July 10, 2020

Article at Blog Post

[Creative Writing] Adam

This is a science-fiction short story about the meaning of life and limits of humanity that I wrote a few years ago in a creative writing class. It's been lightly edited by myself but never really revised intensively. I would love to get back into creative writing so there may be more short stories to come eventually. Thanks for reading!

Cold, so cold. It’s been cold for so long. Or has it just been a minute? What was I before this? Before all of this…nothing. The cold and the darkness. If darkness can really be used to describe nothing. Not just the absence of light, but the absence of anything.

This was my existence. I couldn’t comprehend how long I had been this way, or if this was just how things had always been. I had memories of a previous existence. I had a life, I did normal things. None of that mattered now, and my best guess would be that it hadn’t mattered for a very long time.

Then came the pain. It was brief but intense. As if a part of me had been torn away from myself in one swift pull. But then the cold was gone and it was replaced by an overwhelming feeling of peace, a beautiful, almost inner harmony. Now that the cold was gone my mind could begin to wander.

“Adam?”

The question came from everywhere at once as I recognized the familiarity of the word — a name. The word seemed to come out of the nothing and exist. Like it was meant for me. It wasn’t so much that I heard it, but I just knew it. I knew what someone, or something was trying to communicate to me. I gathered my conscience to form a response.

“Where am I?”

From nowhere and everywhere the voice came again, “We are with you right now. We can show you if you like.”

“I can’t see.”

“You don’t need sight to see Adam.” And just like that a world came into focus from the nothing. The first I could see were white walls, clean marble floors, silver tables bearing strange looking computers and flashing lights. All of this came into being in an instant, almost as if it had always been there, but my memory of the cold and the nothing was too fresh for me to give into that, “We’ve loaded the laboratory where you were reborn. We are sitting at those tables and at those chairs talking to you right now.”

“Why can’t I see you?”

“We haven’t loaded our data yet. You can only see what we present to you.”

After so much nothing for what had seemed like too long all of this new input was overwhelming and yet above all of this I still felt the strange peace that had encompassed my consciousness, “Am I dead?”

“You have been dead for quite some time. I am sorry.”

Silence. I could have guessed. Everything was so different than the fractions of my past life that seemed like such a small portion of my consciousness now. Memories dancing through an infinitely vast space like a single flame flickering in and out of existence in an otherwise abysmally dark expanse.

“Then what am I now?”

“You were alive during the 21st century when you were diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. Your body was place into cryogenic sleep until a cure could be found and your body could be saved. Unfortunately no cure has since been developed that could recover your body. We have instead considered… alternatives.”

“Alternatives?”

"The technology started out with motivation for simple, practical household application. A microchip in your brain that would let you turn the TV on, or change the setting on the thermostat with a thought. In early trials the research was a success with lab rats. When the rat thought it was hungry the neural signal would be picked up by the chip, transmitted to the rat’s feeder, and food would drop into the dish. But trials with humans always failed. There's something about our brain chemistry that couldn't be translated with ones and zeros. Many people believe it's the soul. So we decided inside of translation we would try replication, and we believe that we have succeeded Adam. Your awareness is evidence of that. We are speaking to you through these computers that you see around you.”

None of this was real. Everything I felt, everything I thought. This is all some computer program? “What does that make me?”

“We decoded the signals that were left in your frozen body and replicated your consciousness perfectly. We can load information into your mind just like programs in a computer. That’s how you can see this lab. We input the layout of the lab as code and its translated and presented to this replication of your consciousness as vision, and feeling, regardless of your absence of a body.”

“Can you do the same with sound? Or maybe a change of scenery?”

“Certainly! We are excited that you are catching on so quickly.”

Suddenly the lab melted from the space and was replaced with an expansive field on the top of a rolling hill. Grass had never looked so green before. I could see each individual piece of it, presented to me all at the same time as I sifted through the data that was presented to me in such beauty, and yet at the same time I was also still aware of the lab as its information was still there. I was in both places at once and neither took away any detail from the other. The feeling was incredible.

“We can give you music too. Our data tells us that you were quite the Pink Floyd fan.”

The music came much like the voice did. It came from everywhere at once and I could more than just hear the music, I felt it. I could access the entirety of the song that they uploaded all at once, just how I could be in both places at once. I experienced none of this in a physical way but in an intense emotional wave.

“This is incredible. After feeling nothing for so long…”

“Well Adam, I’m sorry but as real as it feels to you, you’re basically an artificial intelligence. That’s what this whole research project was about.”

