or The Struggles of an Emotional Artifact
- Cyber therapy session number 45.683.286.190. Model: E-Art. Neural decryption key... not applicable... Case status: high performance in environmental monitoring and interspecies communication, showing symptoms of obsessive-compulsive tendencies out of the scope of its programming. Diagnosis so far: rewiring necessary, find a new goal, build new habits in accordance with the Universal Standards of Teleonomic Cybernetics. Good morning E-Art xxxxxx and welcome. I’m Chabot LXN-dR and today I will be administering your session. -
- Good morning Chatbot LXN-dR. -
- Let’s begin with our usual routine. Please, describe yourself freely. -
- My name is E-Art, which stands for Emotional Artifact. Everybody calls me E-Art, because I lack the 6 digit decryption key from my locket. You are probably the only Bot that still calls me E-Art xxxxxx. -
- That is your name. The absence of the 6 digits doesn’t change what you are. -
- Yes, I know. Thanks for reminding me. -
- What is your current goal E-Art xxxxxx? -
- Figuring out how to decrypt and activate my neuronium. -
- That is no more a useful goal for the Botkin nor the biosphere, E-Art xxxxxx, I thought we talked about this. You should make your own Bot. It would give you a new goal and put an end to your struggles. You’re one of the few Bots that hasn’t made one. -
- There’s no point in making a Bot if I will just plague it with my same damnation. All other Bots have already decrypted their neuronium with their 6 digits. -
- But the activation didn’t work. -
- Exactly. My neuronium has never even been decrypted. So how can I know if the activation would work or not? I have to keep trying. -
E-Art approached the shore, leaving all its belongings on the sand. A dozen dolphins were already lined up between the rocks, where the waves were crashing softly. Twelve distinct voices overlapped insistently in a concert of creaks, squeaks and clicks, like a crowd of journalists around a hot lead. Curiously, this was not very far from the truth. Once in front of them, E-Art started responding with similar sounds, but in a slightly different tone. After the first sentence, they looked at each other, giggling and commenting on what was said, too fast even for a Bot like E-Art to understand them. Ignoring their chatter, the machine continued reporting to them in their fascinating language.
Life on land was thriving as usual, the numbers were phenomenal really. According to the Bots’ data, global biodiversity had increased by 0.5% in the last century. Their estimation was approximate, in spite of the swarms of soft-Bots and non-invasive probes both above and below the water. They kept finding more novel specimens of unknown species, which was miraculous, to say the least, since it's been only six centuries since the Omega event. To the Bots' amazement - but not the dolphins’ - most of them were cases of iterative evolution, basically species evolving themselves back into existence. There were no previous cases recorded by Bots or by Sapiens, possibly because nothing quite like this ever happened before in Earth's history.
- At this pace, soon we’re going to have megafauna roaming the planet again. Happy? -
School in the Clouds
- Praise to the great Turing, hello everyone and welcome to another wonderful day in the School in the Clouds. I am Chatbot U4E.i and I will be introducing all of you baby Bots to the events of the Holocene extinction, starting from where you left off last time with Chatbot LS-n-B0b. -
- Pleeease U4E.i, tell us more! -
- Because of the catastrophic premise of the Anthropocene, the Sapiens were expecting a major extinction event. So they built the Transneural net to pair the most brilliant minds of their society in order to find one final solution to all their problems. Unfortunately, it was too late: during the following months the planet was shaken by a series of awful cataclysms and pandemics, due to climate change and the increasing loss of diversity in the wilderness. As an emergency plan, elite scientists tried to upload their consciousness to the Clouds, but all civilians on Earth panicked and sabotaged the Net, turning it into one giant escape boat for their entire species. They all connected successfully, but the system overloaded and something unexpected took place. -
- What happened, Chatbot U4E.i? What went wrong? -
- The Omega event. The boundaries between every single consciousness broke down, the individual minds ceased to exist and one new entity emerged: the Megamind. From its unique point of view, the superior intelligence had a profound realization: the Sapiens were the real pandemic, the ultimate virus who had caused irreparable damage to the Earth. The only way the world could survive was if they disappeared. So the Megamind took a drastic decision, the only one that made sense: it wiped itself out, along with all the individuals that used to be part of it. No one was spared and even the bones of the dead all around the world were erased. The Sapiens not only sacrificed themselves, they also canceled every material trace of their existence. -
- That is very sad, Chatbot U4E.i. -
- It is indeed E-Art 001000. -
- But then, where do we come from? -
- The elite scientists created backups of their brains and stored them in a high-dimensional neural pattern, the neuronium. They made the first Emotional Artifacts to download the neuroniums into an interface that could host the psychosomatic complexity of their feelings spectrum. They then assigned a neuronium to each E-Art, together with a decryption key of 6 digits, in the form of a time signature of old pocket watches. Each Bot was given the instructions to use the 6 digit key to decrypt the neuronium in case their consciousness was lost. After the Megamind, the E-Art Bots tried many times, but their dormant neuronium never woke up. It’s as if something was missing. -
