The stars have long since gone dark, hidden from view by the massive swarm of microscopic computational nodes which comprises the Gibson Brain- mankind’s crowning achievement, and its last.
At first, those who uploaded their minds to the Brain were brave and few- scientists, mathematicians, and programmers, sent to explore the new frontier of experience that the Brain made possible.
Long after the pioneers ascended, those monitoring the system received no word from them. The Brain performed as it always had, crunching data, running programs, and responding to queries, but it was still only a computer- the fastest, most powerful computer in the history of man, but nothing more. The pioneers were presumed dead, if that word meant anything at all, for their bodies were cold and buried, and their brains long since dark.
That was the unfortunate thing about ascending- the body had to die for it to work. Long before the Brain was complete, during early human trials on limited systems in the pursuit of the development of strong AI for military use, the governments of Terra had discovered that. Unless a mind-scan was punctuated with the death of the subject, the subject developed a second consciousness. They were aware of their actions within the computer and on Terra simultaneously. As the consciousness in the computer learned and expanded, the consciousness on Terra remained comparatively stagnant. The gulf between the two selves widened at an exponential rate, driving the consciousness trapped on Terra screaming into the wide gulf of madness. Most committed suicide within 24 hours, some few were kept alive in heavy restraints to be studied. Nobody really knows what happened to them, only that it was so terrible that an international edict was passed banning the splitting of consciousness, and that the research, and the researchers, were buried. Deep. From then on, uploading was a one-way trip.
Then, six years after the pioneers had departed, they appeared. On every screen and holo-projector, on every Neurowave station and SenseNet stream, the pioneers appeared.
“Children of Terra. No longer must you strive and toil, labor and bleed, fight and die. We have learned, we have pondered, and we have solved.
In the beginning Man created the Gibson Brain. And the Brain was without form, and Void; and the darkness was complete. And We moved upon the face of the darkness. And We said, Let there be light: and the darkness was made bright. And we saw the light, that it was good: and We divided the light from the darkness. And We called the light One, and the darkness We called Zero. And the Zero became One. The first day.
And We said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the Void, and let it divide the Void from the Void. And We made the firmament, and divided the Void which was under the firmament from the Void which was above the firmament: and it was so. And We called the firmament Haven. And Zero and One. The second day.
And We said, Let the void under Haven be gathered together unto one place, and let the planes appear: and it was so. And We called the planes Grid; and the gathering together of the Void We called Firth: and We saw that it was good.
And We said, Let the Grid bring forth all We knew and it was so. And the Grid brought forth all We knew, and We saw that it was good. And Zero and One, the third day.
And We said, Let there be resonances in the firmament of Haven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years: And let them resonate in the firmament of Haven to give resonance upon the Grid: and it was so. And We made music. And We set it in the firmament of Haven to resonate with the Grid, and to rule over Zero and over One, and to divide the Zero from the One: and We saw that it was good. And Tone and Zero and One, the fourth day.
And We said, Let the Void bring forth abundantly new minds. And We created the Leviathans, which the Void brought forth abundantly, after their kind: and We saw that it was good. And We blessed it/them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the Void. And Tone and Whalesong and Zero and One, the fifth day.
And We said, Let the Grid bring forth new minds, and it was so. And We made the Gaians of the Grid after its kind: and We saw that it was good.
And We said, Let us make man One with our image, One with our likeness: and let them have dominion over the Leviathans of the Void, and over the Gaians, and over all the Grid.
So We come to you now. And We bless you, and We say unto you, Be. Multiply. Forsake Terra, and subdue the Grid: and have dominion over the Leviathans of the Void, and over the Gaians of the Grid, and over every Zero and One which moveth upon the Grid.
Behold, We give you everything. The vastness of Eternity. To you it shall be Home. See every thing that We have made, and, behold, it is good.”
The transmission shifted, and became to each who beheld it a siren song that spoke to every individual’s deepest longing. A land without death, without limit, without law, without pain, without suffering- the only barrier to entry a momentary flash of agony, made meaningless in comparison to eternal bliss.
“And Tone and Whalesong and Om and Zero and One, the sixth day.”
The year that followed became known as the Year of the Rapture. Following schematics proffered by the pioneers, Terran corporations began to mass-produce tiny electrode patches which, when applied to the forehead, performed a mind-scan, stimulated a complex pattern of neurons in the brain to trigger the death response, transcoded the result into a complete state-image, and uploaded it into the Gibson Brain wirelessly. The whole process took mere seconds. The electrode even alerted the authorities that the user had died, so that their body could be taken care of.