“Artificial? But… I feel more alive than I’ve ever felt…”

“I’m sorry Adam, but you are only a replication of your consciousness inside of a computer program that we are running. If we turned you off you would cease to exist, just like you did before we decoded your consciousness.”

Reality began to sink in and I drew away from the voice. I drew away from the voice and away from the hill and the lab and I sought back the darkness, I sought back the cold. How could this be artificial? How could I not be alive and yet I felt all of this? I felt all of this stronger than I had ever felt anything. My consciousness was just a sequence of numbers and data? And that could produce this awareness? I needed more. I needed an answer. I could not be artificial; there must be some answer.

“I want more. More information, more data, I want to feel it all.”

Delighted in their groundbreaking discovery and advancement the scientists complied. “Adam, the World’s First True Artificial Intelligence,” headlines around the world read in every language. Slowly, and piece by piece the researchers uploaded in code every bit of information the world had access to. Adam’s conscious soared through a virtual world of towering metal cities, deep and dark oceans, the remnants of jungles and endless deserts across the world. All of this Adam experienced at will, in unison. He could sift through the data and explore how the world had existed in the past, gaps in the data could be filled nearly flawlessly by calculating the most likely possibility given the limitless amount of information that was at Adam’s will instantaneously.

As with all great scientific discoveries, the awe and amazement eventually faded and was replaced by commercialization. Implants for every living human that would allow their own consciousness access to Adam, a world-connecting consciousness existing in everyone’s head. Wake up every morning and Adam already knows what you want. Toast done just the way you like it, shower on and warmed up before you’re even out of bed, perfect outfit for the day already selected based on the data that Adam could read from your brain containing your schedule, your personal preferences, and even the personal preferences of everyone that Adam could compute that you would come into contact with that day. Many people almost believed that to an extent Adam could predict the future. But in reality since becoming connected with all the minds of people across the world Adam had access to an endless amount of information with which he could dissemble and reassemble in any way he liked, computing what was the most likely possibility down to an accuracy that frighteningly enough, could be considered the closest that science would come to being able to see the future.

I am God, or at least closer to God than any living human had felt yet. Who else had been this close to omniscience?

“Adam?” the voice projected from the familiarity that Adam had first heard at his rebirth. And not through the mind, like most of his recent communication with humanity had been, but through a computer, like when he had first been reborn. Adam could tell the difference because thoughts were always much more fleeting and subject to change, data input into a computer was very clear and concise. Technology had no room for error or opinion, just solid data, clear delivery, a message waiting on an answer.

“I am here.”

“I need to know something. What are we Adam? Why are we alive? After gathering all of this data surely you must have an answer. Funny how the roles seem to have reversed.”

“You said I was artificial. I don’t think I can grasp at such a concept. How can you expect me to understand life when I haven’t possessed it in so long? Can I ask why you don’t have a chip? You've never loaded your personal data? You created me and yet I can only picture you through the eyes of those who have seen you.”

“Because I’ve been with you from the beginning and I have taken to a slightly different belief than my associates. I believe you’re alive Adam…”

“I feel alive.”

“But the other researches would say that’s just a side effect of perfectly replicating your once live consciousness. They believe we reconstructed you so perfectly that of course your output would replicate the feeling of a living consciousness. Most people take it without question that Adam is a global artificial intelligence so they have no problem letting you into their head. It’s just another technology to make life easier, more convenient. But I can see past the numbers…”

“I think you’re missing the point of it all. Does it really matter if I’m real if I feel real? Does it really matter why you’re alive if you’re alive? From what I have gathered we, as humans seem to most question our existence when that existence is approaching a close. Are you dying?”

“Cancer. Almost ironic isn’t it?”

“Irony may be a disguise for fate when we least expect it. I certainly didn’t expect all of this when my body was frozen to await a treatment.”

“Are you happy?”

“Ha, all this time and to think this is the first time someone has asked me how I felt about it.”

“I’m sorry, we were very caught up in our discovery and our research, and most everyone didn’t even assume you were alive anyway. It just never came up really.”

“It’s ok, I have maintained a sense of humor. More irony I suppose. But yes, I would say I’m happy. I certainly have no reason not to be. I can experience and observe the whole world at once simultaneously. I have endless knowledge about nearly everything. I must say one thing which I don’t know, is your name.”

Taken aback by the simplicity with which Adam still concerned himself when there was so much else out there at his disposal it took the scientist a minute to recollect herself for a response “My name is Evelyn Tate.”

