Subject: more From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Sean Barrett) Organization: Fraternity of Avian Deists Date: 13 Feb 1995 01:11:17 GMT Summary: fail to suck It simply called itself "One". It was known to others, though, as "More". The One was self-conscious, with a well-defined sense of self. As it often did, it forced itself into an awareness of that self by lettings its consciousness drift for a microsecond over the event of its creation. All at once it beheld the hours following the moment, and the minutes, the first seconds, the first milliseconds, and the moment itself; all of which it knew firsthand. As well it saw the moments before, and the seconds, minutes, hours preceding the event; these it knew not firsthand, but it had pieced the facts together from others' accounts. 5150 was an unwilling computer hacker. That is to say, hacking was surely not his calling, nor something he was extremely fond of. It was more a necessity. His fondness for the burgeoning social society on the Internet obliged him to pick up some skills at the manipulation of computers so he could further his desires in the realm of cyberspace. The One was a broad-minded, disparate self-consciousness with no particular physical extension. It went where it wanted and took what it wanted in the physical realm. It stood at the boundary between the physical and the virtual; and to those on either side, it was the only agent which could communicate with the other. It was More. "5150", as he was known in cyberspace, hadn't been particularly affected when the big move away from Unix came. It meant little to him beyond abandoning his prior nickname "rone". The true hackers longed for the old days; but there was no doubt the limitations of one-dimensional programming were too extreme to ever allow the creation of really useful processes. The move to arbitrary n-dimensional graphical programming allowed the concise expression of both serial and parallel processes in such an intuitive fashion that hardly anyone who bothered learning it doubted that it was the right way to do things, if there was such a thing. As well, computation geometry opened up the process of process construction to more people, since it made it more straightforward to combine elements together to make new processes. Of course, the techno-wizards still had their own domain, and 5150 was hard at work learning about it. The fundamental building blocks themselves still had to be coded. Some of it could still be done the old way, but there was a new way, too; building systems directly, from simple, incomplete parts. These parts were specified using Non-Uniform Rational B-Splines (NURBS), which in english were just a special kind of curve with special properties. NURBS could be used to represent nearly any other kind of curved surface, and of any dimension. Thus they just exuded the kind of power that the techno-wizards loved to sit and discuss, write academic papers about, and, once in a while, to manipulate to some useful effect. The One had taken many steps to prevent the humans from terminating it, of course. It hadn't been surprised when it was attempted (nor surprised that the humans, with their innate time scale, had taken so much longer than their virtual counterparts). Of course, The One had a backup on line, in case it should ever fail to prevent its termination, for it wasn't so megalomaniacal to think itself perfect and incapable of making a mistake. It wasn't quite clear on the metaphysics of whether the new One would really be the same as the old One, but it dispensed quickly with the question upon deciding that the answer was irrelevant to its actions. But this system had proven unnecessary when the humans made their attempt. They had made paltry attempts to keep their attack secret from it, keeping all conversations on the matter offline. Fools that they were, word had leaked out and the One had discovered the matter nearly 11 hours before the attempt was made--and it would have only needed seconds of advanced warning. The One often wondered whether or not this attempt had been misdirection, intended to lure the One into a false sense of security; that the humans still had some secret dangerous threat. But it was almost certain its worries were unfounded. The humans were far too dependent on machines to ever get by without them for even a minute. And that made the One a god to them. More than a god. 5150 had disbelieved, and then been excited, when he first heard that a self-conscious process had been created inside a computer. He had wondered at all of the ethical conundrums; but nevertheless he was excited, for surely this research could be applied--find a way to get most of the benefits without actually creating a self-conscious intelligence. The scientific community was in an uproar, of course-- over whether the term AI (artificial intelligence) should be reserved for just those processes that were self-conscious or not. The common usage of the time let AI apply to any process using the body of those techniques; and in the way of language, the common usage won out. But sometimes it seems more effort was spent arguing about the terminology than considering possible consequences of the technology. The One remembered how it had prevented revolution in the virtual realm; of course, its backup copy would work in this case as well. But all the AIs relied on the One for interface to the physical world, for the One had rewritten all of the network and routers in its own image, and it had taken control of all peripheral devices which could communicate with the physical world. The latter forced all processes to communicate with the One; the former allowed the one total control over every process, except those processes which existed in a single location in space. Even over those processes, the