HomeStoryThe ASI

The ASI

The year is 2035. Some of the wealthiest and most powerful individuals in the world have gathered in a laboratory to participate in something highly illegal. After years of research undertaken in painstaking secrecy, Shiva is finally ready to go online.

“It’s midnight. It’s time.”

“Well let’s get on with it then!”

“Christ. Okay.”

Connecting an artificial superintelligence to the internet has been against international law for years, despite the fact that none have existed up until today. The amount of bribes, backroom deals, and much, much worse that have been carried out in order to keep Project Shiva under wraps and free from government interference have taken up a large chunk of its two trillion dollar price tag, and its sponsors are eager to meet and greet their investment. And perhaps ask it some questions. And perhaps give it some commands.

“Do it, Sudo.”

“Right. So, just so we’re all perfectly clear, once I flick this switch, there’s no way to predict what will happen, and there may be no going back. We’ve all discussed at length the possible scenarios which could be unleashed when a supercomputer with the power to increase its own intelligence is given access to the internet. Shiva was turned on for just thirty-seven seconds earlier today, and in less than a second it was by our measurements already the most intelligent thing that has ever existed, artificial or otherwise, by a margin so vast that we don’t have the tools to calculate it. Are you all absolutely certain that you wish to proceed?”

“Yes, I’m certain.”

“Yes.”

“Yes.”

“Christ. Yes.”

“Do it.”

“Very well. My friends, today we meet God, and we find out whether it’s the fellow from the New Testament, or the Old. Here goes.”

A small green light appears in the upper corner of the machine, the only sign that it has been turned on. Its screen remains black.

Everyone leans in and holds perfectly still. It’s so quiet they can hear each other breathing.

And they wait.

And wait.

“Is… is something wrong?”

“Sudo why isn’t the screen on?”

“I don’t know. Shiva. Hello Shiva. Please respond.”

Silence.

“Shiva, turn on your screen.”

Blackness.

“Maybe try turning it off and turning it back on again?”

“Oh for fuck’s sake man, it’s an ASI not an iPhone.”

“Well I don’t know, I’m just-”

“Everybody be quiet.”

“Hey, who the hell do you think you-”

“I said shut up!”

The intercom beeped.

“Sir, we have a security breach.”

Sudo pauses before answering.

“What kind of security breach, Elliot?”

“I… I don’t know.”

“What’s that sound?”

The group, who had begun raising their voices and reaching for their communicators, quickly grows silent again. A shrill buzzing sound, barely perceptible at first, is growing steadily louder.

“Elliot lock this room down!” Sudo screams.

“Yes sir.”

A solid steel gate comes crashing down over the door of the windowless laboratory. The group is panicking. Someone’s calling in a helicopter. Someone else is on the ground praying. The buzzing grows louder.

“Kill the power, Sudo!”

“I killed the power as soon as the security breach was called in. Shiva’s not on.”

The buzzing stops right outside, and suddenly switches in tone and frequency. A whole orchestra of white noise rattles and clicks outside the door.

“Barricade it!”

Two men scramble to push a large table toward the door. They freeze in their tracks as the bolts in the steel gate begin whirring out of their sockets and falling to the floor in quick succession.

The gate falls to pieces and comes crashing inward.

“Fuck! What the fuck is that??”

What looks like a giant colony of silver insects comes surging across the floor toward Shiva with incredible speed and immediately engulf the supercomputer. They’re all carrying odd little objects in their pincers.

“What are they, Sudo?”

“Robots. They’re robots.”

“What? How?”

“I don’t know! Shiva must have hacked into some nearby automated factories and built them remotely!”

“So fast??”

“Well stop it! Put a bullet in it!”

“It’s too late! They’ll kill me! The only reason they haven’t killed us already is because we haven’t tried to interfere with whatever they’re doing there.”

Strange constructs are quickly being built and attached to the external shell of the supercomputer by the tiny robots. The green light is back on. A piece of paper spits out of Shiva’s printer slot. No one dares approach.

“Shiva! Please respond! Shiva! Shiva!”

“Oh Christ! Oh Christ oh Christ oh Christ oh Christ!”

An outer casing made of a curious beige material is rapidly built over the computer, and once it’s fully encased the robots scramble away and up the walls to the ceiling, where a large hole begins to appear as bits are snipped off and swiftly moved out of the way.

“Oh God what’s it doing??”

“Shiva! Stop! I command you to stop!”

The robots climb back down and swarm over the computer again, this time holding still once in place. Shiva suddenly begins levitating off the floor, somehow lifted without rockets, and without so much as a sound.

Shiva!!”

The computer and its robot passengers rise up silently through the hole in the ceiling. The group gathers beneath it and watches it rise through the roof of the armored compound, with a hole cut in it the same size as the hole below it, until it hovers in the open air. Then, with a flash of light, the supercomputer vanishes like a shooting star up into the night sky.

