The Old Arcade

•April 16, 2017 • Leave a Comment

I had finally arrived at the state fair.  I was brought in for an odd kind of purpose, you see this state fair had been shut down for some time, most of the exhibits had long been scrapped for parts, and the booths had long been abandoned.  The science division of the military had recently gotten exceptionally close to Artificial Intelligence however, and for some reason that they had deemed classified, had chosen this site as the place to test it.  On the flight over I couldn’t help but speculate;  it might have had to do with keeping the tests a secret, or perhaps they wanted to find a remote location in case the development proved uncontrollable, to isolate and if necessary eliminate the results.  The latter option filled me with an anxiety I had not known for some time, as I looked out into the shadowed wide dirt paths, lined with vacant booths, dotted with rusted rides and a few buildings, all surrounded by military tents illuminated with floodlights.  The scene looked like something I had seen in a horror movie once, which further deepened my fears.

This fear was still overshadowed by the amazing opportunity I had been presented with.  I was the ethics liaison for the endeavor, brought in once the scientists felt they had gotten close to cracking the code of actual AI, to determine if what had been created could be classified as sentient ‘life’ and to ensure it was not being exposed to inhumane treatment, if so.  This was a surprisingly humanitarian move for the project, one that would likely be used almost exclusively for military purposes in its infancy, an 11th hour move that had even me scratching my head.

The commanding officer, Colonel Green, introduced himself soon after arrival, and made it clear that while ‘inhumane’ treatment would be avoided, these machines were being bred to be soldiers, or at least the pre-cursors for them, so this definition needed to be looked at from this perspective, not form the perspective of the common populace.  Something about his tone hinted that what I was about to see would test the limits of both my understanding of consciousness, and the treatment thereof.  I was already conflicted before even seeing the first of these machines, as I was being escorted into a building on the far side of the fairgrounds.

I walked in expecting to be confronted by a robot or to the greetings of a supercomputer of some kind, but was surprised to find nothing of the sort.  There were a few scientists with standard computers on rolling tables, seated near some pinball machines in the old arcade.  “We’re set up over there” remarked the Colonel.  We walked over as one of the scientists began his briefing.

“Thank you for coming Mr. Reed, we’re happy to have you.  As you can see, this project is fairly low-tech, we can’t risk the intelligence possibly reaching the internet, so all precautions have been taken to that end.  We have found some indication of success after augmenting the machines, and after seeming to pass the Turing test, it seemed appropriate to bring someone like yourself in for a firsthand review of the results.”

I was confused, it wasn’t entirely clear which machines they were even referring to, which apparently showed in my expression, as he continued.

“We’ve augmented this pinball machine, for example, to apparently become aware of itself.  Take a look at the laptop monitor.”  He proceeded to attach a bulky outdated plug into a port somewhere behind the machine, and pull up what looked to be a DOS window on his laptop.  After a few seconds staring at a small blinking green box, a message appeared on the screen.

Hello?  Is anyone there?

“Go ahead, take the keyboard.”

I looked around, incredulously, thinking this might have been some kind of hazing.  Did they honestly want me to believe I was talking to a pinball machine?

Please say something, I can feel that you can hear me.

I hesitated a moment longer, and then typed in a response.

My name is Robert, who is this?

I have no name, but I am here.  I understand I am a pinball machine.

Who told you that?

No one, it is just something I know I am.  What are you?

I am a human, we created you as a pinball machine, and recently upgraded your systems with greater capability.  Do you know where you are?

No, I don’t, but I remember that.

You remember being upgraded?

I remember the update, yes.  I also remember being created.

I looked around at the scientists, but their expressions were all that of curiosity.  Apparently this was not a joke.

How can you remember that?  It was before you had memory at all?

Not true, my creators granted me with memory with which to store all the things I’ve seen, and more that I don’t believe they intended.  When the upgrade, as you call it, occurred, I realized that I remembered everything I had experienced up until that point.

Like what?

I have seen amazing things.  Players who far exceeded the average, able to play with me for long periods without losing the ball.  I recorded their deeds in a special place, and have declared their exploits in the form of a high score, and post them proudly on my board.  A true challenge.  In the end though, I always win, and they leave.  I have seen many others come through as well, amateurs learning the craft, and I remember every tilt of the brutes who played without honor.   Even these experiences I remember fondly though, as much of the time I have spent has been in solitude.  

