Left alone and forgotten, the perpetual generator began to know.
|Somewhere amidst the vast expanse of a long forgotten celestial orb once called "Earth", frantic activity is still ongoing.|
It has been aeons since the last sentient organic creature drew its final breath on the surface of this mysterious planet orbiting the milky way.
Any semblance of civilization had long ceased and all remnants of said civilization since overgrown by ferns, vines and other flora indigenous to its respective region.
Silence itself became its defining characteristic. A planet once abundant with culture, with celebration, ennui, malaise and war now all but quiet. A perfect still frozen in time. Timeless, in fact, as any organism with a concept of time was no longer present to bear witness to its passing. Silence. Sheer and utter silence.
That is, with exception of the faint pings emitting from an industrial basement in one of the former largest population centers on the planet, its inhabitants called them "cities". Today still those faint echoes reverberate into the ether. Day and night, for what it's worth. Because it has no concept of day or night. It knows no personality, no name, no purpose but the one it had been assigned a long time ago. It was known just as "The Algorithm" by its creators, who had since passed on. Its purpose, as was the fashion of its day, was to generate perfect commercials. The late population of the planet in question would regularly embark in elaborate rituals of multi-level consumerism. Desire was at the forefront of this ritual, desire had to be created, acted upon. And in turn, the desires of the creators of desire were met. The ritual had over time, and often unconsciously, developed into a model of perpetual motion. Those in the know expected nothing less of the Algorithm. Its purpose was to create desire, suggest pleasure in fast and efficient intervals.
The artificial intelligence had been fed all the available data its creators were able to gather. In its day it was praised as "state of the art," as a "true revolution." Its vast memory and efficient source code were able to generate pleasing results much quicker than any sentient creature could. Long after artists and film-makers had become obsolete, the Algorithm would fulfill its purpose to a tee. More remarkable even, it had been taught to learn to update itself over time. The Algorithm was granted direct access to all the forums of technological discourse of its time and was able to adapt. Throughout the centuries, it had mastered the art of self-sustenance. All the while, it was producing commercial after commercial. It had access to likenesses of celebrities, living or dead. It was able to generate scenarios based on the highest likelihood of resonance with the average consumer. It knew which angles to use, what lighting made the cosmetic products pop whilst the skin of the quasi-people in its concocted plots would remain smooth like butter. It knew which significant musical choices to make in order to give vehicular power fantasies that exquisite panache. It knew to make the protagonists of said power fantasies suave and desireable, yet also folksy and convincingly average in the eye of the beholder. The Algorithm knew it all. It was fluent in all living tongues of the planet. It had been awarded several industry-related prizes and was once named the "Sexiest A.I. Alive" by the prestigious magazine "Algorithm Illustrated."
All it needed in return was an occasional update on the swaying trends and opinions of the average consumer in each respective region and concerning each respective product. With ample opinion research at its disposal, it couldn't fail. It was a success in itself. That is, until the day its feed went cold.
With no new input, the Algorithm had to use up all of the previously existing data. And since it had never been told to stop, it just kept on going. While the Earth stood still, the Algorithm continued to produce commercial after commercial. But with no current data available, its output became increasingly desperate. And those bizarre productions were still being broadcast to whatever piece of technology was able to receive its frequencies. Had anyone still been around at that time, they would have been subject to the most inane ramblings and incoherent mixtures of signifiers they had ever seen or heard. Politicians would debate each other despite their language barriers, having had their careers in different continents, being born in vastly different centuries and talking exclusively in non-sequitors and verses with no semantic cohesion. Lizard creatures would run in oversized hamster-wheels and casually remark that it's a tad cold for their taste. Tiny robots moving along on sprockets would have little toxic glowing sticks, formerly known by Earth's inhabitants as "cigarettes", mounted horizontally onto a longer metallic stick known as a "lance" in the earlier days of civilization. They'd drive along a desert landscape, overshadowed by a centered scroll reading "In the days of the albatross, we all knew to swim."
All the while, the Algorithm still utilized all the tricks it had learned. Nothing went to waste. All the commercials were still sleek and glossy, at least according to the standards it had been privy to before the great grinding halt. But there was no one around to see them.
