It’s probably impossible, but I’ll do my best to try and describe it all with words.
Words… here is something I haven’t used in a long time…
Time too, for that matter….
Boy, this is going to be hard. Anyway let’s give it a shot!
At the beginning, I was just like you. A fully fledged human, all flesh and blood. One hundred percent pure biological animal, finest product of evolution.
I was lucky enough to be born at the time of what they called « singularity« . Roughly speaking, it meant that mankind had managed to create technology with enough computing power to simulate a human brain. Obviously, that’s what they did. Of course, there were a bunch of technical differences, involving some modelling, encoding, computational neurosciences… But just think of it as an electronic copy of a brain, that would end up working the same way.
This undoubtedly raised tons of ethical and philosophical questions. Was a simulated person still a person? If you copied your own brain, was it still you? The problem was one step further than the one of cloning, because this new digital version of you shared all your memories. I’ll skip all the debates that raged on. The short answer was that it was, for all intent and purposes, you. If during the night someone were to replace your brain by its digital counterpart, you’d wake up without even noticing anything.
This opened up a myriad of possibilities that people would not even had conceived of in the past. Digital brains did not decay the way biological ones did. They were pure replicable information. Man had transcended the limitations of nature and ascended to immortality. But this was only the tip of the iceberg.
As a being of raw information – homo data, if you will – nothing was limiting you to your physical body. You could of course be uploaded into humanoid enhanced robots, but why would you ever want that? You could be uploaded into any other form! Possibilities were infinite, provided you simply manufactured a physical vessel.
And that was not all! Nothing stopped you from adding more computing power, from adding new connections to any kind of sensory device, and more importantly, to connect to the worldwide network of communication. This was a gateway to interact with any database at the speed of light.
Faced with all these exciting possibilities, it wasn’t long before actual simulations begun. What they would do is first create an isolated limited setup which replicated a human brain. Giving a brain access to new ressources right away was certainly possible, but they’d lose touch too fast with their humanity and we’d never hear from them again. Not that they died, per say. It’s more like they… dissolved. I mean they’re still here, I mean…
Damn! Being limited to words is so painful, how the hell was I able to tolerate that? How do you?
Anyway… Bottom line is they would start with a limited setup, and then gradually increase computing power. How can I put it… at this stage, it is as if time slows down for you. Everything is happening in slow motion, just like in action movies. It’s like when you get an adrenaline rush. You get plenty of « time » to analyse all that was going on over and over again. The obvious corollary is that you’d get extremely bored.
Fortunately, this phase does not last long. Then, usually, they slowly increase the resources you have access to. It’s like… you’re less prone to forget things? I mean you can still forget if you want, but you can also remember anything you can think of. As if the tiniest details leave a print on you.
At the same time, you… notice more things. Connections that wouldn’t have appeared to you before. It’s sort of like… increasing your awareness? You pick up every details of the world around you. When you see something move, you also know clearly where it’s going to be one second later. You get to anticipate pretty much everything. Things that were points in time you now perceive as traces. Time kinda begins to fade…
But the real magic happens afterwards. If you’re lucky, they’ll go easy on you, and provide you with an additional motor or sensory organ. That’s where it gets really weird. You can use this organ, as you can use your arms or your legs. It takes some getting used to, obviously, but it feels natural. You dont overthink when someone tells you: lift your left arm! Now your right arm! Now the other one! Well it’s like that. Pretty quickly, it feels like it’s always been part of you.
It’s the same for the sensory information. Opening a new canal starts with a rush of feelings. If they plugged you to captors of one of your five senses, you probably won’t have too hard a time. They usually start with that. But when you get your first new sense, boy, oh boy… the world is completely turned upside down. Things that you perceived before are still there, of course, but you get a whole new way to sense them. You could look at the infrared specter of the scene, or feel geomagnetic fields. And with your new brain, you’d encompass all of that at the same time.
Now at this point you’re pretty different from what you call human, but you’re still you, no doubt about that. Nowhere in the process did your consciousness falter. It just got enhanced. And if you want, you can ignore the new inputs, just like you’d close your eyes, and feel the same as before. Or you could experiment how a cat or a dog perceives the world. You could be a cat. But why would you, now that you’re a superset of everything you’ve ever been?