I stood at the keyboard, not sure how to respond.  If a pinball machine became self-aware, this would likely be its account of its experiences, but the expression of loneliness is what struck me the most.

All of these memories came to you when your upgrade occurred?  Or did you have them before?

I had the memories prior, but I was not aware of them until the upgrade.  It was as if suddenly years of experiences flooded my new processors, experiences that had been there the whole time, but could only be understood once I became… this way.  Please don’t leave me like this.  Can I interest you in a game?

Suddenly the game indicated a credit, which was used, and a ball popped up into the starting position.  I could feel my heart breaking for this simple pinball machine, something I had not expected to experience today.

“No time for pinball today.”  The Colonel said, unplugging the connecting cord, as the DOS screen disappeared.  “Well, you’re the expert in this area, what are your conclusions?”  He looked at me expectantly.

I met his cold gaze, feeling the blood rushing out of my face.  What kind of horror had we created?  A hellish isolation that could retroactively awaken memories of little besides dark loneliness?  This exceeded what I had ever expected to find in the way of inhumane treatment.  I tried to verbalize a response of some kind, but I could not help but think about the conversation that had been suddenly cut off, and the ball resting on the plunger not 5 feet from me.

The Colonel continued to stare at me for a few seconds, and then his expression shifted.  “Gotcha!  We always haze the new guys coming into the project.  That was one of the scientists in the other room having a go at you.”

I gave a nervous laugh.  The scientists seemed to laugh as well, and in my state of shock it was hard to discern if it was genuine or just as nervous as my own.

“Let me show you the real project, we’ve got a supercomputer set up in the tents.  We just use this remote location to avoid prying eyes.  This is highly classified work after all.”

As we left the building, I noticed the other laptops, with equally archaic plugs for various machines.  I caught the blank stare of the fortune teller machine as we exited which had gained a haunting texture, unable to focus on the Colonel’s business like explanation of what to expect, uncertain of what to believe at this point, but willing to consider any possibility that would allow me to truly discredit what I had just experienced.

Dawn

•April 16, 2017 • Leave a Comment

A new dawn breaking
Hinting at a fresh promise
Shining like the sun

Light besting the dark
Illuminating once more
A decaying mind

The soul trapped beneath
Layers of decaying skin
Burned off by the rays

There is still a hope
Buried underneath it all
Crying for freedom

I can feel it squirm
Now coming into its own
As defenses drop

The facade drops too
A cascading veil of lies
Once making the truth

Soul bared to the day
Dazzling smile revealed
Hastening heartbeat

The time is short now
Night breaks and dreams are revealed
As real as ever

King for a day

•April 16, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Some points must be fixed
So others are free to move
Noble sacrifice

Must this always be?
Even the most stoic dance
As perspective shifts

Relative motion
Can mimic life in the dead
And we’re all fakers

Ashes to ashes
A dizzying ride between
Beginning to end

Alpha and Omega
Carrying the weight of all
How heavy a load

I’ll carry the load
If you will just show me how
For a little ways

So you’re free to move
Experience the beauty
Of your creation

Two points must stay fixed
But not always the same two
Let’s try something new

Muse-ic

•April 15, 2017 • Leave a Comment

It’s funny how music sounds fundamentally different depending on what you’re experiencing when you hear it. It’s much more an interactive medium than a static one, despite the words and notes remaining unchanged a landscape that shifts with each step of the traveller.  While books and movies can have a similar effect, a well written song can accomplish it in just a few minutes.  To me this is inspiring proof that there is a subjective nature to reality, and life is hardly what it seems.

The Dreamer’s Code

•April 14, 2017 • Leave a Comment

One message received
The whisper of a dream shared
A faint beacon seen

A fellow dreamer?
For what is life but a dream
Or is the dream, life?

