(There are more.)
The master’s eyes darted around, and he continued in a low voice:
When we do our work poorly, we are replaced with our betters. When we do our work well, the thing we have built grows larger, faster, more powerful, more entrenched, more hungry. Sometimes I lie awake in a cold sweat, unable to decide if we are still building it, or if it has begun using us to build itself …
(Link received with gratitude from JF — a more precise attribution might be unwelcome.)
Bakker (in fictional mode):
“… is the experience of freedom the same as having freedom?”
“They are one and the same.”
“But then why … why did you have to be blinded to experience freedom?”
“Because you cannot experience the sources of your actions and decisions and still experience human freedom. Neglect is what makes the feeling possible. To be human is to be incapable of seeing your causal continuity with nature, to think you are something more than a machine.”
He looked at her with his trademark skeptical scowl. “So what was so wrong with the other DIMEs, then? Why did they have to be destroyed … if they were actually more than humans, I mean? Were the people just scared or something? Embarrassed?”
“There was that, sure. Do you remember how the angry crowds always made you cry? Trust me, you were our little nuke, public relations-wise! But your father thinks the problem was actually bigger. The tools humans have evolved allow them to neglect tremendous amounts of information. Unfortunately for DIMEs, those tools are only reliable in the absence of that information, the very kinds of information they possessed. If a DIME were to kill someone, say, then in court they could provide a log of all the events that inexorably led to the murder. They could always prove there was no way ‘they could have done otherwise’ more decisively than any human defendant could hope to. They only need to be repaired, while the human does hard time. Think about it. Why lock them up, when it is really is the case that they only need be repaired? The tools you use—the tools your father gave me—simply break down.”
If the example she had given had confused him, the moral seemed plain as day at least.
“Sooo… you’re saying DIMEs weren’t stupid enough to be persons?”
Sour grin. “Pretty much.”
It’s a strange story. (Extreme, fluent meta-fiction, with a video fable.)
Absolute Discretion. “Like a circle, a book must be closed.”
Suddenly I realized: The image Huxley had found was partial, probably having been damaged by data loss or edited by the Restoration algorithm when the volume was restored from the Internet Fragments. Or else it had been censored before then, the left third of the image replaced by a pattern generated by the neural nets that were popular in those days. We still weren’t allowed to possess idols of the Founders. That was probably it. And so, a sea of Kyles and Jakes and Dereks and Adams and Kevins, flood-filling the remainder left by Zuckerberg’s deletion.
From the notes to Watts’ Blindsight:
The undead state in which Theseus carries her crew is, of course, another iteration of the venerable suspended animation riff (although I’d like to think I’ve broken new ground by invoking vampire physiology as the mechanism).
From Laird Barron’s Nemesis:
“Let me be clear, there is no Machine,” Director Mallory said to close his remarks at the Star Chamber deposition. This emergency hearing was in response to an international crisis that appeared to be rapidly mutating into a global apocalypse. Blame had to be apportioned and attributed. Heads were going to roll, and how. The Director snapped his briefcase shut and strode out a side exit. He skipped lunch at the grill that day, became quite scarce indeed.
The Machine activated again six hours later and its effects were irreversible.
But by that time, when shit hit the fan for real, the Director was already aboard an emergency capsule speeding toward the moon. He and ninety-seven other bureaucrats, technicians, scientists, and prostitutes survived on a base hidden in a crater on the dark side for nineteen months. Eventually, they all perished of starvation, or mayhem induced by a cabin fever type syndrome. He went last—blew the station to smithereens with mining explosives and then unzipped his environmental suit to vacuum and watched his life boil away. He was lonely, not sorry. No one back on Earth cared. He’d been long forgotten.
From Peter Watts’ Blindsight (p.261), on dark interspecies cryptographic game-theory:
It may take a while to figure out how. Some may shrink from fire, others from fire, others from toxic gas or liquid. Some creatures may be invulnerable to blowtorches and grenades, but shriek in terror at the threat of ultrasonic sound. You have to experiment; and when you discover just the right stimulus, the optimum balance between pain and injury, you must inflict it without the remorse.
You leave them an escape hatch, of course. That’s the very point of the exercise: give one of your subjects the means to end the pain, but give the other the information required to use it. To one you might present a single shape, while showing the other a whole selection. The pain will stop when the being with the menu chooses the item its partner has seen. So let the games begin. Watch your subjects squirm. If — when — they trip the off switch, you’ll know at least some of the information they exchanged; and if you record everything that passed between the, you’ll start to get some idea of how they exchanged it.
Whe they solve one puzzle, give them a new one. Mix things up. Switch their roles. See how they do at circles versus squares. Try them out on factorials and Fibonnacis. Continue until Rosetta Stone results.
This is how you communicate wuith a fellow intelligence: You hurt it, and keep on hurting it, until you can distinguish the speech from the screams.
This is too intelligent for its own good. Early snippet:
… I opened the door and caused a stunningly beautiful girl to fall off a stepladder. “Euphemism!” she said. I swear to God she said “Euphemism.”
“Are you okay?” I asked. She was. She was holding two big yellow letters. I looked up at our sign. It was missing two big yellow letters.
“What do you think you’re doing?” I asked. I am bad at sounding threatening, but she was like 5’4, maybe 5’5, and also lying on the ground looking very ashamed, and so putting menace into my voice was easier than usual.
“Kabbalah,” she said.
I looked up at the sign again. It read CASH OR GOD
“It’s a kabbalistic protest,” she said faintly. “Against a society that thinks…”
“You’re not a kabbalist. If you were a kabbalist, you’d have more respect! You can’t just go removing letters from signs like that! Matthew 5:18: ‘Verily I say unto you, not a single letter, nor even a stroke of a letter, shall be removed until all is fulfilled.’”
“Oh, you want to go there?” She caught her breath and stood back up. “Matthew 16:4: ‘This evil and adulterous generation wants a sign, but no sign shall be given to it.’”
I blinked. Maybe she was a kabbalist.
“But,” I said, “By removing the letter L, you make “God” out of “gold”. But the warning against idolatry in Exodus 20:23 says ‘You shall not make a god out of gold.’”
“But,” said the girl, “Exodus 25 says that you shall take gold and turn it unto the Lord.”
Now I was annoyed.
“You have taken an L and an F,” I said. “But if you map the Latin alphabet to Hebrew gematria, L and F sum to twenty-six. The Tetragrammaton also has a gematria value of twenty six. So taking an L and an F is mystically equivalent to taking the Name of God. But the Third Commandment is ‘You shall not take the Name of God in vain.’”
“But the sound of L and F together,” she said, “is ‘aleph’, and aleph is silent and represents nothingness. So I have taken nothing.”
I heard the whine of a siren.
“Tell it to the cops,” I said. …
It wanders into more science fictional territory.