by thefourpartland

A short story written for fun over the weekend. Will appear over the course of the week. The title is entirely temporary.

The sky twinkled. And then went out. It was the third time this week that had happened, and so Jonah barely gave it any notice. After all, he had more important things to do, like not die.

Of course, that not dying was merely in a metaphorical sense. In a more realistic one, he had been dead for an age. Perhaps two ages as humans had once reckoned things. He was one of the early experiments in artificial life, although the term AL was rather a misnomer in his case, since he was, or had been, a human soul, and now resided in a machine. Well, a great many machines. His original experiment had been forgotten a long time ago, relegated to the dusty past by legislation and progress.

When it was possible to just have a body regrown infinitely, what was the point in giving up the pleasures of the flesh? There certainly wasn’t any in the eyes of most of humanity, and those that did tended to head down the cyborg route, the better faster stronger that had always intrigued the curious. Of course, with the science of the day, it was possible to rebuild a body that was mostly cyborg, and so even that was hardly an irreversible course, should one decide that was so.

All of this meant Jonah’s life, such as it was, was entirely lonely. The scientists who’d engaged in his experiment hadn’t bothered repeating it, and so there was no other human trapped in quite the same way, nor had humanity ever built artificial intelligence. Instead, they’d gone down the path of ever bigger data, recording even the tiniest of moments and shoving them into a machine to be processed, and have recommendations and insights spat out the other end. Now everything was run by those machines. When to plant food, how much to grow, what would be the in-fashion items this season, all of it boiled down to work from computation algorithms.

Those who minded the machines, a collection of think tanks, universities, and the government, always maintained they did not force people to follow the path the machines predicted, and yet it seemed that time after time, the machines were right. Which was a bit of a hoax. Jonah was sure, since the machines he was in couldn’t get his own memory right, never mind the fate of the world.

Of course, that might have been because he kept changing homes. With everything networked to facilitate the transfer of all this big data, Jonah could flit from computer to computer, quite literally the ghost in the machine. He’d learned long ago to read the 1s and 0s, turn them into images, text, sound, and so what he actually did most days was watch TV. Amazing how in the two ages that he’d been deceased, they still hadn’t come up with better writers. Dreary rubbish was still the norm.

It wasn’t the most exciting of existences, but he’d resigned himself to it a long time ago, because, well, he didn’t really have a choice. It was either that, or go insane due to boredom. Then again, as a machine intelligence, of a sort, he was most likely insane by the standards of living humans. They certainly didn’t use quantum entanglement to process thoughts. Jonah didn’t either, not consciously, but somewhere down in the mind-machine interface, a little bit of code translated his desired thoughts into that.

The scientists who had conducted the experiment had provided him with a few enhancements to ease his transition into his new state of being, the most prominent of which was a sort of mathematical hindbrain. To him, it manifested as always knowing the numbers for everything, but what it really was was a very smart query and compute program, one that could retrieve data and transform it as he wished. Another was a factual hindbrain, which looked up facts. There were a few other hindbrains scattered about, but those were the two he used most.

An unintentional side effect of the all of this labour was that he was amazing at cracking systems open, because he could always retrieve the data that he needed. Quite handy when he wanted to worm his way into an unused system for a nap, some place out of the constantly chattering datastreams.

Which meant he was in for rather a shock when one of those little naps was interrupted.


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