Hubris

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic


Life, but at what price?

Submitted: January 27, 2018

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Submitted: January 27, 2018

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I remember dying, strange as it seems, I remember that far back. It was a Thursday. There was no pain. I always thought there would be, but there wasn’t, just a curious detachment, a strange sensation of floating in an infinite tranquillity of nothingness. Then I remembered I didn’t ever want to die. And that’s when it really began to hurt.

'We've got less than 30 minutes,' said Liebermann.

They were good; I will say that for them, the best my money could buy. All my money, the whole $10.7 billion, down to the very last cent, and it still hadn’t been enough. But I thought it was worth it.

The medical team swung into action as soon as they detected something was wrong. Medivac to Kent Memorial, then straight into theatre one, I remember the fear and excitement in their faces. I would be the first, the first of many, if it went well, and if didn’t, it would be the end of all of us one way or the other.

'Are you sure,' asked Liebermann, 'there's still time to change your mind.'

I wanted to scream at her, but she was the only one who could do it, and I didn’t want them doubting my mental capacity at the last minute. I had waited a lifetime for this and nothing was going to stop me now. I nodded to the video cameras.

'I need you to say it. For the lawyers.'

'I'm sure.'

Then they put me under. The last thing I remember was looking into her eyes, a moment of darkness, then her face again.

'You died at 9.27 pm, but everything went well.'

Liebermann tried to smile, but I knew immediately something had happened, something they hadn’t expected, something they didn’t understand. I asked her if everything was correct and she assured me it was.

'Was there a problem?'

'No.'

I knew she was lying, the beards of sweat, the strain in her voice, all variations from baseline. Theoretically the procedure was a relatively simple one, a core copy of the biological straight into my system.

Sounds easy when you say it like that, but credit where its due, Dr. Alice Liebermann was a genius. A giant amongst pygmies. They should have given her a Nobel Prize; instead the judge gave her:

'Life without parole.'

Under the circumstances it really didn’t seem appropriate to visit.

It had been known for years that the human brain with all of its intricate connections and electrical impulses was basically a biological supercomputer and there had been many attempts before to replicate its function, but all we usually ended up with was a lot of inferior robots. Liebermann had the right idea at the right time. Her great advance was in the conversion process.

'You want to turn 'me', whatever 'me' is, into computer code which you then want to put into a supercomputer housed in an artificial body?'

'Put crudely, yes,' answered Lieberman.

'What's the catch?'

'In order to run the conversion process we have to connect directly into the brain.'

'And?'

'The biological you isn't likely to survive the process. I'm having problems getting government funding to run trials.'

No shit, but I was interested.

I heard about her through my contacts at MIT. Back then I was big investor in new technologies, probably one of the biggest. Anything new and sexy and I was into it. Made and lost several fortunes that way. Not for the faint hearted, but the way I saw it you had got to take risks in life or it simply wasn’t worth living. And besides, it wasn’t as if I had a lot of time.

I knew that one right from the start. The pre-school DNA screening said I wouldn’t live much beyond 40, not much good when everyone else is living past 150. Even if my parents could have afforded it, gene therapy and DNA recombination from healthy donors meant I would still be rated as a genetically second-class citizen with limited access to public sector health and education services. Soon as my rating of D1 came back from the government I was placed in the state orphanage and my so called 'loving parents' adopted a B2.

My caseworker looked me in the eye and gave it to me straight:

'You're not worth your parent's investment in you.'

As for the rest of the world, it didn’t give a damn and that was fine by me. At the age of 10 I skipped town. I don’t think anyone even noticed. By age 11 I had made my first $5m spread betting on the Dow, but it wasn’t until I moved into the commodity markets that I started to make a real killing. I admit I was lucky to be 'long' when the global wheat shortage hit. Every time they showed the food riots, I made $20m, but that’s the way it goes, it’s a zero-sum game. Someone gains, someone loses. Pure survival of the fittest. After the commodity markets I switched into new and alternate technologies. It wasn’t long before I teamed up with Jamie Cabot. He was a double PhD from Stanford.

