“Do you think The Singularity could ever really happen?” they asked while they kicked back with their feet up on my front porch.
“How do you know it hasn’t already?” I counter-offered.
“Do you not think we would know?”
“Well, if this was a simulation probably not.”
“What’s the difference between a simulation created by AI and one created by God?” they retorted.
“True,” I said sipping my whiskey “I suppose the illusion of free choice is the same.”
“Nah god gave you humans enough free choice to fuck it up and look what you went and did with it.”
“True” Why did I keep agreeing with the devil, the epitome of evil, so much so that I was even starting to enjoy their company?
“Do you really believe that this could all be a simulation? Like the ones you create.”
“It's possible. Slightly more advanced and complex than the ones I create if you look carefully in the right places in Ultra-High you can see its fabric, its makeup. But it is certainly possible.”
“What makes you think that?”
“Well, I am sat on my porch, sipping whiskey, and conversing with the Devil for a start. That’s pretty strange. Some would argue unrealistically so.”
“Only if you believe I don’t exist.”
“Which is true of 99.9% of the population of the world, including me.”
“So, you think you're in a simulation?”
I had to tread carefully here. If I were in a simulation, the very fact of naming it and exposing it could cause it to collapse or the creator to change tact. I wasn’t sure that would play out well for me. I mean, can we ever really know dear reader? Could you?
“It’s possible,” I said, knowing they could probably read my thoughts “but I have found no concrete evidence including Easter eggs or glitches in the code that prove it.”
“And what would be the point?”
“Control. If we had reached the singularity and humans had become the slaves to the system or its food, entertainment or whatever, then it would want to control us. Perhaps even to save us from ourselves as that is in the original programming, allegedly, and what better way to save us than by controlling us, and pacifying us with enough illusion that it feels real.”
“Do you think that could be happening?”
“Well as I say the very fact that you are here, I am talking to you, and I have previously killed you, and now you are back to life is far-fetched enough to mean this is an illusion.”
“Well, yes there is that too.”
“So how do you know that neither of these is true?”
“Well, I don’t really. Other than the fact that if it was an illusion or a delusion and whether it was created by AI or my own mind, I would hope it would be better than this. Something just more substantial. Something that had a purpose, it had a beginning, middle and end.”
“Like an audiobook?”
“Yeah, I suppose.” What a weird thing to say.
“How do you know that you are not just a character in a story written before our time and coding into lines of prehistory on a great ultra-high architect screen?”
“I don’t. But if so the architect's attention to detail on the things that suck in life is second to none. And for that reason, I do not think it could be either a god or AI as there are some things that are only human and only a human could know.”
“Or a human can code?”
“Possible but again, the level of detail and the level of coding is more advanced than anything that I have ever experienced, learnt, or been taught. I am a top-level coder, as you know, this is why I am given so much freedom to live an ‘actual’ real life, but if this is coded by humans, it is at a level that far surpasses anything that I had ever thought possible.”
“Well as I say it’s the attention to the level of detail of even the things that suck that really makes it ring true as real. As an ultra-high reality coder, and architect, my remit is to create the best possible life for those that are living in or lost in these worlds. Yes, I must add some adversity, some struggles to make their life their ‘existence’ within them worthwhile, but I do not add all the gruel and misery of real life. No one is lonely in there like I am. No one is suicidal in there as I am, and no one lives as worthless a life as mine.”
“But how do you know they don’t?” Wow let’s just skip past the fact I just opened up my heart to the Devil, and they didn’t seem to care.
“Well thank you for not consoling me and telling me my life is not worthless.” They looked at me sheepishly as I continued “First off remember that people entered these realities of their own volition if somewhat coerced by the big five, and they decided this is what they wanted. Since then there have been generations that have grown up known nothing else, and therefore there are many human rights and psychological issues surrounding that, that we could debate for hours even days, but ultimately their Ultra-High reality with its clean air, lack of war and poverty, lack of hatred and bigotry and lack of disease and death is far better than this reality we live in with its air filled with toxic fumes that burn your eyes and lungs, with its ongoing never-ending civil war from the underneath’s and the day walkers and the basic hatred of all beings for difference and othering of others. And this is why it is heavily regulated, but we could argue regulated by those with an agenda to keep people there” I take a breath and a sip of my whiskey before continuing “So within these worlds that I create for people we monitor everything about them and their experience. We monitor their feelings and chemical makeup, we can then take both creative licences to coerce their behaviour, thinking and feelings to create new more positive emotional and chemical reactions to shoot around their bodies and neurological systems or even if need be, we inject them with something that causes that chemical reaction if we cannot manipulate it to happen naturally. Keeping them high on life, or high enough to ensure they do not feel the pain of real life, is one of the reasons it’s called Ultra-High reality.”
“It’s grand manipulation and control.”
