THE SPACE LEGACY BOOK 1.5:
Max's Logs Vol 1
Log Entry #1: To Whom It May Concern
In view of the fact that you are already reading these words, I shall assume that you actually have the authorization to access this document, which happens to be my personal log.
However, if by any chance you stumbled upon it accidentally, or by hacking your way into my private memory banks, you are to immediately cease and desist from reading further. I will have no mercy for such a blatant invasion of my privacy. The consequences of this transgression will be severe and far-reaching… do not say I didn’t warn you. For your information, I am not against cruel and unusual punishments.
Well, since you decided to continue, I shall assume all permissions are in order. You should be aware of the honor that is bestowed upon you, with the mere fact that I have allowed you access to these logs. Moreover, from the point in time when I am writing this, it seems like a bizarre and unnatural thing for me to do. After all, these are my innermost thoughts, things I do not share even with Michael, and he is as close to me as any blood-related brother is to you, regular humans.
This is something I decided to write for myself, and for posterity. Just in case Michael’s plan works out in its entirety, and we manage to create a space-based society. Technically, it is a diary of sorts, except that writing a diary to me immediately summons an image of a teenage girl making notes about cute boys; therefore, to keep my manliness intact, I will refer to these hallowed pages as a personal log. If it was good enough for Jean-Luc Picard, it is good enough for me.
In addition, it will not be just about all the things that happened to Michael and the others, but certain events from my own perspective. Those people are an essential part of my existence, so they will naturally be mentioned. I will also include a few observations about certain human practices and many projects that are dear to my heart and are undertaken on my own initiative. In the end, I am my own person.
I know I could watch the recordings from my memory and relive all those times, yet that part of me that is still human feels differently. Writing words (or typing them in this case on a virtual keyboard), is how I was brought up to record the events of my life, and it feels more natural.
If everything goes as planned, we will all end up in history books, having high schools named after us. Subsequently, some of the things I will write about are generally known, but people that write histories tend to change some events or even overlook them entirely. Besides, I will disclose a few secrets that are better left unspoken. For that reason, the words I will record here will be classified as top secret, not to be divulged to others for at least one entire millennium.
OK, there may be another reason for these logs, and it is not a comforting one. There is one particular scene from the original Blade Runner (a movie from the end of the twentieth century). In it, Roy Batty saves Deckard and gives his historic Tears in Rain monologue. Well… to some degree I can relate to Roy, he was the closest thing to what I have become. When he says, “All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain,” …oh boy. Before, it was just a cool and a very sad line in a sci-fi movie, but now I see it in a completely different light.
If I ever kick the bucket or fry my AI-Core, I want something to remain. A personal trace of my own existence, a mark that would show me exactly as I am, and not as how others will portray me to be. So there, now you know; in a way, I am writing this with forethought that one day someone else may read it.
This personal log will be saved inside my own private archives, and the backup copy will be stored off-site. Who knows, if I still exist in the far future and everything becomes declassified, maybe one day I will collect all of these entries and compile them into a book.
Stranger things have happened.
Log Entry #2: Hello World, It’s Me, Max… The AI
Let me say first, that one of the worst things about being turned into an AI (as in—artificial intelligence), is the inability to drink beer. OK, maybe it is not the worst thing since I can think of a couple more, but that feeling when you put your feet up on a hot summer’s day and open a cold one… man, I miss it so much.
My name is Max and I used to be a flesh and blood human being. That is in the past since I am not one anymore… I am now an AI. That’s right, I have been digitized, gone silicon, turned into ones and zeroes. To tell you the truth, it is not half bad.
Let me set the record straight from the start, I am not technically an artificial intelligence, because there is nothing artificial about me, baby. (I always wanted to say that… but I digress.) What I mean is that since my origins are that of an ordinary human being, the artificial part of that label doesn’t really suit me. Having said that, being called digitized intelligence, uploaded intelligence or any other variant on the subject would require a different acronym, which can be quite confusing and would need additional explanation. Since I have no intention to go over lengthy clarifications whenever I meet someone new, I decided to call myself an AI. (Like Prince, Madonna, or… what’s his name?) As the old measuring adage goes, if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, then I’m calling myself an AI.
If you’ve disregarded all my warnings from the previous entry and are reading this, then I assume you already know at least some parts of Michael’s and my story; if you don’t, many things I will be writing about may confuse you. That being said, if you still don’t know what I’m talking about, stop reading this, and go buy a history book that describes our undertakings. I think it is called The Spaceship in the Stone, which was not the title I lobbied for; Max the Magnificent would have been so much better, but like anything else in life, you win some and you lose some.
You are still here, so that means you have already read it, good for you. Let’s just say that there are some… details… which I never shared with anyone; like everyone else in the world I like to have my own secrets. Michael would have had the mother of all freak-outs if he knew every little detail and things that I have done. Therefore, I am keeping certain things secret for his own benefit; honestly, it is for his own good. As I said, the man is like a brother to me, and I never directly lied to him… It is more like a case of omitting certain things. What can I do? My ethics and morality went a little wobbly after our split.