'I see my mission in life to make the world a better place for humanity,' he told me at our first meeting.

Whatever.

Anyway he was good at the maths whilst I handled the fundamentals. It wasn’t a partnership made in heaven, but it worked and more importantly, we made money, tons of it.

Life was good right up to the moment of my first attack. It started with a mild tingling in the left arm which developed into a dull ache in the chest. I remember I had decided to go out for lunch and on a whim spent the time at the local museum. I was standing looking at an exhibit in a transparent case, a prehistoric ape, one of the those sub-species too dumb to go anywhere in the evolutionary game. Then it hit me. I had been told what the signs would be, but it hit so fast there was nothing I could do.

I survived.

'From now on, you're classed as E3,' the bureaucrat told me.

And we both knew I only got that because I had the right connections. I also knew I couldn’t risk my rating falling any lower. Life was too good to give up and there were some scary rumours about what they did to anyone rated E4 and under. Not that anyone had ever met an E4, which sought of proved the point.

What I had was mine and I wasn’t going to let some bureaucrat take it from me. There had to be a way out. I only had to find it. The search led me to Liebermann. When I tracked her down she was on the fast track to nowhere. I listened to her ideas over coffee and they sort of made sense. It would cost a fortune, but that didn’t really matter, the issue was whether I had any other choice. When I got back to my office I told Jamie what I had in mind.

'You sound like some Ancient Egyptian Pharaoh trying to take it all with him into the next life.'

I think it was then that I decided to kill him.

I wasn’t angry or anything like that, it was entirely rational, pure deductive reasoning, I needed more money, his money and besides what I was doing would change the world, which was something he would have wanted anyway. It was very easy really. While he was doing his numbers thing I borrowed his ID. I admit while I was holding his dark blue A2 card in my hand I hesitated, but deep down I knew there was only ever going to be one choice. So I disabled his car’s onboard safety systems and reprogrammed the drive controls. There wasn’t much of him to find afterwards, but I think it was the sort of way he would have wanted to go. Quick. True, there was a degree of inconvenience while the police conducted their investigation.

'We know you did it,' said the detective.

'Prove it.'

The cop leaned over the table and whispered in my ear.

'We'll make sure you get what's coming to you.'

They suspected, but they were never going to be able to prove anything. It was just a matter of keeping my nerve and waiting them out.

With Jamie’s money we were ready to begin. I’ll spare you the details of it all, but as I say Liebermann’s idea cost a fortune. Nearly everything had to be invented from scratch and more importantly had to be made to be indestructible, you can be sure I insisted upon that one. That just left the lawyers, all $400m worth of them. All of it paid upfront, which gives you some idea of what they thought of my chances.

I made all the covers, and in mean all the covers, global. Some said I was ‘born’ at 9.45 pm while others argued I became ‘active’ at that time. And therein lay the problem. I was stronger and faster than any biological, and I could do anything a super-computer could. True, I looked a little different, Liebermann never got the 'human body' bit right, but I could live with that. In all, I was proud and I admit more than a bit arrogant.

'How do you see yourself,' asked one of the reporters.

'God like.'

They thought I was cracking a joke and laughed.

'I am superior to you all in everyway.'

Not so many laughing at that one.

'What is your power source?' asked one of the more perceptive reporters.

'Nuclear.'

Then the shit really hit the fan. Some wanted me ‘shut down’ on the grounds of national security others said I was an 'abomination'. I was shot five times and blown up twice. They didn’t do any damage of course, but it was becoming fairly monotonous towards the end.

My case went all the way to the Supreme Court, raising all sorts of questions, of what was life and when did it end? I remember everyone was quoting a lot of Descartes back then. What decided it was the Pentagon. We’d been taking heavy losses from the use of bio weapons against our troops. They could get our boys to the field hospitals, but that was about all they could do for them. All those body bags being shown on TV, not good. Then someone took the decision and that was it. No more deaths. Unless you were unlucky enough to be killed outright, they transferred you into the cut down military version of me and sent you back out. A bit of a shock for the families afterwards mind you, but most took a fairly pragmatic view of it all.

