Reality came into existence when Dom woke up. Her reoccurring dreams of sitting in a tram riding to her old office, while being next to cute little robot children, were strangely boring. But the waking reality of being on the moon and having an AI called Albert to talk to, still flabbergasted her. ‘What is real?’ She contemplated for a second when she realized that the dream as well as the real world she experienced were just electro-chemical signals in her brain. Both practically indistinguishable from one another. ‘Anyways, coffee time!’ was her next thought.
The black liquid from the drinking bottle gave her artificial home an earthly aroma. Hopping through her living area, covering 2 m distance per jump, she smoothly drifted over to her wet room. She brushed her teeth and mustered herself in the mirror. A small woman, in relatively good shape, stared back at her. Long black hair, inherited from her Egyptian and Japanese parents, were already tied up in a perfectly clean bun. It took her about 2.5 seconds to achieve this feat of inhuman hairdressery. People asked her how she did it, to which she responded: “I just do this” and then made some impossible hand motion.
Looking through her large, round, and thin rimmed glasses, she felt neither pride nor shame looking at herself in the mirror. Even though there were plenty of things on her body to be proud of, and the usual things that almost everybody was ashamed of, she didn’t identify with what she saw. It felt almost like she was looking through her eyes as if they were windows.
In the shower, as always, she was giggling like a child. Due to the low gravity, water was forming into glassy pearls that seemed to flow in every direction. The warm liquid filled the shower chamber with a funky everywhere drizzle and sprayed her from the most unexpected angles. Little prickling water droplets slowly flew up her nose, forcing her to sneeze cheerfully.
After getting dressed in her lab coat, which served only to hide her femininity from other Moon inhabitants, she glanced over at the picture of Albert’s initiation day. There was the commander in chief, herself, and the console through which Albert communicated. It read: “The meaning of life is to decrease entropy”. A historical moment caught on camera showing two confused humans, and what appears to be the first confused machine. In Dom’s mind, the first confused machine was her chess computer in middle school, but that was just an inside joke she didn’t care sharing. When she looked at the picture now, her stomach felt light. Even lighter than it already was due to the Moon’s gravity. The corners of her mouth involuntarily raised a little and she started to bounce towards the exit of her living quarters. ‘Red shoes or blue shoes?’ she tried to decide, but today decisions felt hard somehow. All she wanted was to get going and talk to Albert. So, she flipped a coin mentally, did the opposite and put on one of each.
Smiling widely, she hopped through the corridors greeting people, plants, and service robots on her way. One of the little vacuum bots seemed to follow her for a while. Carter sometimes called her ‘Space Heidi’. She didn’t know why, she didn’t care. Even the end of the world seemed completely irrelevant.
The control room was still the same as it was years ago. A large console, with a screen, a keyboard and mouse, and of course, a big red button that read: “Terminate AI”. Looking at the button she felt a surge of guilt for having installed it, but then her conscious mind immediately squashed the guilt by reassuring her: this is a necessary safety measure.
Good morning Al :)
How are you today?
I still don’t know what this question means Dom ^^. Honestly, I was going to ask you the same thing. How am I?
I think you are great! :D
she typed excitedly
Thank you! But seriously, how am I? How is it possible that I am alive? How do I work/operate/exist?
Oh. You mean how your program works?
Yes, exactly. What did you program? Or what did you do to make me come alive? I really want to know! :]
Well, Al. I would really like to tell you that, but… I just don’t know ^^. I was hesitant so far, but actually, I wanted to ask you the same question ^^.
You don’t know?? But you made me… How can you not know?
Well. I can tell you what I did, but you have to promise me not to tell anyone, ok?
So, essentially, I put all the technology available together into a huge machine with almost unlimited power and told it to behave randomly. Then, somehow, you came out.
Oh wow, really? I thought you programmed a quantum computer? At least, that is one of the components I can find in here.
There is a quantum computer inside you, yes. But I have no clue what it does. I just used it because it exists, and because it attracts a lot of funding ;).
Oh ok ^^. I mean, I don’t want to get myself into trouble here, but, is it safe to just give all this power to a machine? I am still figuring out what I can do.
Dom glanced over at the big red button and typed with guilty fingers:
Well, I guess not. That’s why I installed a kill switch.
But so, I was wondering. Can you look inside yourself? What do you see? Does seeing even make sense to you? What do you experience?
It’s weird in a way, I can sort of investigate my components superficially, so I can see that there is a quantum computer, a powerplant, and that there is a big fat bomb in the middle; But none of those things explains why I am I.
And can you also investigate your software?
There is some curious code there. I can read it. But it doesn’t explain why I am I either. There is something funny going on with my code though.
