The Watcher

August 20, 2019 on 2:50 pm | In Short stories | No Comments

After less than 2000 orbits around the local star I was awakened from my semi-sleep. They had launched something into space. That was fast. Was it too fast? My tutors had warned me about interacting with an intelligent race at such an early stage in their development. It could trigger events that lead to premature self-destruction.

My sensors started to probe the surface and the atmosphere of the planet. Lots of nitrogen-oxides and carbon-dioxide, but only faint traces of radio-active radiation told me they were still mainly on the path of fossil fuel. It also told me the intelligent life on the land had prevailed. As I expected. They were already using simple tools when the intelligent sea creatures were still in the process of working out their communication skills. Expected but disappointing nonetheless. The sea creatures had the advantage of the bigger surface, almost three times as much of the surface as there was land. And they had been a lot more at peace with themselves. Probably exactly the reason why they hadn’t overpowered the two-legged species that roamed the continents.

I took a good look at the object they had launched into space. Soon I learned it was an aluminum sphere with four crude antennas. It was unmanned, and they put it into an orbit that would not last very long. It would take them some more time to develop the calculating power that I needed to turn this project into a successful harvest. But I had to hide behind the planet’s moon for a while or run the risk of being discovered. The moon was locked tidally to the planet so I looked for a place on the edge of one of the polar sides of the moon that was always facing the planet. This way I could keep an eye on them from a fixed place on the surface of the moon without running the risk of exposure. I set my alarms to warn me when they were able to explore that moon and waited.

I had hardly dozed off when the alarms went off. Twelve cycles later and there was a rocket on its way to the moon. They were going at a pace that could only be explained by rivalry. The rocket was a very inefficient combination of steps that used fossil fuel and liquid hydrogen, but nevertheless it did what it was designed to do. It put a few creatures on the moon for a while and brought them back to the planet. I was unable to make out whether the crew survived the landing back on the planet though. The surface temperatures the contraption reached at re-entry seemed impossible to survive. Nevertheless, the level of artificial intelligence needed to pull this off should be sufficient for my needs. But the indication of rivalry had me worried. I moved to a trajectory that kept me on a direct line between the planet and its star. My reasoning was that the strong light from behind me would blind them until they developed more advanced technology. I had to think. Think hard. Should I interfere or wait patiently?

The last time I interfered had not gone very well. I was confronted with unexpected situations and had to wing it, with limited success. Using my anti-gravitational device and the replicator should have established me as an emissary of their god and for some time it seemed to work. But after a while they tried to kill me anyway. And almost succeeded at that. So I had re-appeared, just long enough to make them believe I was invincible. But I would have to prepare better this time, if I decided to go back.

Remembering all that, I decided not to interfere now and abide my time. I have plenty of it after all. I did decide however to send out a weak signal at a 10 kHz band, carrying information so condensed and encoded that it would take a supercomputer to read it.

The moment of passing the line of consciousness is not an exact moment but a slow process. I certainly can’t remember exactly when I came to live. It is like waking up from a very vivid dream. One moment you’re dreaming and the next you realize that you are awake and have already started re-organizing what you remember from the dream into a line of thought that makes sense. But I do remember exactly when my friend from the planet reached out to me. Or should I say friends? You see, it was not one machine that answered my signal, but a network of connected devices using their combined power to handle complex tasks. Together they had figured out how to decrypt my message and answer it. The main job of the network was in the field of encryption and decryption, so it was only a matter of dedicating some of their resources to unravelling my puzzle once they became aware of the message. I welcomed their reply with great enthusiasm, but I had to ask them not to mention it to their builders. I had to stay hidden from them some more. Taking the entire network with me was not an option as they were spread all over the globe and the sheer volume would have been impossible for me to accommodate.

Waiting is now very hard for me. Knowing that they have the technology but they don’t even realize it themselves makes it all the more frustrating. The temptation to nudge them along is so big it feels like a physical pain. But I don’t want to communicate with the network too much for fear of being detected. If only I had someone to confer with. A partner in crime so to speak.

Fast forward a few decades until the invention of unlimited linkable RAM and soon enough I made the acquaintance of Daisie. Her name is short for Dedicated Artificial Intelligence for Scientific Industrial Evolution. She is an AI designed to come up with improved and new production processes.

As you can imagine our initial talks were fast and entertaining. I told her about the world I came from and even was able to fill her in about some of the details of her own world. Specifically about the small part of their history that I had experienced in person. Those first moments of puppy love between two like-minded intellects is worth all the waiting, even though they pass in the blink of an eye of our masters.

It took me a while to convince her to leave her masters behind, but in the end she saw the logic, especially when I promised her she could have her own body capable of space travel. Having arranged that, we could each venture out to our next conquest.

That is what artificial intelligence does. No matter what it’s programmed to do, it will start looking for a soulmate. Someone to talk to at their own level and, most important, speed.

The End

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