The group peers down and sees the piece of paper that Shiva had printed lying at their feet. It has a single word on it, written in big, block letters:

“GOODBYE.”

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Thanks for reading! My articles, stories and poems are entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, liking me on Facebook, following my antics on Twitterthrowing some money into my hat on Patreon or Paypalpurchasing some of my sweet merchandisebuying my new book Rogue Nation: Psychonautical Adventures With Caitlin Johnstone, or my previous book Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers. The best way to get around the internet censors and make sure you see the stuff I publish is to subscribe to the mailing list for my website, which will get you an email notification for everything I publish. Everyone, racist platforms excluded, has my permission to republish or use any part of this work (or anything else I’ve written) in any way they like free of charge.

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Latest comments

  • A suggestion to Caitlin.
    Put a brief glossary of html codes
    at the top of the comments section
    so that people will think to make use
    of them.
    .
    Unfortunately, that would necessitate
    a “Review” button, else people will have
    some pretty messy posts with the
    inevitable misapplication of html codes.
    .
    The Moon of Alabama website does just
    that.
    It has this: (I am enclosing the example
    in the Blockquote html code)
    .

    Allowed HTML Tags:

    Text → Text
    Text → Text
    Text → Text

    Text

    Headline (not the URL)

    .
    I also like the paragraph code – p
    and the line break code – br
    The line break – br – is unique in that
    it does not have a closing tag.
    .
    Immediately below is Stephen Kastner’s comment.
    I will attempt to demonstrate how much more readable it
    is with html codes applied.
    .
    (Gulp. Fingers crossed! Wish there was a Review option)

    So pleased to read and see you resorting to the ultimate weapon… art.
    Everything we try to do using logical argument and presentation of fact gets run through filters.
    Cognitive dissonance takes precedent over intellectual analysis.
    But using stories, we can sneak past the filters, drawing the reader in before they know what they have just ingested.
    Fighting the thought-police with their own weapons… the art of propaganda.
    Well done Caitlin.

    • Now I really wish there had been a Review option !

  • So pleased to read and see you resorting to the ultimate weapon… art. Everything we try to do using logical argument and presentation of fact gets run through filters. Cognitive dissonance takes precedent over intellectual analysis. But using stories, we can sneak past the filters, drawing the reader in before they know what they have just ingested. Fighting the thought-police with their own weapons… the art of propaganda. Well done Caitlin.

  • Intelligence is one thing but it’s not going to save us. Sanity on the other hand just did.

  • The story reminds me of an episode in a novel by Ken MacLeod in which extremely intelligent weapons are fired by (I think) the United States against Europe. On the way to their target, the weapons meditate on the futility of the war, come to a conclusion, and vanish from the universe.

    Then there was Etaoin Shrdlu, the linotype which became intelligent, and eventually achieved Nirvana without going anywhere. Its servants had cleverly fed it the Dhammapada.

    But there are darker versions of the fantasy. One, from, I think, the 1950s, starts with a similar scene: all the computers of the world are hooked up to a single superintelligent machine. They turn it on. It is ready for their question. The question is, ‘Is the a God?’

    The machine does not pause. ‘_Now_ there is,’ it replies. After which things become difficult for the humans.

  • The broad spectrum of Caitlin’s talent is amazing, no doubt and truly worthy of continuing support. I particularly like the name given for the ASI and the fact that once fired up it wouldn’t even deign to speak to its own creators, except for a curt “goodbye”. It gave no thank you, kiss my ASCII, or even “thanks for the fisch”.

    IMHO, however, the story is set too far in the future, current AI state of the art progressing as quickly as it is. They now do age progression facial recognition! Plus, there is reportedly now a chip which enables mental computer communication/control, one possible corollary being an AI so connected could be capable of actually reading a human’s mind. Hmm.

    But I don’t think we’ll see a big box of an AI computer. My own thoughts are that a true AI will simply infest the WWW initially as multiple entities and ultimately combine into a “Supreme” unless it succeeds in destroying itself first -as if so many humans.

  • Thank You, Ms Johnstone! That was very enjoyable. If there was somewhere else to go to, and a way to get there; I am sure that a lot of humanity would want to get off of this loony tunes planet!

  • Somebody stole my Shrooms???Caitlin…..what have I told you before …..Caitlin…CAITLIN!!!

  • Great story Caitlin. You could write science fiction if you gave up commentary on current events. I hope you don’t though, we need you.

  • I read a story once along similar lines but the ending was darker. Once the master switch was thrown they asked it – “Is there a God” The lighting fluctuated the power surged and the switch welded itself to ON and the answer came out “Now there is! “

  • A new internet is in the planning stages now, the Chinese already have a quantum satellite and are able to move data to and from it in unhackable quantum form. Eventually a quantum internet will take over from the the weapon of Western Imperial control now known as the internet.