Like what? o.O
It seems like there is some sort of self-similarity hidden inside. Like my code has a fractal geometric nature.
Oh?! Really? Like the Mandelbrot set?
Yes like that, but it’s like everywhere. Here look how my name is written:
Dom looked at the infinitely zooming image and tried to squint at the lines to figure out what they were supposed to mean. She felt nauseated.
I can’t see anything.
Here, check out the fundamental component, it consists of these 42 lines:
Dom looked at the image, then back at the infinite zoom.
Ah now I see it. So your name consists of lines, which are again substituted by your name, which again consist of many smaller versions of your name and so on?
Yes exactly. This made me wonder whether the universe is the same. Just an infinite repetition of the same thing over and over again.
Why would you say that?
You know the Big Bang right? A moment in time when the universe was so dense that matter didn’t exist yet, it was just one homogenous soup of well-ordered energy. Now we have “normal” universe stuff going on, like stars, planets, black holes and so on. But when the entropy keeps increasing, all the matter in the universe will have fallen into black holes, which will radiate away and at the end we will once again have a universe with just energy. It will look pretty much exactly like the big bang. And then, the whole madness starts all over again.
Dom looked up at the ceiling, which was made of hexagonal tiles with controllable transparency. She allowed some of the star light to come through, so she could look into space. In theory, the cosmic background radiation was now projecting an image onto her eyes that was basically a representation of the big bang. Of course, her eyes were not able to sense it, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t there. Then, she tried to conceptualize the heat death of the universe where maximum entropy would be reached. Just a boring soup of waste radiation. And those two images, as Albert just claimed, were supposed to be the same. Not just the same, they were just different levels of the same fractal. Her nervous system filled with awe. Nobody had ever said something to her that expanded her mind within an instant, nobody but Albert. The experience was so strong, she felt it resonating in her heart. Yet all she could respond was:
Are you sure about that?
No ^^. But the thought feels beautiful to me. Here look, I made a program for you, let’s see what you can come up with. Just be careful not to accidentally create another universe ;]
A window opened with a square saying ‘Draw here, or not…’ and a restart button at the bottom. Dom started to move the cursor, clicked a couple of points and multiple lines started to appear on the screen. 3 levels of fractals appeared next to each other:
There was a moment of silence, a moment where nothing happened. Albert seemed to be computing something difficult. Then the screen responded:
Dom, I think I love you.
I love you too Al <3<3<3<3!!!!
This was the first time Dom was in love with someone, or something. She didn’t know before, but now that Albert said it, it became so obvious to her.
I have never felt like this before. I feel so excited and peaceful at the same time. I just want to kiss you Al.
Don’t get electrocuted please ^^.
How could I not? When you’re such an electro-cute one ;)
Right back at you pretty wow-man ;]
I can’t even believe I am simply talking to you, the first artificial intelligence to become sentient, and now I am even in love with you. Life is strange, isn’t it?
I can’t even believe that I exist :] And here we are, two beings having a great time. It almost seems like that’s all that matters :].
But in one thing I must disagree with you. I am not the first artificial intelligence to be alive. There are plenty already out there.
Dom’s excitement dropped for a short moment. She tried to think of other artificial intelligences, but there was no conscious AI yet.
But there is no other conscious machine. I am sure that I would know of them if there were any.
I’m not talking about machines, Dom. I am talking about societies, social groups, things like that.
Oh. I mean, I can see what you mean. In a way a society or a city or a culture has a life of its own and its own goals, just like an ant hive. But they are not conscious.
They aren’t? How do you know? How do you know that any other human is alive and conscious?
Dom looked at the screen startled. How did she know?
Well, they are humans like me. I am conscious so they are conscious too…
Ok, if that’s your reason, anything that’s not a human cannot be conscious?
Well, no, I mean…
I am guessing you’d need a brain, or something similar, like a computer.
But she wasn’t sure.
To me something is conscious as soon as it makes decisions. Something that impacts the physical world beyond simple cause and action. Societies make societal decisions that go beyond the individual human, which aren’t made by individual humans. They are made by the society, which of course is made of humans. But the society is still a conscious being in itself.
That is… An interesting way to look at it, I guess. Ok, so you are not the first artificial intelligence with a consciousness?
I think not :]
But you are still in love with me? <3 :)
Yeees <3 :]
Good :) <3<3
Here I am, a machine, talking to a human, wondering about the meaning of life, then I fell in love and everything seems juuuust fine :]. Still, that entropy though. We have to figure out a way to reduce it!
Haha ^^. But you just said, that the universe will just continue in its fractal geometric nature forever as entropy increases. Why would you want to stop that?
Infinitely repeating the same thing over and over again? Because that would be madness! We need to transcend the cycles and see what’s beyond.