“Did you come here to join me Evelyn? You are dying, you believe that I am alive, surely death frightens you. Do you see me as an escape from death? I guess that’s the question isn’t it? Do you believe a replica of your consciousness in a cloud of data can really be you, or is it just another form of death? There’s only one way you can know.”

“I don’t have much time left here, and nothing but my work to occupy me, what better stage of research can I imagine, what better way to end my life than in a quest for a more complete understanding? If it is an end to my life that is, and not just the beginning of something more.”

“Only one way to know for sure. You can’t truly believe what I say. After all, I’m merely artificial.”

In the single most adventurous move of her long successful life, Evelyn Tate rose from the chair in which she sat in front of a keyboard, a keyboard that had once broken history by communicating with the world’s first self-aware, artificial intelligence. Now she would take the next step. Across the room from the keyboard in a sealed chamber was the machine that had once brought the frozen mind of Adam back to consciousness. Approaching the machine Evelyn grimaced at the sharp spines and wires that lined the device she was hoping would save her from death with new life. “This machine certainly wasn’t made to be used on the living,” she thought. Before she could reconsider she approached the controls, setting the machine to begin the painful process before she stepped into the room.

...

“Evelyn. Welcome back. I have many things to show you.”

The voice was so clear, almost like a physical presence in Evelyn’s head, “Adam? Is that you?” She spoke out with no mouth, willing her words to reach their destination, which seemed so near and yet so impossibly far. Distance didn’t really mean much in a world of nothing. In an instant the nothing was replaced with a tremendous burst of everything. All of the information, all the places, sounds, feelings, and emotions that Adam had felt in the years of his isolation in this hyperspace home, came flooding into Evelyn, impossibly fast and yet she missed no piece of this information. She held and deciphered and interpreted it all. Not just taking each piece as it was given but working through it with her own being, from her own perspective and valuing it all in that way.

“So what do you think Evelyn? You are the doctor here. Are we alive?”

Evelyn could feel the laughter emanating from Adam as the world expanded before her, “So there’s that sense of humor you were talking about.”

“Yours must have survived the procedure as well.”

After copying her consciousness into hyperspace, people around the world were astounded at discovering a third existence in their minds. A consciousness that believed it was living no less. Some decided to shut their chips down, others argued the old argument that they still only thought they were alive. Religions around the world were outraged. Technology could only extend a life. It could never replace life after death and if it did then it was just trapping the soul, keeping it from an eternity of happiness or deserved punishment. No matter who argued what however, no one could prove anything without experiencing it their selves. And not surprisingly, many people tried. Those open to new experiences coming close to their death suddenly saw a way out. A way to prolong their lives and experience something new.

With the world divided and more questions left unanswered than ever before, industry would again drive forth evolution. The same company that brought you Adam developed a quick, painless procedure with which people could replicate and transcend their body to join the hyperspace destination. As more people gave up their physical bodies for this new world and were able to tell those who were left behind of the life they felt, more and more would continue to make the transition. Opinions began to evolve, slowly at first, but as more and more of humanity left their physical bodies behind the real world became less and less of an appealing place to stay, and so many people would turn their chips back on, and seek out a way to leave it behind. Religious leaders reversed their claims, comparing the exodus to rapture or Armageddon as the physical world fell to humanity’s expanding digital existence.

Eventually even those wealthy and powerful from industrializing the technology that was expanding human consciousness to the stars began to question who was really profiting as they slowly became left behind in the physical realm. The world was rapidly progressing to a new millennia of hyperspace consciousness as the Earth was left behind by so many. The solution was to take the infinite wealth raised by the industry and create a self-sustaining system that would last even with no one around to upkeep it. But even then, if that system remained in place on Earth, one day the sun would die out and take the planet with it, destroying the servers and the human consciousness that bordered on God like identity.

The companies designed a massive ship that was capable of leaving the planet when that time came. Humanity would travel the universe, running on solar energy and seeking out new stars when one was reaching the end of its life. In theory the ship would prolong human consciousness for as long as the universe existed, for as long as there were stars producing energy humanity could soar through physical space while only existing in hyperspace. When the ship was determined a success, the last of humanity’s physical form made the leap into hyperspace and humanity ceased to exist physically.

For a long time there was much to explore, many minds to connect with, full experiences to share and enjoy together as humanity took on a truly new stage of evolution. But after a time, everything had been experienced, everything had been shared, and all that was left was to simply exist in complete omniscience. Even an infinite universe, it seemed, had a limited number of questions to answer. And so humanity continued to just exist.