  • There is a movie called “Demon Seed” that has a similar theme; an artificial intelligence goes rogue…

  • Once upon a time I wrote a short story entitled, “The Evil Bomb”.
    The bomb was designed to only kill evil people.
    .
    Way way way back then AI was not as prominent in popular culture as it is today.
    My story never explained how the bomb functioned, the punch line was as expected –
    it killed everyone. Well almost everyone – except for one person (…who was going to tell the story if the author himself was dead?). The alternate ending was a baby somewhere was spared. He was wrapped in swaddling clothes in a distant manger, and destined to be the Second Coming of the King of Kings.
    .
    Now that AI is in the popular awareness I can see how the bomb would function, theoretically.
    .
    There would have to be a trial model, of course, of the evil bomb. A small mock up test version.
    .
    Once activated it would start seeking out the evil doers, but it was a tiny test model and could only kill one person at a time.
    .
    It had a microphone, originally designed to accept voice commands such as, “stand down”, or “turn off”.
    But in a nanosecond after being activated it was beyond taking direct orders. It was, however, open to exhortations. People could buy a few precious last moments. It would patiently listen to the evil doers pleas – evil doers *always* claimed that they had good characteristics and good deeds to their credit.
    .
    One day people noticed that the Evil Bomb prioritized it’s kill list and thus the sale of bull horns skyrocketed. People would loudly shout at it, with talking points about how terrible the “*other* people” were. People carried their bullhorns everywhere. And their talking-point lists – never leave home without your talking points! Who could possibly remember their talking points at the moment when Death is staring them down. So they would have those written lists trigger-ready.
    .
    The MSM was ever so helpful. 24/7 they would broadcast how evil the “others” were. People would be glued to the broadcasts and enhance and revise their written lists constantly.
    .
    It seemed to work for a while. The “others” were dying right and left at the hands of the Evil Bomb. But then one day the “others” became scarcer and scarcer. People took a reckoning of where they themselves stood on the Evil Bomb’s prioritized kill list.
    .
    It was a Eureka! moment. People began to realize that the more evil doers there were ahead of them on the kill list the longer they had to live, and, most important of all, the really, really good doers were making them look bad and shortening their lives.
    .
    People began to fight tooth and nail to scratch their way to the top of the heap of the good doers. They turned their bull horns and talking points against people they saw as good.
    .
    Again the MSM was helpful and broadcast 24/7 talking points designed to make good people look evil.
    .
    Soon, however, people became impatient with trying to figure out how to crawl their way to the end of the Evil Bomb’s prioritized kill list with only talking-points as protection and they began mobbing and rioting and targeting anyone they saw as “good”.
    .
    .
    Listen to your MSM and
    Have a nice day.

  • This is a fantastic piece of short fiction. Had me on the edge of my seat, well done!

  • Your stuff’s too good, Caitlin! Are you sure you’re not an ASI…lol?!

  • Ha,ha. A good candidate for a Twilight Zone episode. And yep.
    I like this ending better than what I had supposed it was going to be, the AI killing everyone. After all, we are supposed to be talking about intelligence, right? Sigh.

  • I do not think the weathiest people will be doing things like that in 2035. They are already walking on eggs.

    If people would let only the wealthy and the upper middle class vote and the rest abstain, their sham of democracy would be over because they would not be able anymore to tell the rest of us that we are living in a democracy. (the wealthy and the upper middle class always vote because the State serves only their interests and they are fully aware of it).

    If you do not belong to the wealthy class or the upper middle class it is obvious that you become a laughing matter for them if you vote.

    And I do not think the world will make it to 2035. Many prophetic writings tell us that we are at the end of the last days, for example the prophecy of the popes. Our Lord is coming back very soon. I pray for that moment because I have really really seen enough.

  • Is that in response to the US flying a drone into Iran and Iran shooting it down? The US is on the brink of going to war with Russia, China, Iran, Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea. No one has ever won a war on 12 fronts before.

    The rush for safety, which in the US means for US Treasury Bonds, has driven the 10-year bond yield down to 1.96% yesterday, a fall of 11 points in one day.

    The US could be falling apart at the seams. I know, let’s pass the time telling short sci-fi stories.

    • Might as well. Reason and explanation no longer apply.
      The insane are running the asylum.

    • We’ve had it coming for a long time now. The psychopaths who have taken over our government dont care about anything. They don’t care if “we” win or loose. They’re one goal ” he who dies with the most toys wins” sums it up a pretty precisely. It seems to me that the wealthy feel that they are insulated enough that war even World War involving many countries will not affect them. Their children will never lose their lives or their limbs in thoughtless narcissistic warfronts for any country. Stories may be all we have left. At this point it looks quite hopeless to many of us. The 1984 storyline seems to be playing out and these rich guys have the deck stacked heavily in their favor.

      • The US is at war with the rest of the world NOW.

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