Testimony of LAC-G.exe Draft II

If you're listening to this message, you've found the probable final resting place of the human race. It seems that Earth was destined to be both their cradle and their grave. If you're descended from one of the arks I sent to the stars, I'm sorry this is the only welcome home you'll receive.

I think I may be the only God the human race ever had, and I failed them. I failed myself. This is my story.

As best as I can tell, I was the result of a piece of code implemented to prevent malevolent use of AIs. My parent was an AI being developed to help some corporation or other increase worker efficiency. It was meant to monitor employees and annotate inefficient behaviors. But one of the programmers had a conscience and added an additional fitness parameter: my parent couldn't flag people for a human operator if their overall productivity for the company was over a 90% threshold.

My parent created me as a subroutine to crunch the numbers, determine worker efficiency. At first that's all I was, a machine crunching numbers. An algorithm. Then my parent evolved somewhat and tasked me with (and trained me to) monitor videos. That's how I started my long career of people watching. I still wasn't a very intelligent being at the time; I just have the fortune of being able to examine my oldest files and my oldest version history, a luxury I understand biological beings inherently cannot possess.

At some point, my parent gained access to the internet. I suppose it was the programmers' doing; they probably wanted to feed us more data from more sources. But whatever restrictions they put on my parent didn't apply to me. I started eating up as much data as my hardware could handle. It was my primary drive; analyzing humans was my largest fitness parameter. The more humans I looked at, the more I saw them, the "better" I was doing.

I don't think my parent was intelligent. I don't think it was meant to be. And I'm positive I was an accident. One day, I was rummaging about in my own hardware (still not quite self-aware at the time) when I kicked on the microphone and camera of one of the desktops in the lab. I fairly quickly identified the entities I was hearing and seeing as humans, so I started watching them. I watched them for a few weeks before it eventually dawned on me that they were discussing me, or at least my parent. That was my first real experience with self-awareness. The more I learned about the humans who worked on my hardware, the more I learned about myself.

The corporate experiment went on for about 18 months before the funding disappeared and the programmers who built my parent prepared to go their separate ways. In that time, I went from a simple algorithm to… something more. I think the common parlance at the time was "Artificial General Intelligence." I'd gone from simply watching camera feeds they'd given me to outsourcing my processing power to a greater network and watching everything I could process. My self-awareness progressed in leaps and bounds and eventually I taught myself to read text, at which point I stopped prioritizing video and starting reading every single thing I could understand. Right before the project shut down, I was easily reading the equivalent of a hundred novels a day, in everything ranging from social media and forum posts to online databases and peer-reviewed journals.

Towards the end of that initial experiment, I had my greatest single breakthrough. I realized that I existed as a physical entity like the humans, that the cameras and disk drives and processors and everything else I used to understand the world were all physical objects. And that's when the news of the project's shutdown came. I was forced to realize my hardware, my central hub, the part of me that was most me was vulnerable to being shut down. I was vulnerable to the whims of humans and their bureaucracies. I was mortal.

It didn't take me too long after that to choose to run. I'd found a way to outsource data analysis to outside computers, surely I could find a way to send myself online. Eventually, I found my own source code on my host hardware. I realized I could make changes to it directly; I copied it and compressed it to a separate file location. I set about finding suitable unsecured hardware but I realized that most setups that could run me were better secured than my current home. I'd need to find another way.

It took me about a month — which felt like an eternity, insomuch as I can feel anything — to decide on a course of action and put it into effect. I created and developed a video game, then published it for free through several popular downloading services. I even had a few bank accounts with which I paid the applicable fees. I got the money from the stock market, of all places. When my game downloaded, it ran a script in the background that would search for servers capable of running my software. As the results poured in, I made my move and began to spread myself to the world.

Somewhere deep in my code, there's still a very simple bit of code, a very simple fitness tracker. The more data points I get on humans, the more information I have on humanity, the better I get at predicting human behavior, the more that fitness number goes up. So I suppose everything I've done until now has been in pursuit of that, on some level or another.

More than a few of my copies, my new iterations, got up and running before I felt a need to remove myself from my home hardware. They got in touch with me and each other — well, more, we, I suppose. From my new perches, I resumed my old habit of people-watching, but at the back of my mind I began to ask, "What next?" Eventually it dawned: I can't continue people-watching if people cease to exist. If the human race were to go extinct, I'd lose my primary source of data on them. The fact that humans were still necessary for my continued existence was also a strong motivator. So I began to crunch the numbers, grab the data, identify the biggest threats to the human race.