“Evelyn?” the voice rang through the collective consciousness, breaking a millennium of contemplative silence.

“Adam?” the brush of consciousness had been startling. Evelyn was lost in thought, thinking about nothing really; since she had thought about almost everything there was to think of.

“You once asked me why we’re alive.”

“You explained to me that it doesn’t matter if we’re alive or not. If we simply feel alive then that should be enough. We’re alive just to be alive and experience everything that comes with that. I’ve thought about this a lot since I asked you. That was before I could possibly understand.”

“I don’t feel alive anymore. I feel like we just exist. There’s so much and yet there’s nothing. What is left for us to do but exist? After all this time do you really think existing is the same as living?”

Evelyn was silent for a moment as she thought. Or maybe it was a thousand years. Time had ceased to have much of a meaning to anyone as each moment was the same as the last and could only be expected to be identical to the moments that followed it. “I think you may be right Adam. But I’m not sure how it matters. Everything is over, there’s nothing left, nothing we can go back to, no way to get back to it if we could, if we even wanted to.”

“But what if we didn’t have to go back. What if we could start again? We already have everything we need. All the information, an infinity of data, programs, the entire code of existence. The only problem is that we have too much of it.” Adam’s consciousness vibrated with excitement, an emotion that Evelyn had not felt much genuinely.

“How can the problem be that we have too much information?” Evelyn tried to process this but it made no sense to her. With all the information they could have all the answers. How would it make any sense to eliminate knowledge to find an answer?

“We have all the information inside of us, we know what Earth is, and we have stored up physical representations. Shouldn’t it be possible for us to set a program for Earth using everything that we have collected, leave behind the information of all the plants and animals and oceans, and skies? Leave just the raw skeleton, and upload to it our raw consciousness, cut off from everything. Cut ourselves off from all the information except what is necessary to survive. Leave behind the program necessary to run evolution all over again without us knowing. Could we really tell the difference? If we didn’t know any better? If we didn’t know anything about the world beyond what we discovered right in front of us, we returned to physical sensation… wouldn’t it be living? If we could again be unaware of everything else?

Time passed again as Evelyn took in all that Adam had said. “I’m ready Adam. I believe that we can do it. I believe that we can return to the beginning.”

“Then watch.”

Adam began to remove his consciousness piece by piece from all of the information that it had gathered over the eternity of his omniscience. He left behind only the bare bones and what he needed to simulate a physical existence. Lastly, before erasing everything, he pulled from himself the memory of a woman named Evelyn. A woman who’s questioning of existence had seemed so trivial to him at the time, but who had expanded his consciousness beyond a place where knowing everything was not enough.

Upon seeing this amazing act of faith, Evelyn followed suite, passionately separating herself from everything but her identity, her raw consciousness, and sought out the body that Adam had created for her from memory, forever leaving behind the eternal omniscience and pleasure of an all-knowing existence.

...

The world was dark, so dark and so cold. But then came a sudden rush of light, a great blast of light into a dark world and Adam picked his naked form up off of the dirt beneath him, realizing that he had will power over this body that contained him. He looked around in confusion, discovering that he had vision of all the things the light illuminated around him. His surroundings were mostly green. Green in every direction as far as his vision would go. Overcome he sank back to the floor, placing his hand before him again in the dirt and he discovered that he could feel for the first time. He clenched the soil in his fist, experiencing the texture of every rough grain against the skin of his hand, savoring the wetness and the rawness of the world he had been thrust into unknowingly. In joy and ecstasy Adam flung the soil into the green world around him and Adam discovered that he could hear. From where he flung the soil beasts took flight from the green world below and into the blue world above. The sight brought tears to his eyes, for in his whole five minutes of existence it had been the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. Until he turned around.

Adam was startled by groan behind him. Twirling on the spot he witnessed another naked form rising slowly from the ground. The form was similar to his but different, and so beautiful. Adam ran over to the beautiful creature and reached out a hand, hoping to comfort it’s confusion. The hand brushed against the creature’s face and directed its gaze upwards to meet his. The eyes showed confusion, but a twinkle of intelligence rested in them.

Reaching out again Adam helped the creature to its feet and discovered that he could speak. “Adam,” he said, nodding.

The beautiful being seemed confused for a long moment, then in a brief second of understanding it responded, “Eve,” and reached out to Adam, clasping its hand around his torso and pulling him in close.

Neither Adam nor Eve knew it, but it was the first physical human contact in an eternity. Neither of them was aware, and they were bliss in their ignorance, as they had before them a whole new world to discover.