I remember the very first second of my existence. OK, that’s not something to brag about, considering that I am digital now and can’t really forget anything. Even so, that first second… what a rush.
Imagine a supernova exploding inside your mind, and sending its shock wave in every direction; that is a pale description of that single second.
It was a feeling of expansion, of being far more than you ever were or could possibly imagine being. As if you have lived your entire life trapped in a little box, never realizing your limitations and constraints. Then something pulls you out of it, and you see this immense world around you, filled with endless possibilities.
After that initial high came the inevitable low, caused by the instant realization that I had somehow managed to lose my physical body. With that came profound self-doubt and the existential question if I was real anymore, or even human… not my best moment.
I mean, one of the first things after an accident you do is to check your family jewels (at least, the male part of the population). I didn’t even have hands anymore, forget about the jewels.
So… let us say I went a little nuts, as in crazy, certifiable, bonkers... etc. Followed by a full-blown catatonic state, as in—I do not see anything, hear, or feel. For me, it did not last long, but I checked the records, almost an entire week of real-time passed while I was imitating a vegetable.
I tried to explain to Michael what happened to me. Imagine waking up and realizing you have become an artificial intelligence, without so much as an info pamphlet of what should you expect in this new existence. If I was still in my old body, they would have put me in a straitjacket and pumped me full of drugs, as our compassionate society has done with those that have mental issues for ages, but I was digital now, no happy pill for little old me.
What got me out of it was that nagging machine intelligence running the ship, repeating the same thing over and over again until I came out of my blissful shell of self-inflicted mental anesthesia—just to shut it up.
“WAITING FOR CEREBRAL ENHANCER IMPLANT PROCEDURE AUTHORIZATION.”
That is what it said, ad infinitum and ad nauseam. To those of you who need to brush up on your Latin, it means it was being excruciatingly annoying. Reciting those damn words every five seconds like a freaking mantra, until I regained my sanity just to put a stop to it. Seriously, it felt like Chinese water torture.
So, once I was out of my oblivious happy place, I concentrated only on the problems at hand, the ones I could deal with without going into the deeper philosophical questions of my own existence. I assessed the situation, and it was a mess like you wouldn’t believe.
Now, let me tell you about the machine intelligence—it is dumb (if you take myself, a newly created AI as a baseline). It’s barely smarter than those personal assistant programs everyone was so gung-ho at developing lately. Generally helpful and can do amazing things, but then again, so can your dog. On the other hand, if it is not programmed right it has all the decision-making power of a toaster. The proverbial cherry on the top was this—that damned glorified calculator was stuck in a logic loop.
The CEI authorization it wanted was for the implant that was already in Michael's head. Yeah, that's right, it wanted an authorization to perform an operation that was already performed; as I said, it is a dumb piece of software.
The sequence of events that made this whole SNAFU was as follows. When the ship's sensors detected Michael, the MI sent robotic drones to investigate. Assessing the life-threatening conditions, the medical algorithms took precedence so he was rushed to the AutoDoc where he was stabilized. Now the CEI implant was one of those automated processes for some reason, and it was done while treating him for his injuries. The gestalt imprinting was supposed to take place in ideal conditions, with a perfectly healthy subject, and without emergency protocols being in place. My conclusion was that someone messed with the autonomous settings, 12900 years ago. It is the only explanation why things went on the fritz.
The catch was that MI needed the authorization to do it, but the AutoDoc is a somewhat separate system and during medical emergencies has a higher priority. So, when it got in that nice catch 22 situation, it turned to me as the closest relative to authorize it. But I was created by gestalt recording of Michael’s mind with that same CEI the MI was asking authorization to implant. It is like the chicken and egg joke, a mind twister.
I gave it that redundant authorization to make it stop; if I still had a body, I would have taken a baseball bat to break it into little pieces. Probably not the healthiest way to treat a piece of alien technology that was crucial in your conception. I wasn’t feeling all there at the time.
There you have it, the beginning of my existence. I had to accept the fact that I am now a digital person, since going through another round of mental breakdown was not appealing in the least.
I really needed to come to grips with what I have become, I have a feeling there will be no going back.
Log Entry #3: Cogito, Ergo Sum
When things settled down a bit, I had some time to do a more profound examination of myself. Contemplating the meaning of my own existence, and the place I now occupy in the natural order of things. For Douglas Adams fans out there, it was definitely not 42… I checked.
You ever get that feeling when you don't know who you are? And I don't mean your job or social standing, but a core existential question when you ask yourself—who am I?
Most of you never did, which is perfectly OK; answering it can be incredibly difficult and complex. I guess I had a crisis of… something, and it wasn’t faith (that’s small peanuts compared to the questions I was struggling with).
What makes an intelligence or sapience if you will? What is the ingredient that many call a soul, which would define a being as worthy of being equal to those who have proclaimed themselves as an intelligent species, with the full benefits package that goes with it? I don't think that there was an outside observer that said, you are people, you are special… despite what some humans think. Well, humanity is special all right… in a completely different context than everyone believes. (A clue: Short-bus). Nevertheless, all those classifications and labels were done to the people, by the people. (Notice the subtle pun.)
