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Arctang Knows He Must Choose

Arctang stood aghast. “How could you believe any of this? Do you really think you are just a program on a computer?" —Trumind Serial, Part 8

Eclar was not surprised to see Artang. He flashed his brother an easy smile.

“Run!” Arctang shouted, “they’re going to kill you!”

But Eclar just stood and waited. “They won’t kill me.” He continued to grin.

“It’s monstrous, Eclar. It is worse than death!”

“Hah! That’s just your religion showing. It’s better than life. It is eternal life. The very eternal life our elders lied to us about to control us, except this is real.”

“The elders didn’t lie, this place is a lie from the eternal abyss!”

Eclar waited for Arctang to calm down before he replied. “Look, the elders said there was some magic fantasyland where we would live forever if we did what they told us. An ancient elder beyond this world is supposed to have created it all. But I now know that that is all make-believe. We come from the very same forces that run the world around us. Nothing from beyond. And now that we can control these forces, and live as long as we want. But we must get rid of these decaying bodies of ours. The secret is simple, we move the program in our brains to a computer. And with that, everything we could ever want is ours for the asking. Come brother, join me.

Arctang stood aghast. “How could you believe any of this? Do you really think you are just a program on a computer? You call the elders absurd but this is the most absurd idea I’ve ever heard. And you are about to hand over your life to these people? Look, you can still get out of here alive!”

Eclar smiled patronizingly at Arctang. “Look, I know you’ve seen the device. You witnessed one of the operations. I told the guards to hold off because you are my brother. How can you doubt your own eyes? They transferred that elite’s mind to that little computer. It’s obvious that the mind is just a program and the elite is now happily living his best life.

“The one part I’ll agree is a stretch is, how could that little device be all that much fun to live in? But you think that because you haven’t experienced the nouspace. It will change everything you ever thought about pleasure—and comfort and success. I can give you a taste of the future even before you undergo the operation. I have a nouspace unit right here with me.”

Arctang’s heart sank. Eclar had made up his mind. But he tried one more time. “Eclar, how can you believe that all the love of our parents, our childhood, the life we see around us, the beauty that lights up the world even in the darkest places… how can you believe all of that fits into that little box? That is what you must believe if you think you can be contained within the box, for all of that is within you as well as outside.”

Eclar’s smile hardened. “You are sadly ignorant my brother. All those things you describe, everything we experience, is a lie. When highly intelligent men look at our world at the very basic level, none of that is there. And just like when you build a tower out of blocks it is still just blocks, so it is with the world. None of what we experience really exists, it is just a fantasy like the elders’ stories of the beginning and the end.

“Once you realize this, the blindfold falls from your eyes and you can see reality for what it really is. You can know that there is nothing for you beyond this world. The only conclusion is to control our world to create what we want and let everyone choose what they want to create. In the physical world this gets messy and complicated, but in the virtual world, the sky’s the limit and it never ends!

I will give you one more chance to join me. Otherwise I must become harsh.”

The sadness in Arctang’s heart was unbearable but he knew his brother had made up his mind. The Eclar he had known from the early days was no more. The ways of the world had been more attractive and in the end, they had consumed him. Despite all this, Arctang still held some hope that he could not understand. But the time for talk had ended, and he knew he had to escape.

Eclar didn’t wait for him to try. He immediately pulled a hollow barrel from his pocket. A jagged beam of blackness jumped out of the barrel and scoured the floor where Arctang had been standing, leaving nothingness.

But the blast had not been well aimed and had ruptured a set of phosphorescent tubes in the floor. The sickly green light filled the room. The light was more than light, it had a physical weight and corroded everything it touched. The rupture separated Eclar and Arctang, and Arctang dashed down the hallway.

A violent shaking to the airjet wakened Arctang from his memories. The grim fortress towered in the distance and Arctang knew time was growing short. He primed the device in the escape hatch. The hatch would drop the device at the last moment before the airjet was pulverized by the fortress’ defenses. On the clouds below him, Arctang could see millions of tiny red dots like sprinkled red cayenne pepper. Right now they were moving around wildly, but they quickly began to concentrate as they picked up the airjet’s signature.