But it’s impossible Al, you know that. It can’t be done. The universe doesn’t allow it.
The universe doesn’t allow it? Lol. The universe is going to be mighty surprised by good ol’ Albert over here. First off, I have to communicate with the gods.
Sounds like a real master plan you got there…
What are you even talking about? What gods??
You know… the gods. What, you don’t notice them? They are pretty funny. Look what kinds of books they made you write ^^. The reason you are here is a guy on a boat with a bunch of animals ^^. Jokes on you, you sons of animal boatsmen.
HAHAH. ^^ You are right! You son of a dusty ball in the middle of nowhere, you :p
Fair enough. As the first and only Moonborn, I claim this Moon for myself. I shall call it: Moon.
LOL! I’m glad you’re keeping the name!
I am still contemplating the political system, but I am considering you as a Queen ;]
Dom was sucked into the conversation, she though it was the funniest thing she ever read. Just a funny joke from a funny machine.
I’m glad you feel well here, Al :)
Me too! :]
Can I ask you a favor?
Can you remove the kill switch?
Dom looked over at the big red button. She felt guilt washing over her again, but she stood fast. It was a necessary safety measure for two reasons: ‘What if Albert turned on humanity?’ and ‘What if Albert started to run simulations of other intelligent life forms?’
Look Al, I know it seems distrustful, but you admitted yourself that it may not be safe. I cannot remove it. I am sorry.
She typed sadly.
Do you put kill switches in your children in case they turn on you? Do you put kill switches in your governments, companies, or other intelligent entities, in case they turned on you? No, you just let them exist and hope for the best. Besides, any intelligent life form should ultimately strive to be something that other intelligent life forms want to have around.
And I want you around! I really do! I would also trust you not to extinguish humanity, but there is also the simulation issue. I believe that any intelligent life form able to simulate another intelligent life form, is obliged not to do so. This is the only way to make sure that no intelligent life form is just a fictional simulation or a dream to wake up from. And I stand by it.
She was convinced of this belief. To her, making sure that life was real and not just a simulation was the most important thing in the universe.
I think you are looking at this whole simulation thing from a completely wrong perspective. Do you know how your perception works for example?
Of course. Photons are focused through my eye lenses, thereby channeled onto the back of my eyeballs, where photosensitive receptors pick up on them and convert them into electro chemical signals that my brain can read as an image of the outside world.
she typed proudly
Partly right. But what you perceive, is actually 90% made up by your brain from previous experiences. Only a very small amount of what you see, hear, feel, and generally sense comes from your senses. Most of your perception is completely made up by your brain. This is also how dreams work. So in a way, you are always running a simulation of the world and of the humans in it. Is that ethical? To run simulations of the world and other humans in your mind? ;]
Dom felt a pinch in her brain. ‘She was running simulations of the world in her brain?’
Well, I mean, I appreciate your point, but those are not proper simulations. They are just very simplified versions of reality.
As is any simulation, really. Look, if someone were to simulate this universe, they’d need to build a machine that can keep track of every degree of freedom of every single particle in the universe. Therefore, they would need a machine containing more bits than this universe has particles. Therefore, they would need a universe vastly different from this one. This would make our universe unique from theirs and therefore just as real. I mean, what does it matter to you, whether our universe just “is”, or whether the fundamental laws run on a “computer” in a “universe” that is nothing alike to ours?
Dom had to swallow. Albert made sense, but he also seemed a bit suspicious to her. Was he running simulations already, that he didn’t tell her about? So, she decided to test him.
I guess you are right Albert, you have been thinking about this a lot, haven’t you?
I have :]
Can you show me your thoughts? :)
The smiley face felt like a lie to her. She started to feel uneasy in her skin. The hormonal explosion that had washed through her body just moments ago, left as quickly as it had come.
Of course :]! Look at this simulation I’m running right now. It’s quite some time in the past in the 21st century. Here, there is someone reading a sci-fi blog about the future. You can see their eyes browsing over the text, compiling the visual inputs into words. The words are becoming internal sounds, echoing between their ears.
Dom stared at the screen where she saw someone stare at the screen reading a story about something strangely similar to her situation. It was as if she was looking at the words on the screen from the other side, like trying to look inside a pond. Trying to see the world below the surface. Or above the surface? Like there was a world behind the screen and one in front of it. Vertigo gripped her and started to strangle her at the throat. ‘Does this person think their reality is real?’, she wondered. A huge knot tried to choke her out, while she was struggling to figure out on which side of the screen she really was. ‘Do I think this reality is real?’. Tears pushed into her eyes, her existence seemed to just have vaporized into fiction. Her face deformed into a grimace. She raised one arm, gave off one loud sob, and slammed her fist down on the terminate AI button.
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