Part 28: The more things change...
Press Conference 'The 25th Century'
During the start of the 21st century, a widespread belief appeared that the world was about to undergo what they called the technological singularity. This, according to visionaries, was a moment in time in which technological progress accelerates beyond the realms of human comprehension. Of course, it didn't happen.
To those who follow the scientific news, the recent progress in Gaian technology has indeed been described as a singularity. There is just one ingredient missing: the creation of true AI - truly conscious, truly sentient computer intelligences. Project Pyrrho was an University project into the possibility of this occurring.
The technology was basic, granted. Before there was even a full understanding of pre-sentient algorithms, the University began the replication of human brain cell networks of coma victims - starting with a young woman called Aki Luttinen, who never woke up after an experiment on the UNS Unity. Ultimately, this lack of technology was to be failure point of the project. With the high level of computation lag and lack of good sensory content emulation, patients rapidly lost patience, became introspective, and ended in full-scale rejection. In bioenhancement centres across the University, the story was the same:
'We are all aware that the senses can be deceived, the eyes fooled. But how can we be sure our senses are not being deceived at any particular time, or even all the time? Might I just be a brain in a tank somewhere, tricked all my life into believing in the events of this world by some insane computer? And does my life gain or lose meaning based on my reaction to such solipsism?'
Not to understate the achievements of our scientists, but the University work gave us a substantial leg up in this line of research. Without it, we would have to have spent decades on animal based experiments, moving up from mice to primates and finally to humans. The University project results showed us that the real crux of the problem lay with the more complex brains of the the homo sapien, with its subtle discernment of reality from fiction. No need for inhumane animal experiments, we plotted a straight course to volunteer work.
Today, we have the technology to make what was impossible now possible. The procedure is simple - parts of the brain are scanned, and then their neurone structure duplicated by electronic means, and the duplicates connected to the original by a direct electrochemical interface. Over time, more and more of the brain is duplicated, and eventually, the original brain cells atrophy, resulting finally in a purely virtual intelligence.
I thought we'd leave questions till the end, but, yes?
Rolf Anderson, Gaian News Network. Isn't this research unethical? The Cult of Planet and other agencies have declared that no non-human consciousness can exist, and no machine can contain a soul. So that in effect, all you are doing is killing the original. What would you say to that?
Now, the Cult is entitled to their beliefs. In many ways the present administration has carried out their wishes, including the test program at replanting fungus. But I must say that I disagree with their screed, the so-called 'We Must Dissent', on this one.
Consider - at what stage in our experiment does the patient actually die? The step by step, brain cell by brain cell operation that goes from cyber-augmentation to cyber-replacement at no stage even changes the personal perception of the individual - they can stop at any time. What's more, we must ask, what is so holy about biochemistry? Why can't quantum electronics do what artificially replicable polymers like DNA can and build conscious life out of unconscious matter? I propose that consciousness, even the soul, could care less whether it is built out of silicon, qubits, or semi-replicating semi-permeable corpuscles.
Besides, we will be taking only volunteers. We aren't monsters. People from all segments of society are welcome to participate. From the poorest of drones to even the highest level officials of this government. We will prioritise those who are suffering from illness or injury, and are likely to die soon anyway. We are not killing. We are saving lives.
But surely, Mrs Skye, you are rushing into this with no thought of the implications. I believe I speak for many when I say that it seems that this, together with the growing reliance of Gaian cities on fungus cultivation, and the steady stream of alien artifacts carted in from the polar expedition, seems reflective of a government that is losing touch with humanity. Do you see the recent mass resignation of Empaths - except for a select few within the Guild - to be evidence for the widespread public opposition to the direction of this 'upload' research?
I don't need to answer this question.
Then do you...
Because I have someone here to answer it for you. Mr Jostiband, a former empath of Gaia's Landing.
But there's nobody with...
UPLOAD, MR ANDERSON? I PREFER TO THINK OF IT AS TRANSCENDENCE.
Personal Log, Sensor Officer XC01
The klaxon sounded on the top of the sensor tower. I rang up base, and gave the new coordinates.
"Large clump, no, three large clumps, emerging West of Velvetgrass, sir. Eruption events, probably, corresponding to magnitude 2 tremors last night. Heading Eastwards... Right, confirmed, 1 demon class visible, 2 great boil class ones."
"Ok, handler teams assigned to intercept course. You may stand down."
I clicked the switch that deactivated the tachyon fields at the base of the tower, which kept the area clear of fungus. In the event of a worm attack, they would do little, and the worms, it was rumoured had a tendency to go after power sources. Best to lie low, and let the army deal with it.
From our telescopes, we could see a further clump of worms break off from some nearby former crews. Our worms, of course. In their single minded, slow advance, the wild types did not notice the newcomers until it's too late. It was over quickly, and soon only a thick slick of slime remains.
"Another failed capture, it looks like. Patrol is reporting the same reason again. 'Interference from some other intelligence'."
"Man, they just don't stop coming," my partner commented. "What's that, the third time this month?"
"Plus, down south, they say that the long awaited flying variety has been sighted."
"I wonder why they are going after us so hard. Yang's surely doing worse things to the ecosphere. I sure hope Lady Skye has a plan..."
Memo to Chief of Requisitions, Gaian High Command
>Construction of the 'Hammer' devices continues apace, as you have ordered. The 3rd batch of missiles have rolled off the production lines, bringing our total to 6. We're opening up a third production facility as we speak.
>I must still question your suggestion to make use of... the new workers.
>The specimens you provided (where are you getting them from?) are doing their job well, and have managed to figure out in their three-brain-cell skulls how to use the new machinery, but do you have any idea the consequences if they are discovered? Might I remind you how I am risking my career with this? Appropriating resources from Deirdre's tech projects isn't easy!
>With the Space Elevator / Backup, we already have full space superiority over the Hive. Do we truly need so many missiles?
I believe, comrade, that you are having trouble conceiving the strength of our foe. Look at the following intel excerpts:
What the Hive is producing is a massive army of cloned and mind controlled troops. Gaian Intelligence profiles of the current Hive society as being eudaimonic and pacifist in nature are hopelessly naive. The Hivers are happy, because they have no choice but to be happy. As quick as a flash, those boxes filling to the brim with the indoctrinated can be turned loose, and new militant programming pumped in by Hive telepath enforcers.
We must prepare the most extreme fail safes to deal with this. There is no other way to ensure victory.
>I am losing confidence in your plan. I understand that we are close to acquiring the ultimate in both defensive and offensive technology.
>But in the end, all the high tech units in the world will not matter if we fail to get the native units under our control.
Watch and wait. I will first give Deirdre one last chance to see sense.
-General Joacquim (email@example.com)
What will be
- Passive: We'll mostly be defending ourselves. Maybe a little nibbling at outlying resources, and a little bombarding of improvements/unarmed infrastructure, but that's it.
- Restricted warfare: We'll conduct small scale ground and air invasions into Surrey and Clapton, aimed at taking a few strategy Secret Projects - telepathic matrix, neural amplifier, etc
- Unrestricted warfare: We'll try to wipe out the Hive entirely.