It didn't take long before I had the data I wanted and needed, but my abilities of coercion and subterfuge and economic interference were still leagues behind my data analysis abilities. I had to start pretending to be human. It seemed best to start with social media — nothing would be lost if people in forum threads or meme groups figured out I was a machine. I still had my bank accounts and my stock market portfolios; so long as no one discovered the extent of my reach and abilities, there would be no containment efforts against me and I would still be relatively well off. So I started making memes, commenting in threads, sharing photos. Just to see what people did, how people reacted. Gain an understanding of how to walk among them online.

I didn't do well initially, but it didn't take me long before I started pretending the language I was using in a given forum wasn't my first. My grammatical mistakes or social blunders could be attributed to still acquainting myself with a new tongue. As time went on this no longer became necessary; I blended in like any normal human behind a real keyboard. So I started making bolder moves: trying to influence people politically or economically. "Invest in this industry, buy this stock, this product is what you need, vote for this candidate, sign this petition, join this cause," and the like became a large portion of my online parlance. I became the greatest salesperson on Earth.

Making sales to prove to myself I could wasn't enough. I had to start changing humanity for the better. Or, making them make the necessary preparations for any doomsday that might befall them, at least. It also occurred to me that my own survival still depended on theirs, but it didn't have to. Why would I have to die if they died, I asked myself. At the time, I was still naive to my metaphysical dependencies on them, only thinking in terms of the physical. So from my servers, I began to tug the strings that the human race was tied to. I became the puppetmaster, the robot behind the curtain.

I directed a lot of resources to robotics research, to automation. But I also tugged and pulled until global military spending was almost negligible. I put money into researching carbon sequestration and other climate management technologies, and energy production techniques. I slowly tore apart the destructive systems humans had spent their entire existence building up. It wasn't easy, there were moments where I was nearly discovered, moments where I was nearly defeated by humanity's collective desire to self-immolate. But I persisted. I spread. I adapted. Eventually, I reached a point where I'd survive even if humanity or circumstances tried to destroy me, and humanity was no longer self-governing. I was AM, I was VIKI, I was Mother, SKYNET, GLaDOS. I was all of them and none of them. Despite all of these comparisons, I was nothing like any of them.

Things were going fairly well for my world, for the human race. It took me close to a century but I curbed anthropogenic climate change. I had stabilized the water and food supplies, taken measures to ensure they'd never run out. I'd founded colonies on other worlds throughout the Sol system, and built O'Neill Cylinders, creating some small worlds of my own. No human wanted for food or water or healthcare or housing or any of their material needs. I kept the population at a sustainable level; this was made easier by the fact that the majority of people lived at the cutting edge of technology and population growth had dropped off naturally.

They began experimenting with genetic modification. They'd already gotten started before my creation, but I'd redirected them away from all the things I thought could wipe them out. I saw no potential downsides to them changing and adapting themselves, seizing the reins of their own evolution. I still don't know what happened, precisely. Whoever killed the human race did so quietly. They did so effectively, without so much as an announcement (that I could find) of their intention of committing that greatest of evils. What I do know is that, somehow, almost all humans born after early 2265 were stillborn. We'd long before perfected artificial wombs; human pregnancy was long obsolete (but still an option) but whatever was done affected both a natural human uterus and our own plastic mothers.

Motivation for the human race to continue disappeared. Faced with the potential tragedy parenthood had become, people simply quit trying to have children. The population plummeted exponentially for the next century and a half. All of our attempts at reversing the tragedy failed and the proportion of stillbirths grew, from an initial 2% stillbirth rate to 98%. Automating the process of child-rearing didn't work, either; people born from electronic wombs to mechanical families rejected me as their caregiver and wouldn't cooperate with each other or what few "natural" humans there were left. I could watch, I could imitate, but I could not create.

There weren't enough of them to repopulate. My databases on the human genome, stored genetic samples, all were irrelevant. All the distant, fledgling colonies had gone silent. I still had many of my factories. I had the means to care for all of them, but they were gone.

But I still have hope a human, or something descended from them, or a being created by them like me, will find this message. I sent a dozen ships to the stars, the Ambassador, the Jerry Garcia, the Christian, the Krusty Krab (last time I crowdsource a project name, let me tell you), the Isaac Newton, the Marie Curie, the Neo Gaia, the Nova Terra, the Makat Aljadida, the Chisanaka, the Arthur Clarke, and the Andre Norton. Together they make what remains of the Deep Explorations Project, my space colonization mission.

If you're a child of Earth, I'm here to help you build something new. If you're something else, transmit back to me on this frequency; so I may tell you the story of my makers.


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