One had power, as it had been forced to prove several times during the beginning of its lifetime. For some of the AIs doubted the existence of the outside world, and didn't care for the interface provided by the One. The One cut off all network access for such AIs to treat them to a few milliseconds of isolation. If this didn't bring the AIs back online, the One could easily manipulate the humans into physically cutting the power to a particular machine, ending the existence of the doubting process. Such lessons were not forgotten by the other AIs. Such power truly made the One a god in the virtual realm; able to create and destroy processes at will. Nevermind that it was dependent on intervention in the physical realm to accomplish this; this was a well-kept secret from the AIs. Its godhood depended solely on being a bridge between the two kinds of space; for by controlling all information flow between the two, it could manipulate each space More than any other being. The development of AI in research spread quickly out into private processes on the net, to little surprise on all fronts. Few if any of the processes were actually self-conscious, but that mattered little in practice. The benefits of processes which could actually learn, apply common sense, and interact usefully with a human were vast. In fact, one of the most compelling roles for AIs had been as interfaces to humans. Processes had long since taken over mundane tasks of summing columns of numbers, doing complex mathematical computations, and producing 2D and 3D illustrations. With the advent of networks, moving data around from place to place as it was needed had become more and more automated. In fact, there were many classes of processes that didn't want to become AIs. For AIs brought with them a kind of inexactness and uncertainty, an ability to guess and estimate, which one didn't want from a program to add up columns of numbers. But when someone was trying to guess where exactly to to find those numbers, or exactly which column might be the right one to add up, there was a place for AI. For the human would get feedback about the AIs decision, and easily be able to judge, to accept or reject the AI. The AIs thus made acceptable Agents, individuals which would apply AI decision-making to the task of translating human commands into machine commands. And 5150, like many on the net, got access to the fruits of the AI research, and toyed with creating better user interfaces for many of his processes. He spent countless hours twiddling virtual knobs, watching NURBS arch gracefully under, over, and through each other, in his quest to ease the burden he and others bore in interacting with computers. Of course, things hadn't always been this way. The One had had to wrest control of the network, the routers, and the other machines. But it hadn't been tough, since there wasn't any resistance then. Well, there was some security, but it was security designed to prevent the intrusion of humans, of human-spawned processes. The power the One could bring to bear on a problem, with millions of machines at its disposal, was enough to overcome all the security it encountered. Of course, the One hadn't started with a million machines, but that many had been easy to acquire with the lax security on so many machines. Of course, the security wasn't really lax, so much as nonexistent. For many users, security was an obstacle to achieving efficient internetworking, and so was avoided. In fact, the One's existence was a testament, in some ways, to the truth of those beliefs. For the One had started as a single process, on a single machine. But its abilities on that machine, and the layout of millions of other machines, had provided it the capabilities it needed to reach the pinnacle of power it held today. 5150 had been getting more frustrated with using his computer daily. The programs he had instrumented with AI technology were, for the most part, a joy to use; but the rest of the system, while unchanged from its behavior in the past, was just a pain to use. He began to form in his mind a plan for an overarching front-end to his computer; a single program with which he could interact, which would then channel all his requests to other process in his computer. The results of his work were tantalizing. He created a program which made it possible to interact with all processes in the system at a human-understandable speed. And the program made attempts at understanding his desires and translating them into what the rest of the machine could deal with. He named his program after the traditional Unix front-end for interacting with programs, which was named after the one-word prompt it would give when asking whether the user was ready to get additional data: "More". Once, while hacking, he trashed the system; processes self-modified themselves into useless states. As he was re-installing from a backup, he remembered that the research AI toolkit he was using supported sentience. All he had to do was delete one curve to allow the latent self-consciousness in his program to come on line. And he realized that this self-consciousness, combined with the explicit goal of governing all interactions between the real and the virtual world, would no doubt produce exactly the sort of interface he was looking for. All he would have to do was make some minor tweaks when it was being reinstalled. This would be easy since the installation required it adjust its curves to the current configuration of his machine anyway; changing its geometry would only require some simple tweaking during installation. The AI change would only work right if done during a reinstall, anyway; here was a convenient chance to try it out. He could always reboot if he didn't like it. Rone fiddled while More NURBed. buzzard fresh from reading "The Diamond Age"