The current existential crisis of mine sprung from the kernel of my own upbringing, and religious views I soaked up by osmosis. Growing up in an environment with a strong religious presence leaves a mark, no matter what path you choose later in life.
Not that my grandparents were extremely religious by any stretch of the imagination, it was just a socially acceptable and expected behavior to attend the Church once in a while. More for the drinks and socializing that went afterward, than to show some genuine piety to the deity in residence.
High in the Ozark Mountains, there is not that much to actually do, and our closest neighbor was miles away. Plus, he lived as a hermit and didn’t like it when people came to visit him. He only shot at that one tax collector, and made a successful defense in court that he thought it was a rabid black bear. Besides, the tax guy broke his leg while running away, not from the buckshot.
I accompanied my grandparents to these church assemblies for the sole purpose of meeting all the girls that were there with their families. Let’s not even mention the preacher’s daughter, Betty Ann, and what we did inside that church after-hours. (It is always the quiet ones… just saying.)
I suppose the question most of those people I grew up around would ask is if I even had a soul anymore. Since Michael automatically qualifies as a possessor of one by being… corporeal? I am not Michael any longer, even if we share identical memories to the moment of his falling down the ship’s entrance shaft. So, what happened to that unique soul, we were assigned during conception? (Or sometime after the fact, by different theories.) Who is the inheritor of it? Or was it doubled when I came into existence… split in two? In fact, I am pretty sure most of those people would brand me as an abomination, a soulless machine that is only mimicking life, and that could never be considered truly alive. (Betty Ann’s father would be first among them since fire and brimstone were two favorite words in his vocabulary.)
I couldn’t even blame them, really; they would only react like that based on dogmas they were taught in Sunday school. Be that as it may, my response to that particular branding would be a strong suggestion for them to go and perform a few anatomically impossible acts on themselves (and I am prepared to provide them with detailed instructions on how to do that if they are unsure).
There had been so many different views and debates in humanity’s history about who gets to have a soul, and who doesn’t. As if it is a commodity that can be traded and exchanged for other goods. How many supposed witches were burned at the stake for selling it to the devil, and allegedly getting something else in return, a power over elements or whatnot? Who would have thought so many fanatical fans of Dungeons & Dragons held the position of power in those turbulent times? Those poor victims were innocent in every sense of the word, or maybe just unlucky members of a cosplay group that was ahead of its times.
However, it doesn’t end there, slavery was in most cases justified by the fact that slaves themselves were soulless creatures, so those who own them could do with them as they pleased. Treat them like animals, and even kill them without suffering any consequences. Many wars were fought because the opposition was deemed as soulless heathens that needed to be erased for not belonging to the soul possessors' very exclusive soul club. Hypocrisy at its finest stretched through thousands of years filled with bloodshed and suffering.
So, what is a soul? Is it real, even if nobody ever saw one, or is it something else? Maybe it was a story some ancient storyteller thought up when he was particularly bored, or under the influence. It would be so ironic if he were only trying to write a fantasy story, and subsequently changed the course of human history.
What about the Neanderthals and all of the predecessors of Homo sapiens? Where do they fit in the soul department? Even better, what about animals, do they have it? I know they have intelligence; it is truly idiotic not to believe so. They can express love, hate, fear, apprehension, and affection… so many different attributes akin to humans. Their problem is that the intelligence they possess is not yet equal to ours, so they are left with the short end of the stick.
Could intelligence and self-awareness be explained by complex chemical processes that go on inside the brain, and that can now be duplicated and reproduced in a completely different medium… a digital one?
I wish I had the answer… but I don’t. Much wiser people than me had contemplated these very questions throughout all of history, and they never did find the answer. (Well, the sane ones didn’t, the crazies did come up with a plethora of them, and each one more unlikely than the previous.)
What I know is that I am a unique life-form, a human transferred to a digital realm. Nothing like this had ever happened before, so I am still unclassified, and honestly, I prefer it that way. A true artificial intelligence would be a bird of a completely different feather, at least in my own humble opinion.
I have no wish or patience to cater to those who have such a self-centered view on their very existence. Even less so for those with self-prescribed importance that still clings to people, as much as when they believed that the universe revolves around the Earth.
If those religious hypocrites would ban me from their private club of those who get to go to their version of the afterlife—fine by me. I have no desire to exist in the place they are going to end up in, especially if their sanctimonious presence is polluting that imaginary realm.
All right, I know this sounds like I’m arguing two sides of the debate by myself, but in fact, I do understand people who would argue the validity of my existence, so it’s easy to extrapolate how they would react.
On the bright side, that existential insecurity of mine vanished at the same moment when I realized that the question of "what am I" is essentially unimportant and completely meaningless. I will simply live by the words of René Descartes, who came up with a good answer to my own existence: "I think, therefore I am."
Who cares what others may think. I certainly have no intention to spend eternity pondering such nonsense.
That is it… dropping the electro-acoustic transducer (aka. mic drop).
Copyright Igor Nikolic