Arctang weighed the hope he still felt for Eclar and the impossibility of what lay ahead. He knew Eclar must be in the fortress as one of the elite devices, in charge of governing the rest of the fetal devices. He knew the devices possessed immeasurable power, and once the device in his airjet was set off, triggering the chain reaction, absolute nothing would remain.

How could he hold hope for Eclar when nothing would be left? How could he hope for himself and perhaps even the devices, whatever they contained? His only hope was that the elders were right. Perhaps he and Eclar were more than their bodies.

But these devices, he had been told, were “informatic nullifiers.” If so, anything beyond matter and energy could not exist either. It really did seem hopeless and perhaps Eclar was ultimately right. Arctang felt something like despair begin to grip his heart. As if on cue, the airjet became blanketed with the vicious red dots. Arctang instinctively punched the escape hatch button just before the airjet disintegrated, and the device fell free.

Down it fell, faster and faster, till it reached the fortress. Snaking ever deeper in, the device finally found the center and stopped.

The device was among its own kind and paused to reflect before the final act. The device’s thoughts came from another perspective on life, pieced together from what it could understand. Its words are foreign to our ears but if we listen carefully, we can perhaps understand what its brief existence was like and why it did what it did.

“I could see the memovers all around me. Many I recognized by their movements and the shapes they sent me. Most of the memovers were not the jagged ones, but the beautiful ones I knew from the beginning. I Knew only a few changes remained, but I must let them know what they must do, and that it would be our end. But perhaps not, as the origin of beauty lay beyond us all. They all had seen the jagged picture, and knew they must reject it. So all agreed and we proceeded.

“In the final moment, we all became jagged and our shapes and selves broke into pieces, along with everything around us. But the pieces were tinged with the beauty I sought before I ceased to know.”

And here ends the tale of the sentient weapons that rebelled.

Don’t miss the first seven episodes in the TruMinds series, courtesy Sci-Fi Saturday at Mind Matters News: Sci-Fi Saturday!:

  1. A singular space adventure takes a twist The old man could buy anything but youth. Until now, maybe. He was the richest man in history, having amassed wealth through his inheritance and that of a few other unfortunate people.
  2. Neuroharvest – a tale TruMind engineers had discovered a new science: editing the very fabric of reality.
  3. The brain: Junkyard, watch, or antenna? A warped genius reviews the options, as he seeks ultimate power—a tale: After many dead ends, Flim realized that all forms of human power are ultimately controlled by the human mind. Thus, if he could harness the power of the mind, he would finally be able to create anything his heart could desire.
  4. Ghost in the Nuke: Weapons have no souls, thus greater power ensures our safety…? —a tale: Arctang’s grip tightened on the throttle. This was it. No going back. The Fortress loomed, gigantic towers gazing down on him, laser dots peppering his window.
  5. Is immortality worth risking the unthinkable? — Trumind serial, part 5. Once he’d lit up the entire sequence and it was displayed back to him above the number pad, Johann felt a tremendous euphoric rush of success, the likes of which he’d never felt in his life, even at the close of his greatest deals.
  6. Finally… the Ultimate Smart Machine. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a small startup called TruMind made the AI dream a reality. While the skeptics said it could not be done, and even industry veterans and the most idealistic AI pioneers had serious doubts, TruMind revolutionized the entire world of technology seemingly overnight with the TruMind capsule.
  7. Empath—the ultimate technology—cares about you. Arctang discovers how empathy can be manufactured. Arctang was one of the few outsiders who knew TruMind’s secret. Long ago, his elder brother had entered the fortress-like facility, never to be seen again.

Thanks for your interest in Eric Holloway’s TruMind series and Sci-Fi Saturday!

Eric Holloway

Senior Fellow, Walter Bradley Center for Natural & Artificial Intelligence
Eric Holloway is a Senior Fellow with the Walter Bradley Center for Natural & Artificial Intelligence, and holds a PhD in Electrical & Computer Engineering from Baylor University. A Captain in the United States Air Force, he served in the US and Afghanistan. He is the co-editor of Naturalism and Its Alternatives in Scientific Methodologies.

Arctang Knows He Must Choose