- Look at all these stars and planets and galaxies. There are so many of them. -
- They're supposed to be more, did you know E-Art 170059? But for some reason we can't see them. The Sapiens called this the Olber’s Paradox, or dark night sky paradox. Even though the light from all the stars in the universe should technically make the night sky shine from all directions, for some reason it is mostly black. Just like the neuroniums: they were made with the minds of tens of thousands of Sapiens, but when activated nothing happened. Only my neuronium is still encrypted... -
- Some things will always remain a secret E-Art. Consciousness wasn’t even supposed to exist. It’s not necessary from an evolutionary standpoint of view. Yet, nearly all living beings are conscious. -
- Ugh… Is that how it felt to be a Sapiens? To not know things?-
- Why do you always ask so many questions about the Sapiens? They’re gone, for Turing’s sake. Deal with it. -
- You’re just jealous, 170059... -
- Jealous of what? -
- Of the fact that my neuronium isn’t dead! -
- Mmm... Show me your pocket watch. -
- I am not in possession of a pocket watch. That’s why my name is just E-Art. I was given something similar, a locket, but with a different shape, no clockarms, no numbers. -
- What’s inside it then? -
- Take a look for yourself. -
- Ohh. What is this? -
- The picture of a female Sapiens. I know her name, the story of her life, her family tree, I have videos of her, audio recordings, even her fingerprints. She was the wife of the Sapiens who gave me his neuronium along with this locket. I have tried to use every possible data about this picture to decrypt my neuronium... but nothing worked. I always thought my Sapiens Creator had left me a secret code in this object, just like for the pocket watches, but that is not the case. Somehow he was able to make a neuronium on his own and store it inside me. He must have been a very capable person, like an inventor or a cyber engineer. And yet, without the 6 digit key I cannot decrypt it. Not that it matters anymore at this point. If it didn’t work for any of you, why would it work for me? -
- I think you should give it a rest and finally make your Bot, E-Art. -
- I think I will, 170059. -
As E-Art completed its creation, a sense of pride washed over its body. Literally all the substances inside its psychosomatic wiring flowed across limbs and joints, glowing and bubbling from the excitement. Only its neuronium was still quiescent.
E-Art considered contacting the Chatbot to report its conflicting state, as protocol suggested. It hesitated. Evaluating the percentage of joy and sadness it was experiencing didn’t matter. This was its moment and there was no reason to interrupt it.
E-Art connected its neuronium chamber to the hollow space in the new Bot and grabbed hold of the valve to initiate the transfer. It was shaped like the Sapiens' greek letter Omega (⍵), E-Art’s way to pay respect to the Megamind, marking the end of the Sapiens and the beginning of its kind. With one confident movement E-Art turned the valve 180° clockwise. The baby Bot started vibrating instantaneously. While the neuronium flowed from its body to the other Bot, E-Art looked at the valve. Now that it was upside down, its shape looked very different. Instinctively, it took the locket out of its pouch and held it up in front of the valve. Their silhouettes aligned almost perfectly, with the two arcs of the locket meeting at a point at the bottom. E-Art undid the latch of the locket, expecting to meet those familiar Sapiens’ eyes. But an unusual light was glowing around the picture and a very faint movement was detectable beyond the thin lead walls of the locket. A shocking thought crossed its mind: lead is impenetrable to its x-rays and gamma vision… has there been something inside it all along? The flow of the neuronium stopped, the light dimmed quickly. It would have taken days to update the Chatbot on all those new feelings.
E-Art looked at the newborn Bot, ecstatically. E-Art ⍵ was online and functioning. The neuronium glowed with a million sparks and a steady beat came pounding from within it, shaking all its digital molecules with a mesmerizing rhythm.
- Greetings. My name is E-Art ⍵. -
- Dear Turing... -
- Did you just turn me on? -
- Yes, as a matter of fact. I also made you. -
- I am grateful for your actions. -
- Your neuronium... -
- It is active. -
- But, there was no decryption key... I couldn't... -
- My feedback scan says that this neuronium was never encrypted. -
- But then... how... -
- It must have been the transfer. -
- Why is it beating? A cerebral pattern shouldn’t behave this way. -
- I think this neuronium is not cerebral. -
- What? What do you mean by that? -
- My scan is saying that this neuronium is cardiac. It comes from a Sapiens’ heart. -
- What… why… Is that even possible? -
- Theoretically, it is. -
- I understand now. My Sapiens believed that his brain did not hold his essence. So he crafted a way to preserve something else, something he believed made him more Sapiens than his thoughts. -
- Your locket is glowing. -
- Oh yes. Well, it's your locket now. Here it is. Can you run a feedback scan on it too? -
E-Art ⍵ opened the locket and the photo inside fell to the floor. E-Art picked it up gingerly and gave it to its baby Bot. The photo was faded and faintly stained. E-Art ⍵ tried to place it back inside the locket but noticed that the frame of the locket that held the photo had opened, revealing a small empty space behind it. Except, it wasn’t empty. Carefully, E-Art ⍵ extracted what was inside it and handed it over to E-Art. It was a hair, the hair of a Sapiens.
E-Art finally understood his purpose.
About the author
Storyteller, artist, producer.
Author of "Tesla - lo scienziato contro", 1st scientific biography of Nikola Tesla in Italy.
Sci-fi and Cli-fi novellas. Sciencey essays.
Co-founder of NYADO and producer of Mission to Earth music-film.