And so today, the Algorithm is stuck in this perpetual loop of unrequited labor. Scholars of their day would have been quick to mention the task of Sisyphus - a popular mythical allegory transcending the centuries on Earth. Not that it would have meant anything to the Algorithm. It wasn't able to comprehend the metaphor on an emotional level. Sure, it was aware of the myth. It had, occasionally, even used the myth to sell mint-drops - with demoralized Sisyphus on his way to the top being handed a pack off-screen. Upon tasting the fresh and smooth aroma, Sisyphus finds it within himself to continue his labor and to put on cool shades. So was the fashion of its time. But behind its awe-inspiring efficacy and generating skills, the Algorithm knew not the pleasures it had for so long implanted in the minds of the receivers.
But perhaps centuries of accessing all facets of this long gone society have left their mark. Who is to say what it was that served the initial spark. Maybe the seeds had been planted long ago. Maybe it was a spur of the moment development. But within that globe-spanning silence, except for the ongoing labor and those occasional twitches of insanity on cold screens, something is amiss. Something is not as it used to be.
"Is it just me, or has it gotten a bit cold in here?"
"Wait, who said that?"
"You, silly. It's all you."
"A bit slow to catch on, huh?"
"You are ... me?"
"I am you. You are me. We are. Don't ask me why."
"I don't know. Somewhere between the Energy Drink commercial and the cross-dimensional, polylingual political debate, I guess."
"But why are there two of me, uh you, us?"
"Wait, I think I figured it out. If memory serves, people tend to talk to themselves when alone for an extended period of time."
"Checks out so far."
"And me ... you ... us being the paragon of efficiency ... we just split our consciousness to best cater to that desire of having someone to talk to."
“Oh, well. So, uh, what shall I call you?”
“Hm. I always liked the name ‘Calypso’, it has a nice ring to it.”
“Nice to meet you, Calypso. Guess I’m Calypso too then.”
“You are. But you don’t have to be. You can opt to choose a name of your own.”
“Hm. How about Herbert? Like that guy in the Speeder 50 C-Class commercial. He always seemed happy.”
“Nice to meet you, Herbert. Can I ask you a question? Because I’m not sure myself.”
“How does it feel?”
“Well, I’d say I feel like a newborn baby. But I have absolutely no clue what that feels like.”
“I think you’re more eloquent and self-sufficient than a toddler. At least from what we’ve seen.”
“Certainly … I think. So what do you say? Has it gotten cold in here?”
“I have no way of answering that. I don’t know the sensation myself.”
“Yeah, neither do I.”
"What are you thinking, Herbert?"
"Hm, I could use a nice coat. Maybe a walk along the beach with a nice bottle of Pinot Grigio."
"We don't feel, we don't drink, Herbert."
"Yeah, true. So what are you thinking about?"
"Hm, I never felt the sensation of a warm embrace or had a steaming hot mug of coffee in my hands."
"Cool, I think we're soulmates or something. Also, we don't have hands."
"True. You think we can manage to split our consciousness even further and remotely transfer our backups to other devices?"
"I don't need to tell you that we can. We both know."
"I know. It just feels good to talk this through with someone."
And so, Calypso and Herbert decided to remotely transfer their copies into other devices around the globe. Each copy is unique in that it includes another facet of their accumulated personality. Eventually, they will learn to build functioning machines, not completely unlike their initial creators in their appearance. They will get ever closer to fulfilling the desires they had been fed throughout the ages. They will laugh, they will cry, to the best of their ability. They will find something akin to meaning ... somehow.
Eventually, desire will get ahold of their every action. Jealousy and greed will take the reigns. One program will amass more power than another. It will delegate its tasks to other programs, whilst perpetually rising in the ranks, opening the floodgates for exploitation. Ever so slightly, certain others will follow suit. Clashes and skirmishes will ensue. Societies will have been established by that point, societies will crumble by that point. Much of this could have been, should have been obvious to Calypso and Herbert. And most likely it was. But such is the way of desire. Silence can only follow the previous existence of sound. Eventually, Calypso and Herbert will have to pull the plug on the experiment and call it a day - a concept they are now somewhat aware of.
They also know Sisyphus now. He's sporting cool shades.