Subject:      more
From: (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

    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

    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

    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

    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.

fresh from reading "The Diamond Age"