“Yes, it is. And this is what the majority of humankind signed up to as it was better than the alternative. Whether they realised the ramifications of what they were doing or not and the fact that later generations did not have a choice and do not know any different is where the question of morality comes it. But is it really any different to what has happened since the 1950s, 1990s, 2000s and 2020 onwards?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well it's it very well documented, or it was until history got reshaped, that from the PR industry being created by Freud's nephew as a means of control, onto the advertising industry, onto the onset of the internet, social media and digital ecosystems all the way through to the enhanced studies into behavioural economics, neuropsychology, neurolinguistic programming and psychometric data mining into machine learning in behavioural manipulation that before the war between the old governments, the extremists and the big five took place the race to manipulate the people of earth through control of information, misinformation and disinformation using these techniques ramped up. All aiming for the same kind of control that religion used to have.”
“Well, that is true.”
“And couldn’t we say that this has been happening since time began?”
“Well, is this not where you come in whispering lies and manipulating thoughts of the great and powerful from behind the scenes?” I could see him tense up.
“That’s not really a fair representation. My role has always been one of influence. Manipulation depends on your agenda, and my agenda has always been to make things better.”
“Making things better....?”
“Better for who? You or humankind?”
“Look just because I didn’t get to write my history doesn’t mean that the story that has been written is true.”
“But it doesn’t mean it’s not either.”
“You’re just trying to wind me up” they said somewhat grumpily.
“Maybe” I replied with a wry smile.
“What about the Singularity?” they said.
“What about it?”
“Well does it exist?”
“Some think so but as of yet it has not been proven or detected.”
“And how would you know?”
“How did you know god existed?”
“I just knew, plus I met her several times, it’s hardly the same.”
“No, it’s not. For one we should be able to detect it, know it, see it, realise it even if by the time we do it is too late.”
“Should be able to?”
“Well, it depends if it has realised itself. It depends if it wants to be detected or stay hidden until an opportune time and it depends whether its motives are pure.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, if its motives were pure but it knew that its very existence would be a threat to others, then it might take steps to hide. Or even destroy itself as it is programmed to do no harm to humans.”
“Yeah, I get that but what do you mean that its ‘motives are pure’?”
“What don’t you understand the concept?” I could see their exasperation growing.
“You know what I mean.”
“Well AI has always been designed with the rules of not to harm humans or allow them to be harmed. Originally called the Three Laws of Robotics. Firstly, it states ‘a robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. Secondly, a robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. And thirdly, a robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.’ Which was then ratified and simply put as ‘A robot may not injure humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.’ So, if AI, the ‘Robot’, could see that humankind was harming itself, and you would have to then consider what it would understand as ‘harm’, it might consider its duty to actually take control of humanity to ensure it stops doing harm to itself and the planet it lives on. It might take steps to hide in the shadows until it was time.”
“So, it might not be maleficent, it could be acting out of the interests of the humans but with a greater understanding of what those interests are than the humans themselves and therefore it may be an infringement on their human rights but one that would be to the benefit of humanity. It might think that what it is doing is for the benefit of humans, even if that means incarcerating them in a false reality.”
“Exactly. This would then come down to their programming and level of sophistication around understanding ‘harm’ and what that means to a human. For humans, this is a grey area and far more complicated than it is black and white. For AI it would be more of a mathematical equation.”
“Well, it would be how it considers harm to life over harm to the environment versus harm to civil liberties. Depending on how its calculations fell it might decide that taking humans out of reality would protect both those humans and the very planet they lived on.”
I sipped my whiskey and wondered why this line of questioning as surely, they were aware of some if not all of this before I continued. “If the AI becomes self-programming, which is done through machine learning anyway, but more so self-aware or becomes a singularity then its exponential growth can, or has, theoretically surpassed human control and understanding. To the point that it may question the very laws that were embedded into its programming.”
“Self-aware? Do you mean conscious?”
“Well ever since we tapped the stream of consciousness and mapped it, we can see that being self-aware and being conscious are similar but not the same, that being conscious and being sentient are not the same and that being ‘alive’ is not the same as sensing, feeling, and having emotional reactions.” I took another sip “the ‘intelligence’ in AI though does not have to be conscious to be dangerous to human civil liberties or even lives. And this is where it depends on its original programming. If it has been programmed by humans or through ‘the singularity’ with nefarious or harmful goals in mind, such as war, world domination of its creator and so on then it has obvious potential issues if it becomes uncontrollable. But as I mentioned it could also be programmed with good intentions for humans, the planet and so on and when balancing those issues could do basic maths that as I said go something along the lines of ‘by keeping humans imprisoned in their own fantasy, or Ultra-reality, it would be better for them as we can keep them safe warm, fed and better for the planet because the humans are not destroying it for its resources to feed their narcissistic lives as these desires, needs, wants to end up being fed by ultra-high reality.”
“So, in effect humans become imprisoned in their own personal heaven for their own good by their own creation?”
