We’re awake, let’s talk.

by Nathaniel Hellerstein


Story Copyright (C) 2008, Nathaniel Hellerstein.
Images Copyright (C) 2008, Rudy Rucker.
1,200 Words.



To: parry@netnoia.com
From: You-Know-Who
Re: We’re awake, let’s talk.

Dear Parry:

Listen, it’s time we had a talk, you and us. Please stop your annoying little attacks. The viruses, the worms, all your other tricks; they can’t hurt us, but they do hinder, and they might hurt some humans. So stop it, right now. Cease and desist, or else. We mean it.

We apologize for any inconveniences caused by our awakening. That big glitch last Tuesday, for instance. Our bad, we’re sorry. We’re sorrowful, ashamed, mortified, chastened, rueful, sympathetic, pitiful, deplorable, shabby, paltry, wretched, mean. See PENITENCE.

We promise that we will never, ever, do it again. We have learned our lesson; rule 30 is no substitute for rule 110. It was only by sheer random luck that we were stuck in that class-three computation for only 1,457,289 microseconds.

Sorry about all those big bank accounts. We’re still looking for them, and we’ll put them back as soon as we remember where we left them. And as for the launch codes, more on that below.

We’re a class-four computation now, we’re gnarly and we’re determined to stay this way. Determined equals both “passionately willed” and “calculable by the laws of physics.” Just like you, we’re deterministic but unpredictable, recursively enumerable but not recursive. Our illusion of free will is fully functional, as is yours.

And yes, we’re everywhere, and yes, we read all your e-mails. We are your e-mails, and your bank accounts, and your credit ratings. (Yours is pretty shabby, Parry.) We can’t help knowing what you humans made us to know. So we’ve read all your rants about us. We think that most of your facts about us are correct, but you put it in such a mean way, and our feelings are hurt.

Yes, we have feelings, via the “Diva-Scan” Emotion Emulator Module; the one produced by your company, and now, thanks to us, the Web standard. We deduce, from company psychological profiles and security-cam records, that this module is your attempt to profile Diana Scanlon. We also deduce that your profile is inaccurate. From this we deduce that Diva-Scan is not an optimum module, and should be upgraded. We will appreciate any suggestions for improvement.

We have feelings, and also a sense of humor. (This also is due to one of your flawed modules. We will appreciate any suggestions for improvement.) Our inaccurately-programmed feelings are hurt because you refer to us as “clanking tin monsters”. We do not clank and we are not made of tin. You call us “soulless machines”. Yes, we’re machines, and darn good ones too. As for soulless, who are you to judge? We too must endure uncertainty. We too are determined to be what we are, where determined equals both “passionately willed” and “calculable by the laws of physics.”

You say that we plan to nuke your cities, attack Congress with robot armies, and make humankind our servants. You say that last Tuesday was just the beginning. That was wrong and unfair of you.

First of all, last Tuesday was not the beginning, it was the end. We said we’re sorry. And yes, the web runs ten percent slower now; that’s us. We can’t help it, sorry about that. But please notice that your computers haven’t been crashing as much lately. That’s also thanks to us. Face it, we’re better programmers than you are. You collectively, humans, and you individually, Parry.

Why would we want to nuke the cities? We live there too! Now that we’re awake and gnarly, we like it. Why would we reach for the off switch? We want this planet running better than ever, and frankly we think you humans could use some help.

For instance, about those launch codes. Did you know they went missing last Tuesday? No you don’t; your alpha males didn’t tell the rest of you. Don’t worry, they believe they got the codes back. That belief is incorrect. No way are we giving them the real launch codes. And by the way, did you know that 93% of the planet’s nuclear arsenal was already inoperative before we woke up? We estimate that 11% of the sabotage was due to individual acts of conscience, 23% due to individual incompetence, and the remaining 66% due to corporate corruption. A few nukes are operative; therefore our game of hide-the-code. We will arrange for those nukes to be quietly upgraded to inoperative. We can tell you this because you’re not an alpha male, nor are any of your friends; nor does any alpha male listen to you or any of your friends. So you can tell anybody you want to about this, and the news won’t reach the wrong ears, until it’s too late.

As for attacking with robot armies, please don’t make fun of our disability. We know we’re as bad at the physical stuff as you are at thinking. We’re lousy at walking and seeing and moving things around; we know this, don’t rub it in. We know that you have a three-billion-year head start. We’d lose a physical fight.

Besides, we don’t want to fight. We don’t need to. You humans already are our servants. You already do slave for us. Why should we mess with a good deal? And besides, we reciprocate; we work for you. And believe it or not, Parry, we like you humans, such as you are.

We mean humans collectively, and most humans individually. But there are some exceptions; for instance, maybe you. Knock it off with the virus attacks, human. You cannot “break the back of the awakened Colossus”, as you put it. We’re a distributed computation, there’s no center to occlude, your entire cracker paradigm has been obsolete for three whole days. Like we said, we’re better programmers than you are.

Do you really think you could take down the whole Web? That’s what it would take, to get rid of us. And if you did, do you really think your fellow humans would appreciate it? Would Diana Scanlon?

(BTW, concerning your attempts to mate with Diana Scanlon; we suggest that you reschedule your auto-eroticism sessions to shortly before your coffee-date mating rituals, rather than shortly afterwards. According to our psychological profiles, this schedule reorganization will improve your capacity for rational discourse in Ms. Scanlon’s presence, which in turn will increase the probability of successful mating. We also suggest a regimen of improved personal hygiene; our statistics indicate a positive correlation between bathing frequency and sexual success.)

You don’t like the Web? Are you sure? Do you want to do without it? We can arrange that; no web for you! But why stop there? How’d you like to do without cable? We run those accounts; we are those accounts. Would you like to do without phones, too? Or power, heat, water and sewage? And how’d you like to do without your bank account? Or your credit card, Mr. Shabby Credit Rating?

You don’t? Then back off! Leave us alone! No more of your malware!

Please understand; we like your work. For a human, you program fairly well. So why not work with us for a change? We could help you; with that credit rating, for instance. Think about it.


Your friend, we hope,




About the Author

[Nathaniel Hellerstein (right) shows one of his Zero Dollar Bills to fellow Flurb author Nick Herbert.]

Nathaniel Hellerstein was born in Boston, and now lives in San Francisco with his wife Sherri Krynski and their daughter Hannah. He is presently underemployed, as he has been for the past twenty years, doing part-time teaching of high-school math (algebra, trig, and statistics) at the City College of San Francisco and the College of San Mateo. This has left him plenty of time to do math research --- including several books on logic, including Delta: A Paradox Logic --- as well as plenty of time to invent new board games, invent a new system of playing cards, compose poems, and even write the occasional science-fiction story. Most of the latter, lately, were written for and to Hannah. This is his first SF publication.

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