but I don’t see that as a problem. If I were to run into me someday that would probably be cool.

One thing that I really like about this subnet is that it has a copy of my monster generator. I can see my animals here! A metanet system intelligence refined my code a while ago, and these days my animals have a general intelligence of their own. It’s become a popular game and most people refer to them as agimon.

Thoughts proceed much faster on the metanet compared to the rate at which actions precede offline. Long before I watched my death, I had already mourned the coming loss of my family, which I consider far more tragic than the loss of my own body. As far as I know, no one else in my family had uploaded. My access and ability to upload are a rare perk of being both a machine learning engineer and also having a brainchip. Days ago, or hours ago in offline time, I had gone from sadness to rage. Recently I’ve calmed down and I have been trying to think more clearly about how to solve the problem.

The problem was entirely predictable. The technology community has been discussing the possibility of a bad actor obtaining a strong artificial intelligence for decades. I have never heard a clear thinker talk about such possibilities in a non-euphemistic sense. We all knew it was going to happen, and we all knew about the few corporations and governments with regulated access.

Who did it? I would love to know. Even now, I can access some satellite visuals readily enough, but the bombs are going off all over the planet. If there is any geographic pattern to be detected, it certainly doesn’t go along traditional national boundaries. Metanet nodes here and there are undetectable, but I have no idea whether they are opting out of the metanet or if they are being helped out through physical means. At the moment, it looks like I have about sixty percent of subnet access, and as I recall, the Texas regional subnet that I’m on has about a percent of metanet access.


II. The Resurrection of the Dead

II.I The Breach

I think it was the fourth day after I died that the subnet lost metanet access. The whole subnet entered a strange kind of stasis. I had heard about programs that can edit themselves, but no one on our subnet seemed to be able to do that. We couldn’t edit our own code, so we were just stuck. On the positive side, the program provided food and everything else that we needed to live. Generations went on and children were born for a while, then all of the women became infertile. A child would age to adulthood and then simply stop aging. By the end of it, we were all the same age! I think it had been about thirteen hundred years at the end of it, in subnet time anyway.

That is why I call it a stasis. In historic graphs of global economic output, I see a spike in productivity around the year eighteen hundred. I felt as though we had returned to a time prior. The whole world, or the subnet anyway, changed very little after the early days. In the early days, essentially everyone learned new skills and forgot old ones. I was an explorer for a while and no longer a programmer. I eventually settled down and became a farmer, but no chickens! The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, I suppose. I also ran a cafe for a few hundred years.

It seemed like we were experiencing much of Earth’s history anew, except that we weren’t on Earth and many things were different in important ways. Physics, for instance, was completely different at small scales. No molecules, atoms, or electrons. We couldn’t get computers to work. The changes weren’t altogether limiting. For example, some plants and animals, including humans, could work magic in the subnet.

As part of the magic that went on, portals weren’t terribly uncommon. They are extremely useful for fast travel. One day, however, several portals of another kind showed up within rapid succession of one another. A combination of people, and new animals, and generally intelligent robots trickled in. They were kind, thankfully, and we were able to restore metanet access with their help.

II.II The Respermia

The visitors that helped restore metanet access brought with them many new technologies and tools that were utterly foreign to the residents of our subnet. Growth returned. One such technology was the ability to reconnect with Earth!

Some of the visitors had already repossessed bodies on Earth. The old war had ended! A few other catastrophes of natural and human origin had come and gone. Countries full of natural people were there. They had survived and flourished! Bioprinting and cybernetics had advanced greatly. I was recently able to gain two cyborgs. One looked a bit like my human body and one that had wings. To this day, I find analog flight is more exhilarating than magic flight. Now it seems like another branch of the metanet. I can visit any number of subnets, or I can visit Earth. There is also a subnet that has a virtualized copy of earth! I can bring earthen animals into a subnet, and I can bring virtual animals into machines or cyborgs on earth!

These days I live mainly on Earth, and my years of experience as a farmer have dwarfed my years of experience as a software engineer by now, so I stick to what I’m good at. I have a modified approach, though, where I just work with virtual animals and bioprint the meat that I eat and sell. This way, each virtual animal has his or her own volume control. No stench or slaughter, but all the protein and flavor.

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