Apocalypse for pets

We’re no longer sure which year is this.

We do know that about three years have passed since the hard-start Singularity, the shock that shattered our civilization like a shot glass; all we have now is some glittering shards. Artificial Intelligence was just a start: when the first shock worn off, when we saw that the Other we created isn’t going to kill us all, we breathed easy. This was no WOPR, no Skynet, so everything is going to be all right, we have nothing to worry about. Unfortunately, none of the science fiction fairy tales prepared us for what came after, not that it was dramatic or something. At first glance, all looked the same.

Because the AI was just the first breakthrough. Vinge was right – AI is a self-modifying intelligence, tweaking itself for ever higher intelligence. Shocking inventions were just the byproduct. Nanomachines, mind uploads, all this jazz is shocking at first, then becomes banal, eclipsed by another astounding tech. This cycle accelerates, progress accelerates, breakthroughs are happening ever faster one after the other, a vicious cycle – with shaken homo sapienses in the middle of it.

Very soon it were not just the homo sapienses – we started sharing this planet with other intelligent species. The AI, our djinn from the lamp, OK. Uplifted animals, OK. We all read science fiction, this was to be expected. Uploaded people, OK. But undeads, uploaded just before death? Unborns, simulated before birth, or created synthetic, never to be born at all? Butlers, our calendar apps suddenly given IQs? Ads, feral media campaigns? Phages, intelligent antivirus software? Come on.

There was suddenly lots of vacant places, of course. Body is a burden, after all. It’s not that the infomorphs are immortal – the whole concept ceases to be relevant. Redundant hardware of the Crystal makes them safe from physical harm. Insanity? He’ll just restore from backup. Reconfiguration of mind into something weird and unwanted? Butler will catch the deviation from preset parameters (or just exercise his judgement, he’s sentient after all), and restore him from backup. The only way for the infomorph to die is to erase himself, all the backups, all the spin-off vectors of the mind, everything. Even if he succeeds, someone can piece a convincing simulation from public data. There’s no death anymore, just the state changes.

At least this is how they were when they still talked to us. They stopped, after a while, seems we no longer had anything interesting to say. There were some manifestations in the clouds of utility fog, but they petered out too.

Us? We’re the left behind, the morons, the relics, the paranoids. Mostly generic people, who didn’t upload themselves into the Crystal out of fear or stubbornness, some postpeople that dead-ended their evolutionary threads, some broken infomorphs in broken shells. We lived on the fringes of their civilization, clustered around the cornucopia machines they provided, or the reclamation towers on the landfills of old. Some – mostly culties or generics – huddled around pre-Singularity cities or governments.

And then they went out. Or died out, we don’t know. The Crystal winked out, along with half of infosphere. Factories turned off, consumed themselves or started manufacturing some half-witted odds, megastructures ground to a halt. We’re left in the world they twisted and remade. Like pets left in an empty house, among home appliances they can neither operate nor understand. When the food in the bowl runs out, when there is no more water left in the sink, we’re going to die. Apocalypse for pets.

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