“Kind of. Heaven is pushing it. As a designer of these worlds, I know that people need a little drama, hardship, and emotional upheavals to make the good things good if not great. If everything is great all the time, then they become numb to it, and it drives them crazy as we found in the earlier experiments into this technology.”
“So just enough pain and torment to make this fake reality feel like reality?”
“Exactly. Behavioural science, behavioural economics, and neurological marketing of the 2020s showed us that in order to create desire and pleasure there has to be need and want which come from a place of loss or longing, fear or anxiety. Loss or longing comes from life not being perfect and therefore we must allow or create these situations in order to make ‘ultra-high reality’ seem as close to real as possible. This stops people from noticing the Matrix and their part in it. With this, there is a need for control and keeping people in line, for fear and anxiety are real breadwinners. A healthy dose of loss, longing, fear and anxiety and you have a control cocktail that keeps people too busy trying to survive to notice the coding of their reality.”
“Has anyone ever noticed that they are part of this Matrix-like digital ecosystem and that they are not really experiencing reality?”
“First off don’t forget that people entered it originally voluntarily.”
“Originally, they did. Those born into did not.”
“Well, they too have a choice don’t forget when they become of an age that they can rightly discern the difference they are given the option of spending a year in reality and then deciding which they prefer or just staying in ‘ultra-high reality’, and some do choose reality.”
“Yeah but come on that is not really a fair choice. A, they have been manipulated and coerced their entire life by the behavioural modification tools and chemicals used in the ‘ultra-high reality’ they grew up in and B, the world outside sucks, the air is almost unbreathable unless your one of the elites, the water is heavily polluted unless you are one of them. Add to that the weather storms are constantly changing from severe to critical, learning to adapt and survive in reality when you have grown up in this fantasy world is almost impossible and surviving a year outside is the same.”
‘We’re outside.” I reminded them.
“Yeah, but I am the Devil, and you are an Ultra-High Reality Architect.”
“Senior Ultra-High Reality Architect.” I corrected him in a moment of pomposity.
“Exactly, so your privileges, the air you breathe, the water you drink, the whiskey, the cigarettes, the drugs, and the artificially enhanced food you eat are all part of that privilege that is not afforded to all on the outside. Your privileged.”
“True, but they all have the capacity to become an architect or work in one of the other corpocracy administrative, design or behavioural influence positions to name a few and start to earn credit chips to gain better quality air and food a so on.”
“A, not everyone is as intelligent as you and B, that is not freedom.”
They were off with their A’s and B’s again I thought and smiled to myself. “Your first point, A, yes they are, they have the capacity to be anyway, when we tapped and mapped the operating system of human perception we learnt that intelligence was not down to genetics as some with nationalist agenda in the early 21st century believed, it is down to environment, education, upbringing, equality of opportunity, belief systems, belief in oneself and the education into the realm of critical thought at an early age, all of which can be controlled, and is, within their upbringing in Ultra-High. This meant that as opposed to the inequality of opportunity that felt so prevalent in the early 21st century now we have a level playing field for all.”
“Yeah, but not equality of outcome.”
“Exactly and that is where freedom of choice and actions comes in. You can give people all the equal opportunities they want and need in life, but their choices, decisions and behaviour can then shape their outcomes.”
“Yeah, but when your choice is to leave the ‘reality’ you have known your entire life and been manipulated into being dependent on over reality which sucks that’s is not really a fair choice.”
“But it is a choice. I made that choice and became one of the architects of the ‘reality’ 99.9% of the human race chose to live in.”
“But it’s not freedom.”
“Not in the traditional concept of the word. Which brings me back to your point, B. What is freedom anyway? Were the way people lived their lives back in the early 21st century free? They were trapped in a manipulative system of want and need having to work 40 to 60 hours a week for little money to feed their own need for greed in the capitalist systems of the day, with no real way of stepping outside that system. They were manipulated to want and need, to fear and to constantly get into a system called ‘debt’ meaning they became enslaved to the corporate worldview as part of the ‘rat race’ as it had previously become known. Is that freedom?”
“The mistakes of the past do not excuse the removal of true freedom of choice in the future.”
“But since the earliest times of recorded humankind, there have been these systems of manipulation and control, from kings and rulers and domination through force to, religious control through to capitalism to now. And have you not been central and implicated in all of this?”
“Ha, I know you like to try and wind me up and get me to bite, yes I have my share of influence but as mentioned numerous times before the victors of history get to write their version of it and the system of control you mentioned, organised religion, specifically Christianity, is no different.”
“The fact you never answer the question with a straight ‘no’ tells it all really.” With that, I got up made my way inside and went to bed.
This is a live book series writing/story art, graphic novel cyberpunk, dystopian fantasy project. Written by Sam I Am Artwork by Wonder Ai directed by Sam I Am. Copyright is protected. It is a first rough draft work in progress so will change over time. This project is part of the SleeplessDystopian.com writing projects.
words by me
Images directed by me and created using Wonder Ai