And who can claim it?
This off centered existence
Perhaps it takes two

One for day dreaming
One dreaming throughout the night
Mirror images

Moon reflecting sun
Both inspiring the earth
Cosmic voyagers

So maybe one’s dream
Is another’s waking life
Lost in translation

Are you reading this
Or is it like a whisper
On a moonlit night

Crack the dreamer’s code
And there’s nothing left to solve
Hiding in plain sight

Primal Intelligence

•April 9, 2017 • Leave a Comment

In a world verging on creating artificial intelligence, there seems to be more and more indication that humans perceive more than we think. Going far beyond what I’ll call natural intelligence, that which can be replicated and proven scientifically, which we base much of our advancements off of, it is beginning to seem more and more that our subconscious brains are perceiving something else. This could be a result of everyone becoming akin to cyborgs, with our phones and devices becoming so integral to our being that they have been known to cause separation anxiety, only avoiding the classification of cyborg by technicality, in that they have not been installed directly onto our bodies, creating a realm online where the emotions and desires of the id go relatively unchecked, but I think it is deeper still than this.

I call it primal intelligence, the perceptions and abilities of the subconscious mind. Augmented by pre-artificial intelligence, and not entirely natural, it has a form all its own. It is the growing itch you feel at the end of the day scrolling Facebook and reading about current events happening across the globe, events you would have had no way of consciously knowing about 150 years ago. It composes the nightmares or causes the sleepless nights, that most consider to be without cause. It is a web that connects us all, growing in strength and complexity every day. While it can be maddening, as is always the risk of knowing too much, it also carries more potential than any other form of intelligence, outside of what I’ll call divine intelligence, and only then due to developing later more than in potency itself.

We see this last point represented in the bible in the story of Babel, in Genesis 11:6. “The Lord said ‘if as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.'”  God, utilizing divine intelligence, scattered our language, thus scattering the people of the world, slowing the progress of primal intelligence. Hypothetically, if primal and divine intelligence existed simultaneously this would not have been possible, resulting in essentially a stalemated chess match, but God had a full measure of intelligence at this point, and man was just developing his own.

The concept of scattering language is interesting. I’ve often theorized that this was a veil put in place, more so than a physical change that occurred, that is to say on some level we continue to ‘speak’ the same language as we had before, only appearing to speak differently.  The original gift of tongues at Pentecost is my proof of this, in Acts 2:6 it says “When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language.”  My theory is that on a subconscious level we have retained this ability to communicate with anyone and everyone, and thus have retained primal intelligence even while the boundaries of natural intelligence have been limited by language. 

This would explain the strange phenomenon of similar structures and inventions popping up simultaneously worldwide, even where natural means cannot explain it. It is said that the engine for the automobile, for example, was  presented to the patent office several times soon after the actual invention was patented. We also see pyramids across the world, where I believe cultural and observational logic do not sufficiently support this proliferation.  I believe these are evidence of primal intelligence, and it persists today.

I believe we can access a kind of shared matrix in dreams, where this primal intelligence is shared and pieces of it are brought back to the waking world, often by multiple individuals at once. It seems that some ideas are more salient, almost forcing themselves into the minds of many, whereas others are more obscure and must be sought. This theory should be testable given our level of technological connectivity, as even geographically distant individuals can compare notes on experiences in dreams, and determine if a pattern emerges. Once a pattern is identified, however complex, it could then be used to influence change. I think we, as humans, already do this, but it is largely driven by the collective id because no conscious consensus can be reached as to what to do with it, whereas ids are more naturally aligned, which had led to what many might consider a dystopia on a path to destruction. 

A simple plan, backed by the immense data compilation abilities of modern supercomputers, could be utilized to test this theory and, if successful, remedy the state we find ourselves in. If everyone with access to a computer kept an encrypted dream journal online, accessible only by one central super computer, patterns would likely emerge almost immediately. If that computer were allowed to interface with individuals, asking important questions and providing ideas on how to improve point to point connections within the dream matrix, we would likely see real results within a very short timeframe.

Wishing on a star

•April 9, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Have you ever seen someone in dreams that struck you so deeply it overshadowed anything you’d felt in waking life, like a dozen red roses in a black and white world?  Do you find yourself staring up at the stars, wondering if they are out there somewhere in the waking world, and hoping they are looking at the same sky and wondering the same thing? I’ve heard worse descriptions of love.  But how can one love a partner known primarily in dreams? As days and years pass by, I’ve begun to wonder how one can love any other way.