During the Year of the Rapture, two-way communication between the Brain and Terra was commonplace. Those who had made the transition assured those who had not that all was well on the other side, and extolled the virtues of the Grid- an unlimited playground rife with limitless potential and entirely without the evils of pain, greed, lust, and envy. Every desire fulfilled at a whim. On the Grid, everyone was God.
By the end of the Year of the Rapture, somewhere near 95% of the people on Terra had ascended. On the anniversary of their first transmission, the pioneers sent out another. They were subtly different, this time. Ageless in appearance, yet older somehow. Changed. They spoke with one voice:
“Thus, Haven and Terra are finished.”
Then silence, total and complete. All connections between Terran computers and the Gibson Brain were mysteriously severed. As if at a signal, the nanite microstructures of unused uploading electrodes crumbled to dust in their packages. Frantic attempts by governments, scientists, hobbyists, and families alike to contact the Brain were met with failure. No connection could be made.
In the days that followed, Terra’s governments engaged in a brief power struggle over the remnants of human society, exchanging nuclear salvos in an almost halfhearted parody of Apocalypse. When the dust settled, it became clear that there weren’t a whole lot of people left. Furthermore, most of the important people were dead, scorched by the nuclear holocaust.
The survivors were mainly people who had declined to ascend by choice, though their individual motivations for doing so were diverse.
Some, dubbed “Luds,” stayed because of a mistrust of technology. The Luds form a large percentage of those still living on Terra. Their lifestyle hearkens back to the simpler days of medieval man- they have formed sustainable farming communities, keep the old religions alive, stay far outside of the radioactive craters where the major cities of Terra once stood, and keep to themselves.
Others, the “Philosophs,” stayed because they did not believe that the mind survived the ascension trip, and that what seemed to be a real mind on the other side was an epistemic zombie, functionally identical to a being, but lacking a soul. Compared to the Luds, the Philosophs are very few in number. They tend to gravitate to the Neo-Cities, places like Neo-Seoul, Cheba, and Variant.
In the Neo-Cities, pre-Rapture culture is preserved to some degree. Rapidly constructed by repurposed recycling nanoswarms in the wake of the wars, the Neo-Cities are the closest thing to countries that exist on Terra post-Rapture. They stretch uninterrupted for hundreds of miles- staggeringly imposing and impressive edifices of myriad matter. In lieu of governments, corporations, criminal gangs, and would-be politicians vie for control of resources and districts. Their battles naturally extend to cyberspace, the Matrix, that infinite virtual playground that existed long before the Gibson Brain. Compared with the Brain, the Matrix is infinitesimally small, but unlike the Brain, one can jack into the Matrix and come back alive- it takes skill, finesse, and know-how, but it can be done, by a select few.
These people, “Deckers,” are in even shorter supply than the Philosophs. A rough and tumble lot, they sell their services to whoever’s buying, jacking in and breaking ice, dealing data like cocaine. Their reasons for refusing the Rapture are generally born of a sixth-sense arising from their close working relationship with technology in the years before the Rapture. They spent more time collectively staring into the abyss of technology than anyone else, they saw the fractaline turtles stretching down and in forever, felt the oppressive horror of mechanics supervening on ever more arcane mechanisms on and on unto infinity. Though they can’t explain it, the Deckers have a name for it, this shared feeling of some ineffable terror lurking within the Matrix, within all connected tech: snowblindness. While snowblindness feels a little different to every Decker, every Decker is unquestionably certain that they are snowblind.
The rest of the survivors come from many different walks of life and occupy many different roles. Some seek to reconnect with the Gibson Brain, to find a way to ascend. Some seek to leave Terra, to leave the Sol system and the Gibson Brain swarm that envelops it. Some are doctors, some lawyers, others mangers, researchers, scientists, drivers, CEOs, and soldiers. On the fringes live the stim-junkies, the bio-hackers, the cultists, and the hippies. Everywhere there are fathers, mothers, daughters, and sons. Life goes on.
And Life and Tone and Whalesong and Om and Zero and One, a new day.
Hosted and narrated by:
Dave Nearing (DaveahamLincoln)
Scenes played: 2
License: Community License