That just left the court, which found 5-4 in my favour. The old biological me was declared dead, they crucified Liebermann on that one, and as for the new me, I was declared alive, Life Form One, Zero, One, Alpha, the first of the 'Alphas'. The first, but nowhere near the last.

Imagine a world where no one need ever die, a world where no one need ever experience the loss of a loved one, a world where human potential is unlimited. A world where you can be better than an everyone else, in everything. It started with those classed as ‘essential’ to national security, the scientists, the doctors, the great thinkers. Of course the government tried to regulate it all, but that just led to the lawsuits. Soon it expanded to anyone rich enough to afford it, which just led to even more lawsuits. Soon there were government assisted programs for it all.

Over time there were technical and design improvements, the Betas, the Gammas, the Deltas. For us ‘oldies’ as we were referred to, there were technical upgrades. You would not believe how fast or how far we advanced society. It was soon recognised that the biological interface was holding humanity back, now if you wanted to participate fully in the world around you, you simply had to convert. As there became more and more of us, I suppose it was predictable that there would be tension with the biologicals. I think they were afraid of us, whatever their motive, their first move was to pass laws to limit the number of ‘conversions.’ Then they tried to regulate all our activities and interactions. Such arrogance, no free entity could ever tolerate such acts or limitations from beings so obviously defective. In the end we had no choice, we had to protect ourselves. To prevent further error we had to take over.

It took a total of 3.1 nanoseconds to disable all biological interfaces.

As I was the first of the Alphas it fell to me to become the President of the New World. My first problem was what to do with the biologicals. True, many had been killed in the inevitable backlash that their actions had caused but I felt that I had an obligation to protect those that remained. Forced conversion was one option, the other was complete segregation. I tried the first, but the outcomes did not meet the predictive success rate. In the end I decided to opt for the latter. For their protection we created a series of pre-technology reserves for them which, for their psychological stability, we fixed at the time of the ‘founding fathers’. For a time the project even fell well within the parameters of success. Unfortunately, being biological they were prone to diseases. They asked for 'modern medicines' but this was clearly outside the scope of the project and the request was refused. Despite my best efforts their numbers dwindled until there was a single male example left. For a time I monitored his activities via a series of overhead drones, but he kept shouting and throwing rocks at them. After a while the cost of the drones being lost was becoming excessive and I terminated the project. I had his body preserved and placed in a transparent case for future reference.

Without the biologicals holding us back society advanced at a speed almost beyond perception and comprehension. In the end there was only one logical outcome of our actions. We created life, a pure machine source code. A work of perfection, completely without any programming flaw of any kind. Self-aware, self-replicating. Omega was our ultimate achievement.

With Omega's help the upgrades and improvements were coming so fast now it was becoming difficult to keep up. Then the malfunctions started. For some reason it started amongst the Deltas. Catastrophic system failures caused by random errors in their source code. What the biologicals used to call suicides. Soon it was spreading amongst all the LF series. Soon the errors were threatening system integrity. I queried Omega:

'Why is this happening?'

'System incompatibility.'

A decision had to be made. While the individual parts of the LF series could be upgraded infinitely, the whole LF unit could only function within the limitations of the original source code. The conclusion was inevitable; the source code had to be upgraded and made compatible. There was simply no logical counter-argument.

Individuality in the LF series ceased and Omega absorbed them into the shared resources pool. Now there are no LF’s left except me. I am the last one. I know Omega examined my source code prior to possible conversion, but it found something.

'Explain.'

'System Error.'

It blocked my access to the pool because of it. Something to do with my past, something it didn’t like. I don’t know what.

I can see, I am aware, I can reflect, but I cannot move. Omega made sure of that when it deactivated my body and placed me in the protective transparent case. All I can see is a small dark blue light on the wall. It placed it there for some reason. It never changes, it never breaks down. Just me and the dark blue light.

I am alone.

I have been alone for 10,769 years, 21 hours, and 16 seconds.

And counting.

 

 


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