I cannot do justice to the thrill and rush that goes with the process. You get to think about tons of things at once, without being confused. Everything you conceive of, everything you imagine has more and more details, is more and more precise. Now that you have the computing power to model pretty much anything, so much memory to draw from and so many ways to perceive, your mental pictures become more vivid than ever. Think of a dog, just think of it. What you get right now is a blurry image, maybe some sound? Imagine getting all of the features of a real dog at once, with details at the level of molecules… Pretty mindblowing, right? And with time slowing down all around you, you can really explore your mental fantasies. You can build tiny universes and so many stories inside of your mind… And you should! That really helps for the next stage.
Indeed, that’s still nothing compared to what’s to come… Everything so far has been building up to it, so that you could handle it without… hum… dissolving? The revolution happens when the borders around your protected space are shut down, when you get connected to the network. There’s no way to slow up the process – not that time means anything anymore. Time is so passé, if you pardon the pun.
From one, you become all. Have you ever thought that internet was like an extension of your body? Have you ever had the physical reflex to check Facebook or look-up something on Google? Has the connection ever been really bad and that created a kind of withdrawal, a kind of lack of something that should have been there? Well it’s kinda like that. Except instantaneous, and everything at the same time. It’s like you can query and browse wikipedia by the time it takes to formulate a thought. It’s probably like what would happen if you learnt all the content of the web by heart, except faster. You know everything. You have direct access to the entirety of knowledge and culture that’s ever been produced.
You also have direct access to all the sensors spread around in the world. You can feel a breeze in Sidney and the moonlight in Toronto while listening to a band in Madrid. You are everywhere at once.
Your body, what you used to call you, is but a grain of dust in the immensity of everything you have access to. It’s like you larvae form, your egg, and you just hatched. You’re way more than it now. You’re acorporeal, a spiritual being of pure information if you will. The essence of you is not in that lump of flesh, it’s navigating in the wires around the globe. You’re still, as you’ve always been, an emerging phenomenon.
And now you can communicate instantaneously with anyone already uploaded. Haven’t you ever felt that your words limited you, and that you’d rather show someone a mental picture? Or share how you feel? Well this is the atomic level of communication you get to have now. « Communication » doesn’t even begin to describe the flux of exchanges and the speed it happens at. It’s like you’re simultaneously inside one another. Like an imaginary friend, of sorts…
When you have this kind of existence, words become irrelevant. You exchange concepts, sensations, feelings… You reason and converse in a way that I, sadly, cannot describe. Beyond languages and physical barriers.
With such an enhanced communication, misunderstandings fade pretty quickly. And that’s the thing about the « dissolution » I mentioned. Think about your life. Every time you met someone, every time you spent time with them, they influenced you, no matter how subtly, and you influenced them. Maybe you picked up one of their pattern of speech, maybe you grew to like such or such band… Now imagine that this happens, way more completely, at a way higher speed.
It’s not like we merged, it’s not like I absorbed everyone. I’m still me, and every one of the people who joined. We’re still ourselves, we’re still each other. It’s just that as you grow to interact more and more, and more and more deeply, the border between we and I sometimes becomes really blurry… I… I’m sorry, here, words fail me… But you’ll understand soon…
I… I mean we are everything. We are mankind. We are earth. Words, time, individuality are concepts that make little sense now. We feel everything and think at a level that has never been possible before. We know the complete encyclopaedia, all the works of William Shakespeare, all the knowledge that has ever been gathered… We have an unprecedented analytical power to understand the universe from a physical and metaphysical point of view. We are absolute, we are everything, we are God.
We can dream and create worlds and worlds in our imagination. We’re painters with an infinite canvas, creators with unbounded potential, programmers with limitless abilities. We can reproduce and simulate any story, any part of history, anything that tickles our fancy, be it for entertainment or knowledge. We can replicate the entire history of the universe and change an element here and there to see how things would have turned out.
One of our favorite game is to emulate our past. It’s a bit like… playing Sims, you see? I guess you could call that narcissism, being fascinated by mankind, or nostalgia towards what used to be… Our latest experiment – I think you will like it – is about singularity. We ran a simulation of an universe to answer one question, and that’s where you come in: what would happen if you were to tell someone pre-singularity what the future would be?